Sunday, May 23, 2010

Egypt 3

Our two BYU buses were the first to cross the Israel/Egypt border on the morning of May 14th. I always point out to the students the Taba Hilton Hotel which ended up in a drawn out territorial dispute between Egypt and Israel. When Israel withdrew from the occupied Sinai peninsula in 1982, it wanted to hold on to the resort complex of Taba saying it was on the north side of the border. The location of the border however was disputed due to the drawing of a British-Ottoman border in the 1800s with a dull pencil which when transposed to on the ground reality was 700 yards wide. Egypt claimed the northern edge of the wide line and Israel the southern. The hotel was in the middle. The international Court of Justice eventually ruled in favor of Egypt and so Israel reluctantly gave up its last little sliver of Sinai, including the hotel.
From Taba we headed west toward Cairo. These are photos from the field trip last January just days after major rains washed out much of the Sinai.
Debris on the roads still slowed traffic.
The waters were still standing days later as we crossed the central Sinai. By our trip in May the roads were once again cleaned up and everything was dry.

Looks a lot like Nevada!

A container ship transiting the Suez Canal. If you cross the canal further north you cross via a bridge and can see the canal, but near the port of Suez a tunnel goes under the canal. I have tried and tired to figured out a way to get the students (and me) to actually see the canal, but I am told that it is a restricted military area. If the Egyptian Minister of Tourism is reading this may I recommend that Egypt try to capitalize on this modern wonder of the world and create some sort of tourist view point so next time I can see the canal.
The tunnel under the canalOnce in Africa the road leading to Cairo is lined in the median with placards noting all 99 names of Allah. It was fun to try and figure them out. This one says "The Eternal"
The Sound and Light show at the pyramids that we usually attend on our first night in Cairo was canceled for some motor cross performance in front of the Sphinx. So instead we drove to the southern Cairo suburb of Maadi to the LDS branch house for a Friday (the LDS day of worship in Egypt) evening sacrament meeting. I had time to take this photo of a mural drawn by the Primary children of the Cairo branch a few months ago as part of an activity day. It was to cover up some inappropriate graffiti on a wall near the branch house. We however skipped out on the meeting opting instead for a previous planned Tueller family reunion. Marie's brother Matt came to pick us up.

Matt is the Deputy Chief of Mission (number 2 man) at the US Embassy. He and his family live in the former ambassadorial residence.

It is quite the place. Marie and the kids stayed here for three nights. The kids loved the backyard pool.
We all then headed out for a falucca ride on the Nile. For two hours we floated around eating great Lebanese take out food and watching the sun set. Marie's parents and sister Rachel were in town after having visited us in Jerusalem. Matt's wife DeNeece (right) is on the mend from breast cancer surgery last year. Their youngest son Chris is 16 and in the blue shirt.

pretending to relax

As a matter of security, Matt is always accompanied by Egyptian police. One is always in his car and for our boat ride there were others tagging along behind us in a boat.
Later that evening I re-joined the BYU group so that next morning we could hit the ground running. First stop the pyramids of Giza.
We happened to meet up with all the Tuellers at the overlook. There was just enough time for a family photo.

The Tuellers then left in the embassy armored plated van.
Sarah took the above two photos. Matt took them to a tomb near the pyramids that was visited by President Obama, who when he saw the above image jokingly commented that it looked like one of his ancestors. This ancient Egyptian does resemble the president.
The Great pyramid of Cheops with the sphinx

The students then visited a papyrus shop where they saw how papyrus was made. This shop knows its customers and so it has commissioned papyrus paintings of the three Pearl of Great Price facsimiles--as seen in the top center of the photo. Most of the students bought papyrus here although cheaper versions can be bought elsewhere.
We then drove through the countryside with its many canals to Memphis and the step pyramid of Djoser. This photo shows much about Egypt's geography. The desert in the distance where no one lived and where the dead were buried (notice the pyramids beyond the power poles) so as to not take up precious agricultural land. The canals bringing water from the Aswan high dam. The power lines bringing electricity from the Aswan high dam. The dredged muck from the bottom of the canal is reminiscent of the rich alluvial soils that were once deposited during the annual flood but are now trapped behind the dam.
Wall painting in the tomb of Ti--a wealthy hair dresser. Notice the river with fish.
The step pyramid of Djoser--Egypt's oldest pyramid. In front is the funerary temple. Joel has been on a quest to touch the oldest man made structure he can. We thought this pyramid would be his best bet in all of our travels. Ropes kept him from touching the pyramid, but his Uncle Matt told him that the funerary temple in front is even older so Joel touched that.

I visited the same temple a few hours after the Tuellers did. In solidarity with Joel, I too tried to touch the pyramid--something I had not done on previous visits. I wandered around back beyond the barricades--with the approval of the baksheesh happy guards--and was allowed to touch the pyramid. I was also able to look in the little structure in the lower center for a peak in at an image of Djoser--the Pharaoh who built the pyramid.

That evening I met Marie and the kids at the Cairo airport for our flight to Luxor. We stayed two nights at the lovely Sheraton Hotel. Because of the heat our next morning started out with a 6:00 departure (not a very child friendly time!) for the west bank of the Nile. Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings (no cameras allowed) where we visited four tombs, including that of King Tut. Our next stop was the temple complex of Queen Hatshepsut.

Near the temple of Hatshepsut is pit cave 33 (the entry door is behind the triangular shaped thing) which is where the mummy and the accompanying papyrus were found that eventually ended up in the hands of Joseph Smith (its a long, interesting, story that we all enjoyed hearing in the heat!). The translation of the papyrus is the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.
Final stop was the Colossi of Memnon.
On our drive back we passed some boys swimming in one of the irrigation canals. I will use this photo in my geography lectures when I talked about the negative effects of the Aswan Dam. Without the annual floods, the snails that swim in the canals are not washed away. They have thus proliferated. These snails are host to flukes that leave their snail hosts and prick their way into the skin of humans (who bathe, swim, wash clothes in the canal water) where they enter the blood stream and then set up shop in the liver. There they grow into worms that lay eggs that are then excreted into the water by humans and then lodge in the snails. This disease is called bilharzia or schistosomiasis.
After lunch at the hotel we had fun swimming at the hotel (no snails in the pool!). Then we had a falucca ride on the Nile.
It was followed by a camel ride through a village across the Nile from Luxor. It is always a fun experience to ride a camel for the first time. To stand up they rock back and forth as they rise from their kneeling position. Everyone had a smile of surprise as they and the camel rocked up from the ground.

Agricultural life along the Nile, which probably hasn't changed much over the millennia.

The shadow of Will and dad on their camel. Next day was another early start. This time we visited the east bank temples of Karnak and Luxor.
The black line running across the fourth stone from the bottom is the height of a Nile River flood back in 1885. That must have been some flood.
What a great setting for a James Bond movie.

One wall in Karnak is covered with all of the cities in Canaan that were conquered by the Egyptians. The one in the center is Khalil (modern day Hebron).
Tuckered out.
The outer walls of the holy of holies includes some interesting images.
A closer look at the top row shows ritual washing and then being clothed in ceremonial attire.
Next comes being introduced into the presence of the king/god.
Hugh Nibley likens coronation embrace images like this with Jacob's wrestle with the Lord in which "Jacob received a new name and the bestowal of priestly and kingly power".

We all then rode a horse drawn carriage to the Luxor temple. So far on this trip all or parts of us have used the following modes of transportation: bus, plane, train, taxi, chauffeured car, armor plated van, wind powered falucca, motorized water taxi, horse drawn carriage and camel.
The entrance to Luxor temple.

That afternoon we went shopping in the suq (bazaar). Each of the children found a souvenir.
Back to the hotel for another swim and an evening flight to Cairo for Marie and the kids so they could spent two more nights with Matt. I rode the night train to Cairo with the students. It leaves at 8:00 pm and arrives in Giza at 5:00 am. From the Luxor train station you can see the big new under-construction Coptic Church.
Next morning in Cairo we visited old Cairo with its Coptic churches and synagogue. This is the Hanging church.
Inside the courtyard of the church is a nice mosaic of the flight into Egypt. Egypt's Christians are very proud of the fact that their country served as a refuge for Jesus. Marie and the kids joined us for a 2 1/2 hour visit to the jam-packed-with-antiquities Cairo museum. The mummies and king Tut's treasures were favorites.
Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. After burgers and fries the students joined in with an energetic dance to the tune of YMCA.
The Egypt trips are so jam packed that it is hard to get out and see new things. While the students were exploring the large Khan al-Khalili market, I walked over to check out the City of the Dead where many poor rural to urban migrants have squatted in the mausoleums of this large cemetery.

I then had just enough time to slip into this mosque dedicated to Hussein the son of Ali and grandson of the prophet Mohammad.
The shrine/cenotaph to Hussein.

Final morning in Cairo: Saladin's citadel which overlooks Cairo from its eastern hills.
My Old Testament class in front of the Mohammad Ali mosque which is inside the citadel
Inside the Mohammad Ali Mosque--it is built in an Ottoman style. This was our last stop in Cairo. From hear we headed east toward Sinai while eating KFC box lunches.
After crossing underneath the Suez Canal, we stopped to look at the traditional site of Marah (bitterness) where Moses healed the water and then we stopped at Elim (above photos) where the Children of Israel found 12 wells and 70 palm trees (Exodus 15: 27)
Elim is a true oasis and must have looked pretty good to the murmuring Israelites.
The jagged, faulted, granite massif of southern Sinai
Final stop was Rephidim (Exodus 17) where the Israelites fought the Amalekites. They were victorious when Moses held his arms up. Moses was helped by Aaron and Hur. Here our district president Kent Brown (associate director of the center) is helped by his two counselors Craig Manscill (the other religion prof) and John Jackson (service couple center doctor)
The hilltop where Moses stood.
Getting close to Mt Sinai
Military check point. These are found throughout the Sinai. I think they are here to try and prevent any more terrorist attacks by local Bedouin against Egyptian targets.
After 4-5 hours of sleep at the Morganland Hotel, we got up at 2:00 am. We were on the trial by 3:15. Joel and Sarah hiked with the students while Will, Marie and I brought up the rear. We all eventually made it to the top. We beat those in the group who chose to ride camels. We got to the top in 2 1/2 hours with time to spare to watch the 5:50 sunrise. I carried Will on my shoulders two brief times to give his legs a rest. Otherwise he hiked the whole way on his own.

At 6:30 we hiked down the 800 steps to Elijah's spring. Here we talked about Mt. Sinai events. I encouraged the students to go up to the Lord as Moses and Elijah did and then come down to serve, but not without keeping yourself in an elevated/mt of the Lord/temple like state. Sarah bore a sweet testimony about how seeing all of the devout Christians on our journeys has strengthened her testimony of Jesus Christ.
At Elijah's spring looking up to the summit of Sinai.

From there we took the several thousand rock steps down to St. Katherine's Monastery. Once again I carried Will for only two short rests. Even with carrying Will, my knees survived much better this time than the two previous times.
Looking down on St. Katherine's. The white building on the distant valley bottom is the traditional site of where Aaron raised up the golden calf.
Inside the monastery in front of the burning bush. It is 10:00 am and the kids have been up for 8 hours. They were real troopers and amazingly no murmurings!
We really enjoyed the new museum full of icons and old books from the amazing library of the monastery. I liked this icon of Jesus.
In Greek Orthodox tradition, the bones of deceased monks are stored within the monastery grounds--they are neatly sorted and stacked according to body part. Putting dem dry bones back together should be quite the jigsaw puzzle.

After a quick, cool, refreshing swim at the huge Morganland pool, followed by a quick lunch (don't eat the melon Sarah it will give you Pharaoh's revenge, oops too late!) we drove 3 hours to the Taba border crossing. It was an easy crossing for everyone but the one student who was born in Turkey (US military father) and has a middle name of Ramzi. He was detained for over 90 minutes which kept 90 other people waiting too. We had a wonderful dinner at Kibbutz Yodvata--yeah we can eat fresh vegetables and salads again. On the 3 1/2 hour drive back to Jerusalem, Sarah got increasingly sick--it started with chills and then she threw up once. Diarrhea then set in, but only kept her down for one day. It took all of us a few days to catch up on sleep and to readjust to not being constantly on the go. A great trip.

The Jerusalem Emmetts pulled into town late last night after getting up at 2:00 AM that morning to climb Mt. Sinai (we all made it!). This morning the kids slept in while I rendezvoused with Bob and Annie for breakfast at their hotel and a morning of touring with their tour group. Later that afternoon we all met up with them (minus Sarah who contracted pharoah's revenge on our last day in Egypt and thus stayed at home) at Pater Noster Church for an all too short visit before they had to leave for the airport. It was great to have them in town. Too bad we only over lapped for one day. Bob has great notes from his travels. His Sunday School Old Testament lessons should be all the better now.


  1. Another winner! Thanks for the pictures of your trip to Egypt. I think the only thing you missed that we saw was the woman outside a gift shop who smiled broadly to show off her gold teeth.

  2. Yet again a National Geographic worthy post! And for the record, I first heard about schistosomiasis in a M*A*S*H episode where BJ, in an act of subterfuge, tries to convince Col. Potter that a soldier has schistosomiasis. Col. Potter must have taken a tour of Egypt during his WWII service because he knew that you can only get it while swimming in the Nile, which he noted is "a fair distance from South Korea."

  3. I loved the info about the Aswan Dam - fascinating! I had no idea. They must still be very strict with the students then about NEVER touching the Nile.

    And I always wondered about the City of the Dead - with so much poverty in Cairo - there had to be people living in those tombs/homes who had no place else to go. The area just seems haunted and creepy.

    It was wonderful to see the picture of Brother Brown. Please tell him hello for me. I loved having him there in 1996.