Lighter Than A Feather

When I was a kid there was a Sesame Street special that took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called Don't Eat the Pictures. In it, Big Bird and Snuffy help an Egyptian boy prince answer a riddle so he can join his parents as stars in the sky. To allow his heart to be lighter than a feather. (Amazingly enough, you can now watch it on You Tube -- here's the link to the episode).

There are some factual inaccuracies in said Sesame Street production. I was pretty pleased with myself that I could spot them after spending 10 days absorbing every bit of information possible about ancient Egypt. But at the time it completely captured my imagination, and ever since I have wanted to go to Egypt. I mean, what kid doesn't like the idea of having his heart weighed against a feather for admittance into the afterlife -- perhaps one who will grow up to like horror films?

Recently, thanks to a slew of T.V. documentaries on Egypt, the flame in my own heart was rekindled to visit this historic place. Why else did I move to Europe, if not the chance to see more of the world? So we booked a 10-day trip to Egypt this past July, including a Nile cruise and then three days in Cairo. Because you also have to see the pyramids, right?

Here we are, standing on the wall of the Great Pyramid: 

But the Nile, let's talk about the Nile. It was truly magical watching the lush green river bank from the deck of the boat, or from our balcony as we floated by.

Sunset on the Nile, from our cabin balcony:

And the temples! Standing in the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak surrounded by massive columns may have made the trip worth it alone. I felt like I was living in a movie almost every day of the trip.

The Hypostyle Hall where scenes from Death on the Nile and The Spy Who Loved me were filmed.

We learned so much on the trip, and met some really interesting people, including our guides and fellow boat passengers. But it was really quiet out there. Egypt's biggest revenue generating industry -- before the 2011 revolution -- was tourism. According to an article in the Guardian from last year, tourism revenues have fallen by 54% since 2010. And you could definitely feel it. We had a guide to ourselves in Cairo. There were only six of us to one guide during our cruise on the Nile. And the boat itself had about 20 passengers -- with 33 suites on board -- so it was nowhere near full capacity.

It was great for us. We often felt like we had historic sites to ourselves and had many opportunities to grill our guides with lots of questions (the Hub is particularly good at this). But it was sad to see the impact on the people there.

Was it safe? It certainly rattled our nerves when a car bomb exploded outside the Italian embassy in Cairo two days before we were due to fly. But my view is that no where is safe. And I don't mean that in a negative sense. It's just that I lived in New York on September 11th and in London for the July 7th bombings. Terrorism can happen anywhere. And I'm not staying at home when there's so much of the world still to see.

It was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I think there were certain advantages to going at a time when others might not want to venture out. For what it's worth. I'll leave you with a photo of where we ate dinner each night in Cairo. (And if you are interested in a trip, here's the company we used, which we thought was great -- Discover Egypt.)

Just saying:

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