PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 7

We finished our time in Cairo today and flew to Luxor to begin our four-night cruise down the Nile River. Well, the cruise officially starts tomorrow as we are still docked in Luxor, but the boat is at least in the Nile.

We are on a small boat with maybe 100 people or so on board. I’m not sure exactly of the numbers, as I think some more people may be joining us tomorrow, but it is certainly not a big ship. It has five levels, including a lounge, bar, dining room and a very small pool that I will likely show tomorrow.

We set off to our day of sightseeing with our guide and one other family — they are Norwegian, with a mom, dad and a son and daughter in university. I was a bit nervous about being in one of those large touring groups, following a person with a paddle who I call paddle people when I travel, so I was pleased with this lovely family and our small group.

Our first stop, was the Karnak Temple, and my mind went immediately to Johnny Carson. However, this temple is avast temple complex, dedicated primarily to the god Amun and was built in a 1-mile-by-2-mile radius beginning about 2000 BC. The space held over 25 temples and chapels.

I’ve toured ruins over the years, and this one was particularly impressive both with its size and the intricacy of the design. The most incredible space was a section that had 134 pillars. They were begun by King Setti and completed by his son, Ramses the Great. Ramses clearly had a huge ego, as he stuck his name on all 134 columns, including the one his father built. (Ramses really thought a lot of himself.)

The other story that struck me as rather amusing was the graphic picture of the god of fertility, Amun-min. The story is told that he became the god of fertility when there was a war. All of the men went to war except Amun-min because he had only one arm and one leg. So they left him alone with all of the women. However, when the men returned, all of the women were pregnant. They showed him in his full glory.

From there, we went to Luxor Temple, which was built by King Amenhotep III around 1390 BC. He dedicated it to the god Amon-Ra, king of the gods. The area has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. It is connected to a mosque. As we were leaving, we heard the call to prayer for the sundown and the end of the fast. The temple also included a shrine to Alexander the Great.

The ruins were encased in mud because of its location by the Nile and was lost for many years. But when they were uncovered, many of the statues were not damaged because they had been protected by the mud. We were there at sundown, and it created quite a mystical experience.

We headed back to our boat for an evening meal and a cultural night that included belly dancing and another whirling dervish. We decided the belly dancer the other night was better, but this whirling dervish we much preferred because he did not have lights on him.

After a long day, we were all ready for bed, but I will most likely be up in the middle of the night to cheer on the UConn Huskies.

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