After all, my business is named ISIS Papyrus and I thought it was time to revisit some of the places of my novel ‘Journey To Eden‘. I now think that maybe I should not have gone. Egypt has lost the magic that it held for me. I forcibly have to distinguish between its history and modern-day Egypt. That includes the grand historic monuments that have been turned into the many locations of ‘Pharao World Egypt’. What a shame!
While Ethiopia is thought to be the genetic cradle of modern man, Egypt – just down the Nile river – is quite obviously the cradle of civilization. Hieroglyphs were called ‘mdjuh ndjer’ – the ‘Words of the Gods’ – quite obviously invented by its priests to tally the taxes, plan the grand temple projects and – why not – document the achievements of pharaohs and the virtues of the Gods. Thirty-one dynasties of pharaohs were thus able to lead the ancient Egyptians to grand achievements. And they do need the leadership. Egyptians joke about Europeans boasting that within two hours of the end of an election they know who won, while in Egypt they are so advanced they know it even two weeks before.
Travel always inspires me to write. Life is a journey. The ancient Egyptians thought so too. The journey just does not stop when you die. They thought it plausible that like the sun has to travel through the dark underworld to reemerge in the morning, our soul travels through the underworld to be reborn some day. The death cults of Egypt are focused on making that journey as pleasant as possible. I find that not much has changed. Life is still much less relevant than the afterlife in Egypt. Egypt is wonderful – where it is empty – without tourists and Egyptians. Add the two together and Bingo – Hell on Earth. Cairo is one of the most unpleasant places of this planet. Much of the decline of this grand civilization has to do with how Islam (much like Christianity) has been misinterpreted and misused for political reasons.
There is no logic in much of Egyptian mythology: why would it be dark in the underworld if the sun goes through there? There is no logic in what happens there today too. Egypt is all about corruption. But consider for a moment that we in the civilized world pay a huge price (more than half of what we own) for legalized corruption in the form of tax laws and social security. The other thing that is so different is that there is no interest in keeping things clean. I was watching a woman throwing rubbish out of her window. She threw it to the side so it would not end up in front of her window. Obviously her neighbors do the same so she does not see the benefit of trying to keep her front yard clean. So it is no surprise that despite all the show of plastic-gloved, good intent of the hotel staff, I ended up sacrificing the food I ate there to the gods pretty soon.
Finally, looking at the magnificent carvings in the 134 pillar hall in the temple of Karnak (trying to tone out being shoved by thousands of tourists) history jumped once again into my face to say that all existing religions took their cues and plagiarized their stories from our ancestors in Egypt. The Jewish kings were quite obviously pharaohs.
I could not appreciate the beauty of the Nile valley landscape by ignoring the thick diesel clouds of the stern-to-bow convoy of 350 Nile cruisers. The side-by-side overnight docking of three to four cruisers with noisy power plants, took away the view and fresh air and made it hard to sleep.
The 3am police-escorted-100-tourist-bus convoy from Aswan to the relocated temple of Abu Simbel we managed to escape by going with our own police escort, who might not even have woken up if we had thrown him off. While the temple is amazing to look at it feels like a Disney World Joy Ride inside. When you then hear the weak arguments that ‘only’ a hundred thousand Nubians had to be forcibly removed so they would not drown in the Aswan dam lake, and see the dreadful places they are now offered to come back to, it is difficult to see it positive.
Why I found it hard to appreciate the food – and I love Arabic/Levantine from the time I lived in Saudi Arabia – I already told you. It is equally impossible to appreciate the local arts and handicrafts. Tourists have to run the gauntlet (Spiessrutenlauf) through dozens of puffers and mongers outside each temple, who constantly yell ‘one Euro’ at you as if you had not heard it the first time. The dump their ware on your shoulder to claim you touched it and now you have to buy it. I tried to buy handmade Papyrus paintings as I had bought them years ago, but today they are all just printed-on rubbish. The Papyrus bark on our company logo is from the original that hangs in the Vienna office.
If you want to see Egyptian art in peace and quiet I would not recommend the Egyptian Museum. The only two interesting exhibits were the death mask of Tutankhamun and the still live Morgan Freeman (plus bodyguards!). Was it an item on his own ‘Bucket List’? Rather go to the Egyptian exhibit of the Louvre in Paris or visit the Papyrus library at the Wiener Staatsbibliothek, which has over three hundred thousand Papyri, with hundreds on constant display.
What did I like? The sensation of the dizzying power of the temple of Karnak; the amazing view of Abu Simbel; that the sarcophagus chamber of the Khufu pyramid resists photography; and the Bedouin who – after a 20 Pound bakshish – took my hand to lead me back to the bus saying ‘good man Islam’ over and over again. Saying goodbye he offered me to kiss his camel … he really liked me!
That was it for me from Egypt. Signing off.