Walk like an Egyptian
By Andy Buswell Egypt Product Manager
Salaam-Alaikum. The Egyptian language was slightly easier to grasp than hieroglyphics, however by the time the conductor’s whistle blew for our overnight train to depart from Aswan to Cairo, I was a linguistic expert…well almost.
After arriving into Cairo at the beginning of the week I was impeccably met from my flight and after a brief discussion with my guide Mohammed about supporting English teams that play in red (Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United) I informed him that these were all successful teams and that maybe he was just a glory supporter! In complete contrast, before I knew it we were strolling around Luxor Temple at dusk, which is absolutely stunning, and I was receiving my first lesson in Egyptian history.
Egyptian history is still being unearthed and unravelled today however I managed to piece together somewhat of a simpleton’s guide to this ancient land. The Egyptian calendar originally consisted of 12 months of 30 days and five additional yearly days and within this period there were the three seasons of the Nile – the floods, growth and harvest. The land of Ancient Egypt was also one of great contrasts, due to starkly differing climates between the richly fertile agricultural strip running beside the Nile (known as 'the black land') to the 'red land' of the inhospitable dry and desolate desert.
Every year, between June and September, the heavy summer rains from Ethiopia would flood along the Nile. As the floods subsided fertile ground would be created on which crops would be planted, finally ripening in March or April, when the river would reach its lowest level. Throughout the history of the country the Nile has played an important part and originally it formed a division between the more industrial Lower Egypt in the north and Upper Egypt in the south, confusing but this is based on the source of the river.
My journey along the world’s longest river was slightly delayed due to being absorbed in the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, also known as “hot chicken soup” to those who have pronunciation difficulties. I can imagine how much the Ancient Egyptian’s worshipped the Pharaoh’s by the intricate detail of the hieroglyphs in the tombs. Tomb building was one of the most important goals for the Pharaoh’s of ancient Egypt and the more complex ones could take up to ten years to complete with the work being carried out by an assembly line of quarrymen digging the tomb, plasterers who would smooth the walls for the draftsmen to execute the designs.
I sailed only a fraction of the 4,160 miles the Nile flows from the source in Rwanda to the Mediterranean but I did manage to win a game of table tennis on board our cruise ship! I also witnessed the floating street-traders at Esna lock, throwing their merchandise on board the cruise ship to try and entice us into buying them, which made the world famous market of my home town Bury look rather tame. After alighting at Edfu at the crack of dawn we made it to Abu Simbel, despite a scare with leaving my passport on board the cruise ship, and in the same 24 hours we still had time to walk across part of one of the largest embankment dams in the world at Aswan.
It was a whistle stop tour of temples and tombs with some well-earned relaxation on the Nile, but a visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a necessity, the Pyramids in Cairo, which are also considered the largest structures ever built.
I had time to dine with (well, in the same room as) the Tanzanian football team, who were playing a friendly as part of Egypt’s preparation for their titanic battle for World Cup qualification with bitter rivals Algeria. As I left for sunny England I thought of all the Egpytian I had learnt and the sum total was Chokran (thank you), 'habibi' (friend). However, I did give my support for Egyptian football team qualifying for the World Cup…Inshallah (god willing). Maa al Salama.