By B.S. Narayanaswamy, Freelance Consultant (Valuation), Bengaluru
Since my child hood, I was fascinated with the History of Egypt, its Pyramids, Pharaohs and their legends and not to forget the Mummies. All this kindled my fascination to visit this country and my dream came true last month.
A serious traveller should not visit Egypt unless he acquires some basic knowledge of Egyptian History. Internet helped me in this regard.
Egypt was ruled by Pharaohs from 2920 BC to 323 BC before it became a part of Greek and Roman empires and lost its independent existence. During this period, 31 Dynasties and about 400 Kings ruled Egypt. From Abu Simbel to Alexandria which tracks the flow of Nile river from South to North, there are plenty of temples, tombs, Mummies and obelisks that seem to tell the mankind of their glorious civilization. Further when you travel from one place to another and one temple to another in Egypt, the history takes different pages of different dynasty and co-relating them would become difficult.
The guides though experts in narrating the history related to a particular place or temple, they generally fail to bring in the cohesiveness and the ardent follower will find it difficult to co-relate. While Alexandria, the Northern port of Egypt, generally is the starting point of the tour, founded by Alexander the Great, it relates to 300 BC onwards and records the glorious Ptolemy Kingdom, idolised by Queen Cleopatra VIII and brings to the fore the Roman greats like Julius Caesar, Antony and Augustus Caesar.
The next stop Giza (North of Cairo) takes you to 2600 BC, a gap of about 2300 years! It takes one to different world and will be able to appreciate this great monument of history only when he is able to travel in his mental and historical time machine. Memphis, the old capital of Pharaohs is nearby Giza. The Abu Simbel Temple complex which is about 1,130 kms to the South of Giza and 275 kms from Aswan, built by the Ramesses who belonged to 1500 BC, a gap of 1,300 years.
The Aswan Dam which is the highest dam in the world pales in comparison to the beauty of Bhakranangal or for that matter our own KRS. But the backwater stored (called Nasser Lake) as a lake stretches to a whopping 500 kms and out of which 350 kms are in Southern Egypt and 150 kms in Northern Sudan. One can imagine the quantity of water stored in this reservoir and it generates the Hydro power enough to illuminates whole of Egypt!
The Nile river that traverses about 6,300 kms South to North is a gift of nature to Egypt. Unlike other Arab countries, Egypt does not have petroleum resources which makes it a poor country. While 93% of Egypt is part of Sahara desert, Nile river silently flows bifurcating the desert into West bank and East bank, extending the life line to 99% of the population which lives along both the banks of this great river. The hugeness of this river can be gauged by the distance between its banks at some places stretching 1.5 kms.
Starting from Aswan, the Nile river cruise, a refreshing 3-day journey in the cool and unassuming Nile river takes you to Luxor city. The Nile river cruise is to be experienced for its grandeur and hospitality. Luxor has numerous temples on both East and West banks of Nile river. A serious student of Egyptian History generally spends months in this historical city. Luxor is the new name of old historic city “Thebes,” capital of dynasties ruled from 2200 BC onwards after the capital was shifted from Memphis. Luxor got maximum temples and tombs than any other place at Egypt.
Today, tourism in Egypt has bloomed under the glorious efforts of current Government, in spite of being branded as an unsafe place and prone to terrorist activities. Before my departure to Egypt, there was a blast in Cairo Church which made me apprehensive. However, my fears were dispelled on reaching Cairo, thanks to the hospitality of Egyptians and the way the tourists were respected.
For Egyptians, their own history is strange and unbelievable. Though there are countless remnants and Mummies of Kings and Queens and undeniable proof of their magnificent history and civilisation more than 5,000-years-old, they do not believe and do not seem to take pride. As per history, the Egyptian dynasties rule ended by 323 BC and its re-unification happened only after embracing Islam from 8th century AD onwards. Mohammed Ali Pasha (1769-1849 AD) is regarded as hero as he united the present day Europe, though history records him as cruel commander. Now, about 90% of Egyptians are Muslims and an average Egyptian looks to his own history as an outsider unlike in India where we accept and worship our mythological characters, even though there is sketchy proof of their existence.
Egypt is not only about Pyramids and Mummies. Various archaeological sites wherein various temples and tombs have been excavated across Egypt stands as silent testimony of great civilisation.
Indians throughout Egypt are immediately recognised. They look to Indians as their own replica and the camaraderie is visible. Strangely not Khans but Amitabh Bachchan is very popular. Many TV channels air Indian serials and Indian movies dubbed in Arabic which are hugely popular. One will feel at home with their camaraderie, the smiling street hawkers, poor up-keeping, typical market places. When you visit Egypt, do not forget to bargain starting from 20% of the original price quoted and settle around 25-35% irrespective of the size and business of the shops.
[To be continued]