04 January 2007


The only way to see Egypt is to be there yourself. Egypt astonishes me by being alarmingly untouched by the perils of tourism and commercialism. The allure of the country lies in how it is absolutely random, spontaneous, and it excites me that at every turn of my head I would see beauty revealed and framed in the radius of my retina.

I took 860 photographs, and have taken a few days to select these 48 pictures that will follow this entry; many still in their original colors.

We visited many temples in Egypt; all of which are magnificent structures and indeed exemplary of this sign in the picture:

I would not be detailing in showing pictures of temples, but here are a few thumbnail-ed pictures if you are interested:

Three things to note about these temples:

1: The God of Fertility usually appears more than once. It doesn't take a genius to guess which one.

2. Many of these war carvings were mutilated and disfigured by Christian crusades as they were displeased with the display of animals with human bodies, and of course, the worship of these Pagan Gods.

3. In the Luxor temple, when the Roman Empire took over, they actually plastered a layer of wall to cover these carvings and replaced them with these Roman paintings. Although demeaning to the Egyptian Civilization, the sight of this strange erratic matrimony of two ancient art forms never fails to draw gasps from the crowd.

Our flight from Bahrain to Egypt was postponed for close to five hours, but we were nevertheless excited and high-spirited.

When we finally reached Egypt, we were ushered onto the coach where we took a four hour ride to the Baharian Oasis, closer to the desert. On the way to our hotel, my cousin and I were mystified by the canvas of stars that arched above our coach bus and stretched across the skies till it hit the ground and dissolved into the sand. It was too dark to see if the sky truly ended; with the lack of streetlamps, we could have been travelling on the milky way.

The hotel was beautiful, though a little too beautiful for the condition of the village which it was housed. We slept for the night.

We went on a four-wheel drive vehicle to tour the deserts the following morning. Our driver, Mustafa, was an extremely lively individual despite being the oldest driver in our group. My cousin and I conceded that he was cute, in her exact words: "cute in the old sort of way".

I didn't have to frame my photographs. All I had to do was to reach out and shoot.

On the Sahara Desert:

On the way to the White Desert, my younger cousin Mishel leaped on the sand and was begging me to bury her in it. I thought she was crazy because I thought she wanted a heat bath. But when I felt the sand with my hands, I took off my shoes and leaped onto it as well. The sand was smooth, and cool.

Egyptians are poor and they only get to eat meat once or twice a year. I love Egyptian salad: a concoction of zucchini, tomatoes and goat cheese. Brinjal salad is also always one of the highlights of mealtime. With no proper restaurant in the desert, we dined at this "bar" which was also a provisions store with food prepared by our multi-talented drivers.

Yes, I say they are multi-talented because at the White Desert, we welcomed dusk in the midst of a dance. The band? The drivers.

I waved goodbye to this lovely place the next morning.

I am still missing the sight of the desert, and how wonderful it felt to be chilled by the coolness of winter and be warmed by the scorching sun typical of the desert.

Next up, Cairo. The city of the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza.

An emo shot by the pyramids:

We went shopping at the Bazaar and as shopkeepers in Egypt are all men, they were almost constantly trailing my cousin as she scoured the street for hidden treasures.

A shopkeeper remarked to me, "Lucky man!" and most other guys just asked her if she could be bought with 50,000 camels. For me, I just wanted a discount on her account, but it never happened. Let's look at one of my cousin's fan and the other two at the back, one observing her behind.

After this, we took a train to Aswan, where we went on to visit more temples and took a cruise at night across the Nile River to Luxor. On the way, we visited this village where we had a peek into the lives of common day Egyptians. Of course, this place has already been commercialised and "touristified".

We took an Arabic lesson, and went into one of the display houses.

The villagers have recently installed a computer in the village centre, and the children were playing Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (Arab):

I also met this mother and her daughters who posed willingly for the camera and invited me upstairs to show them my pictures. On their corridor, they posed for more pictures:

I get this general impression that the society is still very much phallocentric and the women were not allowed to be outside. I've never seen female shop owners and those who did work, did not wear headscarves.

The cruise on the Nile River was splendid. We were sunbathing the whole time.

The view at dusk outside my room:

We sailed for a full two days before we finally arrived at Luxor. In between, we visited two more temples.

We toured Luxor before taking a domestic flight back to Cairo, and finally ending our tour of Egypt.

Some random shots (the colour treated section):

And before I reached the Airport, I took this picture of Cairo.

D woke up at 1/04/2007 12:17:00 AM [comment]

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