Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Backpacking in Egypt: The Lone Ranger Adventures

I am a  soldier. For years, I had been backpacking all over the country to hunt down terrorists and hardened criminals who called themselves NPA rebels. Hearing  from my fellow 'blue berets' the endless tales about backpacking adventures, I prepared my own travel itinerary during the time when I was serving as a UN military observer in Sudan in 2008.

Located a few hours by plane to the north of Khartoum, Egypt was my primary option. As a child, I remembered reading the history of the biblical lands and the great peoples who wandered in these areas like the Israelites, Nubians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, and Africans.

In the photo above, I was walking down the streets of downtown Cairo. I remembered Muslim women roaming around in the traditional burkha (you can only see the eyes), walking side by side with other women in skimpy outfits. Street vendors are normally found in almost all corners, each one trying to lure tourists towards their place, at times offering tea.
I rode a train towards a beautiful city of Alexandria, dubbed as the Pearl of the Meditteranean. Founded by my idol, Alexander the Great, it is the second largest city in Egypt which hosts the Great Library of Alexandria, which was established by his successor Ptolemy Soter. This statue of my idol is located right outside the current library called the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
I visited Pompey's Pillar which was constructed in honor of Roman Emperor Diocletian.
Trying to learn about the history of Egypt during the Roman period, I dropped by Kom-el-Dikka (Roman Amphitheater) to see the remains of an ancient structure built by the Romans. I also visited other places like the Catacombs and the so-called Pharos Lighthouse.

Street vendor in Alexandria. Just say, 'Bet kam?'
The streets of Alexandria are much cleaner than that of the roadnets of the Egyptian capital Cairo.

The hanging church of Cairo is the most famous Coptic Church in Cairo that was built around 690 A.D. It was built above the southern tower gate of a Babylon fortress.

I roamed around the areas of Cairo where you can find Coptic Christian Churches amidst the hundreds of mosques around them, in nearby districts.

Mohammad Ali Mosque (also known as the Alabaster Mosque) in the citadel. Located in a commanding ground overlooking Cairo, you can see the Pyramids of Giza in the horizon.

Who doesn't know the Great Pyramids of Giza? Excited to see this ancient work of art, I hopped on a train near Tahrir Square (yes the famous Tahrir Square) towards Giza to see and touch the blocks of stones which were used to construct one of the greatest architectures of all time. Just a few hundred meters from these great pyramids is the Great Sphinx.

My friend Hassan showed me how the ancient Egyptians prepared the papyrus. I bought the one behind him as a souvenir.

These are the remains of Queen Hatshepsut's Temple in Deir Bahri. She was the first woman who became a great leader in recorded history (big sorry to the likes of Iron Lady, Cleopatra, GMA or Angela Merkel). Well, maybe women must try to wear beard and proclaim herself as 'king' (and ensuring that the vast multitudes will believe that she is indeed a king).
I travelled by train to Upper Nile to see the Temples Karnak and see familiar status like the great man Ramses.
This is the obelisk that whats constructed during the time of Queen Hatshepsut.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped three gods: Father, Mother and Son (who is copying this religious belief nowadays?)
I was able to take a look at the burial chamber of the boy-king, Tut-ankh-amun. No, I did not attempt to do a tomb-raider scene. His golden mask is already secured in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo. I was not allowed to take photos during my visit there.
The guardians of Theban Necropolis, the Tower of Memnon. These are the statues of King Amenhotep II, facing towards the east. You can see the Valley of the Kings (the location of the pharao's burial chambers) in the background.

I travelled to Sinai peninsula by bus to reach the area where Moses and his people roamed for many years. This is the so-called 'Stone of Moses' from which the water flowed after he knocked it with his 'magical' cane.
I climbed the Mount of Moses (Mt Sinai) to experience the adventures of old Moses who climbed this steep mountain as an old man. It took me around 3 hours to reach the peak where I waited for this perfect moment.
As they say, 'the higher you climb, the farther you see'. I could not see Canaan, the Promised Land from here. I should go further to discover more tidbits of biblical history.
Located at the foot of Mt Sinai is St Katherine's Monastery. Behind this wall is the burning bush that is mentioned in the bible. About 200 meters from here is the carved image of cow that was adored by the Israelites.
This is the Red Sea, in a place called Nuweiba. You can see the lands of Saudi Arabia in the horizon. This is the place where the Exodus happened, according to biblical traditions. In this photo, I was facing towards the direction of Israel-Jordan boundary. My adventure is not yet over. (It was an excellent adventure that I can summarize by saying "Mafi Mushkila")

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