Archive for August 9th, 2020


Way Cool

Linda Lou Burton posting about Cairo, Egypt and Reykjavik, Iceland from Little Rock, Arkansas – Fortunately I woke up from my Charlton Heston dream, it’s time to pack, and go. I must be thinking FAMILY today, getting excited about the grandkids that join me tomorrow in Reykjavik.

But I haven’t yet written anything really positive about Cairo. Like its designation as “city of a thousand minarets,” and the Old City, which includes the site of a Roman-era fortress and Islamic-era settlements pre-dating the founding of Cairo. Pretty awesome stuff, that you can only see right here; I should have planned longer to explore. There are cultural tours, historical tours, art tours, and even ghost tours. I’ve done the top rated suggestions – the Pyramids and the Nile cruise. But I haven’t mentioned the many parks in the city, or delved into the food scene at all. Most of the posh hotels offer five-star dining; and it’s cheaper here than in many countries. Lots of international choices – Spanish, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and traditional Egyptian of course; lots of rooftop and riverside dining if you don’t want to brave the bustling local spots. Looking for seafood, sushi, steak, or ful medames? Ful medames is a stew of fava beans, with garlic, onion, chili pepper and other vegetables; a staple in Egypt. Egyptian cuisine makes heavy use of legumes, vegetables, and fruit from the rich Nile Valley and Delta, similar to Eastern Mediterranean cooking. Rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, kebabs; common meats are chicken and lamb. Tea is the national drink.

Cairo International (CAI); Egyptian Air this time, flying 2,000 miles north over Greece, Croatia, Austria, and Germany before a stop in Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH) for a few hours. Then 1,330 miles in a northwesterly direction over the the tip of Norway and the North Sea to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) and the biggest change on the entire trip.

First of all, two of my grandkids arrive in the morning from Seattle; so the rest of the trip is “family time” instead of a singular experience. Then there is climate change, geography change, food change, and even “daylight” change – that far north we’ll have 17 hours of summer daylight to play. From the heat and humidity of Thailand and UAE and Egypt; from palm trees and monkeys and sand and camels; from Aboriginal and Buddhist and Islamic religions; from a generally hectic pace to the no-frills Lutheran way of life, where fish top every menu, swimming in geothermal pools is a year-round habit, and there’s not a poisonous snake to be found.

Just a wee bit south of the Arctic Circle – Reykjavik, Iceland, the northernmost capital city in the world. Way cool.


Sly, and the Family Stone

Linda Lou Burton posting about Cairo, Egypt from Little Rock, Arkansas – Remember the 2010 TV show Idiot Abroad, where Ricky Gervais sent the bumbling Karl Pilkington around the world to see the Seven Wonders? The premise was that Karl knew nothing about “the Wonders” and much preferred staying home within his comfort zone. So how does such a person perceive what s/he sees when traveling? It was meant to be funny. And it was, it hit the charts. One episode was “Karl at the Pyramids.” Ricky pulled the strings; first Karl was made to ride round and round on a camel looking for the pyramids; then he visited a couple who believed aliens built the pyramids, so evening chanting with a sneak inside a pyramid. At the end Karl sits staring at the pyramids; they are crawling with tourists, and the wind is blowing dust and chunks of trash in swirls, right into his face. His comment: “Why is this a Wonder? All I see is dirty nappies flying round.”

Ah, tourists. That story makes me think of what goes on at Uluru, with the “white ants climbing the rock.” And yes, the mad crush inside the giant cathedrals, and mosques, on my Portugal-Spain-Morocco guided tour last year. It was a mob-like push and shove, with photo ops. All timed, to fit the agenda before hopping back onto the bus.

The Pyramids at Giza, and the Great Sphinx have endured not only “the tourist crowd” for centuries, but destruction, pilfering, and theft, whether for research to explain them, or for profit, or simply because of a difference of opinion as to how things are in the world, or ought to be. Everyone has their version.

Last night I had a vivid dream, I guess it came out of my NDI RTW “touristy” visit to the Pyramids, especially that garish evening light show. The dream was my own fictional version of these desert edifices. It’s pretty simple. The Pyramids are tombs, and the Sphinx is a grave stone. I have visited many cemeteries in my years of genealogy research. The size and design of grave stones varies according to the wealth of a family, and their beliefs. Angels? Tiny lambs for babies? I’ve seen stones with baseball bats and fishing rods engraved; or memorable quotes, like “Precious Mother,” or that funny one “I told you I was sick.”

Think Charlton Heston now. Playing a powerful wealthy ruler, way back before Egypt was even Egypt. Long before he dies, he orders a mighty structure built in which to store everything he’ll need in the afterlife; plus the treasures he doesn’t want anyone else to have. As the worker bees in his reign cut the sandstone into blocks to build his magnificent FRP, and the quarry hole deepens, an ambitious young fellow seeking a promotion presents Charlton with an idea –“Let’s go ahead and sculpt your marker as we remove the stones for your tomb, what design would you like?” Charlton answers, “A big lion to guard my tomb, but a lion with my face on it, so everyone is fooled into thinking I still watch them.” “Ah, master, you are indeed a sly one,” the young fellow said, nodding. And so you have the Sphinx; on duty, sand and wind and tourists be hanged.