On Shosthi, we (3 families - team of 6 ) left for Delhi by
Indian Airlines @ 8.30 pm from Kolkata. Since the roads are well managed during Durga Puja, we
reached the airport within 6.30 pm.
We reached Delhi airport at 10.30 pm at T3. We have Kuwait airlines flight at 6.15 am next day, thankfully also at T3. Since it is only 10.30 pm, we were not allowed to enter the enter the lounge. We have to wait at the main waiting area.
You are allowed to enter only 6 hours before the flight leaving time . We were therefore allowed at 12.00 am. We (Mohua, me and Arun's family) used the lounge facility, after taking the boarding pass. Arindam and his family waited outside.
I met an interesting group of 20 people in Delhi who were traveling
with the Holy Land Travel agency of Delhi. They organize the tour for Rs 99,000
and take them to Jordan, Israel and Egypt. They are all Christians - from
various parts of India. They only have a paper visa for Israel. They do not
have any other visa. They will put a visa stamp in Cairo once they reach there.
In any case it is VOA in Jordan. So they have a strange arrangement for these 3
countries - where visa will be given just on the basis of this paper !
We reached Kuwait City (capital of Kuwait) at 8.10 am Kuwait time (actual duration is 4 .15 hours). Our next flight is at 10.00 am to Cairo.
We reached Cairo at 11.55 am Egypt time . Actual journey time is 2.45 hours. The food in Kuwait airlines is good. We took 2 Taxis from the Airport (110 EP or Egyptian Pound each) to reach Central Cairo, where our Hostel is located. At the moment, 1 Egyptian pound = 4 INR. We had a huge argument with the Taxi Drivers. They said they quoted the price in British Pound. This is a very common form of cheating. Be very careful. Of course I did not pay heed to them.
When we were ready to go to the museum, after freshening up, it is already 3 pm , whereas Egyptian museum closes at 4 pm. So we changed our plan and decided to go to a travel agent's office and arranged car for the whole tour. Actually we initially had a different plan, but ended up arranging the car for the whole tour in Egypt. The price was quite reasonable. We paid an advance of 150 USD. We also bought a SIM card for 105 EP.
We planned to do the nile cruise (8-10 pm) today.We paid 300 EP per person for the cruise - which was slightly higher than normal rate. I made a mis-calculation, about the price - so I thought it was reasonable. But when I realized my mistake, we managed to get a free pick up from our hotel by the travel agent, who booked the cruise. The food was good and cruise was quite luxurious. The beef and Sheekh Kebab was good. The main attraction of the cruise is of course belly dancing, Dervish dance. But Dervish dance here is exceptional.
DO NOT MISS THIS VIDEO
Then after the cruise , we walked all the way to the hotel.It is around 15 minutes walk. On the way back we went to a tea house to have a cup of tea. People were having hookah. Hookah is found all over the place. Price per tea is 5 EP.
The quantity of tea as
well as the taste were quite good. The women here generally wear hijab. In
Egypt 10% are non-Muslims. The women seem to be quite active and modern – they work
in shops, offices. They even walk freely at night. We were told that after revolution
in Egypt in Tahirir Square, things changed a lot. Even at 11 pm there are
enough people in the street. We read generally Egypt is safe - that seems to be
Since we have hired the SUV yesterday, we left for Giza by our SUV after complimentary breakfast at 8.45 am from the hostel.
Cairo , (pronounced as Cahro), is in the North. Aswan is in the extreme South. Luxor is "somewhat" in between It takes around 10 hours by train to reach Luxor from Cairo and 3 hours to reach Aswan from Luxor by train.
One side of Nile is Cairo (East) and the other side is Giza (East). They are 2 different districts , but now almost part of same district / municipality. They have become probably same Municipal Corporation. You can either go by ferry or Metro + bus combo or by Taxi.
The civilization which grew up beside Nile started in 6,000 BC or 8000 years back approximately. Nile is actually not Blue - actually it was Naheel and later its corrupted version is Nile.
Out of that 8000 years, Pharaoic period is only 5000 years. So between 8000 to 5000 ie for 3000 years there was not much of advancement.
However it is a miracle that Egypt’s Late Paleolithic rock art has survived for at least 15,000 years at Qurta (100 Km South of Luxor) near Kom Ombo and there are engravings of aurochs (prehistoric wild cows from which famous Goddess Hathor evolved).
Nabta Playa is a remarkable site composed of hundreds of prehistoric megalithic structures located in the Nubian Desert at modern day Sudan (North), approximately 100 kilometers west of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt. Sudan is the land of Nubians - land of Gold. I had no clue that Sudan has such a rich and old culture - much older than us. They are the result of an advanced urban community that arose approximately 11,000 years ago, and left behind a huge assembly of stones, which have been labelled by scientists as the oldest known astronomical alignments of megaliths in the world. The people of Nabta Playa were the precursor civilization for the first Nile cities that arose in Egypt thousands of years later.
The Greeks said Egypt is Gift of Nile. Though it carries just a tiny fraction of the water carried by the Amazon, Congo, or Niger rivers, the Nile is the world’s longest river. Its main tributaries—the White Nile and the Blue Nile—meet in Khartoum, Sudan.
The White Nile and Blue Nile derive their colors from the sediments they carry.
Originating in the Equatorial Lakes region, the White Nile is rich in light gray sediments. As this long river meanders over flat terrain, it loses over half of its water to evaporation. In the strict meaning, "White Nile" refers to the river formed at Lake No, at the confluence of the Bahr al Jabal and Bahr el Ghazal Rivers at South Sudan.
The White Nile's true source was not discovered until 1937, when the German explorer Burkhart Waldecker traced it to a stream in Rutovu, at the base of Mount Kikizi at Burundi.
Compared to the White Nile, the Blue Nile is skinny and its highly variable flow. Harsh dry seasons and droughts can periodically dry out the Blue Nile completely. Shorter than the White Nile, the Blue Nile starts in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, picking up black sediment en route to Khartoum. The Blue Nile is fed by monsoon rains.Because of frequent flooding the banks of Nile became very fertile. Gradually the civilization started around banks.
In 1896, the first pre-dynastic mummy, 'Gebelein Man,' who was later nicknamed Ginger, was found. It is very near to Luxor (40 Km South of Luxor or Thebes) and not very far from Qurta.
His body is very well preserved, including the preservation of the red hair that earned him the nickname Ginger. Ginger’s body was buried around 3500 BC (before early dynastic period or Late Pre-dynastic period ) in sand graves located near Gebelein, Egypt. Ginger was buried with some pottery. In the pre-dynastic period bodies were usually buried naked and sometimes loosely wrapped. In such a burial, when the body is covered in warm sand, the environmental conditions mean that most of the water in the body is quickly evaporated or drained away, meaning that the corpse is naturally dried and preserved. Without moisture, bacteria cannot breed and cause decay, and the body is preserved. This method was widely used in the pre-dynastic Egyptian period, before artificial mummification was developed.
The natural mummification that occurred with these dry sand burials may have led to the original Egyptian belief in an after-death survival and started the tradition of leaving food and implements for an after life.
Gradually Egypt evolved around Upper Egypt (or South Egypt at Qena bend) and Lower Egypt (or North Egypt) at Faiyum. Halfway between the Nile delta in the north and the Sudanese border in the south, the Nile River cuts a deep U-shaped bend into the desert near Luxor. Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt has 2 distinctive cultures. Deshret, from Ancient Egyptian, was the formal name for the Red Crown of Lower or Northern Egypt. Hedjet is the formal name for the white crown of pharaonic Upper or Southern Egypt. After the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, it was combined with the deshret, the red crown of Lower Egypt, to form the pschent, the double crown of Egypt.The terminology "Upper" and "Lower" derives from the flow of the Nile from the highlands of East Africa northwards to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Narmer Palette or Great Hierakonpolis Palette is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. The tablet is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer. On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pschent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowns_of_Egypt The Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as "the first historical document in the world".
Narmer, the king of South, is often considered as the founder of the First Dynasty and in turn the first king of a unified Egypt. A majority of Egyptologists believe that Narmer was the same person as Menes. Memphis became their capital.
Located in Upper or Southern Egypt (not very far from Thebes or Luxor) the site of Abydos played a pivotal role in ancient Egyptian religious life. The earliest kings of Egypt, including those from the first dynasty of Egypt’s history (3000-2890 B.C.), have been buried at Abydos. Their tombs and funerary enclosures may have been a first step on an ancient architectural journey that would see the Great Pyramids constructed centuries later.
The tomb of Djer (around 3050 BC) at Abydos was one of the largest and most complex tombs of the First Dynasty. His tomb at Abydos is surrounded by the burials of 300 hundred servants who were buried at the same time as the Pharaoh. This barbaric practice was soon abandoned. Today, Abydos is notable for the memorial temple of Seti I, which contains an inscription from the nineteenth dynasty known to the modern world as the Abydos King List. It is a chronological list showing cartouches of most dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from Menes until Seti I's father, Rameses I. It is the original version of Valley of Kings in Luxor.
The first record of organized taxation comes from Egypt around 3259 B.C. The Pharaoh would send commissioners to take one- fifth of all grain harvests as a tax. Egyptians did not have coined money, so their taxes were levied on harvests and property. The pharaohs appointed ministers who acted as tax supervisors. They kept records of taxes collected . The genesis of hieroglyphs is probably these when the need for recording the data became necessary.
Because of their pictorial elegance, Herodotus and other important Greeks believed that Egyptian hieroglyphs were something sacred, so they referred to them as ‘holy writing’. Thus, the word hieroglyph comes from the Greek hiero ‘holy’ and glypho ‘writing’.
The word 'pharaoh’ is the Greek form of the Egyptian pero or per-a-a, which was the designation for the royal residence and means `Great House'. The early monarchs of Egypt were not known as pharaohs but as kings. The honorific title of `pharaoh' for a ruler did not appear until the period known as the New Kingdom (c.1570-c.1069 BCE). There were around 300 Pharaohs in Egypt, organized in 30 dynasties.
Herodotus (485-430 BC) , an ancient Greek historian, born in modern day Bodrum, Turkey, known as the "Father of History" for his writings on various nations, is the author of the first comprehensive history of Egypt. Since he did not read hieroglyphs or speak the Egyptian
language, he relied heavily on native interpreters. His travel journal on Egypt
was written in Greek and published in Athens in 446 B.C.
The Egyptian civilization is divided into 3 period - New Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and Old kingdom - 850+(100+400)+(100+500) ~ 2000 years in total
1. Old Kingdom is roughly 3000 - 2150 BC (850 years). But 3000-2670 is early Dynasty ( Old Kingdom). During 2670-2150 BC, story of Pharaoh started and pyramid started during this Old period.
1A. First Intermediate Middle Kingdom - 2150-2056 BC (or approx 100 years) is intermediate Middle Kingdom is basically a period of chaos - when Egypt was divided into region of 2 warlords - North and South (near Thebes or Luxor). During this period agricultural activity suffered due to famine and drought and people started questioning the godliness of Pharaohs.Warlords replaced Kings. Ultimately it reorganized under Montuhotep II or Menuthotep II in 2060 and Middle Kingdom was formed.
2. DuringMiddle Kingdom - .400 years) the development took place at Luxor or Thebes - further South of Cairo. In the latter part of Middle Kingdom, Hyksos, nomadic Asiatic people from Syria/Palestine, conquered Lower Egypt (and very briefly all of Egypt), setting up 15th Dynasty.
3. New Kingdom was during 1550-1070 BC(or approx 500 years)- Ramesses II is the most important king of New Kingdom. What Shah Jahan is to India, Ramesses II is to Egypt. During New Kingdom came Karnak,Western Bank of Luxor. All the famous Pharaohs belong to this kingdom.Amenhotep III is the most important king during this period. The Exodus (of Moses) has traditionally been believed to be during the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). However an article in Jerusalem Post says - The Egyptian records do not mention the Exodus, but from their literature it can be deduced that the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC) was the pharaoh of the Oppression and his young son in- law Tutankhamun, the pharaoh of the Exodus...That date fits in well with two fixed dates given in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). (No record of the exodus has been found in any Egyptian tablets, but that is not unusual; the new dynasty did not make a habit of recording its defeats. On the other hand, there are ample records of Semitic immigrant workers in Egypt, who may have drifted back to Syria-Canaan in the 13th century for a variety of reasons—including, perhaps, Ramses’ harsh policies of conscripting labor. (https://www.nationalgeographic.com)
So the Pharaonic period is from 2670-1076 BC or 1600 years.
4A. Third Intermediate New Kingdom - 1070-712 BC
4B. Late Period - 664 -332 BC
Most of this period was ruled by Persians and with the defeat of Darius III (31st Dynasty) , started Graeco Roman Dynasty.
Between 1076-332 BC = 700 yearsthere were no major Pharaohs . During this period (21-25th dynasty) Libyans from North and Kush (Nubians) from South (from Sudans - with whom Pharaohs has fought many years. Nubia was famous for its Gold reserve) conquered Egypt and became Pharaoh themselves - such was the influence of Pharaohs.
Nubian/Kushite Kings constructed pyramids
during this period in today’s Sudan !! The area of the Nile valley, known as
Nubia, lies within the north of present day Sudan, was home to three Kushite
kingdoms. They are built of granite and sandstone. The last two kingdoms,
Napata and Meroë, were heavily influenced by ancient Egypt culturally,
economically, politically, and militarily. In 728 BC, the Kushite king Piye
united the entire Nile valley from the delta to the city of Napata under his
rule. Piye and his descendants ruled as the pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty. Napatan control of Egypt ended after
being conquered by Assyria in 656 BC. The Nubian pyramids are recognized as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site. So far, more than 35 pyramids grouped in 5 sites
were discovered in Sudan.
Assyrians defeated Egypt around 674 BC during 26th Dynasty. Assyrians were war machines. They returned after 20 years.
The 26th Dynasty of
Egypt was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in
525 BC. The dynasty's reign (664–525 BC) is also called the Saite Period after
the city of Sais in North /Upper Egypt, where its pharaohs had their capital,
and marks the beginning of the Late Period of ancient Egypt.
Then Egypt was annexed by Persians, who ruled for 200 years till 332 BC. Darius the great of Persia ruled during this period.
5. Graeco - Roman Dynasty Period - 332 BC - 642 AD
In 333 BC Alexander defeated Persians and saved Egypt in 332 BC. Alexander named over 70 cities after himself. He ruled Egypt for 6 months and left in 331 BC to conquer Persia. He died in 323 BC in Babylon but was buried in Saqqara, but was later moved to Alexandria. After his death,his general Selucas Nicotor got India, modern day's Pakistan, modern day's
Afghanistan (though there was no division in those days) and Ptolemy got
Egypt. So from 330 BC Macedonians / Greeks started ruling Egypt and Ptolemy
became king. From Ptolemy to the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC - this
period is called Hellenistic period - around 300 years (330-30 BC).The capital was shifted from Memphis to
Alexandria. It became the centre of
learning. Alexander was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of
Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert and became Egyptian !
6. After that (300 years after Ptolemy) came Romans. They ruled till 395 ADfor another 400 years, when Constantine ruled.
7. Then it was ruled by Roman/Byzantine till 642 AD. Byzantine is nothing but Christian Roman empire from Turkey. After that it was ruled by different Caliphates like famous Abbasids, Umayyad and other Muslim rulers
8. Finally it was ruled by the Ottomans from 1517- 1867 before French, British and others.
So we can safely say that Old Dynasty started at the dawn of Bronze age and New Dynasty started at the dawn of Iron age. Second, Mature Harappan (Indus Valley) period was during 2600 BC-2000 BC (Bronze period). Rig Veda was composed around the same time, since there is no mention of Iron in Rig Veda.
Similarly Mesopotamia (means land between two rivers - Tigris and Euphrates) roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders. The written history is found from around 3000 BC. South Mesopotamia was called Sumer.
The highland to the extreme Northern Part of Sumer was known as Assyria and North Eastern part of Sumer was Babylon. Sumerian were great builders and first developed art of writing - cuneiform script.
Great Pyramid of Giza is the culmination of pyramid building in Egypt. The 1st Pyramid (in Old Kingdom) started around 2670 -2650 BC is Step pyramid at Saqqara.
First pyramid we saw was
in Dahshur (Bent pyramid and Red pyramid), which is 10 Km before Saqqara. We
got down here. The pyramid was almost in
the middle of a desert. We did not see too many tourists here. It was built
between 2613-2589 BC.
There is a very small tunnel - which you can enter from the middle of Dahshur, till the end. None of us went inside
Then we went to Memphis.
It is the old Capital of
Egypt (King Narmer or Menes who unified Egypt and the first king of 1st Dynasty
- he made Memphis the capital). What Rome is to Italy, Memphis is to Egypt. We
saw a museum in Memphis and a statue of Ramesses, lying on the ground. Then we
saw a small Sphinx inside the compound of Museum. From the head gear you can
make out if was constructed during his life or after his death. If it is
constructed during his life then it will be straight, otherwise it will be
Then we finally left for
Saqqara. It has a Hampi like feeling. It looked like a necropolis. We also
saw Step pyramid in Saqqara (somewhat like step cultivation).
The probable architect of the Djoser's step pyramid was Imhotep. It
is the first pyramid of Egypt. It was constructed between 2670-2650 BC. Before
that, the tombs were made like a single storey building or Mastaba -
rectangular superstructure of ancient Egyptian tombs, built of mud brick or,
later, stone, with sloping walls and a flat roof. He wanted to build his
legacy in something far more permanent.
Finally we left for the great pyramid.
I have same numerous
pictures of Great Pyramid. It was built during the reign of King Khufu
between 2580-2560 BC. It was not new to me. So I was not overwhelmed by seeing
it, but I was struck by its huge size (how they could build anything like this
4500 years back). Around 20,000 workers worked for 20 years and made it out of
23 lakh or 2.3 million blocks. The population of Egypt during that time was
around 15 lakh or 1.5 million and during New Kingdom it was around 3 million.
Today there are around 130 pyramids in Egypt. The stones of the pyramid came
from Aswan. A city was created for the pyramid builders.
The entry ticket costs 100 EP .
There is a very deep tunnel through which you can go to the heart of the pyramid to reach burial chamber of King and Queen. We skipped it , since it is too complicated. To go inside you have to buy a separate ticket. Pyramid is more to be felt, rather than seen. Not many people are going inside.Pyramid of Hetepheres I - its tunnel is not so steep and it is free. Only Rumi and me decided to go inside.
The mathematical knowledge to make a tunnel like this which goes to the centre is quite amazing. Then we went to see the Pyramid of Khafre by walk, inside the same complex. Khafre is the son of King Khufu.
We went to Great Sphinx of Giza. We were late. We saw it, while passing by.
After the doors were closed, we requested them to allow us to take a picture. After requesting them (Police) for 5 minutes, they finally relented and allowed us to take a picture. It was made from a single piece of limestone. It was dine during the reign of Khafre. But they wanted some Bakshish at the end.
The sleeping train (luxurious - Rs 6,000 ) leaves from Giza side. We took a Taxi and reached Giza Station in 30 minutes (we paid 45 EP to the Taxi) after crossing the river Nile. They allocate one coup to a couple. There are two beds only in a coup. The train was supposed to leave at 7.45 pm, but it actually left at 8.15 pm. The trains service is like a plane. There is no view from the window - since it is dark. Other trains however leave from Ramesses II Station in Cairo (no need to go to Giza). This train is often higly recommended by people. I did not find it that great.
Alternately we could have taken the metro from Tahirir Square or Midan Tahirir to go straight to the Giza station.
We reached Aswan at 9.30 am .
The travel agent had come to receive us. Our hotel is only 1-2 minutes walk from the station. So walked to the hotel from the station. After taking a quick shower we left for Aswan Dam by our SUV.
The high dam of Aswan Dam was made to make hydroelectricity. As
a result of the dam, silt stopped coming and many parts were submerged in
water. So many things/artefact of Nubians, who generally came from
Khartoum of Sudan, were lost, submerged and destroyed in water. The French and
Italians however relocated many of them to another place, piece by piece. So the
tourists actually go to the newly
relocated place/Island instead of the original place where monuments
were located. Nile has started partly from Ethiopia and partly from
Burundi, as mentioned before. Nile finally falls into the Mediterranean in the North.
Normally rivers flow from North to South. Here it is exactly the opposite. So
Southern part is called High Egypt and Northern part is called Low Egypt.
Because of Aswan Dam, cultivable land has increased 30%. It is an eye opener
for me - how a dam changes the nature of a river - resulting in a largest
man-made lake in the world - Nasser Lake - 2/3rd of it is in Egypt and 1/3rd is
in Sudan. This Dam has cut Nile in two distinct parts. The lake is named
after Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of the leaders of the Egyptian Revolution of
left for Aglikia Island by a boat - where there is temple of Isis (re-located
after the dam) - falcon headed God – Isis - God of Sky. Isis is
mother of falcon headed God - Horus - whose pictures - bas relief were
it was in Philae Island - it was sub-merged in water and relocated to Aglikia
Island. We spent some time in Aglikia Island. There are 3 temples in this
Island - Egyptian temple, Ptolemy/Greek temple, Roman temple. Roman temple has
only 14 Corinthian pillars left. Why is it 14? Because Romans made 14
Since Egyptians God were considered as Pagan, so Christians chiseled the bas relief (except the one on the right - which was left untouched for some strange reason) of the Egyptian temple to destroy it. Inside the temple there is bas relief of mother of Horus - Isis.
Then we took the boat to come to
the shore and finally took our car to go near Elephantine Island.
We went to Elephantine Island by a felucca (a small wooden boat) ride . In the Elephantine Island, located in the middle to Nile River, there is a small Aswan museum and Ruins of Abu . There are many possible theories, why it is called Elephantine. Abu, sometimes called Yebu, means ivory or elephant in Egyptian. While the Valley of the Kings and the Pyramids are structures dedicated to the deceased, Abu was a thriving town for thousands of years. It provides a real window into what Egyptian society was like through the ages.
For a long time, Abu marked the border between the kingdom of Egypt and the kingdom of Nubia. in this land of Gold, hence its name.
Nubians still live here in very colourful houses. Many people go and
visit their houses. There is a bread and breakfast home-stay
here. The Island is around 1 Km long. We saw the mausoleum of Aga Khan
from the ruins of Abu.
In this small Island there are traces of New, Middle and Old kingdom from 3000 BC to 14th Century AD. This is very unique. This is basically land of Nubian.
This stone gateway was built by Alexander IV, the son of Alexander the great to honour Khnum
The boat ride is very interesting. On the way to the back to shore , we saw Botanical garden from the boat. We did not get down. We also saw a Coptic Monastery on the way. These are part of Nile - one side of the river is sand - very unique terrain. We saw pond heron, Egret, Gul etc.
I learnt here from "Burra"- our guide, that on a stone
in Cairo, a phoenix bird used to sit on a particular Pyramidal
Stone. It is believed that Phoenix represents Ra - Sun God. It used to sit at a particular point of time. They then decided
to make pyramid - taking it as a wish of God. But making a pyramid used to take
a long time. So at a later stage of the Pharaonic period, they stopped making the
pyramid and made an Obelisk - pillar of stone. There were burial chambers
too. After that we went to see unfinished obelisk - it is unfinished,
because in the quarry a fault line / gap was found. Most of the stones of
Pyramid came from Aswan.
We saw a Cruise boat on the way.
Finally we went to Nubian Museum. It is a very nice museum .They have explained 6500 years history in a very nice way. It is about the life and culture of Nubians. However pictures were not allowed to be taken. Nubians are from Sudan and merged into main stream and lost identity and adopted Egyptian God and writing style - Hieroglyphic. This is so typical of Egyptian history. Whoever has tried to capture Egypt , ultimately adopted their culture (somewhat like what happened to Romans, after they conquered Greece). They had a spoken language - African dialect. They did not have written language.
Nub means Gold. Nubian means land of Gold. There were some gold mines near Luxor. They also started worshiping Egyptian God - Ra (Sun God). All Gods are Ra - Amun Ra, Osisi Ra,Horus Ra, Isis Ra. We saw the wedding photo shoot of a Christian couple just outside the museum.
We let go our guide and left for our hotel. We had dinner from a non AC restaurant near our hotel - we had Tamiya, Phul and Kushari (mixture of Pasta+Noodles+Beef -nothing great) - which is very famous in Luxor. However other people had Pasta, hot dog, Shawarma. My Beef Kushari costs 30 EP.The price is quite reasonable . Even in Cairo, e.g. small Shawarma costs 11 EP = INR 44 and big one costs = 22 EP . After that others left for hotel. I roamed around my hotel on my own and took some interesting pictures.
Today we left for Abu Simbel, further South (in fact extreme South - near Sudan border) of Egypt early in the morning at 4.45 am.It is almost 260
Km from Aswan. The road is very good.
It took around 3.30 hours to reach Abu
Simbel. When we reached it is around 8 am.
Even Abu Simbel was submerged
in Lake Nasser. It was relocated to the present area in small pieces in 1968 on an artificial hill. A
documentary was shown in an auditorium there.
This is the palace of Ramsses II
or Ramsses the Great (1303-1213 BC). He lived till the age of 93 and had
68 wives and had over 150 son and daughter. He is like Shahjahan of Egypt. He belongs
to the New Kingdom.
There are huge 4 sculptures
of Ramesses II at the entrance- depicting different ages. The one in the left is
the youngest, till the oldest to the extreme right.
The oldest Ramsses
Although the temple was made in the honour of Ra, Amun Ra,Ta,but Ramesses II 's presence is overwhelming - everywhere and equated himself with God.
There is one more
temple beside Ramesses temple - it is the temple of Hathore - where there are
again 4 sculptures at the entrance - 2 are of Ramesses II and 2 are of his wife Nefertari
(not Nefretiti - who is the wife of iconic
It is prohibited to take pictures inside. Many people were caught taking the
pictures. The pictures inside the temple are still of quite good quality -
since it was submerged in desert sand - like some other temples in Luxor. It
was discovered in 1813. The reddish
colours are still visible. We were done
with the tour at 10 am. After seeing Abu Simbel, we took some time for shopping
and ‘wasted’ (for which we later paid a price !) a valuable 1 hour. I bought a
colourful Jalebia and Nubian skull cap.
The Sudanese border is only about 20 kilometers away.In the past, Abu Simbel was located on the west bank of the Nile between the 1st and 2nd Cataracts of the Nile. The Cataracts of the Nile are shallow lengths of the Nile River, between Khartoum and Aswan, where the surface of the water is broken by many small boulders and stones. The cataracts are sections where the river tumbles over rocks and have long kept boats from going up and down the river from Equatorial Africa to Egypt. There are 6 classical cataracts, but there are really many more.
In Sudan there are 4 of the original 6 Cataracts; the word cataract is a Greek word literally “down-rushing” or “waterfall”. However, none of the Nile’s 6 primary cataracts could be accurately described as waterfalls,
Finally we left
at 11.10 am. On the way to Luxor , we had to pass through Aswan. The road is
very good. The Sahara desert is in two sides.
The road is picturesque. The road
bisects the desert.
There are no human settlements for kilometre after kilometre.
We saw one car stranded. God knows what will happen to them, since nobody is
there to help them. We reached Aswan at around 2 pm. Then we left for Kom
Ombo temple (which falls on the way to Luxor).
Kom Ombo village is just beside Nile.
Unique in Egypt, Kom Ombo is dedicated to 2 Gods - Crocodile God Sobek, God of fertility and Horus. There are many crocodiles in Nile. When we reached Kom Ombo it is already 3.30 pm. We were told it closes at 4 pm. We were late. Reused blocks suggest an earlier temple from the Middle Kingdom period, but the main temple was built by Ptolemy VI - Philometor, and most of its decorations was completed by Cleopatra VII’s father, Ptolemy XII - Neos Dionysos. It was a bit disappointing. It has to be kept in mind there were 15 Ptolemys and half of the queens were named Cleopatra. Cleopatra resisted Romans for 20 years.
Arun and I started running and took some pictures from outside. We did not go inside - otherwise we will miss Edfu temple - temple of Horus, the next destination - which is the best preserved temple in Egypt.Other people did not get down. So we did not take the help of guide. Since we did not avail the help of a guide we did not pay "Bakshish" – so he was quite upset. Here at every stage in Egypt, you have to give Bakshish. We had arguments number of times over this.
We started moving towards Edfu temple. Those who do the Nile cruise cover these 2 temples on the way from Aswan to Luxor. But it takes a long time and was a costlier option too (approx 24,000 per head). We could have taken train also (but it would have been very complicated, since we have hired the car for the whole tour) to save time. I was very upset that everybody wasted almost 1 hour for marketing (it is better to do it, after reaching destination). In fact I warned them, we were getting late. We reached there at 4.50 pm. Somehow we gate crashed into the temple. It is almost a private visit . Nobody was there except us ! রাখে হরি মারে কে!
Ptolemy made the temple of Edfu. The period of Ptolemy is called Hellenistic or Ptolemic period. The word Hellenistic comes from the root word Hellas, which was the ancient Greek word for Greece. It took almost 200 years (237 BC-57 BC) to complete this temple. The building was started during the reign of Ptolemy III - Euergetes and completed in 57 BC under Ptolemy XII Auletes.
It is the temple of Horus - whose father is Osiris and mother is Isis – the holy trinity of Egyptian Gods.
Inside the temple you will find pictures/ bas relief of Osiris and also Horus. We did not
have any guide. But we had a local boy as guide – whom we had to pay bakshish.
It is a grand temple. We were there for almost 1 hour. We were very happy that
we made it.
The ankh is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol to represent the word for "life"
After that we
left for Luxor. It is around 110 Km. But the population is much higher in this
region. So there are full of speed breakers! So it took much longer. The location
of the hotel is very good. There is a very nice restaurant just beside the
hotel. It looks very exotic - typically middle Eastern - the table is circular.
We had everything we planned to have - Tamiya - Egyptian version
of Falafel (Tele Bhaja), Ful (The word ful is, in
fact, Egyptian for fava bean. It is a common ingredient in falafel. The dish , ful medames,
considered the national dish of Egypt, is made up of a stew made with cooked fava
beans, oil, cumin, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and sometimes, chili pepper).
They also give bread with that.
Arindam had Tajin
(famous dish of Morocco - it was not so beautifully served). There is pigeon
also. Arindam had fish too.
After that it was time to go to sleep.
Today we went to the West Bank of Luxor (old name
Thebes). Luxor rose into prominence almost 4,000 years back during the First Intermediate Middle
Kingdom at the time of MEntuhotep or Montuhotep II (2060-2010 BC), one of the warlords.
The First Intermediate Period, described as a 'dark period' in ancient Egyptian history. It was a dynamic time where rule of Egypt was roughly equally divided between two competing power bases.
One of those bases was at Heracleopolis in Lower or North Egypt, a city just south of the Faiyum region.
The other was at Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is believed that during this time temples were pillaged and violated, artwork was vandalized, and the statues of kings were broken or destroyed as a result of the postulated political chaos.
The South was dominated by warlords, the best-known of whom is Ankhtifi, whose tomb was discovered in 1928 at Mo’alla, 30 km south of Luxor. Ankhtifi was possibly a rival to the Theban rulers Mentuhotep I . It is here a necropolis containing several burials belonging to the provincial governors and officials was found. He was a provincial governor of the nome based at Hierakonpolis (South of Luxor), but he then conquered a second nome centred on Edfu.
These two kingdoms (North and South) would eventually come into conflict, leading to the conquest of the north by the Theban / Southern kings and the reunification of Egypt under a single ruler, Montuhotep II. King from Thebes were white crown and in the North wear red crown. After conquering North he wore red crown of North and re-united North and South symbolically and was the dawn of Middle Kingdom.
Senusret III (1878-1860
BC), also known as Senwosret III, Sesostris III was the 5th king of the 12th
Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. His reign is often considered to be the
highest point of the Middle Kingdom
which was the Golden Age in Egypt’s history -- art, literature, architecture, science, and
other cultural aspects reached an unprecedented level of refinement, the
economy flourished, and military and trade expeditions filled the nation’s
He led his troops by
example and always from the front. His campaigns into Nubia expanded Egypt's
boundaries and the castles/ fortifications made along the border fostered lucrative
trade. Senusret III's pyramid complex was built north-east of the Red Pyramid of Dashur
The crown of Lower Egypt (left) and the crown of Upper Egypt (right), both worn by King Sesostris III, Egypt, 19th century BC
Luxor was the capital of Egypt from the twelfth dynasty on (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom. It is divided into two parts - East Bank and West Bank. It is said Luxor
is one of the greatest cities of the world- if not the greatest during that
time. Luxor and Karnak Temple is in the East Bank. Valley of the queen, Valley of King, Medinet Habu,Colossi of Memnon, Deir el-Medina (workers' village), Deir el-Bahari,Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is in the West Bank. Do not forget to see the Deir el-Medina. In 1906 something similar to the discovery Tutankhamen , the tomb of Chief architect of Amenhotep III - Kha and his wife Merit was found. It is probably even more interesting and equally significant and the it is in Museum of Turin,Italy. It tells you the story of common man of Egypt. East Bank grew rapidly.
Nile is quite wide here. So the view along the
Nile is very nice. Luxor was the capital of New Kingdom. West bank is basically
a necropolis. We are staying at East Bank (normal thing to do). We started with
Valley of Kings in the West.
There are tombs of Tuthmosis
III, Ramesses IX, Seti I, Horemheb, Amenhotep II, and Tutankhaten or later called Tutankhamen (son in law of
Akhenaten or Amenhotep IV. Seti' I (mother of great Ramesses) well preserved tomb in the Valley of the Kings; it proved to be the longest at 446 feet (136 meters) and deepest of all the New Kingdom royal tombs.
From the entrance, they take you there by a bi articulated bus.
We did not go inside the tomb of Tutankhamen
(steep entry fee). We saw it from outside. The tomb itself is quite ordinary.
What was found inside the tomb is remarkable. Almost everything of it
is in Cairo Museum.
Howard Carter discovered it in the year 1922 .The entry fee
is generally very high in Egypt. You typically pay around Rs 700 (170 EP) for
any entry to a museum or places like this. There is a tunnel inside
the mountain - which take you to the tomb. If it is famous you invariably pay
around 160-172 EP ie RS 700. If it is less important it is 100 EP ie Rs 400. We
spent quite some time in Valley of Kings and some tombs and went inside. Only
in case of Tutankhamen tomb you have to pay extra !
The tombs were constructed and decorated by the workers of the village of Deir el-Medina, located in a small wadi/ravine/valley between this valley and the Valley of the Queens. Their village is also very well preserved. But normally tourist do not go there. It is often said these workers are also tomb looters - because they knew the exact position of the tomb.
we went to the Memorial temple of Hat-shep-sut (1507-1458 BC). We met our School friend,Architect Sandip Dey after at least 20 years !
From the entrance
they take you there by a bi articulated bus. The Polish people are restoring
the places around this site.
There is a place where they stay during
restoration. Still some fresco work can be seen here in this temple.
magnificent temples, protected Egypt's borders and masterminded a highly
profitable trading mission to the land of Punt – horn of Africa – probably Somalia.
Her successor was Thutmosis III or Thutmose III, her step son . There was no
love lost between them. Hatshepsut died in 1458 B.C.E. and was buried in the Valley of the Kings. Although she went to great lengths to be remembered after
her death, Thutmose III carried out a sweeping campaign to destroy her legacy
20 years later. He crushed her statues, defaced her images, and erased her
Some say it was
an act of vengeance, others believe it was to ensure a smooth succession of his
own son to the throne. A third theory proposes that he didn't want the rule of
kings—Thutmose I, II, and III—interrupted by a woman.
This temple was
made in the honour of Hatshepsut. We saw many Bas relief of Hathor.
Bovine God - Hathor
Bakshish please !
She was a pharaoh. She is a very important
person in the history of New Kingdom. It is situated next to mortuary
temple of Montu-hotep II at Deir el-Bahari. Almost 600 years after mortuary temple of Montuhotep II was created, funerary temple of Hatshepsut was constructed.
After that, suddenly
our travel agent said they are not going to Valley of Queens. After lot of confusion,
reluctance and phone call to Wael, they finally said, either we go to Valley of
Queen or Medinet Habu. When you are going to West Bank, always write it in a
paper, what are the places you want to go in West Bank (otherwise they will try
to curtail) and hand it over to them. Otherwise they will harass you! Be rest
It is apparently
the best preserved tomb. We bought some stone engraving on a block, of Pharaohs,
Horus, Anubis, Isis, Osiris from shops outside Valley of Queen, at incredibly
cheap price - since it is dull season.
After that we saw Colossi of Memnon (funerary temple - These temples were designed to commemorate the reign of the Pharaoh ) - are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1391- 1353 BC).
He is often considered as the greatest Pharaoh of New Kingdom. He is the great grandson of Thutmosis III (who is step son of Hatshepsut). His lengthy reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendour, when Egypt reached the peak of her artistic and international power. Proof of this is shown by the diplomatic correspondence from the rulers of Assyria, Mitanni, Babylon, and Hatti which is preserved in the archive of Amarna Letters. He married a daughter of Syrian/Mitanni King. The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep's memorial temple (or mortuary temple). Funerary temple and Tomb were separated during his period. Amenhotep’s patronage of the arts set new standards of quality. His building works can be found all over Egypt. Many of the finest statues in Egyptian art, attributed to Ramesses II, were actually made by Amenhotep III. (Ramses II simply removed Amenhotep’s name and replaced it with his own.) One of Amenhotep’s greatest surviving achievements is the Temple of Luxor on the east bank of the river. Unfortunately, his mortuary temple, the largest of its kind ever built, was destroyed when Rameses II used it as a quarry for his own temple. Only the two colossal statues that stood at the entrance survive – which is known as Colossi of Memnon. Amenhotep’s greatest legacy was his high standard of artistic and architectural achievement.
Amenhotep began restricting the power of the priests of God Amun by recognizing other cults. One of these was a special form of the god Ra known as the Aten. It was this deity which Amenhotep’s son, Akhenaton, was to promote as the one and only true god, causing trouble within Egyptian society over the next generation. He set the stage for Amenhotep IV or Akhenaton’s unique style. Akhenaten is noted for abandoning Egypt's traditional polytheistic religion and introducing monotheistic Atenism, worship centered on the sun disc Aten. He is Egypt’s first revolutionary. A religious reformer he made the Aten, the sun disc, the center of Egypt’s religious life and carried out an iconoclasm, that saw the names of Amun, a pre-eminent Egyptian god, and his consort Mut, In fact his bust is completely different from other Egyptian Pharaohs.
When he ascended the throne his name was Amenhotep IV, but in his sixth year of rule he changed it to “Akhenaten” a name that translated roughly as the “Benevolent one of the Aten.”
In honor of the Aten, he constructed an entirely new capital at an uninhabited place, which we now call Amarna, out in the desert. The city was founded by Akhenaten, a king who, along with his wife Nefertiti and his son, famous Tutankhamun, has captured the modern imagination as much as any other figure from ancient Egypt.
Nefertiti, whose name means "a
beautiful woman has come," renowned for her
beauty, ruled alongside her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, during the
mid-1300s B.C. She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun
But Akhenaten and his ideas were not popular. He did wonderful things and even gave women rights to worship and own property, but the people disliked his innovations and the priests hated him and when he died just 16 years after building the city, it fell apart. Everyone wanted to leave Akhetaten (now called Amarna ) - the name meant The Horizon of the Aten and they left with all its treasures; the mudbrick city fell into disuse and disrepair.
Then we went to the train station (7-8 minutes
walking from the hotel) and we ended up buying a wrong ticket - due to
communication gap. They refunded, it after lot of confusion. They did not
charge cancellation fee. There is no late night train, which suits our plan. Finally
we decided to go by bus. We bought the bus (- Mercedes) ticket (at 11 pm) to
Cairo for 150 EP ! It takes around 10 hours to reach Cairo. Quite cheap. There
is one more bus company, just beside this bus Company – but it is more
Then we left for our hotel - walking.
After returning to hotel, we had our dinner from the same restaurant.
We had breakfast from a local shop.
Today we went to see the East Bank. It is
very near to our hotel. First we went to see Karnak Temple. It was started in
the Middle Kingdom. It was built over a period of 2000 years. It was enlarged,
restored during these 2000 years. Each Egyptian ruler who worked at Karnak left
his or her own architectural mark. It was dedicated to Amun Ra.
You enter the complex through a grand procession way, flanked on both sides by ram-headed sphinxes - symbolizing the god Amun and a small effigy of Ramesses II, in the form of Osiris, stands between their front paws.
central sector of the site, which takes up the largest amount of space, is
dedicated to Amun-Ra, a male god associated with Thebes. To the south of the
central area is a smaller precinct dedicated to his wife, the goddess Mut.
It considered as the largest religious
complex in the world. The area of this temple is 2 sq Km. Here the symbol is
Lotus, unlike papyrus of Cairo. There are huge pillars - 134 of all. The most
important one - Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet and featuring 134
columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world.
addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast
Karnak temple is exceptional temple with
gigantic size - full of bas relief . Horus, Amun Ra is present everywhere.
There is a light and sound show in the night.
Then we left for Luxor temple - it was built
by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun during his reign of 10 years (1336-27 BC), Horemheb
(1323-1295 BC) and then by Ramesses II (1279-13 BC). Luxor Temple was the most
significant religious centers in ancient Egypt. The temple has been in
almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day.
An avenue of human headed sphinxes of over 3 km once connected the temples of Karnak and Luxor.
It was covered by sand. When the Arabs when
came here, did not see this. They made a mosque just beside it .
That is why they did not vandalize it. It is just beside the Nile.
You can see
it during the Nile cruise. You will see this temple when you first reach Luxor.
Since it was very hot, only Arun and I
I bought a book for my friend Srijan from a nice book shop.
We did the Felucca tour for 1.30 hours after that. Since there
was not much breeze - it was bit boring. A mechanized boat took us to the centre
of Nile and then they used the oar to move the boat forward and finally took us
to the shore.
It could not take the help of sail, for want of wind.
Here you will find those which
were found in Luxor Temple. It is just beside the river. Its collection is also
very good and very well maintained.
Egypt is much more beyond just pyramid (apparently
research said, they used to make sand mountain to make it. There was no scaffolding
in those days! ). There are amazing sculptures. Karnak and Luxor is the
highlight of my tour.
This museum is closed during 2-5 pm (During
that time we did the Felucca ride). Our travel agent was not willing to go to
the museums. After lot of argument, they finally relented and took us to the
Then we went to the
When we finished the museum it was 8.30
pm. These 2 museums are open in the evening.
We paid 15 EP per head for 5-6 minutes ride. Our bus
left at 11 pm and we reached Cairo at 9 am next day. The road is very good
without any doubt. I did not remember any jerking, throughout the journey.
There are Eastern desert and Western desert on the sides of the road. We were a bit scared of the bus ride. But it was a very good experience and there is no
need to go by train. Bus tickets are easily available and that too at a
convenient time. There are many bus companies. However there is no bus from
Luxor to Aswan. You can avail Train or Taxi or hire a car to commute between
Luxor and Aswan. It takes around 3- 3.5 hours.
After reaching Cairo we paid 25 EP to Taxi to go to our (same) hotel. Every time we hired a taxi there was a problem with
Taxi driver. Even in the toilet they asked 15 EP - whereas the Egyptians were
paying 1 EP . So I have paid 1 EP. We wanted to buy water- they were asking
more. So it is really stressful. Foreigners face exactly the same thing in
India. We quickly changed our dress in the hotel. We bought Shawarma from the
chain of restaurants near our hostel.
Egyptian museum is around 15 minutes walk from our
That is why I booked the hotel. It is a huge museum.
The entry fee is
240 EP. You have to pay 50 EP for camera. Only Arun bought it for all of us. I
thought, it is better to see it last. Then we went to Royal Mummy
museum. You have to pay extra for this. Over there we saw Ramses II,
I thought Mummification museum is more
interesting. You can skip it , if you want. It is almost a skeleton. In this
museum there are artifacts from Tutankhamen tomb - 108 kg of Gold is there.
Everything is amazingly grand. You are not
allowed to take pictures of Gold artifacts. We did take some picture of
other things like ivory etc. The wooden sarcophagus is very nicely gold plated
. Apparently 89% of the ornaments found belong to Akhenaten. He died only at the age of 18 years. But it was not stolen and everything is very
well preserved. In Egypt, craftsmen used alabaster for canopic jars and various other sacred objects.
Made of Alabaster stone
For a long time it was suspected that the pictures were of Tut, but it later transpired that is probably of his father Akhenaten
Then we saw a bust of Nefertiti. It is one of the iconic busts
of Egyptian woman.
She is the wife of Akhenaten. The bigger and main bust is in
Berlin museum. There are 2 Obelisks in Berlin museum. One is in Paris. But Tutankhamen
was not a very important Pharaoh, unlike Ramses II, Amenhotep III. There is Narmer Palette also. Here
signages are quite bad. It takes around 4 hours to see the museum.
Then we went to see the
Then we went on to see Sultan Hassan mosque cum Madrassa. It is known
as the finest architecture of early Mamluk period (not to be
confused with Mamluk Dynasty in India between 1206-1290, starting with Qutb
Then the car dropped
us at Al Az
Just opposite to this is famous Khan el
Khalili Bazaar - constructed in 14th Century - similar to Grand
Bazaar of Istanbul. First we had food at a restaurant - Pizza (Rs
120), humus, Biryani rice (looks like Paulo),
Chicken roast - since we were very hungry. Here lemon juice is very good. They
way make Rumali Roti is really grand.
Not like what we get
in India. It is true not only for this restaurant. We had similar kind of thing
in other places too. We bought more souvenirs : lamp shades, Tee Shirts, bust
of Nefertiti, Tutankhamen.
It was around 10.30 pm, when we finished our
shopping. While coming back, after shopping, we hired a car to go to Tahrir
square - when we paid 15 EP - they said the deal was done for 15 Dollar instead
of 15 EP !!
The per capita income is slightly more than India. The poverty is the genesis
of such level of fraud everywhere. The prices are quite reasonable - comparable
to India. The sugarcane juice we had is 5 EP or Rs 20. The entry fee is however
very high. The fridge magnets are quite reasonable. You can have dinner even for Rs 80 ! The bus fare is quite cheap.
There is no tram in Cairo. Bakshish is almost essential. Only in Luxor, we did
not give any Bakshish, because of their bad behaviour. Otherwise you have to pay Bakshish. But people are
generally nice. Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan are very popular here. They
moment they hear you are from India - they will talk of Amitabh or Shahrukh.
The problem starts whenever there is a financial dealing. In Morocco we
did not face such problem of Bakshish and cheating.
We checked out of our hostel, after having
nice complimentary breakfast and went to Ramses II bus station by 2 Taxis to
take Micro (they pronounce it as Me crow ) bus to go to Iskanderiya (or
Alexandria). It is not very far from our hotel. Micro bus is
nothing but 13 seater Tata Winger. We were lost in Ramses II bus station - they
dropped Arindam somewhere else. After some time and some scary moments, we got
to see each other. Without phone, it was really scary ! The fare is 55 EP (or
Rs 220) per person for 218 Km distance (the distance between Kolkata and Digha
is 184 Km). Since we have luggage, we booked two extra seats ( 9 in total) for
us. Even then, it was difficult to sit. The time taken to reach is only 2.5
hours !! We left at 11 am and reached at 1.30. The average (median) speed was
110 Km / hour !! The road is amazing.
No wonder the day tour runs from Cairo to
Alexandria - even though it is so far from Egypt. Can you imagine a day tour to
Digha from Kolkata for Rs 440 with return fare ? We are far behind in the race.
The founder of Alexandria is Alexander the
great. Cleopatra (remember there are many Cleopatras) made Alexandria, the seat
of her throne. It is a historical city. After getting down at the bus station,
we took a Tata Omni kind of car to reach our hotel. The hotel is just beside Mediterranean.
The location could not have been better. It looks somewhat like Nariman point –
like a necklace.
There is a nice view from our room. We finally left at 2.30 pm
for the day tour. We hired the same car - we paid him 250 EP for the day tour.
First we went to Fort or Citadel of
Qatibay. It was made in 1447. It lies at the last point of Alexandria. After
that there is Mediterranean. The land has narrowed at the place. The fort is
ordinary, but the view is wonderful.
Then we left for Catacomb of Kom El Shoqafa. It was used from 2nd Century AD to
4th Century AD. The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian
tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult with
Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman influences. In this honey comb there were
300 corpses inside during that time.
For want of time, we did not go inside. It is
inside the main city. There is Pompeii pillar too within 500 metres. Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal, the
largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome & Constantinople, located at the Serapeum of Alexandria. It is one of the largest
ancient monoliths and one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected.
Actually it has nothing to do with Pompey and was instead set up in AD 292 in
honor of Emperor Diocletian
Then we left for Roman Amphitheatre.
Somehow we gate crashed at 4.50 into that place, just before its closure at 5
pm. It is basically in ruins. There were some pillars. The musical performance
used to take place till the 7th century AD, which used to host up to 600
people. The Roman Amphitheatre we see today in Alexandria was constructed in
the 4th century AD and it was a common feature of the Greco Roman period. There
was a place where students used to study. It is thought that this was a seat of
After that we left for Bibliotheca Alexandria. We passed through a place we looked like Burra Bazar ! This part of Alexandria is very different from the romantic Alexandria.
When we reached it was already closed. The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The idea of a universal library in Alexandria may have been proposed by Demetrius, an exiled Athenian statesman living in Alexandria, to Ptolemy I - Soter, who may have established plans for the Library, but the Library itself was probably not built, until the reign of his son Ptolemy II - Philadelphus. Alexandria came to be regarded as the capital of knowledge and learning, in part because of the Great Library. Located near the site of the ancient library of Alexandria, this modern version is an 11-story, cylindrical-shaped building that houses more than 8 million books. This gorgeously designed cultural center contains a host of museums as well as one of the modern world's most ambitious libraries. Its architecture - a giant sun disk - presides over the waterfront Corniche. It is a huge complex like Nandan. At that time dance performance by Kenyans were going on. The performance was done by other African countries too.
did not see a single woman wearing hijab. Finally we sat beside the beach
(called Corniche) for some time, before calling it a day.
Then we had dinner (of special cuisine of
Alexandria - Iskender Kebab) and finally called it a day.
Today we had no tour after a
long time. So we had slowed down. We got up little late and had wonderful
breakfast at the rooftop (Air conditioned) with full view of Mediterranean.
had planned to see the city by taking a tram. But since nobody was interested,
I called off the plan. We had our flight at 4.20 pm. Arun and I arranged for a car
to go to the airport. They charged 350 EP (i.e. 50 EP per person). We exchanged the Egyptian pound for dollar at
an exchange house just beside the hotel. The airport is quite far from the
city. The car travelled at a great speed - on an average 110-120 Km / hr !
The road as usual was very good. It took 1 hour to reach the airport. In Jordan
there is visa on arrival. It took 1.30 hours to reach Amman. If you stay
for minimum 4 days and buy Jordan pass, then you don't have to pay for the Visa
fees. With the Jordan pass you don’t have to pay for the entry fee to all
important tourist spots.
We were greeted by the travel agent - formally dressed in a suit. They were very
professional. We even did not stand in the queue. He told us to wait for him -
after taking our passport. In no time the visa was stamped. The roads are very
good. The car is perfect. While we were driving they took out EDC machine and
our cards were swiped (we did not pay from India. Arindam paid in Cash) ! We
reached our hotel soon - the quality of the hotel was exceptional.
We selected the travel agency from Trip Advisor. The rates given
were good too - 485 USD per head all inclusive - airport to airport.
The population of Jordan is only 1 Crore (10 million). Amman is
40 Lakh. Jordanian dinar is pegged to USD at 1: 0.7 i.e. 1 JD=0.7 USD=Rs 100.
The litre of oil costs Rs 100 approx. Prices are very very expensive. The
main three pillars of their economy are Agriculture (Olive), Phosphate
First our plan is to go to Jerash or Jerasha - 48 Km North of Amman. It takes 1.30
hours to reach Jerash. It is a very old city , which is continuously inhabited
since 6500 years.
In ancient times, it was one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the ancient Near East. It was founded as a Hellenistic city in the 2nd century BCE. Jerash is today noted for its fine Roman and Byzantine ruins, which rank among the largest and best preserved in the world.
It reminded me of Ephesus of Turkey - though Ephesus is
better preserved. Previously it was part of Eastern Roman Empire. Then it was passed on
to Byzantine, then to Ottoman empire. There is a place for hawkers. Apparently
it was occupied by hawkers forcibly!
There are 2 amphitheaters inside. There is Colonnaded
Street. It is a huge area - almost 1 Km long. This ancient city that was
at its peak about 2000 years back.
Triumphal Arch, was built in AD 129 in honour of the visit of
Emperor Hadrian. Behind the arch is the hippodrome (ground for horse racing),
which hosted chariot races in front of up to 15,000 spectators.
Then we left for Ajlun Castle. It takes around 40 minutes from
there. It was constructed in the 12th Century by one of Saladin's
generals, Izzeddin Usama Mungidh, to repel the Crusader threats to north Jordan
Here there is a watch tower in this castle. This is to look into
the invading crusader force. The route to Ajlun castle is really nice- red soil
- you will find Olives. The castle is not extra ordinary. When we reached it was
raining quite heavily.
Then we left for Amman again.
Amman is known as one the oldest continuously
inhabited city in the world. Much older than our Benaras ! Its name has
been mentioned in Bible as Rabbath Ammon was the capital of the Ammonites,
which later fell to the Assyrians. It was dominated briefly by the Nabateans before it became a great Roman trade center and was renamed
Philadelphia. Amman was part of the “Decapolis”, the 10 most important cities in the Roman Middle East – a band of brothers which also included Amman or “Philadelphia” and the Syrian capital Damascus. After the Islamic conquests, Amman became part of the Islamic
Empire, until the Ottomans were forced out by the Allies (with Lawrence of Arabia playing a very important role) during World War I, with the help of the
Hashemites, who formed a monarchy that continues to rule until the present.
There is a citadel here. Our car took us there. There is a
wonderful view of the city from the citadel. In Amman Citadel no era of history
has left untouched. Unfortunately, it is no longer a living space. It is standing on one of the 7 hills that form
the city of Amman in Jordan. It is also known as Jabal al-Qala meaning the hill
of the citadel. Amman Citadel has been continuously inhabited since the
Neolithic period. Several things from Bronze age (3000 BC-1500 BC) were
found here. There is a temple of Hercules here. An inscription here dates this
temple to around 160 AD. There is broken hand of Hercules. You can make out how
big the original sculpture was.
There is Umayyad Palace as well. The Umayyad palace was constructed in 798 AD, after 200 years of birth of Prophet Muhammad . There is a Byzantine church also from 6th century AD. Amman city has undulating terrain. The colour of most of the houses is ash. During the Azan the feeling from the citadel is heavenly. The whole area reverberates like anything.
There is a very well preserved Roman Theatre or amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 6,000 - not very far from the citadel. It can be seen from the Citadel. We met a Bangladeshi. One of them stays here in Amman. We were told there is a Bangladeshi, Pakistani neighbourhood.
Then we left for the Roman Theatre. It was probably built in the 2nd Century AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Antonius Pius. Ruler sat on the front seats – closest to the stage. Middle rows belonged to the military. Rest of the public sat in the top rows.
The best part of the Theater is its acoustics. You can stand at the center of the stage and your voice will echo. A small shrine to the goddess of theater Athena used to be there on top of the last rows.
Apparently it was a Greek Theatre. Greek Theater existed in this
place before the Roman Empire and Romans continued to use this theater and
later generations came to know it as Amman’s Roman Theater.
After spending some time at the Roman theatre, we planned to go
to the souq - after reaching our hotel. But since started raining we dropped
our plan, after walking some time. It was quite cold. This hotel is in the
Western Amman - where rich people stay. Middle class and poor stay in the
Eastern side. The hotel is in a secluded region. The view is very good. However
it is difficult to venture out from here on your own without a car. We met
some Bengalis , garbed in skull caps and Pajama Punjabi, from Park Circus in our
hotel. They are here for a religious tourism. Tomorrow they are going to
Jordan is a historical Country and it is a very important Country for both
Christians and Muslims. When Prophet Muhammad started preaching, the first
country he visited outside Saudi Arabia was Jordan and met non-Arab Byzantine
people. Many companions of Prophet were martyred here in Jordan. The most
important companions of the Prophet buried in Jordan include: Zeid ibn
al-Haritha (the Prophet’s adopted son), Ja’far bin Abi Talib (cousin of the
Prophet), Mu’ath bin Jabal (the Prophet’s governor in Yemen),
Their shrines of them are very important for Muslims. Jordan has
been mentioned in both Bible and Koran. It is often said burial place of Moses
is also here in Jordan !
Today we first went to Madaba. Located in western Jordan, Madaba
is 30 km southwest of Amman. It is visited along with Mount Nebo, the site
where the Old Testament says Moses saw the Promised Land. It is known as the
Mosaic city. It is best known for its collection of Byzantine and Umayyad
During the early centuries of Christianity, Madaba was an
important town as a stop along the trade route. It also was home to various
churches. It was during the 6th century that an unknown artist created what is
now known today as the oldest known cartography of of the Holy Land during
biblical times on the floor of a Byzantine era St George Cathedral. This map is
made up of more than a million pieces of colored stones and may have taken more
than half a year to create.
In fact in any Roman city this kind of mosaic is found, made of small 1 inch by 1 inch square stone (like a collage). But this is on a grand scale. We went to the St George church to see the mosaic. Normally they first take you to the church to see the mosaic. There are some interesting, but lesser known Churches also in Madaba - walking distance from this church. Unless you tell them before hand, they won't take you there. Most of the mosaics are 1500-2000 years old. It takes around 45 minutes from Amman to reach Madaba.
After buying some souvenirs we left for Mt Nebo. Things are quite expensive in
Jordan. The distance between Madaba and Mt Nebo is only 7 Km (20 minutes).
It is basically in the same location.
This is the place
where Moses came with his followers, after they were chased by the soldiers of
Pharaoh, in search of the promised land. From Mt Nebo there is a wonderful view
of the Jordan Valley and promised land. He could not find promised land. It is
believed that Moses died here in Mt Nebo.
Moses’ parents set him afloat on the Nile in a reed basket daubed with pitch. The child was found by the pharaoh’s daughter while bathing. The name Moses (Hebrew Moshe) is derived from Egyptian mose (“is born”) and is found in such names as Thutmose ([The God] Thoth Is Born). During his education he learned somehow that he was a Hebrew. According to the biblical narrative, Moses lived 120 years and was 80 when he confronted Pharaoh.
For almost as long as the Jewish nation has existed, it has been persecuted and forced to wander from land to land: starting with slavery in Egypt, to the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem, to the Crusades, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and finally, modern day anti-Semitism. The 4 primary periods of exile are known as “arba galuyot” - Babylon (423 BCE - 372 BCE), Persia (372 BCE – 348 BCE), Greece 371 BCE - 140 BCE, Rome (69 CE - Present)
The people of Israel (also called the "Jewish People") trace their origin to Abraham, who established the belief that there is only one God, the creator of the universe. Abraham, his son Yitshak (Isaac), and grandson Jacob (Israel) are referred to as the patriarchs of the Israelites. All three patriarchs lived in the Land of Canaan. The name Jew derives from Yehuda (Judah) one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Originally the term Hebrew had nothing to do with race or ethnic origin. It derived from Habiru, a designation of a class of people who made their living by hiring themselves out for various services. The Hebrews/Israelites were a federation of Habiru tribes of the hill-country around the Jordan River.
There was a famine in the land of Canaan (Palestine). Because of this famine, the Hebrew patriarch Jacob traveled with his extended family of 70 to Egypt to both live in better conditions and be with his son Joseph. Joseph’s wisdom had impressed the Pharaoh of Egypt to the point that he was appointed Viceroy of Egypt, which was second in power only to the Pharaoh.
The next 430 years in Egypt saw the Israelites prosper and rapidly multiply to about 3 million people. These numbers were so great, the Pharaoh became nervous that the Israelites were becoming too many in number to control and thought they might side with Egypt’s enemies in case of war. The Pharaoh decreed that the Israelites should be enslaved to build cities and roads for him so that they would be too tired and also would not have time to have children. Apparently Pharaoh was upset that Jews sided with Hyksos when they ruled Egypt for a short time.
Moses would go to the Pharaoh Ramses Or Ramesses II and ask him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh finally agrees to let the Israelites go after a series of setbacks in Egypt. Moses used the plagues of the frogs, mosquitoes, cattle murrain, boils, hail, locusts and thick darkness (natural events) to increase the pressure on Ramses. However, once the Israelites have already left, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues the Israelites to the shore of the Red Sea. Moses uses his magic to part the Red Sea and the Israelites cross on dry ground, but the sea closes down on the pursuing Egyptians, drowning them all
Soon after the Exodus, Moses transmitted to the people of this newly emerging nation, the Torah and the Ten Commandments. In the Covenant ceremony at Mt. Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were promulgated, he founded the religious community known as Israel. After 40 years in the Sinai desert, Moses led them to the Land of Israel, that is cited in The Bible as the land promised by God to the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the Judaic tradition, he is revered as the greatest prophet and teacher, and Judaism has sometimes loosely been called Mosaism, or the Mosaic faith, in Western Christendom.
The Hebrew Bible ( 24 books) is known to Christians as the Old Testament. The second part of Christian Bible is the New Testament, written in the Koine Greek language.
The Hebrew Bible is also called the Tanakh - contains 24 books. Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text's (non-translated, original version ) 3 traditional divisions : Torah (‘Teaching - Rules and instructions) - also known as the 5 Books of Moses – which are words of God, Nevi'im (’Prophets’), and Ketuvim (’Writings’) — hence TaNaKh. Many biblical studies scholars advocate use of the term Hebrew Bible as a substitute for less-neutral terms with Jewish Tanakh or Christian connotations ( or Old Testament ).
The Prophets are considered ‘inspired by’ God, but not quite as directly as Torah. Whenever something in Prophets appears to be different from something in Torah, the Torah is ‘correct’ and we are to interpret the Prophet’s words in light of Torah.
At a synagogue the Torah, which is on a single scroll, is read from the scroll weekly, going through the entire Torah over the course of a year (some synagogues take three years, but most do it in one). The Torah in scroll form is written entirely without vowels or punctuation, and is without ‘chapter verse’. The Torah scroll does not assign names to these books, but each book is set off by some white space in the scroll, and the names used are taken from the first major word in the first sentence of each book.
Many Christians refer to the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament, the prophecy foretelling the advent of Jesus Christ as God’s appointed Messiah. The name Old Testament was devised by a Christian, Melito of Sardis, about 170 AD to distinguish this part of the Bible from the writings that were eventually recognized as the New Testament. But to Jews, there is nothing called ‘old’ testament but only the Bible : the Hebrew Bible.
A Christian Old Testament puts Torah at the front - and then mixes the prophets and writings together, managing to end up with a prophet at the very end, leaving the general reader with a feeling that the story has NOT been neatly fulfilled, but something is hanging and waiting for something else.
This leads some people to say that the Old Testament and the Jewish Bible are not the same book at all, even though each contains all the same material. A difference is the order of the books.
Modern Hebrew Bible use the Christian chapters. The text of the Old Testament (i.e. the Christian version) is based on the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible during the reign of King Ptolemy of Egypt. Catholic Bibles, unlike Protestant Bible, include some other works from Jewish sources, but they were relatively late in time and were often written in Greek or Aramaic and not in Hebrew.
When Martin Luther decided to translate the Bible (OT and NT) into German, he decided to use the Jewish versions, rather than the Latin Catholic Bible for his source for the OT.
The descendants of Abraham crystallized into a nation at about 1300 BC after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
This is a very sacred place for
From here generally people go to Jerusalem. We saw some Spanish
groups also. There is a very nice mosaic inside the Church also. We took some
pictures of Jordan Valley. We bought some souvenirs too. They are very
Then we got back to the car. We heard a bridge has been broken
due to flash flood and 21 people had died. This news has even reached in
Kolkata ! We had been informed over whatsapp ! Moreover today is very windy. So
we had to skip going to Dead Sea. If the water of dead sea, goes to your eye,
you can even become blind. You are advised to float on your back. Not with your
face down to the water.
So we went straight to
Petra. We reached Petra little early at 3.50 pm. It took around 2.30 hours to
reach Petra from Mt Nebo.
Our hotel is really nice. There is a wonderful view
from the hotel.
We walked around Petra. He saw a nice sunset and bought some souvenirs.We saw sand art live.
souvenirs are very expensive. Even food is very expensive. You cannot
have any dinner for less than 11 USD ! 1 JD=Rs 100. There are two
prices - one for tourist and one for local. This is surprising if you consider
that its per capita income is only 2800 USD. Slightly more than India. In Egypt
price of items on the street and per capita income are commensurate. If you go to Departmental stores, only then
you will have some idea about the local price.
I have given below the
price list of my hotel in Petra (7.5 JD = 750 INR !)
Our hotel serves dinner from 6.30
we averted a major problem after dinner. Arindam has high Uric acid. Since we are having meat regularly,
his pain aggravated and was limping for some time and just after dinner he passed
out at the elevator. I thought he had a heart attack.Later he recovered. We called a local Doctor (paid 143
USD) and he said it has happened from the pain. He explained everything very
nicely. Arun and I went with him in his car to buy some medicine and injection
for Arindam. We chatted a lot with him. He is quite interested about India like
We were supposed to leave at 8 am. But we finally left at 9.45 am, since Arindam was not feeling well. We reached at visitors centre within 10 am. We have to come back at 2 pm to catch sunset at Wadi Rum. We were late, quite often, during this tour ( in Alexandria also we were quite late).
The size of Jordan is 90,000 Sq Km. It is only 2,000 Km more than West Bengal. Eastern side is desert. So the actual habitable land is much less. To the West of Jordan, is Israel. To the east is Saudi Arabia. To the North East is Syria. To the South is Gulf of Aqaba, which meets Red Sea further South.
Petra is the land of Nabateans. It was part of promised land. They are nomadic people - they came from the side of Saudi Arabia. Petra was started in the 4th Century BC. They are red stone - similar kind of stone I have seen in Marzouga in Morocco and Cappadocia in Turkey.
Nabateans were Arabian nomads from the Negev Desert who amassed their wealth first as traders on the Incense Routes from Qataban (in modern-day Yemen) toward Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea. Their constant travel on these routes intimately familiarized them with the area and their skill in finding, and preserving, sources of water enabled them to transport goods more quickly and efficiently than others.
The Nabatean Kingdom flourished in the region of modern-day Jordan between the 4th century BC and c. 106 AD and is best known today for the ruins of its capital city of Petra. Although it is clear that a wealthy community was thriving in the immediate vicinity of Petra by 312 BC scholars usually date the Nabatean Kingdom from 168 BC, the date of their first known king, to 106 AD when it was annexed by the Roman Empire (98-117 AD).
There are many caves in Petra. So there was speculation around the purpose behind these caves. Whether these were formed naturally or constructed. The most important part of Petra is Al Khazana or Treasure or Treasury. You have walk for 40 minutes to reach this place from the gate.
Some people hire horse cart. Petra was part of the Caravan route. They used to earn revenue from Caravans plying along this route from Mediterranean. Nabateans used to control the caravan. It was called Incense route - Egyptians used to like incense. Apart from incense, Attar or scent used to move along this route.
The architecture in Petra is concoction of various styles - Roman, Arabic, Hellenistic, Greek, Byzantine. The road is called Siq. It looks like a gorge of red stones. Sometimes the gorge (height is like 10 storied house) is no more than 10-15 ft in width.
In Treasury some people think there were treasures of Pharaoh, some think Moses stayed here. Some people think it was a necropolis. There is a Byzantine church here. There are some places were animals used to be sacrificed. There is a temple also. It is now considered as 7th wonder of world.
There is an amphitheatre also.
You have walk for 4 Km to see the whole area. Arun and I went till the end. The entry fee is Rs 30,000 (child below 12 is free) for 6 people - Rs 5,000 per person or almost 70 USD !! You can also hire donkey, camels, horse carriage here for an extra charge. This is how people used to travel in those days. This place was first made famous, due to shooting of Indiana Jones in this place.
We came back at 2 pm and left for Wadi Rum by our car. We had our snacks in the car, since we are already late. Wadi means dry river bed or valley, ravine or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. So it also means dry river bed. Wadi Rum is basically a desert. The term Rum has come Romans. However our guide not say this. We reached Wadi Rum just in time and were able to watch the sun-set along with hundreds of people.
A British Intelligence officer T Lawrence came here in 1962 and wrote a book called 7 Wonders of the world. Based on his book Lawrence of Arabia film was made. He was very fond of this place. Bedouins also used to love him. In a TV series of Indian Jones, there was a mention of Lawrence of Arabia.The shooting of Lawrence of Arabia also took place in Al Haddodu in Morocco, apart from Jordan.
You cannot come back from Jordan without knowing Lawrence of Arabia. A British Intelligence officer Thomas Edward Lawrence was credited with leading the Arab revolt against the Turks (who at that time ruled much of the Middle East) during World War I - this feat was depicted in the epic film Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.
Turkey had allied itself with Germany and Britain need a proxy force (read Arabs) to defend its flank . Looking to take advantage of the growing Arab nationalism in the area, certain British elements supported leading Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman colonial rule. Grand Sherif Hussein, ruler of the Hejaz province (now part of Saudi Arabia), started an uprising with an expectation of British support. This uprising would become the Arab Revolt and it was led by and fought by Sherif Hussein's 4 sons, Ali, Abdullah, Feisal and Zeid.
In 1914, the British military employed Lawrence on an archaeological expedition of the Sinai Peninsula, a research trip that was actually a cover for a secret military survey of territory possessed by the Ottoman Turks. Once World War I began, Lawrence joined the British military as an intelligence officer in Cairo. Lawrence had been dispatched to Arabia to identify which of the sons would be the most successful leader and useful to the British. He was very impressed by Feisal and Lawrence stayed with Feisal for 2 years and helped him to lead the Arabs from the Hejaz to Syria. Feisal was advised by Lawrence and successfully seized the city of Aqaba (port city in South of Jordan) on 6 July 1917. Believing that the British government had betrayed the Arabs by reneging on a promise of independence, Lawrence quietly refused the honour of Knighthood from King George V.
He helped change the course of the war through his talents, courage and will. He was such an unknown figure, that even the Turks, who had a bounty on his head, did not know what he looked like. However, when the American war correspondent Lowell Thomas launched a 1919 lecture tour recounting his assignment in the Middle East, his photographs and films of “Lawrence of Arabia” transfixed the public and transformed the British colonel into both a war hero and an international celebrity.
He was very fond of this place. Bedouins also used to love him. But his true story and legacy is still a subject of debate among historians -- everything from his sexuality, to his Arab style of dress.
Then we went to a desert camp - Rahyed desert camp in Wadi Rum. It is quite nice.
Over there we met an ex-military Jordanian. Now he is a civilian. He is a pilot - part of falcon group. This group is quite famous. They do shows all over the world. Mostly in Europe. He takes the airplane in Knocked down condition and then re-assembles it in a country. He had brought his Polish friends to this camp. We learnt all this, while chatting with him in front of camp fire. It was quite cold outside.
Today we had famous Zarp (pronounced as Zarb) dinner. Zarp is lamb meat + chicken meat with potatoes and onions cooked in an underground sand oven. They put a wok on a charcoal and then it was kept inside the desert sand (oven). When it was done in the evening, they take it out in front of the crowd. It is quite interesting.
The lamb is very very good. But the chicken is not exceptional. The food was served at 7 pm. The dinner was served in a buffet. After dinner we went to sleep early, since we will go for desert safari in the morning. The setting of the camp is stunning.
At the back is a hill. In the front it is desert. The camp has all the modern facilities to the extent possible - even in such a remote setting.
Today we did our morning safari. Due to a communication gap it started late - instead of 2 hours it got reduced to only 1 hour. We had some argument with the driver over this. Today is the first time we had a problem. Otherwise everything went very well in Jordan. We went to a particular place in the sand, where a 4 wheel drive car - pick up kind of van - with open hood (so that we can take pictures) was waiting for us. First we went Wadi Rum Visitors Centre for the tickets.
We were then taken to a place where there are some inscriptions of Nabateans.
The journey through the desert was nice. If you stay for the whole day, then there are many other places where you can visit in Wadi Rum. It transpired after talking to the driver, that we did not have time to go to Bethany - where Jesus Christ of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist. The car has to stop at a place - then you have to walk for 1 hour. We would have missed the plane, if we went there. We paid extra for going to this place, with entry fee. The money went down the drain. Our tour operator later said, they will refund the money.
So we went to the Dead Sea, which falls on the way to the airport. The journey is quite stunning.
It is actually a land locked lake – not a sea. It is 400 metres
below the sea level. It is the lowest point in earth. One side is Jordan. The other
side is Israel. The way its level is going down due to human intervention, it
is estimated that in 50 years time, it will cease to exist. They were
telling us to take pictures from the top, since it is very crowded today. But I
said I have to go and feel the dead sea. There is no point, just looking at
dead sea. Since it looks similar to any other lake. We trekked down to the
‘sea’ (not a normal route - Mohua and Arindam did not go down ). After touching
the water of the Dead Sea, I did not understand, it is so heavy. The salt
content is 6-7 times normal sea water. After you take out your hand from water,
you will see your hand becoming whitish, due to salt.
After that we left for Amman airport and reached in time. We could not stay longer since flash flood made our plans haywire 2 days back. At the airport I met a Bangladeshi - he is doing textile business for 14 years, since 2004.
He stays near Amman. Around 40 Lakh (4 million) or 40% of population of Jordan (1 Crore) live in Amman. Jordan has a very liberal refugee policy. Many refugees have come here from Iraq, Syria, Palestine. They have a very humane policy in this regard. As a result many European countries and Japan support them for their liberal refugee policy in the form of aid. My guess because of that there are so many Bangladeshis are here - there are 30,000 Bangladeshis here.
He said Textile industry is doing well here. Apart from
Bangladeshis there are many Pakistanis. Since we stayed in a posh area - I did
not see it. There are many Bangladeshi shops too ! Not many countries have such
a huge percentage of refugee population. The working visa fees per year +
permit is Rs 70,000/- (60,000 + 10,000).
They don't have to go out of the country, unlike many other countries. They
have to just renew it. Generally prices are almost double the price of India.
Our driver Talal said cost of a Suzuki car (Maruti Alto type - 1000 CC ) is
10,000 Dinar i.e 10,00,000/- . So it is almost 2.5 times. The cost of petrol is
1.5 USD or Rs 100 and cheapest car is Rs 10 lakh. The cost of potato is
around Rs 50. Amman is quite liberal, with all the bars & pubs open.
Amman, for example, is way more liberal/open than Cairo or Alexandria and is comparable to Damascus, Beirut and other Levantine large cities. However, the urban-rural dichotomy is very strong in Jordan. Small towns in Jordan like Zarqa, Ramtha, Ma'an and Ajloun are quite conservative.
Since his ascension (from his father Hussein in 1999, King Abdullah II has halted Jordan’s decade-long experiment with political liberalization. King Abdullah II's decision to dissolve Jordan's parliament barely two years into its term, and delay fresh elections until late 2010 was interpreted by Freedom House as "an attempt to manipulate the political process" and a decline in political rights. In spite of this, Jordan retains a carefully fashioned friendly image in the west and remains a key US regional ally, with Abdullah becoming the first Arab leader to visit Obama's White House. Abdullah (Hashemite dynasty)claims to be a 41st-generation direct descendant of Muhammad.
For decades Jordan has been viewed by the west as the best of a bad bunch in the Arab world. During the cold war the late King Hussein's (his father) pro-American autocratic rule was deemed more benevolent than that of his neighbours in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, and hopes were high for the democratic reforms he initiated in 1989. Since then, Jordan has had an elected parliament with quotas for women, a partly independent press, increased civil society. Adding the shine to this friendly image have been the half-British King Abdullah II and his glamorous Palestinian Queen Rania, darlings of the western media for their support for charities, progressive values and tolerance.