I didn't write as much of this country as I expected. Maybe it was because someone gave me their LP Egypt guidebook as I was leaving Jordan. Traveling with a book has its advantages, but it also takes away a level of surprise and a dependence on the help of others which leads to interesting conversations and friendships. Or maybe I wrote less because Egypt's 3,000 year old tourist industry streamlined things to less story-worthy material. Or, more likely, it was the company of friends that changed the tone of the trip. Not that things became uneventful, but they were eventful in a "You had to be there" kind of way.
It's hard to describe what it's like to be in a small room with ten Nubian men smoking hash from three joints, a glass jar, and a sheesha; looking for a polite excuse to decline an invitation for a second night of lung-caking inhalation; and laughing at the proposal for a "Nubian massage" whispered in my friend's ear. It's a tall order to make you crack up like we did on top of a crumbling monastery wall imagining the comedic threads that would come from Pharaoh Tutankhamen brought back to life, Jurassic Park style, and then demanding all his treasures returned, tourists driven off, and souvenir hawkers set to rebuilding or placed in chains for selling postcards with his image next to camels humping. I can't convey the sublime moment of laying on a sand dune in the vast western desert, having just soaked in natural hot springs, staring up at the universe and tossing around deep and absurd thoughts.. like future colonies on mars, on which my buddy and I should be the only men.. the first to father martians with the abundance of women who would naturally volunteer for the program.
What I can tell you is that the people in the Middle East are some of the friendliest in the world. That Jerusalem is magical and Tel Aviv is going to put a dent in your budget. That I'm much more wary walking around Venice Beach at 2am than Damascus, Syria. I can tell you that it's good to wake up early on your travels and see things in the soft morning glow before the tour buses start their engines. That you should bring a laptop because internet cafes are becoming as scarce as payphones. That it's good to see an old friend on the road and meet some new ones. And finally I can tell you that there is something about moving that's important for the soul. Heraclitus said, "You could not step twice into the same river, for other waters are ever flowing on you." Try to hold on to one spot and the stream will wear you down as smooth as its rocks. I made like a felluca: Observant and present when docked, sails up and ready to go when the wind began to blow. Walks over sand dunes and down ancient alleys, buses that may or may not be going where I intended, overnight trains on which I slept to the thunk a thunk of the tracks below.. the anticipation and unpredictability of the next, the new, the yet to be discovered. Getting from A to B was always more thrilling than being there.
|Sneaking up into the bell tower of a church in Beirut|
|An abandoned monastery|
|Old and new friends at the Funny Mummy cafe in Dahab, Egypt|
|Dawn of 1/1/11 where Moses got the 10 Commandments|
|A felluca makes its way up the Nile in Aswan|
|A souq in Aswan|
|The fastest way down a dune|
|On the trail from the Valley of the Kings to Hatshepsut's temple|