Thursday, March 25, 2010

Restoration or Devastation (and the true origin of a joke)

I can't believe it has been nearly two years since I visited Egypt.

Tristan, Mum and myself travelled from Alexandria to Aswan - we saw fantastic monuments as well as bits of rock, had our own police escort, were nearly mugged and definitely conned, got Egypt belly and sunstroke, frightened by German tourists and delighted by our guides and all the while celebrating two birthdays.

It was truly an adventure to remember.

Our last stop was Luxor - we were happy to get of the cruise ship because we were the only non Germans on board and had a horrible room near the engine!

And while Luxor time spent in Luxor was intense in regards to visiting all the old stuff we could. It was cooler, beautiful (like a true romanticised desert) and less in your face than any of the cities we had visited.

Oh yes, there were still people trying to get you buy things and I got offered a 100 camels for my sister (who wasn't even there!). But it was relaxing.

The discovery of the longest sphinx avenue in Luxor has resulted in $11 million project to excavate it and make it a big open air muesum - it is an exciting project... but at what costs?

Reports from, and talks of destruction of homes, historic landmarks and places of worship.

People are being relocated to small flats, or given insufficient compensation or just kicked out - all in the name of what? Rediscovering the past? Saving treasures from being destroyed?

The Times states 'Jihane Zaki, a government Egyptologist. Its restoration, he said, would return “dignity and glory”'

Where does dignity and glory comes from? It has been suggested that it will be made into a Las Vagas/ Disney version of itself; with tourist villages, people waltzing around in costumes and a monorail?

Then I shudder at the archaeological implications too. They are doing a Henric Schlimann - they are destorying upper levels to get their 'Troy'.

What is the cost of that town that I visited? Will the towns people be scarred by this? Will it be less friendly? Less relaxed? Will it have the craziness like Cairo? I hope they survive it.

To sum up the character of Luxor and also to settle a dispute for comedy fans out there let me relate one more tale.

While walking up the street to Luxor temple; there are horses and carts a plenty to take you any place you desire. The drivers would try and lure you in for this bumpy ride and as soon as you say 'La Shukran' (No thank you in Arabic) they keep on trying...

'Well we have Porsche? Hot Air Balloon? Helicopter? .... AIR CONDITIONED DONKEY?'

So the joke doesn't belong to Ross Noble or Wil Anderson - it is probably as old as Egypt itself. I sincerely hope that absurd wit never dies.

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