Musings Of A Gypsy Runner, Destination – Egypt!


Every student of history always finds studying about the Egyptian civilisation very interesting. The land of Pharos, mummies and pyramids held us all in a trance during lectures in college. Just imagine the excitement I must have felt when I actually had a chance of visit the Pyramids. 

The Suez Canal is an important canal for vessels, connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean and drastically reducing distances and time taken by ships to cross over. The canal length is around 193 kms and usually takes between 11- 16 hours to transit. The vessels move in a single-line convoy with a halt at the Bitter Lake to continue onwards. The northbound – southbound convoys are meticulously planned and work with clockwork precision.

Though not as exciting as transiting the Bosphorous, the Suez Canal is a marvel in itself. It’s a slow transit, with dessert and barracks lining up the view on either side . An interesting aspect of the transit, was the setting up of souvenir sellers on board our ships. These guys board the ship almost around the same time the pilot comes on board and before you knew it, the dining/ tv deck became a little Egyptian bazaar. 

They would be there the entire time of transit on board and our little alleyway or if we allocated them a designated area, became lined with papyrus paintings, jewellery boxes, couches, plates with Tutankhamun and Cleopatra all over. Over time, I started looking forward to these guys on board, as it provided a change in atmosphere on board and a chance for me to pick up knick knacks for the people back home.

A highlight of one particular trip to the Suez was a chance to get off at the Bitter Lake while we had an overnight halt to continue our convoy. The captain managed to arrange a boat for a few of us and I managed to get a day to visit the Pyramids and Cairo. It was like I was living the dream of every history student in my class. Visiting the pyramids is like visiting the Holy Grail of history. All my lessons flashed in front of me. 

It was quite a long drive to Giza and then out in the distance, there they were.. giant, majestic and a perfect example of symmetry in monuments… the great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Khufu. The enormity of size doesn’t really hit you until you are up and close to them. Huge is not even a word to describe it. There are two other, slightly smaller Pyramids – Khafre and Menkaure. 

Of course, over time and with extensive plundering by robbers during the ancient and medieval times, a lot may have changed in the external façade and internal loot but nonetheless that it did not stop me from being awe-struck. For a few minutes, we simply walked around the structures, me for once not saying much other than Wow ! Then the guide asked us, do you want to go inside ? Did we ever ? Yess… lets go … !!! So we climbed up a bit through the rubble and entered a long and narrow passage. It was exciting beyond words. 

We started walking down the passage, full length first, slowly slouching a bit, then a little more, then a little more, then all fours crawling down and finally almost flat. The passage seemed to get narrower, darker, scarier, definitely the air was less, and then ….. we are into the burial chamber of the King Khufru. For that moment, I felt what an archaeologist must have felt to discover that tomb. A tiny granite sarcophagus was all that lay in front of us with a candle for light .. how that candle burned beats me to this day, since I had a tough time breathing with the limited oxygen available.

We saw the sarcophagus with the mummy inside … it was like going back into the beginning of time. We spent about 5 minutes there and crawled our way out of the tunnel. History aside, what a relief to breathe freely. Next stop was the Sphinx. Face of a man and body of a lion, it’s almost as if the Sphinx stands guard of the Great Pyramid.

 A few customary photos with Sphinx and we were on our way. A quick stop to an itr-factory – aroma scents and then through the hustle and bustle of Cairo city to the pier on get on board a cruise down the Nile with a belly dancer. Could that day get any better ? We missed out visiting the museum at Cairo where the remains of Tutankhamun are preserved due to the Cairo traffic and the boys were so kicked about watching the belly dancer !!! The cruise was nice and of course, the belly dancer was better given the loud cat calls, whistles and cheers she got !! She obliged the 5 boys ( overgrown men ) I was with – danced and jiggled with them and happily clicked photographs with them.

With the warm breeze of the Nile on our face, we ended a very long day in Cairo with every minute being worth it. We got back on board and a few hours later, set sail with the convoy on our way to Ukraine. I only wish I had more time to visit Luxor - the Valley of Kings and Aswan.. that would have truly completed my historical journey around Egypt. But that remains pending for another time.

A country is known by its history and Egypt is no less. They take pride in the Pharos, queen Cleopatra, the pyramids and the sphinx. Visiting this place, reminded me how much I wanted to be an archaeologist and made me fall in love with my favourite subject again.

This post was originally published on Gypsy-Runner.