by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.
This morning, Barnaby and I got to sleep in until 6:30 (yeah — that qualifies as sleeping in on this trip). The rest of the group that we’ve been traveling with for the last three weeks all flew home this morning (none of them had the time or inclination to go on to Alexandria). Last night, if given a choice, I may have opted to leave too. Twenty one days is about when I start to get road weary and really miss the dogs (and my soft bed). Cairo is particularly noisy, crowded, smoggy and nearly impossible to get around in, so I am really homesick for quiet Idyllwild. Our guide told us this morning that the roads of Cairo were designed to hold cars for a population of 600,000 but there are 20 million. It’s impressive the traffic moves at all.
Once we left our hotel, got to the main Cairo train station, and picked up our armed guard to walk to the platform (yes, the six of us had no less than 9 guards walking with us — we felt like dignitaries), I soon forgot about home and instead settled into my oversized seat in the First Class car (where else would VIPs sit?). Okay, so the carpet in the train has probably never been cleaned, and my seat was covered with stains and an olive pit, and the toilet is really just a hole over the tracks, but I was still happy and looking forward to the beautiful ancient capital of Hellenic Egypt: Alexandria.
The trip was a fast two and a half hours (I wanted it to be longer — I was having a nice snooze) we arrived in Alexandria and went straight to a local restaurant for a “light” lunch. It was anything but light. We had the usual endless supply of fresh bread (I’m sure we’re putting on tons of weight with all the bread and pastries we’re eating — I had two croissants and a coffee on the train at ten, after having had two poached eggs, two pancakes and two cups of coffee at seven), fresh falafel, hummus, tahini, fava beans prepared like refried beans, baba ganoosh (eggplant), and assorted pickled veggies. The table was so crowded there wasn’t room for my bottle of water. We didn’t have any dessert — that must be why it was called light. After our feast we headed out to see a Roman tomb and amphitheater. I’m not discounting those historic sites but by the time we drove to our hotel, King Farouk’s summer palace on the Mediterranean, got the grand tour and were taken up to our room — I’ve been sitting in the jacuzzi tub, which is where I am now.
First of all, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a fancy trip. We have stayed in very middle of the road hotels. Our hotel in Petra would qualify as a “no star” establishment, fortunately it was the only really funky place. But this palace is light years nicer. And if things weren’t rosy enough — they upgraded us to a suite — which is bigger than our apartment in NYC, our NEW apartment. The furnishings are Rococo — straight out of Versailles. AND we have FREE internet. There is a God! Speaking of God — I’m going to actually miss hearing the prayers. The Imams have to have good voices and I’m really starting to enjoy their singing, especially if they aren’t amplified to distortion.
We had a great last day in Cairo yesterday — our “Spiritual Cairo” day. Starting at the Citadel, high above (or in) the smog, we saw two mosques there then drove down to old Cairo and saw two Coptic Churches, one that claims to have a cave that harbored Mary, Joseph and Jesus from the Egyptians, and another where some miracle happened. I’m afraid I don’t always catch all of the discussion — I tend to wonder off taking photos, and since it was Sunday and both churches had services going on, I was much more interested in people watching. Right around the corner from the “Hanging Church” was a synagogue, also ancient, and we ended the day at the oldest market in Cairo, possibly the world.
We’ve just gotten back from our first dinner in Alexandria — we had all the usual appetizers but tonight we had delicious fresh fish. Since we’re on the sea, we’ll probably have fresh fish at every meal — which is fine with us since we’ve had a lot of chicken. I’m including a photo for my “Isis” gang — they were all so good at photographing our meals. We miss you all — hope you got home safely.