Monday, November 23, 2009

Travel: Rediscovering the aphrodisiac of ancient Egypt

Times Online (Howard Marks)

I always sigh when I post something about aphrodisiacs in Egypt because I know that I am going to be swamped with junk mail advertising all sorts of interesting products and services. I'm not even convinced that it's particularly worth posting - it is terribly self obsessed. Here's an extract anyway.

The Mr Nice author, hedonist and ex-drug smuggler seeks out and smokes the blue lilly near the Nile. . . .

A dead ringer for Colonel Gaddafi came up and shook our hands. “George, the sacred blue lily is once again growing in the Nile.”

Opening one of the many giant coffee-table books lying around Al Moudira’s complex of reading lounges and libraries, Ibrahim explained how the floral symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt were, respectively, the blue lily and the green papyrus. Coloured carvings of both flowers adorned the walls of tombs and temples, symbolising Egypt’s unity.

When the Romans conquered Egypt they introduced new breeds of fish into the Nile, which poisoned and wiped out the sacred blue lily. Ibrahim, after months of research and travelling, had returned from Eritrea, where the Nile has some of its beginnings, bringing with him a collection of precious sacred blue lilies. He had just successfully transplanted them into the Nile.

“In a few days you can try it, Howard. I hear you’re a master psychonaut.”

My time in Egypt was brief, and I felt the need to do some regular sightseeing and a crash course in Ancient Egyptian history, archaeology, culture and religion. A guide picked me up at 8 the following morning. Bahaa’s knowledge of all Egyptian matters would effortlessly fill a small library. We tore through temples and tombs to the accompaniment of his incessant recitation of fascinating facts.

“Howard, I must now take you to your quarters. I have wonderful news. The presidential suite on the Sun Boat III is available for your occupation.”

Delighted to discover that The Times still carried significant influence in Egypt, I climbed the gangway and shook the hand of the immaculately dressed Adel Fathy Abdel Hameed, in every way the model of a modern naval admiral. That night, white-gloved waiters brought the best food and wine while dervishes spun like tops and belly dancers seduced us to the borders of sleep.


Kate Orman said...

I appreciate your posting this - I'm very interested in the lotus as a symbol in art and religion in Egypt and in the East. So thank you!

Andie said...

That makes me feel very bad about being so grouchy about posting it :-). So far no spam has arrived and I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I was in Egypt several years ago and a man sold me a bag of small hard round things. He put a label on them that as best I can tell says "Mosket - one mosket in one glass tee and drink. Good for strong.

I bought it just to be nice to the guy. I cracked one open and it smells pungent like maybe turpentine. Of course no way am I going to actually ingest it, but still I'm curious what it might be. Any ideas?