Friday, March 28, 2008

Stunning rescue operation for Egypt's temples (Belinda Olivares-Cunanan)

Late one afternoon, after touring the pyramids here, we rushed to get a vantage view as the sun, a huge peach-colored ball, began to set. For a brief moment it seemed to balance itself on a long stone ledge between the great pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, hanging there perfectly still. As the sun sank into the horizon, the outlines of the pyramids--the tallest soaring to a height of 146 meters and which can contain several cathedrals--etched against the rose-colored sky, highlighting their stark simplicity and imposing grandeur. The pyramids have been called the "perfect form." I have seen few scenes more beautiful than the setting sun over the great pyramids at Giza.

Later that evening we took in the light and sound show there, which spoke dramatically (aided by today's electronic technology) of the 30 dynasties of pharaohs--how they lived, loved and warred, and sought to defy death itself with their fabulous tombs. It was decidedly the best light and sound show I have seen.

* * *

Egypt is not the easiest country to tour. Cairo is noisy and dirty in many places and Egyptians always seem to be quarrelling even when they're not. Drivers here are far worse than Manila's, with little regard for traffic regulations, other vehicles, or life and limb. Vendors are often pushy; cab drivers are equally pesky, especially since the old and dilapidated taxis have no meters and tourists have to bargain hard to prevent a rip-off. But perhaps the most pesky for tourists is the baksheesh, the local term for tips, and here Egyptians are hands down worse than the New Yorkers. Then too, at this time of the year, the heat is blistering.

Yet, despite all these, one has to see Egypt at least once. One's cultural education isn't complete without seeing its great monuments--the products of an ancient superior culture that's seven millennia old (beating ancient Greece and Rome by several millennia). Even the ancient Greeks considered Egypt the "cradle of civilization."

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