Who knew? That’s a question that keeps popping up, and, as I was beginning to realize, that expression of unfamiliarity could have been the theme of this article. For example, every time we’ve gone on one of these AACI study trips, we’ve left from the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem and, shortly after, made a pit stop at Elvis, the café, gas station, and convenience store off route 1, not too far away, where one can get some coffee and use the facilities. But who knew that, nestled behind the gas station, is the moshav Neve Ilan, and, at the end of the road, a large, fancy-looking hotel, where we would be staying for the next three days while we toured the surrounding area. I’m sure some people knew, maybe lots – judging by the throng of people chowing down breakfast and dinner in their spacious dining hall – but I certainly didn’t have a clue.
Drive-thru Country — Part 1
Maybe I should skip it this time. Almost without fail, every time we go on one of the AACI study trips, I get inspired and write a series of articles about where we’ve been and what we saw. But I just finished sending out eleven accounts of our tiyul to Egypt – complete with breathtaking photos – and I could use a break. Plus I just finished editing someone’s translation into English of a Hebrew text (one that I ordinarily would not have read) all 100 pages of it – as a PDF, no less (groan!). There are many other tasks and projects that I need to take care of with not enough time to do them. If I don’t have anything to say about our up-coming “Study Trip to Central Israel,” no one will be the wiser. There certainly won’t be people banging on our door and complaining that they’re being cheated out of what is rightfully theirs. Now that I think of it, I get the sense from the itinerary that there will be more listening and less looking. Should I even bring my camera? Might as well, because you never know.
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Epilogue
What time is it, Fred? It’s time for me to collect my thoughts about our trip, now that we’ve been back in The Land for five weeks or so. If a bunch of us were sitting around the dinner table on a Friday night, and I was asked to summarize what we saw and what I came away with and to do it concisely before someone interrupted and changed the topic – which is what usually happens when people get together over a meal – what would I have to say? I might commence with a platitude, Glad to be back. But everyone assembled at this fanciful dinner probably assumed that. Nobody actually thought that I would want to spend the rest of my days on the banks of the Nile. Yeah, you can live there like a pharaoh on a pittance, but no thanks. I don’t do Third World. (Third world, couldn’t be prouder/Third world, let’s honk a little louder)
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 10
It’s all a blur…..
I can definitely say without fear of contradiction that our merry band of travelers visited Deir El Madina and Ramesseum on Feb. 6, 2023, not because I actually remember where we were on that day, and not because that’s what it said on the handy-dandy sheet we were given at the start of our journey – which got changed daily as we went along. Every place we went to has an entry fee – no surprise there – and we got a ticket to present as we went in. For some of the major sites, Shepherd Travel had purchased said tickets back in January, good for one year from date of purchase. However, for some of the smaller sites, Migo and John bought tickets when we got off the bus and handed them out as we walked to the entrance, and those show they were printed on Feb. 6, 2023, and valid on that date. Each ticket got deposited in my backpack after I flashed it at the gate and got bundled with the rest of our tour material when we returned to The Land. That’s the only reason I know what we did on Monday, the last day before our flight back, because it says so on the ticket. Which leaves me to wonder when we stopped at Medinet Habu, because it doesn’t say and it’s all a blur.
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 9
I can imagine some friend reaching out to me: Fred, I’ve been reading your series of articles about Egypt, and you’ve gotten me all excited. I never thought about going to Egypt, but now I’m considering it. Trouble is, I can’t do it the way you’re doing it. You’re with a group and you’re spending enough time to see EVERYTHING there is to see. I’d just like to see some of the main attractions, and if I don’t get the same kind of detailed explanation that you’ve been getting, that’s OK too. It’s like going to a museum. You’re not going to see everything in one shot; that’s why some museums will point you to the highlights of their collections, and you’d be more than happy to stick to their suggestions. At least, I would. Anyway, which places are the ones, in your opinion, I DEFINITELY would have to go to?
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 8
A site at night
Visiting the Luxor Temple at night, I was reminded of a similar jaunt a few years ago when we, with a different group, visited the ruins of the Roman city in the national park at Beit Shean, a few hours’ drive from where we live in Ma’ale Adumim. In both places, whoever is in charge used lights and special effects to create a magical moment, something different from the prosaic impression one would get in broad daylight. But here at Luxor, the only sound effects one could hear were those made by the tourists, lots of them, visiting the site. The volunteer guide at Beit Shean shone his laser beam at a spot near the top of a very tall pillar. Where I’m pointing, he said, that used to be ground level, and the little bit of the pillar that was above ground level was one side of our goal post when we played football.
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 7
I didn’t think the question I posed Dr. Google was that difficult or complicated. How far is it from Aswan to Luxor? But I got several different numbers. OK, the as-the-crow-flies distance (as in taking a plane) is 181km (112 miles). But what if you’re going by bus, as our group was, is it 215 km or 238 km? As we discovered, the answer depends on who you are. If the traveler is Egyptian, it’s the shorter distance; if you’re us, strangers in a strange land, it’s the longer one. Huh?
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 6
If your tour group is traveling for over a week up and down the Nile, it would be inevitable that, sooner or later, you’d be riding ON the Nile. And because Egypt is not known for having the latest technology, you’d be riding on the Nile in small boats that, while picturesque, have an engine that seems to have made the journey once too often and, in our case, whose slogan should be taken seriously.
Temples, and Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 5
I’m not at my best early in the morning when the sun’s rays are first coming over the horizon. Should I be forced to awaken at some such ungodly hour, my thoughts center on how soon I can be reacquainted with my pillow. There are many advantages to being on an organized tour – which is why we go on them – but the need to be ‘on the bus’ at 8AM when we only arrived at the hotel at 1AM is not one of them. However, if we wanted to get from the hotel in Aswan to Abu Simbel, a distance of 280 kilometers, we had no choice but to start out before we’d like to. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get back to the hotel in time for dinner, and who wants that?
I would have been more than happy to spend the time en route trying to catch as many zzz’s as I could, but Cindy – God bless her – had other ideas (as she often does). Why not use the time to let each of us take a few minutes to introduce ourselves to the rest of the group? And so, starting in the front of the bus, each person was requested to dutifully take the microphone (every tour bus has a mike, so the guide doesn’t have to yell) and say something of interest, which each person did, at least enough to keep me awake, which is saying something.
Temples, Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 4
I was finally going to see the pyramids along the Nile – except there are no pyramids right alongside the Nile. Why would you put any structure of value in a place where you KNOW there’s going to be water seeping in every year? (Except that people today do that all the time. Think: Passaic River, NJ) The pyramids that people want to see are in Giza, a suburb of Cairo, safely away from the river in question. We got off the bus (it was now Tues. morning, if you’re keeping score), and this is what we saw. At least, you should be prepared if you ever go there.