Wednesday, January 26, 2011


One afternoon as I walk to school I feel something wet hit my face. I think I might be walking underneath somebody's balcony where they've put their washing out, but as I look up and check there is no balcony above me. All over town I ocasionally feel wet driplets on my face. There s nothing to be seen on the ground and I think, aha, so this is what you'd call rain in Egypt. In Germany I wouldn't even have noticed, but here it stands out, I think.
About one hour later I step onto the school's balcony. It is actually heavily raining! There are puddles in the street and I watch one clever Egyptian take the opportunity and wash his motorbike.
When I walk home after my belly dance class, the rain has stopped. It is quite cold and the streets are unusually empty. The town has changed. I see a few men still sitting outside cofee shops smoking their Shishas, but the usual crowd of people who just hangs out in the streets is gone, and so are the sweets sellers, the caleches, the taxis and the beggars. I take my time walking home, thoroughly enjoying being able to stroll down the streets without being hussled. The temple is still illuminated and I suspect that in the rain they might not have bothered switching the lights off which they usually do around nine. Maybe the rain has confused them so much that they forgot what they normally would have done. I can't believe my luck and take some spectacular shots of the pylon reflected in the puddle. At least I think they're spectacular. The stupid idea of this coffee table book is stuck in my head and I curse myself for it, because that's always how it starts... you have one good idea and then you end up organising a Conference... I shouldn't have thought that... now I'm thinking, surely putting together a coffee table book about Luxor temple must be a lot easier than that was?

Luxor Temple after the rain

After one week I move house. I don't want to leave, because I like Mona, Sayid and Zahwa, and at the same time I'm glad to go. At Affaf's, which is where I am staying now, there is a proper bathroom and I have my own bedroom. Sallam gives me a lot of homework everyday and it was too hard to keep up with things at Mona's. I couldn't study properly there, sharing a room where people kept going and out. Also because the family never went to bed before three o'clock in the mornings I also didn't sleep very well. It is very quiet at Affaf's. I spend the whole day on my homework and I don't know if this is because I am so tired or if I am so tired because I am studying all day. The first two nights I go to bed at 9:30 and sleep until 7:30. I'm amazed that I do manage to memorize all these words (or 'mommerize' as Sallam pronounces it) They either all sound the same and only differ in one letter, or they are so foreign to me that they are some meaningless syllables strung together and I go to lengths to find a suitable memory hook to remember them. But somehow my brain manages. I marvel at how my brain works, as if it wasn't part of me but something working on it's own accord, I have no idea how it does it, but I am thrilled that it does.

The Valley of the Queens

On Friday I rent a bike and cycle to the Valley of the Queens. It is a lovely warm sunny day and I am glad to be on my own. There are three tombs to be visited, two princes' and one queen's tomb, all 19th and 20th dynasty. The valley seems deserted, there are practically no visitors there and I take my time looking at the decorations. I am most interested in the depictions of the gods and goddesses. I see Sobek, Bastet, Thot, Osiris, Isis, Maat... and I have them all to myself. I am also getting really good at secretely taking photos. It's not allowed to take photos, but my conservator friend explained to me that there is no reason for this. The flash doesn't actually damage the decorations at all. I can't help myself though but think that the depictions of the goddesses are not as aesthetical and perfect as the ones of the 18th dynasty anymore. The proportions already start to look less graceful. I think that might be the heritage of the Armana style, when Akhenaton started to depict himself and his family a lot more natural then the pharaohs before him did. Or maybe this isn't my own clever conclusion, maybe I read that somewhere I can't remember. Anyway I think that the art of the ancient Egyptians had its peak in the 18th dynasty. Just look at the tombs of Ramose and Sennefer and at Hatshepsut's mortuary temple!

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