We were walking home at midnight - everything we do here seems to start and end with a walk. Parking is really so impossible, that even with a car I suspect I will often walk or take a cab. Anyway – it was midnight, and we were walking down the centre of the road. There were three of us – and it is awkward as we had to stop conversations and go into a narrow single file as cars beeped that they were coming past. It is surprising how sensible the system is when you are walking, and how stupid it seems when you are trying to sleep. Every shop was still open – even the little corner grocery shop. Chocolate shops, dress shops, shoe shops. There was no-one in them, and it was like walking through a deserted theme park.
We had a day in Saqqara the other day. Saqqara has a lot of pyramids, smaller that the Great Pyramid, but older and very interesting. The main site, with the stepped Pyramid had about twenty tourist buses - it is funny how sneery you can feel about tourist buses when a local of two weeks duration!
It was actually hot. We have had a freezing few weeks. I was so grateful to top up my warm clothes supply and greeted my Uggs with delight. Saqqara shimmered with heat and this is winter. Most of the places they wanted tourists to walk had a boardwalk – like corduroy – strips of wood laid down on the sand and attached to long strips at the sides to keep them in place. In many places the sand underneath had seeped away under pressure of too many feet, so you walked on a very springy suspended bridge, only inches above the ground.
The souvenir seller had some fairly ordinary produce, some looked like marble pieces dipped in deep blue dye – but the colour was spectacular in the bleached landscape and his face was like old leather. Taking photos of people is surprisingly easy here, and when I ask I get more acceptances than refusals. In tourist sites it always costs – about one pound is average. This gentleman wasn’t happy with my pound –he wanted caramellos. I assume he meant sweets, but I was a bit bemused. Most have problems staying alive, and a pound buys a days bread for one. Either he was doing reasonably well on subsistence living, or he just had a desperate sweet tooth.
And on the subject of teeth – the man offering rides on his donkey had about three left. A friend asked for a copy of his photo (in the set below) – as she has promised a young friend that she has lined up a good looking Egyptian for her!
We went into one tomb and it was just amazing. The ones at Saqqara don’t have the full colour of the Valley of the Kings, but are covered in low relief carvings, in soft and limited colour and beautiful detail. It was just exquisite – all scenes of everyday life, including food preparation, details of animal husbandry, and the most beautiful fleet of boats. Every basket had a fine detail of its weave, every head wore a tightly curled wig, and there were some kitchen scenes that were hard to understand. In one, two men strained hard pulling back on two sticks that ended in a pot. To add a bit more pressure a man stood between them, legs apart, and one foot on each stick to really add force. I would not want to be spread-eagled over a pot in this way, and it was hard to imagine the purpose of the exercise. If anyone knows – please place a comment. If you tick Anonymous you don’t have to sign in!
No photos – they weren’t permitted. It didn’t stop a tourist who pretended not to understand what he was being told by a guard – he must have taken fifty snaps, all with flash – managing to ignore the muttering of tourists all around him. I wasn’t sure whether to be disgusted or impressed. I would have liked the photos too – but am far too aware of the effect of flash on the delicate reds, blues and charcoals of these reliefs.
It was such a lovely day, and I think the Bent Pyramid will be my favorite. It was visited by only one other vehicle – a family car, and the tourist police showed off their very friendly camels.
We finished with a lovely meal in a boat on the side of the Nile.