And to think we almost missed it: the “Welcome to Egypt! “from the passers-by, the collective cab with no less than eighteen passengers in a mini-bus like a Toyota Hiace, the Cairo euphoria at the end of Ramadan, the bakeries with piles of various cookies spread out in the street, the majestic Ramsis train station (and its surroundings like the Gare du Nord, amphetamined version), the night train of yesteryear with communicating cabins, the nilotic languor of Luxor in spring, the colors of the almost intact millenary frescoes of the valleys of the kings, the nobles and the craftsmen, not to mention the only wonder of the ancient world still visible nowadays : the imposing Sphinx of Giza paternally defending, despite its broken nose, the famous pyramids of Khufu, Kephren and Mykerinos.
Fortunately, Virginie, second in command, bosun, chef and minister of cultural affairs on Girotondo, didn’t see it that way and had contacted tourism agencies before our arrival in Suez to maximize our time in Egypt and organize a memorable trip to Luxor with driver, four-star hotel, French-speaking egyptologist guides and visits to the most beautiful ancient sites in the region. She coordinated all of this brilliantly, creating for the occasion the Whatsapp group that gave its name to this post.
After having triumphed in our game of 1-2-3-sun with the wind on the Red Sea, the children were delighted to play hide and seek in the temples of Luxor, Karnak and Hatshepsut, to savor the thousand and one delights of the breakfast buffet of the Iberotel hotel, and the mezze of the various cheap restaurants in the area (El Kababgy, Sofra and Al Shahaby Lane), heckle loudly in the open-air swimming pool floating on the Nile, admire the paintings of gods and mythical animals, starry blue skies, and mysterious pictograms, learn the rudiments of the hieroglyphic alphabet thanks to our third guide Mohammed, said Momo, to be delighted with the fineness of the high chiselled reliefs of the couple with curly hair of the tomb of Ramose, and to listen avidly to the stories of pharaohs, in particular of the decline of the Empire under Akhenaten, visionary or monotheist miscreant, it is according to, and of the sacrament of queen Hatshepsut, fatal beauty represented as a man with cow ears, who reigned for more than twenty years, and whose son-in-law Thutmose III and grandson Amenhotep did not cease to deface all the statues and paintings in her effigy after her death. This shows that sexism and jealousy are not new.
In Egypt, we were afraid of the tricksters who would ask for baksheesh for a yes for a no and we met some, certainly (for example in the temples, where the guards cordoned off certain zones to grant us as a privilege the right to enter, or the one who transformed, against my protests, But above all, we enjoyed a phenomenal hospitality, with hosts who had a heart on their sleeve, offered us aperitif or dessert in the restaurant, and bent over backwards to help us.
Thus the Universe was magnanimous in answering three of my prayers in quick succession. The first one was during a little trip on the West bank of the Nile that we had crossed in a felucca with Arthur while the rest of the group was visiting the Luxor museum. I was bemoaning the fact that I had not been inside a house to better understand the daily life of the inhabitants, and no more than ten minutes later, a woman to whom we asked our way in the street drew us into her house to serve us tea and cookies. And this even if she was in the middle of spring cleaning and preparing the next day’s parties. The second one was when everything was arranged to pass the canal on the 22nd of April as planned and not on the 25th under the pretext that the government had decreed two extra days off to celebrate Eid (end of Ramadan), which would have seriously disrupted our plans to welcome my mother in Cyprus where she was arriving a few days later And the third one halfway through our transit, in Ismailia, where we were invited to dine at the Yacht Club, a meager compensation for the incompetence of a pilot who had made Girotondo tailgate by telling them to turn too much to the left in the channel, outside the buoys.
Our Egyptian escape resulted in a return to Cairo and a passage to the pyramids straight after our night train, in the cool of the day, avoiding at the same time the aggressive sun and the hordes of tourists who disembarked around ten o’clock, when we left the site after a small camel ride for the children. Although costly in energy as well as in silver (which we learned was, in ancient Egypt, much more precious than gold), we came back from this trip, which coincided opportunely with Thomas’s birthday, dazzled by so much beauty, antiquity, and monumentality, with a new shovelful of immutable memories.