Au Caire

Haibun

Au Caire is French for Cairo. We flew to Cairo in 1991 for the most exciting trip of my life, a place I had wished to visit since childhood. We do not take cruises and have always navigated foreign lands on our own. We were to cruise down the Nile. Before cruising we visited the three main pyramids of Giza just outside of Cairo. I travelled upon a camel and my husband went upon a small horse to the pyramids. In Egypt we not only took our first cruise but we engaged the assistance of guides for a few of our adventures. Several days later we went to the extraordinary Tomb of the Bulls deep underground. There were many empty, huge sarcophagi that once had held sacred bulls along with their many missing jewels and the stench of urine to which at that time I felt the need to add to. We also visited a famous ziggurat, a pyramid made of many steps from bottom to top unlike those at Giza that once had flat sides. I was delighted with myself for having the courage to visit Kan el-Khalili market on my own, one of the largest in the world. It was a maze of colorful tents with every item under the sun for sale. This bazaar was founded in 1382. There is no place like it in the world.

We found ourselves in a dilemma about how to travel the Nile. Do we take a cruise or do we sail down the Nile in a felucca? The felucca originating in Italy and now a popular Mediterranean sailboat is offered to tourists as one option for traveling the Nile. We would have been on our own with two to four crewmembers. We were not sure of our personal safety, so we elected to join Hilton’s newest, largest and spiffiest cruise ship on her maiden voyage down the Nile. It was quite exciting with many stops at archeological sites along the way. My favorite was Com Ombo recently excavated. I came home with an old English print of Com Ombo before excavation.

The personal success of any cruise depends upon the people with whom you choose to spend time. When we made this trip I was forty-five and David was forty. We teamed up with a fascinating group of Israelis and a doctor and his wife who were from Syria. It was a cohesive and wonderful group. The Israelis each of whom were in their late seventies and eighties were from different European countries having successfully fled the Nazi invasion of Europe and the Holocaust. The physician and his wife were in their early thirties. She was pregnant. No one spoke English accept for the Syrian doctor. We each communicated magnificently. I even got to try out my exceptionally poor and rusty French. Their stories were mesmerizing, unforgettable. We did all activities together. At one point in the Valley of the Kings one of the Israeli men became quite ill, our Syrian doctor brought him through until we reached shipboard and the medical facilities on board. The doctor had saved his life. I will never forget any of these people, their loving kindness, their goodness, and their stories.

En route to our cruise we flew to Aswan to spend a few days and then board ship. Aswan is a major center of Egyptian commerce and was a fascinating jaunt. Traveling the Nile was an experience of education, fun, elegance, refreshment, serenity and natural and archeological beauty enhanced by the company we kept. I do not remember how many stops we were able to make along the way. I do know that Com Ombo was our final stop before our ship sank necessitating a rescue by the Egyptian Navy. Tragically this cut short our cruise by many stops. The ships engineers had thought of everything except for navigating the locks. It was in the locks in which we were stuck for nearly eight ours that the hull of the ship was ripped open. One must remember that although the Nile is quite shallow at this point, the ship could have easily listed and capsized. We all sadly boarded buses and were shipped off to hotels. Upon reaching our hotel separated from the others with no real chance to say goodbye we caught the much more dire equivalent of Mexico’s Montezuma’s revenge. The next few days were NOT pleasant. But the trip stands out among all places to which we have traveled. I keep a photo of our Israeli friends on my chimney piece.

cooling off – evening breezes along the Nile

Posted with gratitude at Poets United Poetry Pantry