Thursday, 6 April 2017

E is for....Enticing...



is for

El General, a Tunisian and a catalyst in the Tunisian revolution -




and since we are on the subject, listen to Elissa too, sing "Mawtini," one of the enduring Arab anthems, written by Palestinian poet Ibrahim Tuqan in 1934 and composed by Lebanese composer Mohammed Flayfel. Mawtini means 'my homeland' incidentally. It has been the national anthem of Palestine, it is the anthem now of Iraq, the tempo is faster and more of a marching vibe there. Elissa's is a slower, yearning, more soulful, rendition. Many Arab singers have sung it to this slower beat, my favourite being Omar Kamal.




Egypt!

Now what can I tell you about Egypt? :)  It’s Enticing, and its history is as mind-boggling as Syria’s.


It’s like an oddball miracle of geography that defies all possible logic – a roaring great river comes slashing across the most formidable desert on the Earth and never dries up all the way to the sea. Not only doesn't dry up, instead floods (!) and creates the most fertile soil which then sustains life for 700,000 years!! It’s just beyond all human understanding.


Egypt is too vast to sum up in a blogpost, so I’m not going to try. I will tell you instead that I have been both tourist and resident there and I have loved all of it exceedingly - some of my best travel memories and epiphanies, writing, and reading, and learning, have happened there. And I'll show you some random photographs and give you some random facts. 


And some day, when I have sufficiently got over this whole massive expat trauma-fest of the last twenty years, I might stop wringing my hands and use them instead to write an Encyclopedia on how easy it was to get enthralled with places and people that came into my life, and how difficult to say goodbye to them, even though the transience of these relationships was known to all parties from the outset. “Keep it clean: expat postings without emotional entanglements.” Yeah, I think I’ll do that :)  For now, back to Egypt.

Cairo and Nile. From the Cairo Tower at Zamalek. Once you touch/ 
drink the Nile, it calls you back - common Egyptian saying. 

Apart from the Giza Pyramids, which are the biggest and most
famous, Egypt has a 100 more. 

Water wheels, Fayoum. Water wheels were introduced here
by the Greeks, almost two thousand years ago.


Damietta. Journey's end for the Nile.


El Alamein. The War Memorials there - rows upon rows of 
twenty somethings, uff turns my brain inside out.


Luxor Temple. Mosque of Abu Haggag in its precincts. 
Continuity of worship for 3500 years.

Sunset and felucca. Aswan. 


Downtown Cairo. Meidan Talat Harb.  Traffic so pristine because
it was a weekend morning.



Sharm al Sheikh. The whole of Sinai is breathtaking.


White Desert National Park. Loved it every time. Gazillion stars 
at night. Sunrise without birdsong. Surreal peacefall.

Eastern Harbour. Alexandria. Some of the best seafood 
I've ever had in my life! 

Lone angler. Mersa Matruh. North Coast. The Med 
Sea absolutely resplendent! Oh, Arabs love angling.



Epic of Gilgamesh

This is the very first, earliest surviving epic poem. Nearly everything started in the Middle East.  Written in Mesopotamia, some 3800 years ago, about a King, and his friend; about long sea voyages and the quest for self knowledge, as all epics are in the end. Edited because this post was just getting out of control! :)





Did you know the ancient Egyptians worshipped over 1400 gods? They had gods for danger, and chores, and missing things. And each had to be placated with his/her own requirements exactly. Talk about complicated spiritual lives!











Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2017 



61 comments:

  1. enticing, entertaining, and endlessly fascinating. You could work for their tourist bureau - your descriptions and pictures are enthralling. I think I'd want to visit Egypt with someone (like yourself) who knows the place.

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    1. It is absolutely riveting, wherever you go. Beautiful, scenic, and/or a deep history underfoot all around. I would love to go back anyday!

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  2. Checking in from the A to Z Challenge. I have been interested in the real Arabia since discussing it with Muslim friends when I was little. My mom was actually in Tunisia when the revolution was starting. Her plane took off as the movement really mobilized and the Arab Spring launched into full effect.

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    1. Tunisia's Spring (it was actually Winter, I don't know why the media insisted on spring, but never mind) was violent, so it was good your mom left. We were in a place called Ain Sokhna at the time the violence was happening with a group of Egyptian friends, and the TV was flashing the images. One of our friends said 'that is Egypt' and others disagreed. And two weeks later, Egypt erupted. Only she had said two years instead of two weeks!

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  3. Enticing, evocative, educative, eloquent - and just plain wonderful.

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    1. That country is a wanderluster's (is that a word?) dream!

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  4. Thanks for the photos. I guess I've never really thought about what Egypt looks like today.

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    1. It looks kind of timeless. Cairo is congested of course, and humongous. Step outside the cities, the population gets really sparse. Thanks for being here, especially today..

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  5. I've forgotten about Gilgamesh! I hope you revisit that. Otherwise, I'll have to Google it.

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    1. I had written at length about it, but it was just TMI for one blogpost, that too in the A-Z :) yeah, I hope I can revisit it...it actually mentions Bahrain in that epic which is neat!

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  6. E is for enjoying.I really am enjoying where your posts are taking us.

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    1. Oh, me too - enjoy where the A-Z takes me every year, each and every post, written and read. Thanks for your support!

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  7. Hi Nila.
    I'm back online for the IWSG so am catching up on yours and other's posts.
    Love the thought of Egypt, but I've never seen the reality. Rather dangerous place for unsuspecting tourists I'd say, seeing they're targeted by terrorists.
    I used to teach the Epic of Gilgamesh, so wish you'd found the space to go into it here, but I get it.
    Thanks for the glorious pics. You took me there! And please do make a start on your encyclopaedia. You could use some of the material you've gathered for the A-Z.

    Denise x

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    1. They've had that problem with fundamentalists for a long time. We had planned our first trip in 98, and just before we booked there was the massacre at Luxor, and family back home got very apprehensive. But we booked and went ahead, and had a wonderful time.

      After the revolution things did get worse. But I believe tourists are getting back this year, I hope things stay that way. Egypt needs them back - a huge number of people are employed directly or indirectly in the tourist trade, and I've seen for myself the hard time they had in the aftermath of 2011 and 2013 when the tourists stopped coming, it was pretty dire for a lot of ordinary folks.

      I've gathered a lot of material for that encyclopaedia all through my life right from 8 years old :)

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  8. One knows where Egypt is, 'somewhere there at the Nile' and 'they have the Pyramids' Nothing more than that. Nothing like what you had described here Nilan! Wonderful write!

    Hank

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    1. Yeah, the Pyramids tend to hog all the attention. But there's actually much more to Egypt than that. It's a pretty large country, with a very deep history and has the evidence strewn around everywhere. Egypt has been a cultural leader for the rest of the Arab world, so lots of stuff on the modern front too.

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  9. Your photos are a travelogue. How wonderful. Your A to Z can't be beat this year. I am enjoying it so much.

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    1. They are a record of my stay there so in a way they are! :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  10. So glad to have found your blog again as I remember your posts from previous A to Z Challenges and you don't disappoint with this one :) I agree with others you are needed by Egypt's tourist board to get people back to visit their country - you make it sound wonderful! Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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    1. Thank you! I would totally love to work for the Egyptian Tourism Board :) I hope they are reading this! :)

      They do have great guides already though. It is absolutely a wonderful country, just going through a bad patch now. But then again, half a decade is a blip in a country that is 7000 years old, it'll pass and peace and love will prevail ultimately.

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  11. Such an interesting post and thanks for those beautiful pictures that made journeying through the land that you have so passionately written about , all the more delightful! ! Would be looking forward to reading that Encyclopaedia ,someday ...
    Best wishes
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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    1. The encyclopaedia can be written only after the expat postings are over, which I hope will not be immediately :)

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    2. Thank you, will try writing faster :)

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  12. Those are amazing images of Egypt you shared here! Thanks so much for the "wow" factor you've brought to this post. It's amazing that there are so many places with ancient buildings right next to modern cities. That's a lot of culture!

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    1. Loads of ancient pharonic monuments, neoclassical, islamic fatimid, mamluk, ottoman, coptic, and modern buildings standing cheek by jowl there. Culture tourism paradise! thanks for stopping by.

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  13. "E is for Excellent" and this is what this post is.
    My grand daughter wants to work in Egypt when she's older and is already studying the language.
    From your layest follower.
    Yvonne.

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    1. She will love it! More so if she knows the language, that always deepens the enjoyment of any place. All the very best to her!

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  14. Hi Nila - fascinating to read about - I'm loving these historical and cultural takes on your Arab world ... will be back to read again and listen to the music ... stunning - yes the Nile is amazing isn't it ... as too the thought of seafood ... cheers and lovely Elissia singing away - beautiful ... Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/e-is-for-extinct-animals-and-endangered.html

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    1. Alexandria has great seafood, and because it was such a cosmopolitan place the cuisine is also quite different from the rest of the country, kind of Greek/Italian vibe mixed in with the Arab.

      Omar Kamal's cover of Mawtini is really the one that I'd have liked to put up, he gave me goosebumps! but Elissa, who is also great, not that she isn't, she just fit in with the day's letter. Another little girl called Zahra Bero - all of 10 years old, she is on Youtube also - angelic voice!

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  15. Fascinating reading your impressions of Egypt as a 20 year expat! The national anthem is touching, but the first one troubling to watch. The people of Egypt have suffered a lot and I sense your constraint and desire to say more. Is it really safe to travel there yet? It's my dream to visit someday.

    "Female Scientists Before Our Time"
    Shells–Tales–Sails

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    1. Last week, I spoke to a friend who still lives there, and she mentioned that tourists are slowly coming back. My suggestion would be to check with your embassy on the advisory always before you plan a trip. Off the beaten track in Sinai and the desert I think should be avoided still - better to be safe than sorry. Big cities and major tourist attractions should be okay.

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  16. I love what you wrote about Egypt. I would like to visit that country one day.

    By the way, Egypt seems to be trendy today in the challenge! I've just read two very different posts about the matter, that maybe interest you:

    https://truenorthbricks.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/e-is-for-egypt/

    http://afieldtriplife.com/e-is-for-egypt-atozchallenge/

    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. Thank you for sharing those links Eva! I'm going to check them out right away.

      Egypt is amazing if you're interested in history, or in Arabic, or Arab culture. Totally must see place!

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  17. I have always had a fondness for ancient Egypt and all things related. But modern Egypt also has many wonders, it seems.

    Today's unusually strange tale: Exit Stage Left

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    1. Modern Egypt has IKEA and Al Futtaim with artificial ski-slopes. And WiFi of course. And lots of art and music and performing arts and literature, great bookshops. And a river walk in practically every city. But modern day pharaohs not a patch on the ancient ones, the latter had much better fashion sense :)

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  18. Thank you for transporting me back to Egypt, one of the most fascinating places I've ever visited.

    Another day in Amble Bay!

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    1. Anytime :) Almost as charming as Amble Bay? :) So glad to find soemone who's been there and finds it fascinating!

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  19. I'd love to visit Egypt one day. Both as an archaeologist and as a storyteller, I'm sure I'd find it fascinating :)

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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    1. Yes, guaranteed, you will! :) Some of their stories have been handed down from Pharonic times...

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  20. I've always wanted to visit Egypt! Such a beautiful and historical place. Maybe someday!

    26 Things To Hate About Writing: E is for Edits

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    1. My travel wishlist got Egypt on it when i was in my teens, someone had visited and then told me about the Son et Lumiere at the Pyramids where the Sphinx narrates the story of Egypt, I was totally floored. And hooked! :)

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  21. just listened to the anthem -- beautiful. and yes, Egypt is definitely on my must-visit list! Thanks for the info.

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

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    1. Egypt is definitely a candidate for a universal bucket list.

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  22. I've always wanted to visit Egypt and hopefully I'll get there someday. I'd never thought about the Nile being such a miracle, but it's true. The White Desert looks like a dramatic landscape - what are those mounds in the distance?

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    1. They are limestone formations, eroded by the wind. Come in all kinds of shapes and sizes - 'chicken and mushroom' is the most famous one. There is a Black Desert too, that's basalt of some kind, also curved and pleated, but the shapes are less dramatic, as limestone is so much softer and easily eroded.

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  23. I've always been fascinated by the pyramids. Great post!

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    1. Yup, they are awe inspiring! Thanks for coming by..

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  24. I hope to go to Egypt someday. Your photos are wonderful! I had not really thought before about the amount of flooding. Thanks for the info.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

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    1. The Nile no longer floods in Egypt after being dammed at Aswan. It's the major source of water for the country.

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  25. I knew that the ancient Egyptians had many gods, but over 1400? I had no idea!

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    1. Yeah, must have been quite a job keeping track, a yellow pages of gods required!

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  26. What wonderful pictures! I have always wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids and ancient temples. For now, I will just have to be satisfied with the LEGO variety ;)

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    1. The LEGO variety is adorable also! A really fantastic idea and a good enough substitute for the real thing till you get there :) totally happy making!

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  27. My homeland, my homeland Elissa's song brings such sorry with the accompanying photographs in the video. Your offering of pictures eased the sadness as I looked at the beauty depicted in them.

    http://poetryfromthelanai.blogspot.com

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    1. It's fascinating how a change in tempo can change the mood of a melody completely. Ibrahim Tuqan was a poet who wrote primarily against the then British occupation - died rather young, tragically...Even without the visuals, the melody conveys the message of sadness and yearning, that to me was an amazing piece of communication...music needs no language!

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  28. That Med Sea pic is absolutely beautiful.
    I must try and get to Egypt. Just don't know when, especially with our weak currency.

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    1. Egypt is really beautiful! I mean, anywhere you go in Africa...or come to think of it...anywhere on this planet. So many places, so little time! Hope you do make it to Egypt.

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  29. Loving this post, Nila! All my life I've wanted to visit Egypt, but now it seems highly unlikely. In 1964/65 my father was part of a UN peacekeeping mission stationed in the Gaza strip. During his free time he explored northern Egypt and took lots of film which sadly, has been lost over the years. Thanks for sharing these fabulous photos. It was interesting to hear rap performed in Arabic - somewhat reminiscent of German to my ears, and very powerful!

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    1. That's so sad the photographs were lost - but photos/negatives are really tough to preserve. Digital has a better chance but then a lot is lost because gizmos crash, or stuff gets deleted and so on...Your father must have had amazing stories to go with the photos!

      El General is super, isn't he?

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