March 21, 2012

Great Pyramids and Other Monuments | Travel To Egypt Story 1

Great Pyramids and Other Monuments

As one moves out to meet the desert, the town and villages fostered by the waters of the Nile abruptly come to an end. The true border between the settlements along the Nile and the desert proper are the Pyramids. Behind them stretches the vast desert, a seemingly endless expanse of sand. In fact, it covers the whole western part of Egypt, eventually merging with the sands of the Libyan Desert.

Great Pyramids Of Giza
The first time I visited the Pyramids was towards evening. As I stood gazing up at these enormous monuments at the same time trying to get rid of someone pestering me to ride a camel other sightseers were gradually making their way back to their hotels. Even as I watched, the sun, a great red ball, was setting rapidly somewhere beyond the Libyan Desert, coloring the Pyramids with a variety of hues. The shadows cast by the Pyramids are unbelievably large; their huge forms rob whole areas of the late afternoon light, dyeing them an impenetrable black. The monoliths are stark and beautiful in their geometric simplicity and need no embellishments from me.

As I stood entranced by their form, a cool breeze began to blow and from somewhere there came the resonant voice of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. I felt that if the sound of silence exists, this is what it would be like; it was as if I were lost in eternity. Mundane matters my job and personal problems suddenly seemed to be of no importance. The sight of these Pyramids, urged me to think more profound thoughts, to contemplate the significance of man, life, death, history and of time itself. Looking at these massive crumbling stone monuments, my sense of time became hazy and dulled by distance. The realization of the transience of human existence and man’s impotence seemed to be born in me in a single moment. Albert Camus once wrote about the desert: “It is a place where no one can live, but there is no doubt that some will consider a way of doing so.”

I cannot say why, but I felt a peace of mind difficult to describe.
I seemed to comprehend how the religion of Islam could be born out of the harshness that is the desert. The people of the desert cleanse their hands by rubbing them with sand, and it seemed to me that sand can also purify the spirit. My irritation of a few minutes earlier now seemed foolish. It did not matter that, unbidden, a guide had actually got into my car, or that, after having taken a photograph of some camels in the distance, I was asked to pay for the privilege. So without a motion of protest and without speaking a word, I placed a little baksheesh into the outstretched hand of the small boy who approached me. “Shukran”  hand clenched over his chest in the traditional Arab greeting the boy expressed his thanks, and I found it a very beautiful gesture.
Egyptian Simple People

I marvelled at myself. The Pyramids and the desert were having a profound effect on my state of mind. When he was alive, Nasser maintained a villa in the vicinity of the Pyramids, and now, so does President Sadat. Exhausted by politics, he comes here to revive himself, to gaze out over the desert and the Pyramids, to become lost in his thoughts.

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