Monday, January 09, 2006

Land of the Pharoah's

In three days my wife and I depart for Egypt. This has been a trip we have been planning, scrimping and saving for for several years. This is the kind of thing some people call a 'once in a lifetime' trip. I actually hope to have more of these kinds of trips. I don't know, I'm greedy that way.

Although any trip to Egypt will deal with its ancient history our tour is very focused on archeology. We will be traveling with Dr Kent Weeks and will also have lectures with 2 other egyptologists as well as a meeting with Dr. Zahi Hawass. (If you've watched ANYTHING about Egypt in the last 5 years, he's been in it) He is the secretary General of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities.

Over two weeks we will be covering a great deal of ground; from the pyramids at Giza and Saqqara to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor as well as Aswan and Abu Simbel. We are getting access to a tomb that is normally closed to the public, a private tour of the Egyptian Museum after it is closed and access to KV5 the largest tomb yet discovered in the Valley of the Kings and still being excavated.

I am, to be blunt, stoked.

Right now we are in the gearing and packing phase. These are two different things. When we gear up for a trip we pull out EVERYTHING we think we might need. Clothes, books, maps, luggage, toiletries... then we systematically go through all of it eliminating what we don't need. When we've paired it down we do a test pack, this invariably leads us to dumping more unneeded items.

Once we are happy with what we have we pack a set of our clothes in each others luggage. In the event one of our bags is lost we will have at least 2 sets of clothes. Our personal gear selection is another rigorous project. If you travel anywhere abroad it is a good idea to plan for the possibility that someone, somewhere, wants your stuff. When we travel we dump our wallets/purses. Money and travelers checks get split up. Some carried in an easy to get to travel wallet, some in a neck or belly pouch, some in an ankle wallet and some secured back at the hotel. We use pants with button or velcro flaps. We make copies of ALL our travel documents as well as track down numbers for embassies etc.

Because this trip covers a lot of history and ground I wanted to carry more gear than I usually do. I've tried backpacks but they are bulky and not comfortable to wear. I'm trying something new with a messenger-type bag I got at goodwill for 4 bucks. It has tons of pockets to hold my maps, guidebooks, compass, flashlight, journal, camera, pens, baby wipes etc. It also slings across the shoulder making it hard to grab in a run-by. I've been testing it out over the past few days and it's very comfortable to wear. I only wish it was brown, instead of black so that it didn't stand out at all.

Unlike journeys on the past, we are going with a tour group. This means that we won't get to meet any many native Egyptians as we would if we were hoofing it solo. We are also at the mercy and schedule of the tour operators. This was a real issue the one other time we took a tour in Sicily. We could have spent two whole days crawling all over Pompeii, but we were rushed through the entire affair in a few hours and were forced to visit a cameo shop to boot. Then there's having to deal with other humans. I'm optimistic that this will be a fun group to travel with. If they aren;t I am confident that the shifting sands of the dessert will quickly cover the bodies after Rossana kills them.

It's 2:30 in the morning but I am still pouring over websites trying to cram my brain with as much information as I can. I found a great website that documents the work being done in the Valley of the Kings. Wonderful stuff. I'm scribbling down questions. There have been some big controversies in the field of Egyptology in the past few years and I'm just starting to pick up on some of them. Since we'll be getting our information straight from some of the top people in the field I hope we get some answers.


Anonymous said...

Have a safe trip. We're looking forward to hearing about this one.

Thanks, too, for the packing tips.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say good luck, we're all counting on you.

Anonymous said...

If you want your bag to be brown you can always hit it with some bleach.


Anonymous said...

I am so jealous. I have wanted to go to Egypt for years. I even have a Abyssinian cat because they are supposed to be decended from the Egyptian cats that guarded the ancient temples. I have seen many shows with Dr. Weeks and he has vast amounts of knowledge. I hope you both have a wonderful time and bring back loads of pictures.