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Published: November 29th 2010
With all the joys of a 5am alarm call after too many beers the night before, I rolled out of bed, begrudgingly showered and left the still sleeping hotel to visit Karnak. The Temple is open from 6am, and I wanted to get there before the packaged masses arrived. Getting a minibus at this God-foresaken hour wasn't easy - apparently no one else is keen on getting up this early either. Who'd have guessed? I settled for a 5EP taxi instead, and arrived at the gates just before 7am, without a tourbus in sight, and just a scattering of tourists about.
Still sleeping, I agreed to have a tour guide - it was fairly cheap, and it seemed to good to turn down as the site is vast if you don't know where you're going, and you're still in bed (even if in mind rather than body). The guide was good, but as we walked through the near-deserted complex he came as a mixed blessing, stopping my childike desire to run all over the place. Although interesting, I was willing for it to end soon.
Just before 8am, and the Temple slowly filling up, my guide said he was
done, and I jumped, ran and skipped back to the main site. As you enter the temple, you pass through a gateway between two massive walls, 43m high and covered in hieroglyphs. This leads into an open courtyard, and beyond this, through another giant gateway, is the main Hypostyle Hall. The Pyramids were fun. Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings good. But the Hypostyle Hall made me breatheless. Yet again I was blown away. But this time more than ever before. Over sixty columns, 15m around, and over 30m high, reach into the sky. The place is just unbeleivably massive, and makes you feel so miniscule and tiny (even someone of my height). Crowds of people just disappear behind the giant stones. And yet it was built over 300 years ago. Confronted by this, I did what any self respecting person would do, and got out my mp3 player and put on the Indiana Jones theme tune, and bounced around with childish enthusiasm. It's just the size of the place that is so amazing. People seem the size of ants. Smaller than even a single building block. And even though there must have been 100 other people there,
it felt like I had the place to myself.
It's getting harder and harder to improve on the sights I'm seeing. And I only left home a month ago (to the day!). It's easy. It packaged. It's full of tourists. And it's not even really Africa. But Egypt can be utterly and fantastically unbeleivable and unbeatable at times.
(Just make sure you go to India to learn how to deal with the touts first).
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