Saturday, May 21, 2016

Egypt on Steroids

Whoa! What a week! We left very early Sunday morning. The flights went well, getting into Egypt went well, and everyone was excited. It was crazy hot, over 100 degrees. But we weathered it alright. The first thing we did was have a lunch on a boat on the Nile, which everyone loved. Then we went and toured Old Cairo, looking at the mosques and gates and buildings of medieval Cairo. Then we went to the bazaar and let everyone go shopping. I got something for Julianne for our anniversary that I was excited about. Everyone enjoyed it, but it wasn’t crazy exciting.

Students at a Sabil in Old Cairo
The next day was great though. We started out by going to Memphis, where we spoke of the ancient capital. We could see some excavations going on, and I have heard that a lot is going on in Memphis. In any case, they enjoyed the colossal statue of Ramesses, and the other remains. They were loving it, not knowing how much more was ahead of them. We did a drive by of the Apis Embalming Temple, and tried to talk to them about that. Then we went to Saqqara.

Learning about Ramses II
Statues at the open air museum of Memphis
At Saqqara we saw the step pyramid. They didn’t really have enough time there, but they enjoyed it. From there we went to the Serapeaum, where everyone was blown away with the size of the sarcophagi. They loved exploring that. We also went to Kagemni’s tomb, which went better than last time. They loved seeing the reliefs carved into the walls. In the meantime we talked to them about how the Egyptians loved their families and did so much to ensure eternal life with their families in the hereafter, and compared that to LDS beliefs. I feel like it went very well.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
Some of the tombs we toured at Saqqara
Then we went into Teti’s pyramid, and saw pyramid texts. It was exciting, and I loved it! We sang “If You Could Hie to Kolob” while in there. I think it was a wonderful time.

Things were hot, well over 100 degrees, and the air conditioning on the bus wasn’t working, so I think it was between 105 and 110 on there. Yet everyone handled it fine. I had purchased a fan last night, as many had, and I had brought my little cool towel that helps with evaporation, and it kept me pretty cool.

The caption of the local newspaper we got as we boarded the plane for Egypt

When we were finished with all of that we went to lunch, and then on to the pyramids of Giza. I tried to teach them there about how precisely the pyramids were built, and about how the whole complex worked together, and to teach them about tripartite ascent to be with God. We were so rushed, we saw hardly anything. But I did insist that we go behind the pyramid and see the pyramid temple and the boat pit, so that they got at least a little bit of a feel for the pyramids. We ran over to Menkaure’s pyramid, and went inside it. Again, it was rushed, but they got to do it. In the future we have to figure out how to get them more time at the pyramid. It just isn’t enough.

The Great Pyramid at Giza
Students climbing to the entrance of the Great Pyramid at Giza
The basalt floor of the Pyramid Temple of the Great Pyramid at Giza

We did a quick trip to the panoramic overview of the pyramids, and then we ran down to the Sphinx temple and saw the sphinx. It was all so rushed, but we got it in before it closed. Then we went to a papyrus factory where they learned about how to make papyrus. Of course, after that they bought a bunch. Finally we got a good dinner, and I slept, exhausted.

one of my students patting the sphinx
One of my students kissing the sphinx
One of my students at the panoramic overlook
My class in front of the pyramids of Giza
The next day we went to the museum. I had to push our guide to get through, but he did a good job of showing them quite a bit of stuff. Then we were able to give them free time, with some guidance of things to see. Quite a few followed me and I looked at some of the things I wanted to look at, and just talked to them about it as we went along.

Students learning in the Cairo Museum
The famous statue of Kafre in the Cairo Museum
Inside the Cairo Museum
More of the students learning at the Cairo Museum
Then we had lunch, and off we went to spend some time at a Coptic church. Phil taught them about the importance of keeping doctrine pure, and I taught them about how Egypt served as a place of refuge so often in the Bible, and how God always prepares a place of refuge for us. I think we had some nice moments. We also went to the Ben Ezra synagogue, and I spent just a moment teaching them about how they treated the scriptures there with such great care, and how we can take our scriptures more seriously. 
The Hanging Church in Old Cairo
A Mosaic of the journey of the Holy Family
The class learning inside the Coptic Hanging Church
Finally we went to the citadel, and toured the large synagogues there and learned a little about Islam. I think we had some very nice moments.

The women of our class inside the Mohammed Ali Mosque
Our class outside the Mohammed Ali Mosque
The Mohammed Ali Mosque
Afterwards we ate dinner on a boat that was cruising up and down the Nile. They had a whirling dervish dancer there, which was a bit cool to see, but was also just a bit weird, and he was kind of a sketchy guy. But it was fun to see. From there we went to the airport and caught our flight to Luxor. We got in late, and I slept hard.

The weird guy doing the whirling dervish dance

The next morning we went to the Karnak Temple, traveling down the Nile on a boat to get there. Andy was really feeling ill, so he didn’t come. It is too bad, I was looking forward to seeing him there. 

Some of our students on the boat ride up the Nile
Some more of our students riding along on the Nile
The guide taught them about a number of things there, and I added in. I made sure they learned about going through gates and how it represents a change from one degree of holiness to another, and how they were ascending to the presence of God, and how they needed to be both worthy and know the right things to continue progressing. I also showed them examples of reliefs of the boats on which statues of gods were carried, and talked about how there were probably Hebrew artisans that made these that then made the Ark of the Covenant. I went and found the place where you can see Shishak’s inscriptions about his military campaign to the north, which is also recorded in the Bible. I showed them the circle that I believe is the name of Judah. It is so interesting to have such a touchstone with the Bible.
Our class at the Karnak Temple
We continued on to the hypostyle hall. There they learned about all sorts of things from the guide, and I think they appreciated it. It is such a mind-blowing big hall, it is amazing. I showed them some things that were similar to ideas we have in our temple. Then I spent about five to ten minutes talking about how amazing this stuff was, and how Moses must have seen Egypt when it was at the height of what the world could be, and that then he saw god, and realized that man was nothing. I tried to help them gain a sense of how magnificent and amazing God is, and how humbling that should be to us, and how, at the same time, we realize our potential when we glimpse his majesty, and we realize how capable he is of exalting us. I feel like it was a very powerful moment. Many have expressed to me how touched they were, and our guide was also very touched. The Holy Ghost transcends languages, cultures, and religions.

12 students holding hands to get around the column
Students in the Hypostyle Hall of the Karnak Temple learning
We continued on to see some obelisks, and also the holy of holies. There I taught showed them the scenes of washing, anointing, clothing and enthronement on the side of the holiest place, and of how the floor continued to go up as one ascended to god, but also how the ceiling came down, and how in that place heaven and earth met, at the altar in the holy of holies. I think they really enjoyed it. I showed them scenes of holy embraces, and talked about how much god wants us to be in communion with him, how much he wants us to return to be with him. I feel like it went very well.

Everyone was given a little bit of free time, and many of them just stuck with me as we went around and looked at things. I explored just a bit, and explained a lot, and even had some students show me some things I have never noticed before that are pretty cool. It was a great day.

The sacred lake of the Karnak Temple
Students in the Avenue of the Sphinxes 
When we finished the Karnak Temple we boated back to the hotel for lunch. Then some went on a camel ride while the rest of us rested. I swam at the pool to cool down, having some fun with the students for a while. Then I took a little nap, and worked. I read a manuscript I am reviewing for a publisher, and came across some things that would be helpful for us that night at the Luxor temple. Finally, we had dinner, and then went on a carriage ride to the Luxor Temple. On the way we had the carriage in front of us almost tip over into traffic, but we caught it. Then the rubber came off our wheel and we had to fix it. But finally we got there. The horses had me feeling pretty allergic and not well. That was okay, besides our guide, at this temple we let Andy do the teaching. He taught some great things about marriage and increase of posterity and eternity with god. We taught some other lessons while we were there, and I think it went well. It is so much better to do all of that at night. I am glad we did so.

Luxor Temple at night
Luxor Temple at night
We took them all to some shopping at the bazaar, and then we caught the carriage rides back to the hotel.

The next morning was our anniversary. I am not very excited that we weren’t together for it. But I had left some instructions with the kids. They each had some notes from me to give her, along with a hug. One had a letter to give her, and another a gift. They spread these things out throughout the day and I think she enjoyed it. I skyped with her in the morning for just a few minutes. She sent me some nice messages later in the day. All in all it was a nice time.

Sadly, the kids have been sick a bit while I have been gone. Everyone has  missed school but Kaleb. But I think they are getting better now.

We left very early for the Valley of the Kings. Our guide talked for way, way too long before we went in. It was not enjoyable for anyone. I tried to step in afterwards and make some sense of what he said and get them prepared to understand some of what they would see in there. We went to the tomb of Ramses IX, and they enjoyed it. Then we went to Yuya’s and Tuya’s tomb, and finally Thutmosis III’s (which has been closed for ten years but just opened). I have never seen these last two tombs before, and really, really enjoyed seeing them. I think the students did too, and that they got some meaning out of them.

We had some problems with the vendors as we tried to leave, and I had to physically move some and get money back from some on the behalf of some students. It was a bit ugly. But we got out of there and moved on.
We rushed through Hatshepsut’s temple, but I think they enjoyed it okay. Then we went to the Ramesseum, the temple of Ramses II. It is a cool place, though it is less abandoned and bucolic than before. They are developing it a little, which is nice in a way, and ruins the atmosphere in a way. Ah well. We stood by the huge (six story tall) fallen statue of Ramses, and Andy recited Ozymandias for them (a poem inspired by that place), and taught them about pride. It was great! Then we went in and saw some other things, and found the column that had Lebolo’s name carved into it, and talked just a bit about his tie to the Book of Abraham. Then we saw the Colossae of Memnon, and then back to the hotel. I took a group on the camel safari, and then rested a bit, and then we flew back to Cairo. We got in very late, got up at 5 am, and then flew home. It was great to get home. It was nice to be with my family again. I missed them. I was exhausted, and had a hard time staying awake later, but we at least had a lot of fun.

Girl Power picture at Queen Hatshepsut's Temple
The Ramesseum (temple of Ramses II)
A column at the Ramesseum
The colossal statue of Ramses II that may be the inspiration for Ozymandias
My class in front of the Colossae of Memnon
The famous Colossae of Memnon
The week went so quickly. We did so much. I feel like we were able to work in a lot of good teaching all along the way. On the whole the trip went well, was edifying, and was good for me and for everyone I think. It is so nice to be home also!

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