Monday, November 15, 2010

Nov 14th–The Land of the Pharohs

Someone told that what we were doing was illegal–we gathered at 7am in Room 1011 to celebrate Sunday Mass. Fr. Oscar of Holy Trinity in Paradise Hills, CA (near San Diego) led us in a quiet celebration of our faith. We treasure our new friends from the San Diego area!

As always, you were in our prayers this day, and we continue to carry your prayer requests with us and in our hearts as well. Today's Gospel passage where Jesus says, " ... there will not be one stone left on top of another; they will all be thrown down" greatly impacted me–we had walked the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where those words were fullfilled by the Romans in 70 A.D. What a powerful gospel to hear as we continue into our last two days of this Pilgrimage.

Cairo is a modern city of 25 million and the Safir Hotel is stunning–by far the nicest and most oppulent of all the hotels we have stayed in. November is the beginning of the heaviest tourist season in Egypt and their are many tour busses carrying groups from many other countries. After Breakfast, our schedule today included a trip to the Pyramids and Sphinx (just south of Cairo) lunch at another very nice hotel, a visit to some local shops and a trip to the Cairo Museum–what a place! Our evening was caped off with a dinner cruise of the river Nile.

The Pyramids was another site that was thronged with tourists. We were allowed to climb the great Pyramid itself–the burgandy caps to the left is our group beginning the climb.

The scale of the building blocks of the Pyramids is amazing.

From the lower levels of the Great Pyramid, the throng of tourists, dozens of tour buses, and the city of Cairo in the distance.

Many of us choose to take our first camel ride here, because the end-point of the ride offers a view where one can see all nine of the pyramids of Giza "in a row."

The camel ride was quite an experience–the animals seem very gentle, are not especially foul-smelling, and not at all worthy of the nasty reputation that they seem to have in the states. The owner spoke good English and was very good with a camera–he took the picture below. When I asked, I was told my camel's name was "Michael Jackson"! About 45 minutes on a camel for $10–one of the best values on the tour!

Ayman did a superb job of keeping us all together and he didn't hesitate to go looking for the "lost sheep"! As an archaeologist he was in his "element"–in this picture he is gathering the group to explain the significance of the Sphinx and the temple complex that surrounds it.

Here too we were joined by many others tourists and accompanied by persistent but polite street vendors who were selling an interesting variety of books, head dresses and other items. Ayman says that the average Egyptian government workers makes about $300 (in US currency) a month--a dollar bill is a LOT of money in Egypt. In this picture Ayman is defining the rules for access to our group to one of the many vendors.

After the trip to the Pyramids we had lunch at a very nice hotel that was close by, comparatively speaking! Much of the afternoon was devoted to a whirlwind trip to the Cairo museum. The day was capped off with a dinner cruise on the Nile River. The food was excellent and the entertainment was amazing--we saw a "whirling dirvish" and Ayman explained the signifcance of the dance--a father's joy of finding a lost child!

It is amazing to think that these are the same sights that Joseph and Mary and the boy, Jesus, would have seen nearly 2000 years ago ... "out of Egypt I have called my Son."

–posted by Greg Smithhisler, Liturgist

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