I took my dresses in a hurry, double locked my house’s door and get down trying to reach the station of Alassio in time.
It was 07,30 of the first sunday of november and, if the train would have been punctual, I’d have been in Rome for breakfast time. The next day at 14,10 I had the direct flight Roma –Luxor and there were only few hours to the beginning of my travel in Egypt.
Egypt, this ancient, fashinating country, has, always, brought back to conceive life times more natural, making me distinguishing the worlds so that unimportant things can loose their false value and appair to me in the superficiality that marks them.
This time I’ve handled me with kid gloves and took up lodging in Luxor in the Hotel Old Winter Palace, famous to has been built by King Farouk and to have given hospitality to hundreds of archaeologhists wishing to meet the ancient culture
Avoiding the lift I get up the stairs of that palace like “Gone with the wind”, to reach my room with view on the Nile.
I could afford a room in this wonderful hotel only because the Egyptian currency, the pound, has its value bound to the dollar and a monthly salary varies from 30 to 80 euros while a room of a 5 star hotel costs, thanks to the agreement with agencies, 180 euros…. Just a little more than two salaries!
The sight was invaluable as usual nearly as the flavour of the mango juice that I was putting on the board of my terrace on the Nile with, as background, the Mountain of Silence, the West Bank… the bank where has been built the Houses of Eternity and the Pharaohs Tombs of XIX and XVIII dynasty.(1450-1200 b. C.)
Ten years ago I’d chosen to spend my holidays in Egypt for the only way that choosing the Cruise on Nile, on the ship Scherry Boat, in the leaflet I had read “rainy days zero”.
And during my first visit in Msr ( the ancient Mishraim), once on board, the guide informed me that for tomorrow has been scheduled a visit to the West Bank….and me, making everybody laughing, answered: “ well, so I can change money!”
It was only going in Karnak, the ancient Thebes sung by Virgilio, that I came in contact with the immense culture of which I was astounded onlooker and still nowadays, every time I go to Luxor, the first visit is to that magic site.
At that time I was lucky to find no tourists and could live my visit walking alone in a sort of dream among those millenary stones, reading those hieroglyphs that had represented for forgetful time the same ideals: “to give-to have-to be talented as the sun forever”.
It is important that the millenary site of Thebes has been devoted , by the ancient, to the triad Amon, Mut and to their son Konsu which myths correspond to the triad of Heliopolys made by Ptah, Shmet and Nefertom .
The symbols equals for our cultures are really many but we shan’t make the mistake to try to understand them adapting the Egyptian culture to ours because is exactly the contrary: it’s our culture to derive from theirs!
After a short visit to the site of Tothmoses III ( moses= borne ) devoted to the triad of Heliopolys I took back the gig that I’d left to wait for me outside the wall and I came back to the hotel while the sun went down to sleep behind the Mount of Silence which profile, in the dusk, resembled more and more to a baboon, the animal which image represents the supreme knowledge of Toth
Come home I just had time to take the long passage going in the first door left, open the hot water in the bathroom and, in the end, let me cuddle in the bath from the idea to be, really, in a place very, very special.
But I had to wait the end of dinner, when all the guests were away to have a photo with the Maitre ….to the restaurant 1886 where the Privacy was, really, respected!
I was radiant: I wore on my neck the necklace of turquoises bought by the jeweller Emil, under the hotel near the library Gaddy’s, at the price of 7 euro per gram of weight ( wrought gold was 20 euro per gram) !
Unfortunately not everybody is so honest and, especially on Red Sea, real thefts are organized to damage the tourists that are invited by the guides to buy in locals “chosen” with prices multiplied!
When I woke up the following morning, when the sun was already high, after a luxurious continental breakfast at restaurant La Corniche, I took for me a red apple to eat in case of necessity!
As soon as I got out in the garden I made for the swimming pool crossing the wonderful garden with the little birds that chirped without a break.
From the other side a marvellous relax, in which I sunk having as only date another visit to Karnak, in the first afternoon, was waiting for me.
I was reading and sipping a mango juice and I thought how I was lucky to be able to rejoice over the possibilities that life gives me.
The next day I had to move to Berenice, at Lahamy Bay , the Resort on Red Sea at few Kilometres from the border with Sudan.
The road that links Edfu to MarsAlam had been opened a short time ago but the passage, with Police Convoy, rose many unfavourable remarks due to the fact that the transit of the tourist imposed his priority on who was queuing at the level crossing.
I was excusing me with those four words of arab that I know: “ Malech, Malech”, managing to move those faces, irritated by wait and sudden overwhelming to … short smiles.
But an exhausting stop got also to me: I’d to wait some hours, at the transit point, the change of convoy before crossing the desert.
Other cars and a coach of tourists had time to come and at dead of night we could leave and I could take, from the car running, a photo to the children that, pride, made their little donkey running, at our passage, in an uneven run.
Looking at the photo, today, I realize how this child driving be a real gentleman!
He was beautiful as the sun…. as everybody of us should be …if only we would learn to smile.
The road in the desert was really long, it seems to have no end.
When I arrived in Lahamy nine hours had passed from the moment of my leaving!
My room was the 1086 with the terrace over a wonderful pink bougainvillea
I changed places, rhythms, and uses: the resort had been built in the middle of the desert where 18 thousand years ago was the coral reef. A nice village, with two storied buildings, attended by divers and surfers but where weren’t absent the kite surf’s lovers .
On the bank small mangroves forests rose spontaneous and during my first reconnaissance they were a agreeable goal for he who, as me, respects the uncontaminated nature.
For he who loves to plunge in the nature in total respect of it, it is possible to rent a tent for 30 euro per day, full board, in an ecological camping Wadi Lahami Bay
The only disadvantage are the camels that the Bedouins leave free to go around in the desert and that are considered guest more important than the same tourists!
I’d received a welcome from the nature the evening before, amongst the dunes 30 kilometres from the coast when the German astronomer Petra and Alice, the translator, had shown the vault of heaven to twenty incredulous travellers as they really had never seen it.
Lying on comfortable pillows, turned-up nose, thanks to the binoculars supplied, we could admire stars and… maybe.. look at a….Supernova in the Constellation of Perseus!
Returning, in the Jeep, the biologist of the resort Alice became lavish with praises to the driver, original Bedouin, who as for possible… managed to loose his way!
My holidays had taken a different turn: I was entirely concentrated on nature because involved by the conferences on shells and fish and because the natural beauties of the Reef in that part of Red Sea are still integral and huge multicolour corals make a fine show.
Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to visit the town of Berenice, with its Roman rests, because it had become a military base and the only attraction was a journey to El Shalateen, an old camel market, at the border with Sudan, run by Bedouins.
But a bitter surprise was waiting for us: the Bedouins, that in the desert live in tents, in the urban conglomerations live in carton and aluminium huts!
For this way the view from El Shalateen was an immense shantytown where also an elastic was goods for exchange!
In the market the poor camels had a leg bound, so they couldn’t escape, and a crew of children offered us little necklaces in change of some coins.
In the shade of a tank two Bedouins were playing at a game improvised on the sand,
giving a big hint to reflect on the priority needs of life.
They were dressed all in the same way, the sandals too were of the same brand and it seemed to me to be in a community of Grey Friars so big was the humility and dignity that marked those people or, maybe, because, there was not even a shadow of a woman!
Coming back, the road, that was running lonely in the desert, was similar in all to one of my recurrent painting that had been a subject of discussion, thirty years ago, between the painter Mario Schifano and the writer Alberto Moravia.
At that time, intending to measure my “probable” cleverness they asked to me what the road painted by me was made of and I answered “But of asphalt, obviously!”… and I failed because the right answer was “a river”, it had to be a waterway!
Now that I had been in my painting, at El Shalateen, I had understood their reasons and as a real cleverness should always be fruitful!
But all my thoughts were driven away by a unforgettable overtaking:
An articulated lorry loaded with “ships of the desert”, dozens of camels that were carried to the north, with all their heads strictly turned towards the sun. Precious animals to which I wish, as still happens by the Bedouins, a free life in their wide desert.
After so much sand I was wishing to come back near the water and in the following days the coral Reef became the protagonist.
Every morning, at 8,00 o’clock, we left with the Barrakuda Diving Centre to reach at ten miles from the coast at Sataya Kebir the coral Reef, with walls deep till one hundred meters and at Dolphin Reef we had the opportunity to bath among groups of above 80 dolphins.
With our biologist Alice the next day we reached the Qulaan Islands, a real paradise, still free from commercialization of package tour.
In Sial the first isle on which we get down an army of hermit-crabs was taking shelter, running, from that unexpected arrival –
The shore, soft and powdery, gave to the sea different gradations of colour e Alice pointed out that such a white depth in the nearby isle, Shawairit, is due to the cast of the parrot fish that lives eating corals that then deposits again in the sea.
Everything is useful: also shells must be left on the shore because they can be useful as home for a hermit-crab looking for a bigger shelf.
I had well understood the important role that has information, when near a paradise of nature and while, leaving, I was passing from El Qusier, on the coast
still surrounded by nature and by people respecting it, I perceived that something was changing.
When after I arrived in Hurgada at hotel Melia Pharaon I realized that I had had the privilege to live in a part of the world still pure while in that coast the “disposable tourism”, consisting of million of ignorant people, had by now destroyed every trace of the Reef.
But I didn’t want to believe my fear and, worn my flippers and diving mask, I was setting about to snorkel a little on the coral reef: on the bottom I didn’t see fish, but six plastic bottles and a glass bottle of Vodka!
While I was putting them in the wastepaper I noted an attendant of the hotel that, coming back from the shoreline, was carrying a sack full of similar waste.
Hurgada is assaulted by a voracious tourism, for the most made by Russians that arrive and rob, other travellers, of the opportunity to find a part of the world untouched.
I think it will be enough a little information, a guide able to receive them or better a biologist able to explain, to let them understand how the coral are living beings and how from their respect it depends the survival of a whole shellfish, fish and coelenterate population.
For harmony of universe is based on these elements and it is harmony that let life existing.
“It’s energy which liven up everything” writes Matilde Asensi in her book “All under the sky” “…in the Universe there is an order that we can observe, an order that reveal itself in the regular cycles of the stars, of planets and seasons …..They are the complementary opposites
that, reciprocally supporting each other, produce movement, evolution and changing, that is the only constant of Universe.”
Yes, the metamorphosis of life that the highest knowledge must be able to keep….alive!
( see blog Futura: photos of the columns of the House of Eternity of Hatchepsut)
We need persons able to let perceive the fashion of mistery that permeate us.
Persons as the assistant Elena and the biologist Alice (respectively to my left and right) that received me pointing to me the way to love and respect the place where I was.
To them my most sincere thanks!
The moral of the journey is in this thought of mine: it’s beautiful to take life… biting delightfully!