despite a lousy night's sleep (which should be explained in here at some point) i am going to try to jot down some thoughts about the last few days. they have been busy to say the least.

tuesday the 9th was mostly a day of rest. still sore from climbing into the pyramid and from horseback riding, i was moving a little slow and M had some work to do (bless his heart he's been amazing).

when he returned to the house we decided to go out for a drive…the day was still clear ( a real rarity here apparently). we headed for a bluff that we pass going pretty much everywhere. a few churches but against its edge and building stand, unseen, behind them. M hadn't explored up there so we headed in that direction with only a compass and a landmark to guide us. foiled by a wall and guards we drove around the rather posh area – watching kids screaming with glee at the decorated horses parading back and forth up the street.

i spied a side street and we meandered our way in that direction…kind of a view…a little further…maybe…until we spotted a clearing ahead and a view past the giza pyramids with sakkara and dashur off in the distance. it was amazing. the city of the dead sprawled out before us and the river and the skyline accessorized the city. it was stunning.

from there we drove back to maadi, leaving the city behind in almost an instant…we drove into a canyon. banked up against the city, it was a river bed that used to feed the nile and has paleolithic village remains. we drove the 10 or so kilometers and at one point stopped to climb and grab a view from up high. stunning. of course trash was strewn all about – probably caught in the desert winds and blown in from the city. garbage is something that abounds here.

wednesday we departed at 7am headed for a couple of desert destinations. the first was a pharonic period temple – Qasr al-Sagha -the golden fortress/temple. it used to be on the oasis shore (which has receded on a couple of occasions now) and doesn't have much left to show except the actual stones and some empty spaces presumed to be enclaves for the different gods.

from there we continued through the desert and located Dimeh al-Siba (avenue of the lions), the ruins of a greco roman village that was once on the shore of the same oasis (since receded further). the area is strewn with pottery remains, part of two temples and what are presumed to be random buildings and a road – for which the area is named (ave. of the lions). no lions remain.

after roaming around there for a while we cut through the desert in a different direction butting up against the fayoum oasis. green jumped from the desert as if ambushing it. no gradual assertion of its boldness…it was confident. we drove through the outskirts of this agricultural area, marveling at how women could do farm work with their entire faces covered and floor length galibaya, as we met the tar road.

the agricultural area continued. the oasis evident before i ever saw the fayoum oasis water. and once it emerged – to my right – i was also made aware that it is not the source of the farms because the high dam has cut off the niles flooding effects that spilled into the oasis and now the salinity is too high for most fish or almost any life. instead farmers use canals and irrigate with nile water.

following the road we entered wadi al-hitan, a unesco world heritage site. it is better known as valley of the whales because the whole area used to be an expanded part of the mediterranean sea and was underwater. and embedded in the rock and sand are the skeletons and fossils of whales (back when they had hind legs still) and mangroves…among other things.

after wandering around the area for a while M and i set up camp. by sun down we had the place to ourselves (with the exception of the workers who had housing further out). settled in for the night we were amazed by the light of the almost full moon…it lit up the box canyon we nestled so brightly you could almost read by it. the stars had trouble competing with it but we sat out in the cold air, watching the fire burn – and at several points – a desert fox roaming closer and closer to us (around 10 feet) we presume searching for food.

after a freezing night in the tent we woke to a leisurely start to the day, took a different route out of the park through what i expected the desert to look like (more sand dunes and wind blown designs) to where i fell asleep.

i awoke in time to see what appeared to be a pyramid or something in the distance and asked M what it was. he hazarded a guess "mud core pyramid" but steered the car in that direction. we discovered it was a step pyramid dating earlier than sakkara and in amazing condition with a lot of the original facing still on it. after climbing down into it – weary of the "staples" holding the crumbling rock in place – we were amazed at the success of this pyramid more than its failure (the top collapsed -presumably from too steep a top, the thing that that bent pyramid's builders corrected at the end).

we wiggled our way into the mastaba as well – literally – on our bellies for part, climbing down rickety ladders and across questionable planks. but it was worth it – inside we found an open sarcophagus.

homeward bound after all that excitement. tomorrow is my last real day here…i can't believe it is almost over.

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