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My Mid-East Trip

DAY 1 – AMSTERDAM

Today is the first day of my trip!  I will be gone about 23 days and will be traveling with a nurse named Alexei whom I do not know.  He works at my previous hospital and with my previous co workers. He has been to Israel and Petra in the past and has been to Egypt many times. He is an Egyptologist and has arranged tours for groups of people before.  I am feeling very comfortable traveling in these countries with him and grateful for this opportunity to go with someone so familiar with the areas and so knowledgeable about history.

Originally, there were several more people coming on this trip, but, due to the issues in Egypt, everyone but one other person cancelled and she will meet us in Jerusalem.  She is another nurse, but I don’t know her. Her name is Nicole. I know there were a lot of concerns for me from my family and friends and hopefully, if you were one of them, you read my previous blog and know that I feel comfortable that Love will guide me.

So, here I am, ready to go and it is too early to leave yet!  My condo is all packed up because today the building will be having its routine termite fumigation. So, there is no food, no hot water and nothing to do to distract me from my anticipation of leaving for the trip. I have such a strong urge to go now.

I can’t stand it and finally go out to the street to wait for the taxi.  Linda, it is 30 minutes too early for the taxi.  I know, but, maybe, it will be there early.  It’s cold out there. It’s okay, I will be okay.

No taxi. Dang.  I wait a little bit and yeah it’s cold. I am getting cold.  What to do?  I need to chill (ha, ha, already am chilled). I mean get grounded and centered.  Ahh, I know,  I will call the taxi and see if it can come early.

I did and they did.  I had a really great talk with the driver who was from the mid east. We talked about the benefits of living in the United States; about the different practices of healthcare, political corruption, etc. Then when we arrived at the airport, he gave me a blessing! Wow, awesome.

When I got to the ticketing agent at Delta, I had a major question to ask  because I had received a phone call two days earlier from KLM airlines saying that due to curfew in Cairo, they were changing my flight and putting me up in a hotel in Amsterdam overnight.  I had tried to check this flight change on the computer but it only had the original info.

When I got to the agent, I explained the issue, but she said, “I don’t know what to say because there is no change on the computer. You will need to ask the KLM people in Atlanta because your flight was overbooked and we are putting you on the flight that is boarding right now, let’s go!”

What!?

She walked me to security where there was a little power struggle, but, I got through and ran to the gate where they were just boarding my section.

Whew! Good thing I had that urge to leave early, hmm.

In Atlanta I asked a couple of different people to check into this layover issue and finally called KLM, but, I was advised to “disregard the phone call” because there was no flight change showing. Yeah, I don’t think so! I will check in Amsterdam.

Good thing I did because, yes indeed, KLM has been laying passengers over since the curfew began with the demonstrations in Tahrir square.

Great! I get to explore Amsterdam.  Fortunately, I had listened to that heads up phone call and I had the proper clothing for exploring cold Amsterdam.

I had to take the shuttle back to the airport from the hotel and then take a train into downtown Amsterdam.  I wanted to do a canal tour and, fortunately, they are enclosed and protect from the wind.  I have to admit, the tour would have been much better if I could have heard it.  There was a large family on the boat who talked through the whole trip. I did get to see the architecture of the buildings which I do like and to see the outside of Anne Frank’s house, but all in all, the tour was only so-so for me.

When I got off of the boat, I started walking into the downtown area and this was much better for me.   I found a street named Zeeduk with cute shops, etc, but I wanted to find the red light district and see the famous “display of women in the windows”. I had read about this in a novel; in a travel guide; and, from my mom!  Yeah, my mom was encouraging me to check out the red light district!

So, I walked around and I do mean around because the streets go in a kind of circle. I finally found the red light district.  I found shops that will sell you hash and grass which I didn’t buy only because I was afraid to fall asleep and miss my flight.  I saw clubs with live sex shows, but you can see that in any red light district, right?  I saw a couple of dimly lit alley ways which I didn’t go down.  I saw a lot of tourists! Can you believe it?  I wonder if their moms told them to come too.  But, unfortunately, I never did see those famous window displays of beauties.  I was tired and decided to go back to the hotel.  I fell asleep on the train and just by grace did I happen to wake up when the train gave a little bounce.

Yikes! “Is this the stop for the airport?” I blurted.  People nodded.  I jumped out of my seat, ran to the exit and literally jumped over the steps and onto the landing just as door swooshed closed behind me.  Good darn thing I didn’t smoke that hash!

The next day, I was having increasing concern because I hadn’t been in contact with Alexei for over a week.  He had begun his trip in Europe attending Mardi Gras in Venice.  He wasn’t answering his texts and didn’t know about my flight changes.  While sitting on the plane, I contemplated what to do.  What if he doesn’t show up in Cairo? What if he is sick or injured, who would I contact to have them find him?  I had no clue.  I decided I would contact people at work and have them explore that avenue if needed.    Then, what would I do about this trip? Do I continue; stay in Cairo the whole time; or, go back to Europe and to Paris?  I have our intended itinerary and at least one hotel reservation. I just don’t know exactly how we were planning to get around to all of these places. I don’t know if it is safe for me to do it by myself.  Whew, what do I do?  This is one of those times when I have to ask if I am “challenging my spirit”. I don’t want to make decisions with the idea of, “Linda, if you are truly spiritual then you will be safe”.  Yeah, as I have said before, that is my mind trying to deny my fear and it doesn’t work. I don’t want to be stupid, but, I also don’t want to act out of fear.  I want to make a decision based upon Love.  So, what do I do?  Well, if you have been reading my blog or my book, you know by now what I do.  I looked at my fears, forgave them, and, chose to have Love’s perspective instead.  I became very peaceful and knew I would continue the journey.  I didn’t know exactly how or if I would still be doing the trip we had planned, but, I knew it would be what was best no matter what. I trusted Love and in that energy I continued toward Cairo.

DAY 2 – CAIRO

As I entered the Cairo Airport, I had to pee. Of course I do.  Thank goodness there was a female attendant because I couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet.  After she showed me, I profusely thanked her, but, she kind of scowled, held out her hand, and rubbed the thumb and forefingers together.  Ahhh, my first encounter with the baksheesh, the tip. I gave her a US dollar; she scowled more and took it. The dollar is almost equal to six Egyptian pounds. It’s a good tip!

As I passed through customs, a man greeted me and asked if he could show me the way to my baggage.

Hmm, strange man meets lone woman in strange airport…what movie was this? It’s like watching a horror movie where I am thinking, don’t do it, don’t be the dumb girl.  Come on Linda, we are doing the trust thing remember? Yeah, yeah, okay.

He graciously brought me to the baggage carousel and told me he worked for the airport.  They are trying to make things easy for tourists.  Cool.  Then he directed me to a bank where I could change money if needed. When I tried to tip him, he refused the money.

When I got to the bank they suggested I go to the ATM.  I began to look for it when another man asked if he could help me.  I told him what I wanted  and we started to look for the ATM. We came across the first man who then took over and lead me to a third guy who took my baggage and guided me through the throng of people to an ATM.  He also recruited a taxi driver.  They watched my baggage while I got out the money.

Hmm, Linda, once again, if I was watching a movie,  I would say what is that idiot woman doing, turning her back on her luggage in the care of two strangers in a strange country…not too smart chickie!  BUT, I am trusting Love; I turn around and all is well.  The men lead me to a tourist office where they give me a map and a phone number to call if I need any assistance.

“Why am I getting all of this help?” I inquire.

“We want tourists to feel comfortable and supported when they come.”

“Great, well, I do, so thank you.”

He asks which hotel I am going to and I tell both he and the taxi driver. Of course they know where Tahrir square is but I could tell neither were sure of the hotel.  No matter. Alexei had already warned me it was hard to find.

The  taxi driver took me to his cab and we were off.  He asks if I would like to listen to Egyptian music.  Absolutely.  I listen to the first song and I like the sounds and the rhythm.  As we drive, I space out the music while I take in the sights.  Suddenly I notice my body grooving to the music and I tune back in.  Ahhh, Egyptian hip hop!  Excellent!

I began thinking again of what to do if Alexei isn’t here.  I had emailed the hotel the night before about my arrival changes and asked them to let Alexei know, if, he was there.

Suddenly, my cell phone rang.

“ALEXEI!”

“Where are you?”  He asks.

“I’m in a taxi on the way to the hotel.  I am so glad to hear from you!!”

He started to give me more directions, but I hand the phone to the driver and they talk.  He seems to understand.  When I get the phone back, Alexei tells me he will be standing on the corner across from the American University.  Due to traffic it will be about an hour before I arrive.

Yay! All is well, Alexei is here!  Yes, I am relieved and grateful.

As we approach Tahrir square, traffic is stop and go and chaotic.  The drivers appear to communicate their intentions by honking their horns in different patterns, but, I’m not sure. People are crossing the streets by weaving through the moving cars. Demonstrators are handing out flyers. People are lining the sidewalks and, of course, in the center, the tent city is still going on.

I notice the sidewalks are lined with decorative green metal waist high fences so you can only enter at the corners.  My driver parks next to one of the fenced sidewalks and asks me to wait.  I know he wants to find out where the hotel is. As the minutes march by, my fearful imagination arises.  What if there is a bomb in the car and someone wants to send an international statement!  Oh my God, Linda, where do you get these ideas!  Movies, news, duh! Take a deep breath and choose Love.  I do and the driver returns.

He leads me to the entrance way of the hotel:

 

REALLY?

 Then into the alley.

I can see the alley goes all the way through to the next street.  But, halfway through, you can turn left or right, go up some stairs and enter the elevator!

 

 This is where the driver left me.

Ayyiyiyi!  I gotta go up in that!!  Holy moly.  Okay, I think I saw this in a movie once.  I drag my pack and suitcase into this maybe three foot by three foot box, take a deep breath, close the metal gate, then the wooden doors, and next push the button for the 8th floor.  I tense; nothing happens.  I do it again. Nothing.  I begin to drag my stuff out when a man comes down the steps and notices me.

He says, “Hotel?”

I nod.

He puts me back in the elevator, closes the wooden doors and then firmly shuts the metal gate.  He indicates for me to push the button and, with a jerk, I start moving…slowly.  Should I close my eyes?  Fraidy cat. With a slight thump I arrive at the eighth floor and gratefully get out.  I am now in a small simple dining room.  I turn down the left corridor and pass a room with several beds laid out dormitory style on one side and a large, obviously communal, bathroom on the other.  Is this a hostel?  I finally reach the room where there is a small receiving desk to the left, while on the right there is a small sitting room with a TV and a balcony.  Directly in front of me is a couch, chair and a computer desk.  I see other corridors leading off to, I assume, bedrooms.   This is the Ismailia House Hotel.

“Welcome, Linda.”

I turned toward the voice and a man is standing there, smiling.  He is standing behind the receiving desk.  I am pretty sure this is the man I emailed.

“Hi , Ashraf.  I am glad to be here.  Is Alexei here, I didn’t see him outside?”

“No, he is still out there.  Please let me show you to your room.”

We travel to the front of the building and he lets me into a room with two beds, a fireplace, and a personal bath.  Thank goodness.

 Then he leads me to the window which he opens. I look out and directly onto Tahrir square.  There are much less people than at the height of the revolution, but, this picture does not well depict just how many are still there today.  I think they are having a siesta or the Egyptian equivalent.

 

 At the height of the revolution:

 

 Across the way I can see the museum and the administration building

that had been burned.

 Wow.  This room has a great view.

I decided to go outside so that Alexei can find me. Is it stupid of me to go down to Tahrir square all by myself?  Maybe. I don’t know; but, I am not afraid, rather, I am excited!  I stood directly in front of the news stand at the green fence and looked around but couldn’t see Alexei, so I just hung out and watched everything.  Soon, I was joined by a blonde American girl named Marie.  She had been there for two weeks already.  She studies International relations and is doing a thesis on revolutions so had been here talking with people.  It was very interesting but time was passing and still no Alexei.  Marie told me the American University was just around the corner and down the street so I took off.  Now, I am walking down a side street in downtown Cairo. In my mind, I can just see my Dad shaking his head in disbelief.  I found the university a couple of blocks later, but not Alexei.  I started back toward Tahrir square and half way there heard my name.

There was Alexei with Marie and another guy. I ran over and gave him a huge hug. Ahh, connected at last!  He had been standing on the corner in a flowered shirt and waiving a flag for over an hour.  I must have walked right by him. He had been talking to this other guy who happened to know Marie who happened to come over to talk to him and to whom Alexei happened to ask if she’d seen me.  What a coincidence, huh?

Alexei wanted to take me on a little walk.   We skirted the square and went to the museum which we were advised was closing in a few minutes so we headed to the Nile River.  Along the way, two giggly young adult couples greeted us.

“Welcome to Egypt, where are you from?  What is your name? May we take our pictures with you?”

It was a great welcome.  We continued to the Nile.  I can’t believe I am walking beside the Nile River.  I have been so titillatingly excited by every move, every step I have been taking since I got to Cairo.  Part of me is actually amazed at me doing what I am doing and the other part is just so cool and calm. I am sooo happy to be here!  All along the walk by the Nile, people would smile, welcoming us.  Eventually we got back to the square and sat across the street from the tent city.  An elderly man with a young boy of about 10 approached us and nudged the boy who came over and asked if he could have his picture taken with us.  The man nodded his head to me with a twinkle in his eye.  We took several pictures.

Then we went across the street into the tent city.

 Right away, people were surrounding us.

“Welcome, welcome to Egypt.  We are happy to have you here.  Where are you from, what is your name, may we take our picture with you?”

  

(I bought that shirt)

Over and over, we were greeted and welcomed into their celebration of freedom.  A woman painted the Egyptian flag on my hand.  She did not want money, so we took pictures instead.

A group of young men came up to me and one said he was Sammy Davis Jr.  I asked him to sing me a song and his friends laughed as he stammered.  I laughed and sang “Candy Man”.

Parents sent their children to greet us. One man had a video taken of us with him and a little boy.

 It was all so beautiful and such a gift.  I felt honored and blessed to be there with them and sharing in their joy of freedom and hope for a better future.

DAY 3 –  SINAI PENNINSULA

This day we were on our way to Eilat, Israel by taking a bus from Cairo and traveling over the Sinai Peninsula to Taba, Egypt which is the southern border crossing between Egypt and Israel.  Originally, we had planned on taking a taxi, but with a nod to the current events, Alexei thought a bus would be safer.

We began the journey with a taxi ride from the hotel to the bus terminal.  Alexei sat in front with the driver and they were conversing about politics.  I sensed Alexei really didn’t want to. He  was getting a little irritated with comments the man was saying and  would reply with very logical, realistic comments.  I felt the driver was trying to communicate something but it kept coming out wrong.   All during the ride, the driver did not address me because I was a woman, I am pretty sure.  At the end of the ride, after he gave us the baggage and we gave him his fee, I got his attention.

“I am hearing what you are saying…‘There must be no more killing.’”

He stared into my eyes, smiled and nodded.  Then he gave me a blessing.

Ah Love, thank you.

The bus was full with almost all men and maybe five women including myself. The one warning Alexei had given me was about the rest stop.  The last time he had taken this route was with two other women and one of them had gotten stuck in the bathroom stall.  Apparently, the door to the stall was a regular “inside house door” type and the handle decided to somehow disconnect and just spin when she tried to get out.  Alexei had to go in to the ladies restroom to fix the door and rescue her.

“I don’t know if we will be going to the same place, but, just be aware.” He grinned.

“Goody.”

It was going to be a long drive, maybe about 5 – 6 hours.  Then time must be added on for check points and how much inspecting they might want to do. It was all good to me. I just planned on an all day field trip.

Fortunately for me, Alexei is a non-stop talker who is both informative and entertaining.  He also respects my requests for quiet when I ask for them.

Alexei’s last name is Romanov.  I asked him to tell me about this famous family and so, in between pointing out various sights during our ride, he gave me a detailed history about the Czars of Russia. I was amazed at his level of information and was soothed by his pleasant voice.  I   looked out the bus window while listening to the history of Russia, and  watched the desert passing by, imagining trains of camels passing this way or perhaps Bedouin tribes moving along this pass in years gone by, and time just slipped past my consciousness.

At one point we drove under the Suez Canal and that was just a cool thing to do.  Eventually, we came to a rest stop.  It was housed in a building that was part of small complex of a three to four other small buildings.  I went to the restroom and yikes, there are those doors that Alexei warned me about.  But, no worries because the place was so fantastically filthy there was no way I was staying. About face, Linda. I found out later, there was a problem with their pipes and that’s all I am saying about this.

I wandered around outside a little and could see how the facing materials on some of the buildings had been put over older facing and wondered how many years this spot had served as some kind of meeting place or rest area. My imagination kept going wild and romanticizing everything I saw.

Suddenly, I could see dust flying as a vehicle came roaring down the road toward me. As it got closer I saw there was a small group of people in it and I could clearly make out a rifle.  Hmmm, wonder what’s coming? Should I go back to the building?  Nah, I’m cool. Wait and see what this is.

It was a group of boys riding up, hollering, holding up their rifle, and a bird they had shot.  They stopped right in front of me.  They couldn’t speak English, but as they held that bird out in front of my face, I gave them a thumbs up.  Then I held up my camera and gestured to take their picture.  One boy held out his hand for baksheesh and I gave him some.  I took their picture and showed it to them.  They started laughing and handed  the money back to me.  Then they took off, hollering again as they rode away.

As I turned and walked back to the rest stop, I could see some of the men smiling at the whole thing. I had a feeling of inclusion and that some had been there watching to make sure all went well for me.  It was all very subjective, but, comforting too.  Later, on the bus, one of the men offered me some gum which I gratefully accepted.

We had to disembark the bus again at a check point with soldiers.  I found them to be very nice and helpful to me; they didn’t even bother to check my bags.  Eventually, we got to Taba at which point we left the bus and although one can walk to the border crossing, we took a little van there.  It was sooo exciting for some reason to be here about to cross into Israel.   We began to check into the first point and Alexei could not find his passport.

Uh oh!

As I looked into his frantic face, I knew to keep quiet and let him work it out.  He is a very experienced traveler and I knew this had never happened to him before. The guards hollered out to the group of taxis and vans there and our guy took Alexei back to the big bus down the road.  I stayed at the crossing.

Well, what do we do if he’s lost his passport? How will this affect our trip? I could see in my mind a list of worried questions forming and aborted it right then.  Linda, didn’t you say this is a trip of Love?  Then you gotta trust and know that whatever is best is what is happening. Oy, I can see my theme materializing.  Okay, so instead of worry and fear, I trust  and send  Alexei lots of love. In just a few more minutes he returned, chagrined, because while searching the bus with the help of other passengers, he found the passport in his lower leg pocket.  One thing I learned then about Alexei is that he reacts to stuff but doesn’t stay tweaked once it is done, instead, he starts laughing at it.  I liked that.

Now we are ready.  Once you go through the Egyptian side of the border you have to walk over to the Israeli side.  It was kind of very cool for me to be walking into the Holy Land.

 I will tell you Israeli security is way more intense than Egyptian.  They completely took apart Alexei’s stuff, but, I just now remember that they left mine alone. Hmm.

Finally, done and in our hotel in Eilat.  Alexei and I are sharing a room and, while that could be an interesting experience, it is no big deal because Alexei is gay and he is a nurse.  So I let go of any awkwardness and chalk it up to more trip experience.

We walked along the boardwalk and shops, then ate overlooking the Red Sea.  It was a beautiful night.  Alexei was still talking and that was when I found out that, at this time in his life, he is on a bit of a spiritual journey himself.  How interesting.  I always wonder why it is I have certain people come into my life.  I know I always learn from them and I had wondered what this mixing with Alexei and our future companion would bring.  As I listened to Alexei talk, I realized that he was doing well in his journey, but he had one complaint. It is one I have heard before.

“I just can’t quiet my mind in order to meditate.” He lamented.

“I have heard that from many people. But, Alexei, I just heard you describe this beautiful place you go to in the woods near your home where you sit and stare at a beautiful mountain and find peace. You are already allowing God to communicate to you, now you just need to listen.  In the act of listening, your mind becomes quiet and you can hear your God within. Just do what you are doing and listen.”

His face changed expressions and I knew this had touched him somehow.  “Didn’t our mutual friends warn you about talking to me and the things I might say?” I laughed.

“Yeah, it’s good.”

That night, I woke up around two a.m. and had a strong urge to write some things down, so, in the dark and trying to not awaken Alexei, I wrote:

“Do I have nonstop talking or thinking that requires Love/God to interrupt me? Is Love polite and waiting for an opening in order to communicate to me, just as one would do in a conversation with another? Does my mind ever provide such an opening?  Does it ever pause its thinking and come to a moment of readiness where I can hear?  If I do pause and hear nothing, is it really nothing or am I hearing Love’s communication of peace and quiet? Can I have that? Will I want more? Will it encourage me to take longer pauses in my monologue and listen more?

That is a mediation to me.

On the other hand, if I do have a pause, is it just to prepare my next thought and so Love’s communication gets lost in my verboseness? Does Love have to constantly utilize my brief pauses to slip thoughts into my mind that I am not conscious of because I don’t shut up and pay attention? Is it possible that if I would listen I would hear a whole backlog of thoughts that Love has been communicating to me all along. How many thoughts from Love are waiting for me to hear them? Has God already told me everything? Has it already been inserted into the hard drive of my mind and I just need to be quiet to access it.  Is that why Gurus say, “You already have the information inside of you.”?

Or, does Love have to interrupt me, hit me upside the head and get my attention?”

I chuckled as I wrote, recalling a joke about a mule.  Farmer Johnson had the best working mule in the county and Farmer Jones was always trying to buy it from him, but, no sale.  On the day Farmer Johnson was retiring he agreed to sell the mule to Farmer Jones, but told him he had to treat that mule in the best way possible.

A week later, Farmer Jones came back complaining.  “I give that mule everything.  His stall is clean, the hay is always fresh, I feed him good, I give him snacks, but he just lays there and won’t even get up.”

Farmer Johnson went to visit the mule.  When he got there, he picked up a big stick and whacked that mule across the head. The mule jumped up, ready to go to work.

Appalled, Farmer Jones said, “You told me to be nice.”

“Yeah but sometimes you just got to get his attention.”

I continued writing: “Does Love do that to me; or, is Love politely waiting to speak; or, does Love continually insert thoughts and wait for me to get to a place in my evolution where I can finally hear them?  I suspect Love does it all.

When I listen to Love’s peace and quiet is when I begin to feel Love’s peace and quiet.  It is in this energy that I can hear Love’s communication.  Then the question is: am I able to take it all in or do I only take in bits and pieces to mull over; taking my time to chew on them, test them, challenge them?  It’s like being in a cave of diamonds.  Can I take it all in and immerse myself in the beauty of all there is; or, do I get sensory overload and need to focus on just one diamond.  Then, do I get stuck on that one diamond, that one thought from Love, by trying to categorize, pigeonhole, understand, and figure out how it fits with my perceptions of self, life, God? Can I, instead, just immerse myself in the light and love of the awareness and know that Love has already figured it out?  Can I allow Love to guide me into making the information useful and functional in whatever way is best to promote Love, Life and Happiness in my life experience? Am I ready to take off my spiritual burka, to expose myself, to reveal myself, and to allow myself to be my Full Potential?

YES!”

I dropped my pen. HOLY MOLY where did all of that come from.  I don’t know but I like it.

DAY 4 – EILAT, MITZPE, RAMON, HEBRON, JERUSALEM

Today we plan on scuba diving with dolphins then driving up to Jerusalem.  I’ve never been scuba diving and I vaguely remember snorkeling once in Puerto Vallarta.  I have trouble clearing my ears of pressure when I am on airplanes so I am a little concerned about the diving. BUT! I so want to be with the dolphins again. If you read my book you know I was with them in Nuevo Vallarta in their pool and with their trainers.  I loved that.  This time, though, they are wild dolphins who voluntarily visit with people.  I am so excited I could pee my pants.

First, we go to the breakfast buffet provided by the hotel.  I walked in, took a look at the food and checked my watch. Is it lunchtime?  There were tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, humus, tahini, baba ganoush, yogurt, salads, a kind of egg and tomato dish, and other lunch type food; also, the ever present Tang and Nescafe.  This is breakfast? Hmmm, just go with it Linda. It was my introduction to mid east food and I loved it.

Next, we were on our way to Dolphin Reef.  Alexei had been diving before, but, planned to just hang around me to make sure I am totally comfortable.  He is so wonderful in this way with me.  That first night in Cairo, he would hold my hand to help me safely weave through the traffic.  He gives me a hand when I have to climb up or down something; carries my luggage up stairs when there is no elevator, and, he walks my pace letting me take my time to do whatever I want to do.  I really lucked out to have him as a traveling partner.

Upon arrival at Dolphin Reef, I get the wet suit on then go to get my equipment.

We are given a little class on using masks, fins, and breathing through the mouthpiece thingy.  I am taught how to use hand signals to communicate.  As this is an introductory dive, I will be having my own dive instructor, Isaac, who will be holding my hand, literally, the whole time.  He will do whatever adjustments to the equipment that needs to be done. I am supposed to just enjoy the experience; sounds good to me.

O wow, the dolphins are right here at the shore line, jumping in the air and diving.  There are about six of them waiting to play with us.  Yay! Let’s get going!

Isaac holds my hand as we enter the water, I brace for the initial coldness but the temperature feels great to me.  Once in the water I steady myself by holding onto Isaac’s shoulder while he puts the fins on my feet. The dolphins are excitedly waiting and so am I.

“Okay, Linda, put on your mask and put the mouthpiece in, you remember how?” Isaac coaches.

“Mmmhmm.”

“Now, put your face in the water and just breathe normally.”

I put my face in and begin to take a breath.

NO!

My head jerks out of the water; I spit out the mouthpiece and rip off my mask.  HEY, WAIT A MINUTE; no way Jose, no me gusta, me no likey!! This is like being on a ventilator. Uh oh.

“It’s okay, Linda, just take your time.  Breathe like you always do, it will be fine.” He helps me put on my equipment again.

I put my head in, take a breath, and jerk out of the water again.  I notice the dolphins have moved away from me as if they know I am afraid and need  space to deal with it. C’mon, Linda, you can do this.  You’ve been waiting to be with these dolphins. Take a breath, breathe in Love, and calm down, Linda.

“Try again, Linda, you can do this.” Isaac soothes me.

I put my face in again.

Breathe.

Breathe slower.

SLOW DOWN!

Good. Nice normal breathing; it’s all good, Linda, breathe.  Hey, I am breathing and we have been floating out to deeper water.  Okay, I am cool. At the very least I can snorkel, right?  Yeah, that’s right.

Hey wait! We are under the water now.  Okay, stay chill, Linda. I’m good, I’m good; this breathing is working. Yay!

Uh oh, my ear is feeling pressure. I pause our descent and use the maneuver of squeezing my nose and blowing out my ears.  This has never worked for me on airplanes but I am hoping it does now.

Nope, it doesn’t. Isaac takes me back up until my ear is okay.  Then we start down again. I feel the pressure.  Work through it, Linda, push through it. Now, the pain includes my jaw.  I need to go back up.  Isaac takes me up.

This isn’t gonna work.  I feel tears wanting to come; I am so frustrated and sad.  Love, I can’t seem to do this. It hurts too much and I don’t want to damage my eardrum, but, If my ear won’t clear I can’t go down. I really want to go down. I don’t know how to fix this!

UNCLE! I surrender! I leave it to you Love, what would you like to experience with me; what do you think is best?

Just then my attention is captured by a large school of little bright orange fish that swim in front and below me.  Ahhh, so beautiful.  They seem to hover as if calling me to come and see their beauty even closer. Then they are gone. I realize my ear doesn’t hurt anymore and I am deeper in the water.

We swim around and my tank keeps shifting to one side of my back so that I keep rolling over.  Isaac intermittently grabs both of my hands to straighten me up, until I figure out how to jerk my shoulder to put my tank into a midline position.  Pretty soon, I let go of his second hand and stretch my right arm out to the side of my body; then I loosen my grip on his other hand until just our finger tips are touching.  I feel like Lois Lane on her first fly with Superman. Oh yeah this is sooo cool!

Soon, I know Isaac is taking me deeper because there is a sudden ice pick spike in my right ear extending deeply into my jaw.

Help, Love!

Off to my right a dolphin appears swimming within arm’s reach.  Oh so beautiful! My eyes follow as it slowly swims in front of me and down.  The next thing I know my hand is in the sand at the bottom and my ear doesn’t hurt.

Isaac scoops up some sand and lets it drift through his fingers until I see little crab like critters on his hand.  He holds them out to me and I let them crawl onto my hand.  All of me is filled with joy.  We start swimming along the bottom and I see Alexei with his dive companion.  I see dolphins staying nearby as if encouraging me to explore.  I am amazed at the life and beauty under the water.  I have watched Jacques Cousteau.  It’s not the same as being here in person. So beautiful, so wonderful! I am ecstatic.

All too soon, it is time to surface.  At top, Isaac starts to take my fins off for me, but, I beat him to it.  We got back to shore and the rocks were killing my tootsies, but worse, I had no balance.  Isaac had to keep helping me stand up. It was like I was waterlogged.

“Oh, Isaac, thank you so much, that was wonderful.  You did a great job of helping me.  Thank you, thank you.”

Back in the dressing room, I began sobbing. So overwhelmed with feelings; fear conquered, pain allayed, joy in abundance, and so much gratitude to Love for all of it.  I really do feel cared for.

I met Alexei and we went to the gift shop.  This was my first inkling about how the boy loves to shop!

Then it was time for our drive up the center of Israel to Jerusalem. I have strangely been falling in love with deserts since my first trip to Teotihaucan, Mexico and now I am surrounded by the Negev desert.  I find it beautiful.

We stopped at Mitzpe Ramon, a town in the middle of nowhere, literally.  Originally, it was a military outpost and now it has become the way stop for travelers between Eilat and Beer Sheva.  It has been developed into a kind of unique eco-tourist town with the Ramon Crater as its main tourist site. This natural occurring crater is claimed to be the largest in the world.  The town felt rather tranquil and I read that it has become a haven for new age healers, desert enthusiasts and performance artists.  I don’t know for sure about all of that; what I do know is that Cafeneto has the best hamburgers I have ever eaten.  Oh yum!  Yeah, food is something I always notice, ha ha.

We continued our drive through the desert up to Beer Sheva and then to Jerusalem via Hebron. Hebron is the second holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem; and the Muslims consider it one of the four holy cities of Islam due to its association with Abraham.  I didn’t know all of this at the time.  Alexei is the one who knows all the historical and current affairs.  I tend to avoid too much information because I like to experience things and people the way they are now; without preconceived ideas.

At any rate, today, we only wanted to stop there to buy something made from the beautiful blue Hebron glass.  However, although we could see the city of Hebron from the road, we couldn’t find a way in.  Somehow we missed the turn off that I, as navigator, was looking for. We drove around the outskirts of the city and saw there were roads that lead into it, but they all had obvious red “keep out” signs.  We couldn’t read them but we could tell it wasn’t ok to go in.  Nevertheless, we were determined to go in. So, we kept driving around and around, in here, out there, but never getting where we wanted to go. One thing I love about Alexei is, like me, he doesn’t get upset about being lost – it’s just part of the adventure.  After this, whenever we were lost or confused about anything I called it a “Hebronesque” experience.

Finally we found a street without a warning sign and we began to drive into Hebron.   As we approached the entrance to Hebron, I suddenly felt very uncomfortable.  I didn’t say anything as we passed places that looked like stone-working warehouses and some men that stared at us.  I felt feelings of suspicion, wariness, and “What are you doing here?” coming at me. We started driving up narrow streets trying to find shops for the glass, but there was nothing.

As we passed more people the fear was building inside of me. We should not be here, we are not welcome here. I knew a button was being pushed in me and I had to deal with it, but, it wasn’t the time or place to explore myself, I had to get out of there.

“Alexei I need to leave this city, now. We are not welcome here. There is a lot of fear.”

“Are you sure it’s not just your fear?”

“It is partly mine, but, it’s theirs too.”

“They have reason to be suspicious and wary, Linda.”

“I know and I am sorry for that, but, I have to go, now.”

And lovely Alexei said okay and began to find our way out.

Meanwhile, I began to deal with this fear. Just as I released my matching fear energy and could feel love again, I turned to look out the window and there were two children smiling at me from the sidewalk. Sigh, thank you, Love

Now that my button wasn’t being pushed I could see more clearly and yes, indeed, there was so much suspicion, wariness, and wondering what we two were doing in their city. There were guarded, furtive looks and outright staring from people on the street as we passed by. At one point, the traffic was blocked and we had to sit there for a few minutes.  This was not a good thing;  I had to keep filling myself with love and use it to answer the energy I felt around me. Finally, we were back at our original entrance. As we passed out of Hebron, my whole body relaxed.  This was the only time in our whole journey that I felt uncomfortable.

When we arrived in Jerusalem we made our way up to the Mount of Olives Hotel which overlooks Old Jerusalem:

It is also next door to the Chapel of the Ascension which is a Christian and Muslin holy site as it is believed to be the place where Christ ascended into heaven. The small round church/mosque contains a stone which is said to be imprinted with the very footprints of Jesus.

Pretty heady stuff, huh?

I couldn’t see any of this right then, because it was dark and windy and COLD!  However, despite that, we just had to take a walk down the steep hill and go into the Old Town.  As we passed a certain place near the bottom of the hill, I felt a pull toward a closed door.  It was the entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane and I knew I had to come back here.  We continued to the Lions Gate and entered Old Jerusalem.  It was such an awesome feeling to be walking into Jerusalem.  I was humbled by being in such an historic place.  I wanted the silence we met.  I embraced the atmosphere, the energy of being there.  This city has been so important in history and still today. There was so much to grasp, I just wanted to soak it all in.

As we walked up mostly empty streets, in my mind I suddenly heard a terrified scream coming down a side street. I was startled.  I knew this was not a scream from present time. Part of me wanted to walk down that dark street; my whole body yearned to stop and say “Hello” to whomever had uttered that cry; but, Alexei was with me and I didn’t want to say anything.  We kept walking, but finally, I couldn’t contain myself and I said, “I heard a scream coming down that street back there.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”  Alexei replied.

“I know, it was just in my head.”

“Um, you know they prescribe medication for that kind of thing, Linda.” He laughed and I did too.  The tension was gone. I sent a   communication of love down that street and asked Love to help whomever it came from.

Hmm, is this a sign of things to come? Well, I do tend to hear spirits.  But, will it be happening here, on this trip, too? Sounds like maybe so. People are in transition all over the world, Linda, not just the ICU.  Okay, I’m cool with it. It’s what I do, isn’t it? I trust Love to bring me into contact with whoever is “mine”.

I have to explain that “mine” business.  After I started hearing my patient’s spirits I found myself feeling like I needed to talk with every patient in my ICU.  I soon became overwhelmed by the sense of responsibility and the sheer number of people.  I meditated upon it and finally heard that I would be directed to those people that were mine to help.  Thereafter, I allowed myself to be guided to contact those who were “mine” and let Love care for the rest.

We got back to our hotel just as it started raining, then hailing. Hailing in Jerusalem in March.  Good thing I have my Amsterdam clothing!!

DAY 5 – ST. GEORGE’S MONASTERY, SEA of GALLILEE, more

It was still cold, windy and raining in the morning; but fortunately, we planned on a day trip to various places outside of Jerusalem.

Our first place was St. George’s Monastery east of Jerusalem, near Jericho.  As usual, we got lost.  Now let me just say here, normally, I am an excellent navigator; but, for some reason, in Jerusalem and surrounding areas I was hopeless.  Alexei finally took over driving and navigating, but even he had a hard time because we often could not find signage or read what signage there was to inform us of our location.  It was crazy.  In Jerusalem, we were primarily following our noses and, thank goodness, Alexei was really good at path finding. Ah well, we saw lots of places we wouldn’t have otherwise.

So it was, we got lost looking for the monastery.  We turned into Mitzpe Yeriho drove up a hill to a dead end look out area and this is what we found:

Oh my God, how beautiful.  I don’t know what this place is called, but, I felt instant peace. I could have stayed awhile but settled for a picture instead, darn!

 

We asked for more directions and finally found our way to the parking lot where the path to St. George’s begins. The first thing I encountered were some Bedouins selling souvenirs.  Alexei had warned me about buying things too soon that I could get cheaper somewhere else. He also warned me about bargaining which I am not good at.  But, Alexei had wandered off to the viewpoint. The first thing I knew, this Bedouin man had whisked off the hat my sister, Sue, had given me and was wrapping a burnoose around my head. (I think that’s what it’s called.)

 

I liked it and I wanted it, but, I didn’t have enough Egyptian pounds and was looking at the US dollars in my wallet.  He saw them and was asking for a bunch of them.  I am such a sucker; fortunately, Alexei rescued me and said NO! Too much money!  The guy wouldn’t bargain and Alexei told me to take off the burnoose. Then, of course, the man settled on our price.  Later, I found out that only men wear the checkered black and white or red and white burnooses; women don’t wear burnooses.  But, Alexei reassured me that foreign tourists often wear and do things not acceptable for mid east women so allowances would be made for my silliness.  He was right, people often laughed at my craziness, but hey, they do that at home too!

St. George’s Monastery is in the desert and located in Wadi Qelt. It is inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks and was originally created by monks who wanted the desert experiences of the prophets. They built the monastery around a cave where they believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens. (1 Kings 17:5-6).

 

Inside one of the rooms:

We had to walk down a very long, steep path to get to the monastery.  Bedouin boys tried to sell me donkey rides to get down, but I refused.  It was a beautiful, serene walk down then across the ravine to the monastery.

I really liked it there. This was a place I could see myself living in. I felt very close to the energy of the surrounding desert, the rocks, the building itself and to the cave where Elijah supposedly lived. I could live in that cave. It felt right to me. Weird, huh?

We started the climb back up the hill and that was my first clue that all those hours on the treadmill walking up a level 20 incline were not enough. Yeah, duh, Linda; losing about 50 pounds would have been a big help.  My donkey boys were waiting for me.  They’ve seen enough visitors to tell who can make it up the hill and who is gonna struggle. Honestly, I know they wanted to make money by selling me a donkey ride, but, I also think they felt so sorry watching me struggle up that hill.  I kept refusing the rides though because I was still in training for walking up Mt. Sinai.

When we got to the top, the Bedouin who sold me the burnoose, actually took my hand and said, “You are a good woman; tell that man (Alexei) to take good care of you!”  He and the boys smiled and waved goodbye to me.  I like the Bedouins I met.

Okay, our next intention was to go to the Sea of Galilee.  We could have gone straight up through Jericho but wanted to go up the middle of Israel and planned to take the highway heading north out of Jerusalem through (or to the side of) Ramallah. Well, truly it was a Hebronesque experience because, although we tried to go north on that highway at least four times, we kept losing the road and our way.  It was crazy!  We could never figure it out. We would be driving on the highway when it then either petered out or maybe we took a fork in the road and then we would be headed south, or east, or, eventually, west toward Tel Aviv.  I figured we were probably not supposed to be going to Ramallah for some reason.  We gave up and took a well signed toll freeway north.

Our first stop was in the town of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was named in honor of the second Roman emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus.  It was established in 20 CE and is considered to be one of Judaism’s four holy cities. It was just cool to be in this town. We didn’t see much of the town, but the name evoked imaginings of Roman soldiers marching through it.  Sadly, I must admit that my fondest memory of Tiberias is that it is the place where I was introduced to…shawarma sandwiches and fresh falafel. OMG! Thereafter, I pretty much turned every meal into a shawarma, much to the mocking delight of my companions.

After eating we travelled on to the Sea of Galilee.

We were slowly driving along the shore and I kept staring at the water. I was lost in imagining Jesus finding four of his apostles there and asking them to be fishers of men. I could imagine Jesus walking on the water or calming a storm.

 Suddenly a second rainbow appeared!

“Stop, Alexei!” I yelled.  I had to get this picture and express my gratitude to Jesus, his ministry, and teachings of Love.

 My attitude of gratitude and feeling of heartfelt peace had been set at the canyon near Mitzpe Yeriho that morning, nurtured by Wadi Qelt and St. George’s monastery, and now was enriched by being here. I had no idea I would feel so much, but it was fulfilling.

We could see where Jesus was reported to have given his Sermon on the Mount but could not access it. Instead we went to Tabgha which is the traditional site of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish; and, the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus. Inside the Church of Multiplicity’s chapel, underneath an altar, is a large rock which the builders of the church believed Jesus used when he blessed the loaves and fish just before feeding the crowd that had come to hear him.

 The following pictures are of the olive tree and fountain in the courtyard of the church.

 

We left the Sea of Galilee and headed past the snow covered Golan Heights toward Nazareth.  I just wanted to be in the town where Jesus had grown up.  There is a big church there, but as it was getting late we didn’t go in it.  We happened to be in rush hour traffic creeping our way through town.  Some driver made a left hand turn from the far right lane and no one even honked at him! Just then a car went by with loud hip hop music playing. I found it all very amusing

Hey, Jesus, look at your town now.  Whaddya think? Somehow, I don’t think you’d have a problem with it. In fact, I can kind of see you in cutoffs, holding a surf board and scoping the waves. I think you are that cool. I love you dearly.

DAY 6 – BETHLAHEM, HERODIUM, MASADA, more

Today, we will be picking up our new companion, Nicole, from the airport near Tel Aviv.

“I think you worked with her in the CCA.” Alexei said. (CCA -Critical Care Area- is what Evergreen Hospital calls the ICU.)

“No, I worked with a Noelle.  Do you mean Noelle?”

“No, her name is Nicole.  I thought she was there when you were.”

“Nope. I don’t remember her.  But, I have to tell you one of my favorite stories about Noelle. You know my husband died in the CCA. After he died, I walked out of the room and there were my coworkers waiting to give me their condolences. I went up to Noelle first and she hugged me; I started crying and laid my head on her chest.  A moment later, I lifted my head and said, “You have great boobs, Noelle” then laid my head back down on those comforting boobs and cried my eyes out. She stopped working in the ICU soon after and we lost contact, but, I saw her on facebook just last year and asked her if she still had those comforting boobs.  She sent me a message saying, ‘The girls are still great.’  Ahh, I loved Noelle.” I sighed. “Well anyway, tell me about Nicole.”

“Nicole is an emergency tech at the hospital now.  She was married, but her husband died in the last couple of years, I think.  She is also a professional photographer and she’ll share her photos with us. She will also have her lap top with her, so we can use it for emails.”

“Does she mind swearing?”

“She will have no trouble keeping up with us.” He laughed.

“Okay, cool.”  Hmm, I hope she is cool because we will be roommates from here on out.  I am glad she is a photographer because I am worried I will not be able to keep up physically with her and Alexei and don’t want to hold them back; but, photographers stop a lot to take pictures so, hopefully, it will give me time to catch up and take a breath.  I hope anyway.

We got to the airport and Alexei started walking ahead of me to go find Nicole. When I got near I could see him hugging a woman and started walking toward them.  Hmm, that body looks familiar…I think I know…hey is that…Noelle?  “Noelle…Noelle is that you?”  Finally, Alexei let me see her and YAY, IT IS NOELLE!! I was jumping up and down like a kid and hugging my dear Noelle.  I was sooo happy to see her!  Alexei had a satisfied smile on his face.  Apparently he and my friends from the CCA had conspired to keep it a secret from me for months.  What a good secret; what a good bunch of friends I have!

Noelle and her girls:

  We planned on a day trip outside of Jerusalem, but apparently, Noelle had already been tripping.  At Heathrow airport in London, the Israeli security told her, “We know you are a terrorist and have bomb making materials in your luggage.”

WHAT THE FUCK!

They pulled her aside and, with minimal privacy screening from gawkers, she said they strip searched her.  Then they kept interrogating her in both English and Hebrew which, of course, she did not understand. After some time doing this, they finally told her they saw suspicious equipment in her bags.  She informed them she was a photographer and had three camera bodies, multiple lenses and battery chargers.  Were they confusing these with bomb making materials?

Well, yes they were!

They let her get dress, put a yellow sticky note in her passport and told her to not remove it.  Eventually, someone apologized to her and helped her make her flight to Cairo.

I could see Noelle was coping and that someday this would make a good story for her to tell, but, I think it was a pretty scary experience.  To top it off, when we got to the hotel and checked her messed up luggage, she was missing her jacket.  Despite all of this, she wanted to continue with our day trip plans, so off we went.

Our first stop was the Herodium just south of Jerusalem.  The Herodium is a fortress and a palace built by Herod the Great on top of a hill that looked like a truncated volcano:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

We climbed to the top and looked around.  I think this picture is looking down at a water holding area and also an outlying village.

(Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

This next one is looking down into the ruins.

 

(by Noelle Meluskey)

Walking down into the cistern and catacombs:

And coming back out:

  I found myself walking alone, while Noelle and Alexei explored and visited. I was feeling a little weird and felt a need to say, “Hello” to these ruins.

In my mind, I saw an image of an arrogant man; an angry, self righteous man. He said, “Jesus is remembered by the world with love and respect; and has had a profound effect upon it.  All I have is this place to be remembered by.”

Ay yi yi, okay, it’s happening here! I have no idea what to say or do. I don’t really know for sure who Herod was.  But, here is this very angry spirit and I do know about stuck spirits, so here goes.

“Okay, so you have been hanging around here a long time, hanging on to the memory of who you were.  Wouldn’t you like to move on?”

 “NO!” he roared. “If I leave this place no one will remember me. If I let go, what will happen to Herod? I will become part of a larger Self and Herod will disappear.  THIS IS MY PLACE and I am NOT leaving it!”

Yikes! Okay, so he can be a little intimidating, but, I’ve seen worse.

 “So what? The character Herod has been dead for centuries. You could evolve, become more, and get a life.”

 “NO!”

 I don’t know what else to say.  This guy is very adamant.  I have no investment in him leaving.  Why am I even having this conversation?  Just then I felt a strong urge to say:

“I forgive you.”

  He stepped back, his eyes bore into mine then his face softened. “You forgive me?”

 “I do.”

 “You don’t hate me?”

 “No.”

“What about God?”

 “God doesn’t hate you either.”

 OH my God, what am I saying? How do I know what God feels? I don’t, but, I am really feeling this very strong urge and I gotta let these words come out of my mouth.  Sheesh.

“You did your job, you served a larger purpose.”

“You mean He used me!”

“You could perceive it that way or maybe there is a better way.”

He closed his eyes a moment, and then sighed. “Do you really think I could move on?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Okay, then.  I am going.”  A light appeared and he moved toward it.  Just before he entered he turned to me.  “Thanks.” Then he was gone.

I just stood there for a bit as I grounded and centered myself again. I wondered what experiences this trip was going to bring and if this was one way I was going to be of service to Love.

In writing this blog, I looked up Herod the Great and found he was not a nice man.  He is described as a brutal man who killed a lot of people including his wife and sons.  He was the declared King of the Jews.  He is also the Herod that appears in the Gospel according to Matthew (Ch. 2) which describes the event known as the Massacre of the Innocents.  This came about after the Magi had told Herod they were looking for “the one having been born king of the Jews” i.e. Jesus. Herod ordered all boys in Bethlehem and vicinity under the age of two to be killed.

Alexei and Noelle came up to me and asked what I was doing.  I told them I was talking to a spirit, possibly Herod. They were like, “Yeah, right.”

From then on, those two just mocked the hell out of me.  I loved it. It made me laugh, kept things light, kept me humble and gave me good experience for the possible mocking that would come out when my book goes on sale.  Yeah, this is great!

After Herodium, we headed to Bethlehem.  When we got to the road that we hoped lead inside, we saw one of those red warning signs we had seen at Hebron.  There were two taxis and a man with some teenage boys standing at the roadside so we stopped to ask for help.  The man told us we wouldn’t be able to drive our car into Bethlehem because it had Jewish plates on it and this was Palestinian territory.  He said we would have to take a taxi.

Wow, really!   The taxi driver, though, said it would be okay if we followed him and then another taxi to our destination.  So we did. All went well and we arrived at the Church of the Nativity. This church was built over the cave that tradition says is the birthplace of Jesus and is considered holy by Christians and followers of Islam.

  

 

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I have to say, it felt very cool to be there, kneel, and look down into the hole of the Silver Star that is believed to mark the birthplace of Jesus:

 When we left the church and headed toward our car, Alexei led us into a store selling souvenirs.  This is where we met George, the owner of the shop.  I bought a couple of things and told George one was for my Dad and one for my Aunt. He smiled and seemed to like that.  I walked out of the store and waited for Noelle and Alexei. They were buying things and talking to George.  I found some more things to buy outside and went back inside to pay for them. George had come out from behind his counter. When our shopping was done, he gave each of us a gift from him; just a simple wooden ornament, but I felt they were filled with so much warmth and love.  As we were saying goodbye, he took my hand and gave me a blessing. I didn’t understand all he said, but I felt the energy in it and I loved it.

When we walked out Alexei said, “You are starting to rub off on me, Linda.  Usually, I just go to the first store I see, but, I felt drawn to this store and to George. I’m glad I listened to my intuition. I have never met someone with so much Grace.”  It was awesome.

Next on our trip was Masada.  I didn’t know anything about Masada except that it was a place that Jews had held out against the Romans.  I had avoided reading about it, because from the time I knew we would be travelling to Israel, I had a very strong urge to go to Masada and I didn’t want to have any preconceived ideas about it.  I wanted to experience it, instead.

BUT, first, we had to get there!  It was going to be a several hour ride. As we settled in, Noelle decided to take a nap; Alexei was being quiet to help promote her rest; and I took the opportunity to reflect about my experience at Herodium and what it might portend.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had a strange experience at a particular “place”. The first time was in 1997 when Lee and I were living in Oaxaca, Mexico and we were visiting the ruins of Monte Alban.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and I decided to mediate while Lee wandered about.

I had reached a peaceful zone in my meditation when, suddenly, in my mind’s eye I could see lights shooting up from the ground and into the sky like reversed falling stars.  Then a man appeared and said, “Thank you for freeing us.”

What?  I opened my eyes; I could see the ruins and superimposed over them I still saw the lights and the guy. I had no clue.

“Umm, okay, you’re welcome.”

 He smiled, turned into a light and zipped up to the sky.

Okay, whatever.

A few weeks later we were visiting the ruins of Palenche in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.  I had been having a great time walking and climbing around the ruins and pyramids, when I decided to climb to the top of a large pyramid.  Half way up, I suddenly felt as if I was being thrown down the stairs.  I felt myself rolling to the bottom and I was dead.

I got very dizzy and nauseated and had to sit down.  I was also filled with fear.  I had to get a grip, but, I had to get off of this pyramid too.  I slowly slid my butt down to the next stair and then the next one and that is how I crept off.  I didn’t know how to explain this experience.  Some people may say it was a past life experience, some may say I was picking up on something that had happened to someone else in another time.  I have no idea.

Last year, 2010, I was in Sedona visiting, among other things, vortexes.  I had been having interesting conversations with the energy in the various vortexes, but, the experience that really got me was at Cathedral Rock.

It was the last day of my trip to Sedona.  For some unknown reason, I made an unexpected change in my itinerary, cancelled my river kayak trip, and drove to Cathedral Rock.

I wasn’t sure why I had done this and now found myself looking up at this rock and wondering.  Suddenly, in my mind, I could see that the top of the largest mass of rocks was all lit up with a beautiful light.   I am not a hiker and knew I couldn’t climb up this mountain, but, I decided to just walk on the path at the bottom.

As I started, I saw a young Indian boy of maybe ten sitting at the top of the mountain rock mass.  He said, “Good you’re here, come on up.”

“I can’t climb up there, are you kidding?”

“You can do it; come, I am waiting for you.  I am so happy you have come back.”

Come back?  I don’t know what is going on, but, I feel a pull to climb up that hill.  There is a real path only to the foot of the mountain, and then a “trail”, which is not a trail, is marked by stacks of rocks in wire cages. I got to the foot of the mountain and looked up.

Now there is an old Indian man with the boy. “Come, you can do this, we are waiting for you.”

I found my feet starting to climb.  Really, I started crawling up that mountain with many breaks for breathing and resting.   All the while, I could hear the encouragement from the man and boy.  I kept going and at one point near the head of the “trail” I felt and saw that I had crossed an energy wall.  Beyond it was a double line of Indians making a path for me to walk through.  They were welcoming me and encouraging me to continue to the top of the “trail” which is really at the foot of the huge rocks.

 (Picture by Tomas Castelazo)

 It was from the top of the huge rock on the right that the light was emanating.  I turned away from this and, instead, walked toward the left and to the back of the rocks.  At a certain point, I found myself struggling to climb up toward three spires of rock. When I got to the foot of the spires, the wind began to gust and I felt I could be blown off.  I quickly sat down.  The wind died and I stood up again; the wind gusted again, even stronger.  I had to sit down and anchor myself.  I was a little afraid, but, determined to get a picture of this place.

“I don’t know what your trip is wind, but I will get a picture.”  Oh my God, the wind started blowing and wouldn’t let up.  Don’t care. I got my camera out; and, holding on to a boulder with one hand and my leg braced to keep me in place, I quickly shot this picture:

The wind was blowing furiously.  I had to lie down to keep myself safe. I slid my body down the rock to get to the safety of the path. A couple of people passed me on their way up and I warned them about the wind, but, I could see when they got to the top there was no wind for them.  Later, someone told me this place is called the Saddle and it overlooks the vortex below it. I saw the vortex and it was cool, but, I loved the Saddle more.  I love the picture.

I sat on a ledge below the rock with the light.  I meditated and found myself in some kind of ceremony at the top where the women were painting white spirals on my body.  I can’t remember what else happened there.  I spaced it out. Suddenly, I came out of my meditation and without hesitation knew I had to leave.  I walked to the head of the “trail”, but, my feet stopped and I looked at the big rock.  I didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t leave, it was breaking my heart. I started crying.  I felt like I had been gone so long and now that I was back, I wanted to stay.

The little boy suddenly was in front of me. “It is okay, mother.  It is all right to leave now.  We have all gone.”

“I don’t want to leave you again.  I have missed you so much.”

“You can come with me.”  He turned and started walking toward a light.  I followed him and as I passed into the light, I found myself several yards down the trail. I don’t know how I got there, but, I knew I had to keep going.  My tears dried, my grief abated and I felt peace. 

What just happened here?  I don’t know for sure.  Was this, too, a past life experience or I was I experiencing something that had happened to someone else in another time again? Or, was I helping a spirit complete a path and make a transition?  I don’t know.

As we drove to Masada, I wondered what I would experience there.  I knew there was a reason I was going there, just didn’t know what it was.

Alexei’s voice brought me out of my reverie.  “Look, there are camels alongside the road.  There are baby ones too!” We pulled over and woke up Noelle.

 (Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

 This blurry picture is by me, but, can you see the babies? (the date on my camera is wrong,sorry.)

 

Happy, we continued on our way, but, soon we were stopped by an Israeli checkpoint out in the middle of nowhere. They made us take all of our stuff out of the car and wait while their dog did a sniff search.  However, the dog just wanted to play with his toy and his handler was having a hard time getting him to focus.  When they were finally done, our belongings were sent through a security machine and then one of the women started pulling Alexei’s pack apart.  She seemed friendly and asked me where I got my burnoose.  I told her from a Bedouin. I must have said thank you or some word in Arabic because she asked where I had learned Arabic.  I pointed at Alexei and said, “From him.”  Alexei rolled his eyes and she started questioning him.  I realized that this woman was not being friendly, she was interrogating us.  So, I played a dumb tourist and brought her attention back to my burnoose. “I think it looks good; don’t you agree?”  She laughed and agreed.  Then I said, “Todah” which, I think, is Hebrew for thank you.  Finally, they let us go.  I noticed, again, they didn’t go through my stuff.

We continued on our way and soon ran across two young couples stranded in the desert. Their tire was flat and they didn’t know how to work the jack.  Alexei, being the sweetheart that he is, changed the flat for them.

And, once again, we were on our way to Masada.  By now I know we will not make it there before it closes to the public.  It’s okay; I trust Love and know that whatever is best is what will happen.

We round a bend in the road and, finally…Masada:

 Standing at the roadside and looking at this place in the distance, I realized, hey, I don’t need to be there to say, “Hello” to the energy there.

A woman is there.  She laments, “I have to stay here.  This is where my children died.”

Behind her I see a lighted doorway appear and two kids, a boy and a girl, come out of the light. “Who are they?” I ask.

“My children!”  She runs to them, holds them, then takes their hands, and they walk into the lit doorway.

Suddenly I see more lights, similar to the ones on Monte Alban, but they are not leaving the ground. I can hear whispering, “She left; she is free!”  But, no one moves or shows themselves to me. I keep saying “Hello” to the various lights but they will not respond directly to me. 

As I look around, I notice a dark area at the head of Masada, at the narrow part on top. I start saying “Hello” to this place.  Soon the blackness dissolves and a man is revealed. I can see he is very passionate and very intense.

He loudly declares, “We are not leaving.  This is OUR place!”

Uh oh, Linda, what are you going to say now?  I dunno.  Breathe.

“I understand; you are not leaving.  Uhmm. Hey, did you know that Israel is a state now?  You do have a land  that is your own.  You accomplished what you wanted.”

His gaze pierced mine. “This is true?”

“Yes, it is.  You did your part in helping to create this. This very place where you resisted the Romans is considered to be a very special place by your countrymen. You did your job.  If you want to, you can move on now.”

He stared at me for a bit then turned toward the mass of lights that where there.  He yelled, “We did it!  You are free to leave.”

Zip, zip; lights began shooting to a lit doorway that had appeared again. When they were all gone, I saw this man square his shoulders and walk through too.

As I am writing this in my blog, I googled Masada and found that after Rome had destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE, the surviving Zealots fled to the fortress of Masada.  They held out for three years against the Roman soldiers who held them in siege.  As the 960 defenders of Masada watched the Romans continue to build new weapons and ways to attack them, they knew the Romans would eventually reach them. Their leader, Elazar ben Yair decided that they should all commit suicide.  I am going to write a quote of Elazar’s speech obtained from the Jewish virtual library:

“Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice…We were the very first that revolted [against Rome], and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom. Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually.”  Elazar then ordered that all the Jew’s possessions except for food be destroyed, for “the food will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessities; but that, according to our original resolution, we preferred death before slavery.”

And so it was.

As I stood on the roadside and watched the lights leave Masada, I said, “Thank you Love for this gift you have given me and for how you use it. I am grateful.  I don’t always understand, but I trust you.”

I didn’t say anything to Alexei or Noelle about my experience; instead, I just began to take pictures…of Noelle taking pictures,

Of the Dead Sea and the area around Masada:

 

 (Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

  (Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

DAY 7 – OLD JERUSALEM

Today is our day to visit Old Jerusalem and, yay, the weather is good again here.   Our plan is to travel on the Via Dolorosa which is the traditional path of the twelve Stations of the Cross where Jesus carried his cross.  However, this path is also a big market and my Buddies want to shop first and do the spiritual stuff after.  This is sooo different from what I usually do, but, I get it. We each have different perceptions and give different meanings to what we are experiencing.  Noelle is a Buddhist; Alexei is a not too sure Christian; and me, I am into all embracing/ non-denominational/ unconditional Love.  I trust that Love will guide me to whatever is best, so, I agree to shop first.  I tried to set a time limit, but that didn’t go over well.  Okay then, we are going shopping.

We were walking down the hill when Alexei said, “Linda, I want to take a picture of you here.”

Yeah, I like it!

We continued on our journey to Old Jerusalem; but, first  we will be stopping at the Garden of Gethsemane. I really want to go there.  Also, Alexei really wants to visit The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene which is in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was built by his ancestor, the Russian Czar Alexander III and his brothers, in memorial of their mother Empress Maria Alexandrovia. Alexander’s sister in law, the Grand-Duchess Elizabeth, had a deep, personal interest in the church.  After she became widowed, she became a nun and founded a convent devoted to nursing and charitable work in Moscow.  Apparently, during the Bolshevik Revolution she and her companion, Sister Barbara, were killed. Eventually, their remains were brought to Jerusalem where they were buried, per her wishes, in a crypt below the church. They were canonized as Martyr Saints in 1981 and their remains were moved into the main section of the church.  Alexei has tried to visit the church every time he has been in Jerusalem, but each time, there was no access.

 

(Picture from BiblePlaces.com)

We walked down our hill to the Garden, but alas, the church was closed for the whole week we were here.   Bummer!

The Garden of Gethsemane was open though.

 

 Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

 The moment I walked into this garden, I felt a wrenching in my stomach, my body tensely tightened.  I wanted to drop to my knees, and cry out with my confliction.  I want to do Love’s will but I am afraid it is going to hurt.  It hurt Jesus.  It was terrible: the betrayal of his friend, his people, the feeling of abandonment by God, the physical pain, the giving up of his personal life and happiness to service for the highest good of us all.  I am afraid of what it means to be in service to Love; to have an intention to enable the highest good for all in unconditional love; to serve in whatever way Love thinks is best.  Am I going to be mocked, ridiculed, betrayed, abused, or even have to die for this?  Jesus set a precedence of martyrdom as service to God. That is fracking scary; no wonder more people don’t follow in his footsteps very well.  Does it have to be that way?  I don’t want to have to hurt and suffer anymore!  If this is what Love wants from me, will I continue?  Now, my tears are flowing like a river down my face. I am afraid because I know I choose Love and I will do whatever Love thinks is best.

 As I made this choice, I could hear my inner voice: Linda, what have you been learning about Love from your patients, from your inner voice, from your life so far?  What you are feeling is fear, not the truth of Love. You know that no matter what situation you are in, when you choose to respond in Love’s way then things always work out for the highest good.  How many times have you tested this? A lot…I know.  You’re right, this is my fear I am experiencing and I choose to release it.  I DO choose Love. I DO trust Love to guide me and to be with me no matter what. Truthfully, I really am not afraid anymore!  I haven’t been for quite awhile.

In that moment, I realized I had been walking around the garden and now found myself in front of this sign:

 (Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

 I saw Noelle and Alexei near me, not with mocking smiles, but, with compassionate support for whatever I had been experiencing.  As we left,   I became aware that being here in this garden at this time in my life was the most important thing I would do on this trip; everything else would be great, but, this is why I am here: to re-confirm and to commit to Love.

We continued our walk to Old Jerusalem and entered through the Lion’s Gate (see the carved lions on either side of the entrance):

 

All of the following information, I have taken from Wikipedia.  I am sure it touches upon only the bare surface of the history and meanings so many people have for Jerusalem:

Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has been a holy city, according to the Torah, since King David first established it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel in 1000 BCE. In Christianity, according to the New Testament, it has been a holy city since Jesus was crucified in 30 CE. In Sunni Islam, Jerusalem is the third holiest city. It was the first Qibla – direction of Muslim prayer – in 610 CE and according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad made his Night Journey there.  According to Wikipedia Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times and captured/recaptured 44 times.  The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been traditionally divided into four quarters – the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters.

Old Jerusalem has some majorly important religious sites. One is Temple Mount which is also called the Foundation Stone. Judaism regards this as the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest (Isa 8:18) and where He gathered dust to create Adam. According to Jewish tradition it is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God. It is also the site of the First and Second temples. The First temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. The Second Temple which replaced the First Temple was destroyed by the Romans.

In Christianity it is believed that Constantine’s mother, Helena, who is said to have found the “true cross” built a small church here, called the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John.  Later it was called The Church of the Holy Wisdom.

After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem they built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Second Temple. They also built the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  According the Sunni Islamic tradition, Muhammad’s night journey took him from Mecca to the site of Al-Aqsa where he prayed.  The Dome of the Rock is the spot from which Muhammad, accompanied by the angel Gabriel, ascended to Heaven where he met and prayed with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. When he returned he called all who would believe him to join with him and become Muslim, thus creating Islam.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the Second temple and is as close as Jews are permitted to be to the holiest spot in Judaism – the Foundation Stone i.e. Temple Mount.  The Western Wall has become the place of prayer for the Jews.

Temple Mount

(Picture from Bibleplaces.com)

 

Dome of the Rock

(Picture from Bibleplaces.com)

 

 Al-Aqsa Mosque

(Picture from Bibleplaces.com)

 

Western Wall

(Picture from Bibleplaces.com)

With all of this history around me, I can’t even begin to think about shopping.  I am not sure where this next picture is from, but, it represents a frequent sight:

(Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

Alexei always has his shopping radar on!  I tag along behind Alexei and Noelle as they start to peruse the wares, but, it is hard for me to get my head into shopping. I am absorbed in my introspective examination of my spiritual self and have no interest in the mundane.  I decide to give the “mundane” to Love and see what happens.  Soon, I find myself thinking of my family and my friends with love and wondering if there is something I could buy them so that they could feel as if they are a part of this journey. Now, I am actively seeking those items that would speak to my loved ones on some level. As I pick up and lay down different items, it makes me think about each person, what I know of them, what I want to communicate to them.  Soon, I realize that what is most important to me is that I pick out things that communicate love.  I want to imbue whatever I buy with the energy of Love and so I ask Love to help me find what is best.  It was awesome how just the right thing would pop out at me for some; and for others, I knew that Old Jerusalem would not be the place to find their gift. NOW, shopping had become a fun and spiritual adventure for me!

After a couple of hours, Noelle and I were standing on the path outside the shops. “I haven’t seen anything I could give to my brother.  He is not religious, I don’t really even know if he has spiritual beliefs.  How can I find a gift for him amongst all of these religious souvenirs?  There is no way.”

“Well, what does his like?” Noelle asked.

“Believe it or not, he likes stuffed animals.”

She laughed.

“No, really, there is a cool story behind that; but, be that as it may, there are no stuffed animals on the Via Dolorosa.” I lamented. As I spoke those words, I dropped my head and saw…STUFFED ANIMALS!

Oh my God.  Right at my feet there was a whole basketful of stuffed camels in various sizes.  I bought one that was wearing an Israeli camouflage combat uniform.  This was perfect!

Holy Moly!

We continued to shop and to travel the Via Dolorosa, until suddenly we found ourselves at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Alexei said, “Hey, there aren’t any lines of tourists.  We should go see it now.  I know it is at the end of the Stations of The Cross, but, would that be okay?”

No waiting in massive lines with tourists?  Would that be okay?  Hmmm let me think…ah… yeah!

Do you see that ladder on the second floor?  I wondered what the heck a ladder was doing up there; when I got home I googled about it. That ladder is a great symbol of the “Status Quo”.  The Status Quo refers to a set of customary arrangements that regulate owning, administration and usage of the Church.  This allows rivals to live and worship alongside each other. There are six ancient churches represented here by different communities of monks: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Armenian Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  They each have various degrees of what they posses in the church; what rights of usage they have; and, who administers and cares for different parts of the church.  Supposedly, it is like a big railway timetable of who gets to use what, where, and when.  There are also defined common areas that are strictly regulated about who gets to use them and when.  Also, under the Status Quo, no part of what is designated as common territory may be so much as rearranged even an iota without consent from all of the communities. All of this is necessary to prevent violence which still occasionally happens anyway, even as late as 2008.  That ladder was placed there sometime before the 1852 Status Quo defined both the doors and the window ledges as common ground and so it is still there today!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the traditional the site of Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary) where Jesus was crucified; also, the place where Jesus was anointed and buried (the sepulchre); and, the site of his resurrection. This claim about Golgotha is controversial as some say crucifixions were not done inside the city walls.  Some say Golgotha is at the site of Garden Tomb. Proponents of the Church say that Golgotha had been originally outside the old city walls but was incorporated in later years when the city walls were expanded outward.

You know me, I have no clue.  All I know is how tremendous it felt to be there.  I am very surprised at how much I felt.

The first picture is of the altar that marks the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 Inside, on both sides of the altar is the Rock of Calvary (Golgotha):

 

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Beneath the altar there is a hole which is said to be the place the cross was placed:

(Photo by Noelle Meluskey)

This is the table where Jesus’ body was laid after he died.  It was here his body was cared for and anointed:

This structure encases the tomb of Jesus:

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

It was very moving to be  there; whether they are the actual sites or not, it made the whole thing very real to me.

 Eventually, after shopping, we re-walked the Via Dolorosa and stopped at each of the places commemorating the Stations of the Cross.  I know that this is not the exact path but it is close enough for me. I had learned about the Stations in Catholic grammar school, but, they never had the impact they had now.  Taking the steps that Jesus did, carrying his cross; meeting the people he did along the way…now it was so much more real to me. It was very sad.

We journeyed to the Western Wall where I was able to say a prayer.

 (Photo from Bibleplaces.com)

Of course, not in the men’s section.  Women had to go to a separate and smaller section of the wall.

We were unable to go into the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, of course.  I don’t think they currently let non-Muslims in. Some of the Jewish areas such as the Western Wall tunnel were closed because it was Saturday, the Jewish holy day of Shabbat.  Still, all in all, we had a great day in Old Jerusalem.

That evening we had my favorite meal – shawarma- at a tiny Palestinian place. Ahh the food was good, the Palestinians were friendly and fun.  It was wonderful!  Mmmm…gooood!

(Picture from the Net)

DAY 8 – PETRA

Today we head to Petra, Jordan.  We are crossing the border via the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge.  You cannot drive a vehicle from Israel into Jordan across this bridge.  It was a bit confusing to me and now I cannot remember the sequence.  We took a bus from Jerusalem to the bridge; then, I think we went through a check-in place; then we had to take a Jordanian bus to another stop.  I think we had to go through some other security thing; then, we were able to contract with a taxi to take us on the several hour drive to Petra.

I suspect I cannot remember it properly because at the first check-in I asked the woman what the rate of exchange was between US dollars and Jordanian dinars.  I thought I heard her say there were three dinars to the dollar, but on the bus drive, Noelle and Alexei were trying to tell me it was three US dollars to one dinar.

I couldn’t get it; my brain would not compute! First they just laughed at me, then they got frustrated, then they gave up! When Noelle finally said,  “Linda, the dollar is weaker!!”,  a little glimmer of light came into my brain, but,  it kept hitting  the brick wall of programming I  had accepted when I thought the woman had said just the opposite.  I am sure this is why I don’t remember anything else about that crossing; my brain was so focused on solving the conflicting input!

By the end of the crossing, I was able to grasp that the dinar had more value than the dollar, but, trying to do the exchange rate in my head would be a problem the whole time I was in Jordan.  I became aware of how hard it was for me to process through the conflicting perceptions and how my urgent need to solve it diminished my experience of whatever else was happening around me.  I wondered how often that happened.  I am not conscious of it happening very much, but, what if it happens on an unconscious level too? What a sucky thought!

Finally, we were in our taxi in Jordan and on our way to Petra. We would be staying in a town called Wadi Musa which is at the entrance to Petra. Alexei had found us another low budget hotel that would allow us to be within walking distance of the entrance; great for our day long trip tomorrow.

Yeah, we usually stayed in hotels that were, oh, maybe two star, maybe one star, but they were always clean and centrally located.  Eventually though, Noelle was going to get a bit tired of our bathrooms and she immortalized them with the following picture:

 (Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

 It was a beautiful day for the road trip from the border to Petra. At one point I looked back over the Dead Sea to Israel and said goodbye.

 Honestly, I am not sorry to be leaving Israel and that saddens me a bit. There is so much significant history there for me.  Although I was born a Catholic and had been involved in Christianity in a variety of denominations as a young adult, my maternal great-grandparents were Russian Jews who came to America during the Bolshevik revolution.  I don’t even know my great grandmother’s real last name because when she came to Ellis Island as a child, her last name was changed.  As an adult she ended up meeting and marrying another refuge whose last name was Levine. It is through the maternal blood line that one is born Jewish. I learned all of this as an adult, but, I have always felt a resonating connection with Israel and Judaism even as a child. This plus the background in Christianity made Israel a place I had wanted to visit.

However, the energy there was sad to me. Grant it, I never met Jewish nor Palestinian folks living in the suburbs, but, the energy I did experience always had an underlying wariness. I totally understand why this is so, I just think it is so sad to live in that state of guardedness. It didn’t feel like anyone could ever relax, be happy, and enjoy their life.  Also, I have to admit that the Jews I did meet were pretty darn arrogant in their manner.  It often made me shake my head and laugh. Later when I mentioned this to my Israeli friends in the US, they laughed and agreed that it is so.

As we travelled in Jordan, the energy changed. I felt very comfortable and I loved it when I got my first sight of Bedouin tents:

I enjoyed the terrain as we travelled along the coast and then inward toward Petra:

 

 We arrived in Wadi Musa and our hotel was right on the main street.  After signing in, we went to our rooms where I felt my heart sink.  Uh oh, this place is really bad.  I am not even gonna unpack or take off my clothes to lie on that bed.  I went to the bathroom and there wasn’t any toilet paper. I looked at Noelle, she looked at me and we said, “No way!” Fortunately, Alexei felt the same way.

This hotel was a falling star!

We went for a walk and found a nice three star hotel even closer to the Petra entrance.  We would all be sharing the room and that was okay with me.  Even better, they had Turkish baths!!  I had told Alexei that sometime on this trip I wanted a massage and he had told me that the last time he had been in Petra with two other female companions the women had enjoyed having Turkish baths.  So, I had planned on having one in Petra.  Lucky for me, our hotel did them and the guy who ran that department was right there at the hotel check in desk. The hotel gave myself and Noelle a discount for being guests. Yay for us!

We went to the bath area where we met our attendants.  Guess who? One was the young guy I had met in the lobby who runs the bath.  I will call him, “Cutey Pie” and the other was a man maybe in his early thirties that I will call, “Manly”.

Yeah, we got male attendants. Okay, I don’t think this will be a problem.  I have had massages by male masseurs before.

First, Noelle and I get naked with large towels wrapped around our bodies and we enter a steam room.  Noelle is sitting near the door and I am on the bench at right angles to her.  “Manly” told us that if we got too hot, to just come out, cool off and come back in.  We would be here for 20 minutes.  Whew, that steam was hot and thick. I couldn’t see my own hands. After about 10 minutes the steam decreased and I saw a man enter, do something in the room, and then leave.

“Noelle, was that guy naked?”

“I think so; just the towel on him.”

Uhmm, maybe this is a coed kind of place.  Hmmm.

The steam came back on full force. Near the end of the 20 minutes, it decreased a bit and “Manly” came in.  I realize he is the naked guy! He pours cool water over Noelle’s head and she squeals, “Ooooo!”  Then he opens her towel, exposing her naked body, pours cool water on it and starts rubbing her down from her feet, up her legs to her belly and even her boobs.

Noelle keeps squealing, “Ooooo…Ooooo…Ooooo!”

Uh oh, I am next.

And yes I was… be cool, Linda. Oh ai yi yi yi!

Then “Cutey Pie” comes in and he is wearing  a towel too. Both men lead us out of the steam room and have us lie on these hot marble bench like structures to rest. They keep coming over and pouring cool water on us. Each time they do, Noelle exclaims, “Ooooo!”

After a few minutes, “Manly” reaches out his hand to Noelle and takes her to his room. “Cutey Pie” takes me to his room. I lie face down upon a large warm marble “bed” where CP begins to scrub and rub my body from my feet to my head.

That’s when it hits me; Oh my God, a Turkish bath is a bath!! Duh, Linda, you are sooo slow! “Cutey Pie’s” hands are all over me. I can still hear Noelle exclaiming, “Ooooo…Ooooo!”.

Pretty soon, CP is using oils to massage my body. It feels great and I tune out Noelle so that I can just get into it.

After a bit, “Cutely Pie” says okay.  I rolled over and sat up, but he said, “No, no, not done. Lie on back.”

Oh yeah.  This is not my first massage; I know it’s time for the front. How did I forget that?  Are you just a little distracted, Linda?

I laid back down and he began “a-scrubbing and a–rubbing” my entire front body including boobage and in between my legs, though not crackage.  Oh my God!  WhatI would do if he did?

We will never know, cuz he di’int.

By now it is quiet in Noelle’s room and I wonder if she is getting laid.

My little “Cutey Pie” is now softly singing to me as he finishes cleaning me and then starts to massage me. Aside from my feet being ticklish, ahhh, it feels gooood and I relax!

When he indicated he was done, I sat up.  He started tickling my feet and laughed as I giggled and twisted them out of his reach. Then he handed me my towel and brought me back to the changing room.

It was still quiet in Noelle’s room.

I was showered and dressed by the time she showed up.

She said, “My body was so slippery with oil that when I sat up from the massage, I slid across the table and knocked all of “Manly’s” equipment off.”

Oh man, only Noelle could do that!

I went out and drank tea with the guys. I found out that “Cutey Pie” has been doing this work for about ten years and that “Manly” has done it for maybe four years. They are both trained masseurs and enjoy their work. Noelle finally joined us and after a brief visit, we left.

“It got pretty quiet in your room; I was hoping you were getting laid.” I smiled.

“No, the massage was hurting.  I think I am going to have bruises.”

“Bummer.  I like my scenario better!”

DAY 9 – PETRA, continues

Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, hidden in the dramatic rock formations of Wadi Musa, alongside the edges of the mountainous desert of Wadi Araba, and surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges, lies the ancient, forgotten, city of Petra, Jordan.

A wadi is a valley, gulley or streambed that is dry except in the rainy season. Wadi Musa is the Arab name for the narrow valley that leads into Petra. According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses (Musa) struck a rock with his staff and water came forth. It is also, where his brother, Aaron (Harun) is buried at Mount Hor, known today as Mount Aaron.  There is, somewhere, a mountaintop shrine to Moses’ sister, Miriam; its location has yet to be found.

The Nabataean Arabs, nomadic desert traders, first established Petra sometime around the 6th century BC. It is speculated they chose this place to settle down because of its natural fortress of rock cliffs and its available water supply.  The Nabataeans pretty much controlled Petra until the Romans took over in 100 AD.

Petra became the centralized hub for the trading of spice, silk, textiles, pearls, gemstones, ivory, and incense because it established itself as the crossroads for the camel caravan trading routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

I don’t remember the first time I saw a picture of Khazneh – the “Treasury” in Petra; but, I do remember seeing it in the third Indiana Jones film, “The Last Crusade”.  It was an astonishing sight for me and I felt so drawn to it. I really wanted to see it in person, but, never did I think that would happen.  I tucked it away in my heart.

Then on my first visit to New York City I was so happy to find that the American Museum of Natural History had a whole presentation and display of “Petra: Lost City of Stone” I was transported while watching the little movie they showed about Petra. I was enchanted by the delicate ceramic vases on display. I had to have one of those vases and I bought a beautiful little pink one:

Now, I am soooo ready to be going into Petra and seeing it firsthand!

After paying our park fee we begin the walk that will bring us to the Siq, a narrow cleft in the walls of the rocks and the main road into Petra.

When the Nabataean traders were still nomadic they controlled the water in certain places on the trading routes and in creating Petra they demonstrated their engineering abilities for harnessing   natural springs and flash floods to create water conservation via systems of conduits, cisterns, dams and reservoirs.  They used strategically placed rock cut gutters lined with plaster and combined with terra cotta pipelines to follow the natural landscape, dumping the water into the cisterns and reservoirs. This enabled them to sustain fertile crops, lush gardens, and pools.   By controlling the water supply they were able to create an artificial oasis that at its height may have had as many as 20,000 residents.   I don’t have a great picture to demonstrate this, but, see where the left rock wall has been cut inward?  Alexei showed me how there is an obvious smoothed out kind of culvert where water would be collected and diverted to some other place.

 

If you are not into walking the Siq, you could take a little buggy ride:

 

However, if you are walking, don’t worry about stepping in droppings.  See how clean that roadway is?  It is because of this guy:

 

He’s got a big job keeping the road clean!

The Nabataens half built, half carved their city of homes, tombs and  awesome facades right into the beautiful red, yellow and white rock.  I am not sure why they built the facades.  Perhaps it was to impress visitors. It definitely worked on me!  Khazneh – The Treasury:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the striations and colors of the natural rock:

 

 

 

 

Petra became a rich city not only financially, but also, due to the free exchange of culture and ideas. This is expressed in their art and the mix   of Nabataean, Hellenistic, and Roman architecture.

 

Yikes!  I thought the Romans were gone!

 

 

Don’t ask; I have no clue!

 

 

 It is our intention to climb the mountain path to El-Deir – the Monastery.  Alexei says it will be a bit of a climb.  It will take two or more hours. I want to go; I figure it is good practice for Mount Sinai.

Yeah, it was pretty darn good practice. These pictures do not even do it justice.

 

 Along the path was the occasional Bedouin wanting to sell souvenirs.  These women would get your name on the way up and then on the way down holler, “I see you coming Noelle. Remember you promised to buy from me.”  They had great memories. Some of them had accents that told me they had travelled internationally; for example, the woman who had spent many years in New Jersey.  Now that was crazy…a Bedouin with a “joisy” accent!

Finally, the weary duo i.e. me and Noelle, along with the very spry Alexei made it to El-Deir. It was worth it!

 

Yes, I was tired; but, when Alexei said he was going up the hill to what was billed as “The Highest Point”, I said I’d go too. When we got there we could see the Red Sea on one side; while, on the other side, we looked down onto the Monastery and into the valley of Petra where we would soon be returning.

 

By the time we got back down the mountain and back into the Roman area, my feet were killing me.  I was wearing my steel toed work boots that I used when I swinging a chain saw around.  Dude, my dogs were barking at me to stop.  So, when Noelle and Alexei went one way to see more ruins, I continued toward the center area where there were refreshments and bathrooms, etc.  I walked passed all of that and sat on a boulder.  I wanted to meditate, but, there were many children climbing, yelling and playing on the ruins across from me. There were Bedouins trying to sell camel rides and other items.  There were tourist walking up and down the road, chattering and laughing. I was annoyed and trying to tune them all out when it occurred to me that this was how it could have been back when Petra flourished.  People LIVED here.  These kids, the merchants, the people… it brought Petra to life for me and I basked in the joy of being here.

Petra met its decline when, in 330 AD, the Roman Empire moved its focus to Constantinople and the sea based trade routes were revised. Then, in 363 AD, an earthquake destroyed half of the city. Except for the locals, the world just kind of forgot about Petra until it was “rediscovered” by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

In 1917, as part of a general effort to divert the Turkish military away from the British invasion of North Africa, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) led a small force of Syrians and Arabians in defending Petra against a much larger force of Turks and Germans.  The local Bedouin women, under the leadership of the wife of Sheik Khallil were recruited to fight in the defense of the city.   The defenders completely decimated the attackers.

Petra has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985 and in 2007 was voted to be one of the New 7 wonders of the World.  I can agree with that! Although there has been a lot of archeological work done in uncovering Petra, less than one-twentieth has been unearthed.  It makes me wonder what will be there in a few more years.  I would love to go back to Petra, but, this time I would stay for at least a week to explore all it has to offer.  I would also love to visit more of Jordan.  I liked the way it felt.

Our trip into Petra was at an end, but surprise, our day was not finished. We had to reach Dahab, Egypt by that night!

Holey Moley, I really could use that Turkish bath and my Cutey Pie right now!

Instead, it is time to say goodbye to Wadi Musa, Petra and Jordan.

 Noelle took advantage of the trip, but, I love to watch the scenery.

 

 

The nighttime journey was quite the adventure that I won’t go into very much.  Just know that we had to cross three border checkpoints in about 20 or 30 minutes because they close down at night. Unfortunately, in our hurry to beat the busload of tourists that were disembarking,  we missed doing necessary things like paying Jordan’s exit tax that had to be paid in Dinars that we didn’t have anymore because  we had just given all of them to our taxi driver. I don’t even remember all the stuff that tripped us up.  Each time, we had to back track and didn’t that just cheer up my Buds!  Now the tourist group was ahead of us.

One thing I did find amusing occurred at the Israeli passport checkpoint. The very reserved, professionally behaving female guard’s whole manner changed when she saw Alexei’s last name was Romanov.  Her face lit up, she gave him a huge smile and began speaking to him in Russian.  Alexei responded in kind.  I don’t know what they said, but, it gave me an opportunity to interface with the nicer woman in the next cubicle.

The line going through security was super long due to all of the tourists ahead of us.  I mentioned before that Israeli security can be intense and, once again, they tore apart Noelle’s and Alexei’s stuff.

Alexei said, “How come they never go through your stuff?”

Hmm, he’s right. They never check me.  I don’t know why.

Finally, we were in Egypt, at night, in our mini bus for a several hour drive to Dahab – just us three and the driver.  Dad, am I supposed to be worried about driving on the roads at night in Egypt?

Nah! It was a beautiful peaceful drive for me as I watched the clear night sky filled with so many stars.

We arrived at our beachside hotel around 11pm.  Our hotel manager was there to greet us. He gave us a little tour and said, “We’re pretty chill around here, so, get some rest tonight. You’re gonna love being here.”

CHILL!

Did he say “Chill”?

Dude, I think I’m gonna like it here!

DAY 10 AND 11 – DAHAB

Dahab is a small town located on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula.  It used to be a Bedouin fishing village and the hotel information  said that the Bedouin still owned a lot of it, maybe even all of it, I am not sure.  I read they like to keep the businesses locally owned. Dahab is a popular tourist spot especially for windsurfing, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving; it is very big on diving.  The famous Blue Hole of the Red Sea, where we will be snorkeling tomorrow, is just a few kilometers away.

On the morning of day 10  I woke up bright and early to this view outside of my hotel room:

Ahhh, yeah, loving it!  This is a great place for chillaxin- lounging, walking the boardwalk, shopping, and dinner at the Bedouin style restaurant, The Funky Mummy:

 

I think the hotel thought Noelle and I were gay because they gave us a king sized bed and the next day we found these towel swans with their heads in a heart pattern on the bed.

 

Noelle says the manager apologized for the bed, but hey, no worries, dude, it’s a big bed.

It’s day 11 and we are going to the Blue Hole. What is a blue hole you ask?  Well, it is like a cave standing upright in the water.  There are different blue holes located around the world.  The best known are the ones in Belize, the Bahamas, Guam, Australia, and the one we are going to: the Blue Hole in the Red Sea.

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

This Blue Hole is  basically a coral lagoon with vertical walls that descend about 130 m (426 ft) deep.  At the top there is a shallow area known as “the Saddle”. It is around 6 m (20 ft) deep and opens out to the sea.  There is also a tunnel about 26 m (85 ft) long known as “the Arch” that opens out to the sea. This Arch, however, is an underwater tunnel whose top is at a depth of 55 m (180 ft) and whose base is about 120 m (394 ft). After this the seabed plunges to about 1000 m (3280 ft). The following picture is a map that will help you see what I am talking about:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

This is a picture of a diver at one end of the Arch:

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 The Blue Hole has the nickname, “Diver’s Cemetery” and has earned the reputation of being the “World’s Most Dangerous Dive Site”.  This is due to the divers that have died trying to dive down to the arch and through it.

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) recommends a maximum recreational diving limit of 40 m (131 ft); the arch is further down than that. The Arch is a problem to swim because it can be difficult to find due to its odd angle to the water; it appears to be a shorter length than it is;  there is frequently a current flowing inward toward the Blue Hole that makes swimming take longer than expected; and, because it is essentially bottomless, there is no reference point from below to know when you have gone too far. Divers who are not prepared can get into big trouble very fast.

When I got home, I googled all of this information and saw videos of decomposed bodies and SCUBA equipment on the seabed near the Arch.  In the cliffs along the shoreline of the Blue Hole are epitaphs of divers who have died here. Officially there have been 40 recorded deaths, but the locals say the number is higher.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 Of course, I was clueless.  I had none of this information when I was there.

We met our snorkeling guide, the lovely Lorraine, on the boardwalk in Dahab then took a truck out to the Blue Hole.  Lorraine is a Caucasian woman from England who has lived in Dahab for many years.  She loves living there and told me she feels quite safe.

“It would be against the men’s religion, morals, ethics, and… everything, to hurt a woman. I feel very safe here.  Of course, if a woman doesn’t understand the culture she may unintentionally give signals of interest to a man.  All she has to do then is say ‘no’ when he makes an advance.  You do have to be careful to not be misunderstood. Of course it’s looser in Dahab because it is a beach tourist town.  The men are used to seeing scantily clad women and their more forward behavior.  They don’t misinterpret like they might somewhere else.”

Good information for women travelers anywhere, I think.

We picked up another person for our group.  His name was Philippe.  I think he lives in France. He spoke very good English and was pleasant to be with. Neither Philippe nor I had any snorkeling experience and we weren’t divers. Noelle and Alexei were experienced divers.

At the Blue Hole shoreline there was a small collection of services including a cool Bedouin restaurant where we also got fitted for our snorkeling masks, fins and shorty wetsuits.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

I could hear Lorraine telling us information about the Blue Hole and about the epitaphs, but, for some reason I wasn’t really getting it.  It was either going over my head; I couldn’t always understand Lorraine’s accent;   I just wasn’t paying attention;  OR, maybe it was selective hearing because what I did hear was, “There is no nice easy slope going into the water; rather, it is a steep deep plunge right from the get go.”

Uh huh.

And I heard, “The water is deep and sometimes this gets to people so don’t look down; keep your eyes on the coral.”

Ahh, okay… yeah… uh, sure.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t  hear anything else!

Noelle and Alexei kept reassuring me that they would be right there with me the whole time.

We would be travelling on the ocean side of the coral walls and then enter the Blue Hole via the saddle and climb out onto shore in the one place that had rocks rather than coral.  We walked along the beach to an entry point just north of the Blue Hole.  This is the entrance point for the divers.  I am not sure if this is what is known as “the Bells” or not.

At any rate, you just drop your body in and get out of the way for the next guy cuz only one person can get in at a time.

Okay then. No time to dilly dally, Linda!

I think Alexei went first and then maybe, Philippe. I can’t remember. Suddenly it was my turn and, dude, there is no time for a timid descent; I just slid off the rocks, moved toward open ocean and waited. I could hear Noelle’s and Lorraine’s voices drifting toward me. Apparently, Noelle was having a flashback to a rafting accident and could not make herself get into the water. Lorraine could not take the time to help her through this post traumatic fear while she had other “charges” in the water, so Noelle didn’t get in.

Meanwhile I found myself relatively alone in the water.  I couldn’t really see anyone near me, so… I stared at the coral.

Well, hell, if you know me you know I don’t like to do anything based upon fear so, of course, I looked down.

It was love at first sight; love at first consciousness; love at first feel; It was Love all around me. I opened my arms wide, leaned back and allowed myself to be embraced by Love. All of me came to life. My body was energized; my heart was filled with joy; my mind was One with Love in all things.

I don’t have the words to describe the experience.

Then, Lorraine was at my side. She checked my mask and made sure I was comfortable.

I was fabulous! I looked down some more into that beautiful blue water.  I had never seen such a blue before.

We started our swim alongside the coral.  What a beautiful experience that was. Once again, I felt I was alone, just me and the life around me.  I was swimming easily and enjoying everything when Alexei was suddenly there.

 “Linda, are you okay, are you feeling afraid?

  “No, I am great!”

“Good.  You are just swimming so fast, I was worried.”

“Oh, am I not supposed to be swimming?”

“No, just float, the current will take us where we need to go.  You can just take your time looking at the coral.  Did you see…?”

No, I didn’t see it, dang!  Okay, so I stopped swimming and just floated.  I took my time seeing things.  However, we must remember that I wear trifocal glasses.  I thought I was seeing a lot until I recently got these pictures from Alexei. Boy, if I get into SCUBA, I will need a special mask made!  Look at what I didn’t see:

 

 

 

 I did see these though:

 

 

 All too soon we were at the saddle and into the Blue Hole.

Lorraine exclaimed, “Hey there’s Noelle!”

Yes, indeed, my brave friend had conquered her fear all by herself and had entered the water via the Blue Hole itself.

It was a happy group that got out and headed to a great lunch. (The blonde woman is Lorraine)

 

 After lunch, the group intended to go out again, but I had other plans.  I wanted to take a camel ride!

I don’t remember the camel’s name, bummer. The handler had the rope in his hand and walked behind me, out of my sight, as we headed off down the desert coast.  It was surreal! I felt transported into another time, another place.  The desert mountains were on one side of me; the beautiful water was on the other side; and just me ‘n my camel.

O man, this day was heavenly!

When I got back, the others were still out in the water.  I met Lorraine in the restaurant and, lying on comfy pillows seats overlooking the water, we began chatting. She was telling me what life in a foreign country was like for her.  Then she said, “I do feel lucky that I have a community of friends here who would help me if I got hurt or sick.”

“Yes, you are very lucky.  What would happen?”

“Oh, they would take me in and take care of me until I got better.”

“That’s great.  What about if you got really sick or hurt, how is the medical care here?”

“It’s good, but, I would want to go back to England for that.”

“What would happen if you were unconscious or unable to communicate what you would want done then?”

“It’s so funny you should ask me because I have been thinking a lot about just that.”

“Hmm, what a coincidence.  Is there someone who you have given the authority to make health care decisions for you when you can’t?”

“Yes, my brother.  He is in England.”

“Good for you!  So many people never do that and then things can become very complicated. Have you given your brother guidelines on how to make decisions for you?”

“Well, not really.  That is the sticky part, isn’t it? How do you know?”

“Yes, how do you know?  Let me ask you this, where do you draw the line; what kind of a disability would you be willing to live with?  For example, I have known some people who would be willing to live in a coma.”

“Oh no, that wouldn’t be me!”

“Well, let’s see… is it important for you to have your brain be working so that you can recognize your loved ones?”

“Yes!”

“Is it important for you to be able to communicate in some way?”

“Oh I would have to be able to talk!”

“Talk clearly, so that others can understand you?”

“Absolutely!”

“Okay, what about eating? Did you know that some people would not want to stay alive if they couldn’t actually eat food? They don’t want to be fed by a tube”

“Oh yeah.” She laughed, “I have to able to eat.”

“What about moving your body?  Is it okay to be bed bound or do you need to be able to get out of bed by yourself and go to the bathroom and all of that stuff?”

“Okay, I am getting this now.  Yes, I would want to be independent and be able to take care of myself.”

“Would it be okay to be wheelchair bound?”

“If I was independent, yes”

“Well, there you go.  By deciding what kind of disability you can live with, you have just become aware of where you draw the line and the minimum quality of life you want.  This is important information to give to anyone who would have to make healthcare decisions for you when you can’t.  Then your Advocate can ask the doctors’, ‘In your experience doctor how have you seen patients in this condition progress; are they able to wake up, be aware, communicate, eat, etc. etc.’ They should get an idea of whether or not you could possibly reach the level of function you would want.  In addition, they should ask how long it usually takes to get there.  Will it take a month, six months, a year, longer? Maybe it is cool with you to take a month, but, maybe a year would be too long.  They should ask all of the doctors, nurses, and therapists involved so they can get the broad picture provided by all of their experiences. In this way, your Advocate can weigh their experiences with what you want and make a choice you could live with.  If it is not likely you will achieve a level of function you would  want, then your Advocate can ask the doctors to allow you to be on a “peaceful death path” rather than a “fix me path”.

By you providing your Advocate with guidelines, you have given him a  gift of Love because it takes the burden of decision away from him  In return, it is his gift of Love to provide what you have asked for.”

Lorraine’s  eyes and face were shining, “Oh my God, this is wonderful. I never looked at it like this before, I didn’t even know how to go about approaching it; it seemed too big.” She took my hand, “Thank you so much.  This has helped me tremendously. You know people could use this information, you should write a book…”

I started laughing, “Oh honey, I did write a book about it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had this conversation.”

“You wrote a book about this?”

“Yes, it’s about all of this and other things like Code Status, questions to ask doctors, and more stuff.  In fact it is called, Where Do You Draw The line? – An Insider’s Guide To Effective Living Wills, Healing, Critical Care.”

“How extraordinary that we have met today and have had this conversation.  I am very grateful.”

“Extraordinary, yes. Surprising, no. It’s just how Love works and I am grateful for that!

On that note, the others returned and it was time to go. Back in Dahab, Lorraine and I hugged and it was filled with a mutual affection and gratitude for all of the wonderful things we had provided to each other on this day.

It was, indeed, a heavenly day!

DAY 12 – MT. SINAI, SHARM EL-SHEIKH

Actually, it is 1100 pm on day 11.  We are getting ready for our journey to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai in order to be there for the sunrise!

Mount Sinai is also known in Arabic as Jabal Musa meaning Moses’ Mountain. According to Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition this is the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Many thousands of people have made the pilgrimage to its summit and I want to be one of them.

Mount Sinai is 7507 feet. Pilgrims usually begin at St. Catherine’s Monastery which is at an elevation of about 5084 feet. Then they can choose between two of the main approaches to the summit. The most direct route is the 3,750 “Steps of Penitence”.  This steep path consists of steps that were literally carved out of the rock by monks.  You don’t need mountain climbing equipment just strong thighs!  This route can take 45 minutes to three hours depending upon your pace.  Much as I would love to take it, I know there is no way I will be doing this route!.

The other route is a wide winding path that can take the average hiker maybe 2.5 hours. This path does not take you to the summit though,  you will still have to climb up the last 750 stairs to get to the top.  This is the route I am planning to take.  I have been training for it by using the treadmill at level 15 and, also, doing the Stairmaster.

On the summit of the mountain there is a mosque which is still prayed in by Muslims today. There is also a Greek Orthodox chapel that was built upon the ruins of a 16th century church.  The chapel, which is not open to the public, is said to enclose the rock from which God made the Tablets of the Law.  Also at the top is “Moses’ Cave” where Moses waited to receive the Ten Commandments.

We met our van in Dahab then drove around to pick up other pilgrims. Our van was filled with maybe ten people as we began our two hour drive to St. Catherine’s Monastery.  When we arrived I saw  a lot of people, but, as it was nighttime,  I couldn’t tell how many.  I think at least 75 maybe over 100.  This is a picture of us waiting to go.

It is already cold and we still have to get to the top.  We were warned to dress in layers because the walk would warm us up and perspiration would wet our clothes which would then get cold at the top when we were resting.  I have lots of layers on but I am already cold.

We were divided into groups that would be led by local guides. Our guide’s name was Sala.  And we are off!

I see there are camels and I am really happy.  I know I said I had been training for this hike, but, after the climb from St. George’s Monastery and the hiking done in Petra, I am not sure I can make it to the top of this mountain.  It has never been important to me to make it to the exact top; I just want to make it up Moses’ Mountain.

Okay, yeah; about ¼ of a mile into the hike, I am already breathless.  We haven’t even begun to climb yet. Sala can hear my breathing and asks me if I want to take a camel.  There is no getting my ego around it; yeah I need one.  He contracted with a handler and got me a camel whose name is Michael Jackson!

 It turns out Noelle is having a difficult time with the hike too and Sala recommends she take a camel, but, Noelle is afraid of horses and is having a really hard time saying yes.  Alexei, who has taken a vow of silence for this pilgrimage, is gesturing to Noelle to take the camel ride.  My brave friend finally agrees, cuz dude, she really has no choice.  Her camel’s name is Whiskey.

 

We took off with me in front, then Noelle, and then our awesome Alexei walking silently behind her.  Noelle was really afraid and trying hard to cope.  I could hear her talking behind me and her voice had changed; it sounded like a little girl’s voice as she asked, “Does it mean he is happy when he wags his tail?” Both of the camel handlers were soothing and reassuring her all was okay.

I said, “Noelle, you are very brave.  You’re doing really well.”

Still in that little voice she said, “Alexei, if you’re okay just clap your hands.”  He clapped.

In a few more minutes she asked, “Is Whiskey tired, does he need a nap?” The handlers just kept a steady reassuring patter with her.  They were great.

As we rode, I tuned out everything behind me because I was awestruck and wanted to be immersed in the Ansel Adam’s picture I found myself in.

The night was crystal clear. The moon and stars above me were so close I literally reached out my hand towards them.  I did feel I could almost tickle them. They were so white and so bright as they shone upon the mountain creating a grey scale from white to black that was so sharp every crag, nook and cranny was defined in the mountain’s face and in the rocks around me. My heart seemed to expand inside of my chest as it reached out to the scene surrounding me.  I let go of my saddle’s pommel and  spread my arms out wide to embrace the whole scenario.  How immensely beautiful!  I am so happy that I rode the camel up Moses’ Mountain because it allowed me to be aware of this incredible experience instead of being only aware of the struggle to climb.  I know that there can be value in the struggle I take in the challenging paths of my life; but now, I am also aware of the awesome value in allowing myself to be carried and supported on the paths of my life. I wonder how much can I allow Love/God to carry and support me?  Is that a wrong thing to allow?  I have always felt I was supposed to do life on my own, take responsibility, take control, be self determining, be a self made successful person.  Cool, I don’t see anything wrong with that, but now, I wonder what wonders and beauty would I experience in life if I let go of all that and let myself float in Love’s flow. Is that okay?  Is that what’s best? Is that what God would want for me, if I allowed myself to hear the answer? In the glory of this spectacularly beautiful, glorious ride, I am thinking maybe the answer is, “yes”!

Even riding the camel, it was a long, yet immensely satisfying ride up to the rest stop before the last 750 steps. It could have been almost three hours.  How interesting that I never did check my watch. Truly, time seemed to have lost importance to me.  We got to the rest stop before the hikers.

Alexei had taken a vow of silence which by now you know is a very big challenge for him.  His mouth may have been silent but his mind was not:

 

 That’s me, meditating in the corner.

Soon the hiker’s caught up with us. The couple from Japan told us we had been smart to take the camels. But now, it was time to say goodbye to Michael Jackson and Whiskey because we were about to climb the stairs. I don’t know what time it was, just that it was still dark. I climbed about 10 steps and had to sit down.  OH MY GOD, I can hardly breathe! How in the heck am I gonna make it up?  Suddenly, Sala was there with me.  He took me by the hand and began pulling me up the stairs.  I still had to stop every 10 to 15 steps, but he was there to give me his hand.  Noelle had to stop at the same time and she had her own person helping her.  I think it may have been, Omar, another pilgrim. I noticed other people resting along the way too, but, it was me who was really having problems.  At one point, I found my legs shaking and almost unable to stand.  That is when Sala folded my arm into his arm and using his body he helped me to stand.  He held my body against his as he literally lifted and pushed me up the steps a few at a time.  Thank God for Sala; truly, thank you God.

Finally we reached the last rest stop.

  I was wiped.  I knew I had pushed my body over a line.

 

There were only 100 steps left, but, I wasn’t going to do them.  I had always known I wouldn’t make it to the top and it was never important to me to do it.  I just wanted to be up on Moses’ Mountain and here I was; I was content.

The others continued on without me. Here are pictures from the top!

 

 

 

 Noelle and Omar:

 

Prior to the revolution, Omar had never really felt connected to his country.  But, he had been directly involved with protecting his family and protesting during the revolution.  Now, he says he feels he is a part of every grain of sand. “Now, this land belongs to me, to my people.  Now, I have a home and I have freedom!”

Alexei and the flag:

 

 Meanwhile, I had been resting, but, I wanted to see the sunrise too.  I stepped out of the hut to see what I could see which was not much because it was still dark. Next thing I knew, Sala was there.

“Are you going to go to the top?” He asked me

“No, I’m good here.”

He pointed to the top of a very large rock outcropping and asked, “Will you climb up there with me?”

I stared at him a moment and replied, “Sure.”

He bounded up this “rock” while I slowly crawled up on all fours.  When I got to the top, I crawled to the edge and looked out.  I could see the valley below me and the peaks of the other mountain tops around and below me. When I leaned out far enough I could see south, but, it was kind of scary to be leaning out that far so I came back in a foot and sat down with my back against the face of the mountain.  If I turned my head to the right, I would see the sunrise.  Straight ahead, my view was north over the mountain peaks. Turning left, I could look down  onto the rest stop.

I was freezing despite all of my layers and Sala went back down to get me a camel blanket which he then tucked under and around me. Mmmm, it was nice and warm.  Then he left me there all by myself.

Ahhh this was great, this was perfect.  Here I am on Moses’ Mountain sitting all by myself in a place of peace.  I started meditating.  Every now and then I opened my eyes, turning my head to the right to see if the sunrise was happening.  Then I went back to meditating.  I was trying to experience the love I had expected to feel up there, but, I couldn’t feel it.  It felt like there was a clamp on my heart or a stone on my chest.  I can’t explain it. I could tell the energy was not flowing.  I used all of my tools, but, I couldn’t seem to get it going.  I opened my eyes one more time, turned my head, and I saw the sunrise.  It was cool and I was happy to see it, but I wanted to feel the love. I closed my eyes again. Nope, not feeling it.

Okay, that’s okay Linda because you can create the love instead.  In my mind I whispered, “I love you Love/God” and I sent love into the heavens.  Then I whispered, “I love you planet.” and I sent an energy ray of love to the north and imagined it circling the Earth and coming back.  I sent a ray to the east, then south, then west.  Then I felt and imagined myself as a bright ball of Love and sent rays in all directions at the same time, seeing it surrounding and infusing all of life on the planet with love.  Now, I was totally feeling the love.  I opened my eyes and this is what I saw in front of me:

Ahhhh, how awesome!  Thank you, Love.

I continued to meditate and bask in Love.  Then, I heard footsteps and Sala was there to collect me. I asked to take his picture and he did different poses to show me his best side.  🙂

I could see people were coming down from the summit, so I got up and went down my rock with Sala.  He asked me if I wanted to take a Camel down and I said no.  Dang, I had to ride up; there was no way I wasn’t walking down!

I met Alexei, Noelle and the rest of our group and we all started down the steps.  Going down the steps was no picnic for me and, yikes, in the daylight I could see that some of these steps were a little scary.  Pretty soon, I was one of the last people descending.  I began to notice that Omar was kind of hanging around me, stopping every now and then to take pictures.  I didn’t know if he was watching out for me or what so I asked him, “Are going slow to take pictures or to take care of me?”

He smiled sheepishly, “Both.”  What a sweety!

Finally, I made it down to the path where the group was waiting.  Alexei wanted to take the “stairs of penitence” the rest of the way down, but Sala, using a lot of hand gestures as if Alexei was deaf, discouraged it.  Since Alexei was still silent, he could not argue the point.  So we began walking down the path. The camel handlers kept offering me a ride saying it was a long way down, but, I was determined to walk.  The switchback path was fine in most places and not hard to walk, but, they were right it was going to be a long walk.

This picture is the only shaded section there was.

 

Pretty soon I could not see anyone ahead or behind me anymore.  Hmmm, here I am on Mount Sinai in the Sinai desert all by myself.  Yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s okay, I’m okay, in fact it feels kind of cool.  I kept walking and, after a bit, I heard someone whistle.  I looked up the mountain and a few switchbacks back, I could see Noelle and Alexei.  I guess she had been stopping to take pictures.  Cool, I kept walking because I knew they would catch up with me and I didn’t want to slow them down.

I rounded another switchback  and saw a woman sitting on the ground with a man standing over her.  As I approached, I could see her knee was bleeding.

“What happened?”  I inquired.

“I fell on my knee and it won’t stop bleeding.”  I saw several blood soaked tissues on the ground.

I knelt down, took away the tissue on her knee and saw a gash about a ½  inch wide and maybe an 1/16th  inch deep.  It was still bleeding, so I put heavier direct pressure on it.

“My name is Linda, I am a nurse. My two friends who are nurses will be here in a few minutes.  So don’t worry.”  I held pressure another minute and saw the bleeding had stopped.  I put a wad of tissue on it, wrapped her scarf tightly aroundthe tissue and her knee just to stabilize it, then rolled her pant leg down.  By this time Alexei and Noelle had arrived.  I helped the woman stand up but she felt faint and had to sit down again. I checked her heart rate which was okay, then determined she wasn’t diabetic, but I was still a bit concerned.

“Honey, you should take a camel back.”  I scanned the lower path for the camels and could just make them out in the distance.

“No, I am okay; I just get faint at the sight of blood.”

I poured some water on her head and neck then helped her up again.  This time she tried a step, stumbled and felt faint again.

“You are definitely taking a camel!” I insisted.

Alexei was already rushing down the path, trying to get help.  I could not see the camels anymore.  They were gone.  What the heck do I do now?  We are on a mountain in the desert.  We need help to get her out.  All I could think of was to give her my water, tell her to rest, tell her friend to stand over her to create some shade for her, and to take off his jacket before he got too hot.  Then Noelle and I hurried down to find help too.  Fortunately, a couple of switchbacks further down, Sala was waiting to make sure his group was descending okay.  Alexei had broken his vow of silence to tell him the problem and Sala had yelled at someone further down the path, who yelled at someone else, who yelled at someone else until eventually, hopefully, the call would reach a camel handler.

Meanwhile, Sala was staring at Alexei. “I thought you couldn’t talk!?”

It was so funny as Alexei explained his vow. Now that he was talking again, I asked him what his coolest experience had been.

“I had left you and was looking for the last set of stairs to the summit. I couldn’t find them. I couldn’t find my way.  I knew I wasn’t lost, but, I couldn’t find my path.  Then I turned around and my path was right there before me. It had always been there; I just needed to look in the right direction.”

Our eyes locked and we both understood what he was saying.  I hugged him. “That was a beautiful revelation, sweety.”

It was time to move along and we started down the path, but, Sala pointed out a shortcut across the switchbacks and said we could go that way faster.

Not sure if this was a good idea because now it was very rocky and uneven.  I fell and hit my knee; but, didn’t even check it and just kept going. I fell again. I soon realized that I was dehydrated and beginning to “hit the wall”.  I’d hit the wall once before when training for a marathon so I knew my symptoms.  It was confirmed a few minutes later when I pooped in my pants. I could see the monastery ahead; it looked so close but was really still far away.  I lost track of how many times I fell.  Thank goodness for Alexei and Noelle teasing me and keeping it light.  I didn’t tell them then about the pooping.

Alexei yelled, “Look, there’s a camel heading up the mountain!”

Great, she was going to be okay.

Finally, we were at St. Catherine’s Monastery. Noelle and I made a beeline for the bathrooms then to the store for water. Alexei took off to see the monastery.  I really wanted to go, but, I was pooped, uh, literally.

St. Catherine’s’ Monastery is an Orthodox Christian church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is reported to be one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. Originally, Helena, the mother of King Constantine had had a chapel built around the bush the monks believe is the original Burning Bush where God spoke with Moses. It was called the Chapel of the Burning Bush.  A monastic community grew around the chapel and then in 542 AD the Emperor Justinian I built a fortress- like basilica around it all to protect the monks and the bush from raiders.  This was called the Church of the Transfiguration in memory of the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Moses and Elijah on sacred Mt. Tabor.  The official name of the monastery is The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai. It is commonly known as St Catherine’s Monastery.  According to tradition, the Christian, Catherine of Alexandria, became a martyr when the Roman emperor Maximus killed her for criticizing him for worshiping pagan idols.  Apparently he tried to kill her on the “wheel”, but failed so then he had her beheaded. It is said that the angels took her remains to Mt. Sinai where in the year 800 the monks found them.

The monastery preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world. Only the Vatican Library has more.  It houses many irreplaceable works of art including the best collection of early icons to be found in the world. It also has copies of the famous document, the Achtiname, in which Muhammad bestowed his protection upon the monastery; the monks living under Islamic rule as well as the pilgrims on their way to the monastery; he also gave them freedom of worship and movement; freedom to appoint their own judges; to own and maintain their own property; exemption from military service and taxes; and, the right to have protection in war. There is  a Fatimid mosque built within the walls but it was never used because it is not correctly oriented towards Mecca.

I can’t believe I am too tired to see this place.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia and Alexei’s pictures.

 (Picture by Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 After I rested a bit, I was determined to at least see the Burning Bush and dragged my butt the full length of the grounds to go see it.

 

It was cool to see it.  I wish I wasn’t so tired.  I would have like to spend more time visiting, but not only was I too tired, it was time to meet our van and get back to Dahab.  I kind of spaced out on the van and then in the rush to get out, I left behind my Bedouin head dress.  I was really bummed about that and Alexei said I could buy one anywhere, but no, it would not be the same, so, I never did.

It was time to say goodbye to Dahab, get in our taxi and drive a few hours to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sharm el-Sheikh is the administrative hub of Egypt’s South Sinai Governorate.  It is also called the “City of Peace” due to the large number of peace conferences that have been held there.  It happens to be where the deposed President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was hanging out when he resigned.  It was also a big resort place.  It is noted for having the deadliest terrorist action in Egypt when in 2005 it was attacked by an extremist Islamist organization aiming at Egypt’s tourist industry.

To us, it meant sharing a room overnight at a nice hotel while on our way to Luxor. Originally, I had planned on getting my massage there, but honestly, I am so glad I experienced the Turkish bath with Cutey Pie in Petra instead.  All I remember about Sharm is that it was resort like, I reluctantly did some walking in a market, had a good dinner, and then I went to bed around 6 pm.

Nightey night!

DAY 13 – SHARM to LUXOR

Bright, early, and in anticipation, we are on our way to the Sharm airport for a quick hop over to Luxor. Unfortunately, when we got there we found that, since the revolution, all flights from Sharm to Luxor had been cancelled.  We have had these paid tickets for months and none of us had received any notice about this.  Plus, they wanted us to pay for a new flight to Cairo and then arrange a flight from there to Luxor!

Ay-yi-yi,  the shit shed down on Sharm that morning. Luckily for me, I was assigned by my Buds to watch the baggage while they went to have a chat with the airline manager.  I heard later that Noelle “went off” on him; and I have seen Alexei in his righteous indignation before, so I know that the manager was getting the “what for” done to him!  In addition, apparently we were not the only unhappy campers.  There were two other women whose flight had been cancelled and they were letting him have it too!

The last call was sounding overhead when the manager, Alexei and Noelle returned to me.  We scurried onto the flight at the very last minute.   Guess what? We did not have to pay extra.

When we got to Cairo, we went to the ticket agent and Alexei explained our situation.  Our bags were set aside and Alexei was sent to speak to someone. When he returned, we were sent to our flight and, once again, we did not have to pay anything more than we had already paid.

Whew!

Okay, now I don’t know how you, dear reader, would have handled all of this, but, it sent me down a little rabbit hole in my mind.  I remember how Lee, my deceased husband, could get righteously angry and make things happen.  I remember how much I loved watching Dixie Carter’s character, Julia Sugarbaker, on “Designing Women” give someone those eloquent dress downs on TV. My friends, Carolyn and Frank, don’t allow people to take advantage of them. All of these people stand up to what they perceive as “wrongs” being done to them and they say, “No! This is unacceptable!”

I have a hard time doing that for myself!  I have a hard time making a scene, getting righteously angry or exploding and demanding things be done differently.  Am I just a wimp?  I know I have done this for my siblings and for my patients in the past. I don’t think I have done it for myself very much; and, I don’t think I have been doing this for my patients very much recently either.  I used to be such an aggressive then assertive patient advocate, but, recently, I have changed.  If you have read my book you know this. I have been trusting that whatever is best is what is happening. I have been rolling with the punches, going with the flow and trusting Love. I have asked for guidance and watched for when I should say a word or take an action that would promote the highest good. But, as I watched the effectiveness of a good melt down and righteous anger, I wondered if I should start being more like that again. I really didn’t know.  So, I asked Noelle about it.

“When you go off on someone It seems very effective in getting what you want.  How do you feel about it afterward? Do you feel successful?”

“No, I feel like shit.  I don’t like getting that worked up and losing it.  I regret it and feel bad about myself for days.”

Well, dang, I didn’t expect that answer.

I still don’t know for sure. When I got back from this Mid East trip I found I had a $1200 phone bill from Verizon for data usage on my cell phone. I called and told them I had followed all of their instructions about turning off the “roaming” and shouldn’t have this charge. They told me I had not been charged at all when I had used the Wi-FY in the Mid East, rather, all of the charges were from my overnight layovers in Amsterdam, where the rules were different.

Okay, Linda, do you get righteous and yell at this girl on the phone? Do you insist on speaking to her supervisor and yell at her? Do you ask for guidance from Love and trust the highest good and that whatever is best is what will happen? Make a choice, dude, cuz now is the time!

I chose Love and said, “I followed the pre trip instructions to the letter and it is unacceptable for you to charge me.” I didn’t yell, instead, I thanked the girl for her help.  She took it upon herself to help as much as could be done.  In the end, I had to pay $600 dollars and I am grateful I had the money to pay it. But, part of me still wonders if I wimped out. I bet Alexei would have had no charges by the time he was done.

Also, I do notice that, lately, I have become more assertive again in my patient care.  But, it is not from my righteous ego thinking that I know what is best; rather, I am still choosing Love and the highest good. I do my best to advocate all that I can.  If I find it is not working then I let go and trust Love to know the bigger picture and that whatever is best will happen.

Okay, whatever; back to the trip!

We made it to our hotel in Luxor where Noelle took a quick look at the bathroom and sighed.  Yeah, it was a li’l ‘un again. But what a great location we were in! The Nile, the Luxor Temple, and the Avenue of Sphinxes were right outside!

 

Luxor is the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom era and the “glorious” city of the god Amon-Ra. Its importance started as early as the 11th Dynasty (2000’s BC) and it grew into a thriving city, renowned for its high social status, luxury, wisdom, art, religious, and political importance.  During the time of the 18th dynasty (1500’s BC) through the 20th Dynasty (1000’s BC), the city had become the major political, religious and military capital of Egypt. This time period is called the New Kingdom of the Egyptian Empire. Among other things it is the time period of Moses and the pharaohs;  of Queen Hatshepsut (Alexei’s favorite) who is considered to be one of the most successful pharaohs and who reigned longer than any other woman of an indigenous dynasty; Amenhotep III who was pharaoh when Egypt was at the peak of her artistic and international power; Akhenaten who refused the traditional Egyptian polytheism and practiced monotheistic worship of a one true god named Aten; the well known King Tutankhamun; and Ramses III second pharaoh in the 20th dynasty who is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt.  His reign is believed to have been from 1186 to 1155 BC.  Trying to date dynasties is still somewhat controversial, so I am giving you only the approximate dates.

Despite the decline of political and military importance and moving the capital of Egypt to other cities, Thebes remained the religious capital of Egypt. The main god of the city was Amon, who was worshipped along with his wife the goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, the god of the moon. As Thebes had risen to importance through the years, so did their god. He became linked to the sun god Ra, becoming the new “king of gods” and was called Amon-Ra. His temple at Karnak just north of Thebes was the most important temple of Egyptian antiquity. Thebes remained a site of spirituality and attracted numerous Christian monks in the Roman Empire who established monasteries amidst several ancient monuments including the temple of Hatshepsut.

There are lots and lots of temples, tombs, and ruins to see here and I know we will not be able to get to all of them on this visit.  On this first day, though, our hotel is just a block away from the Temple of Luxor and so off we go to see it.

The earliest parts of the Temple still standing are the chapels built by Hatshepsut. The main part of the temple was built by Amenhotep III with a later addition by Ramses II. There are also some chapels built by Tuthmosis III and Alexander the Great. During the Roman era, the temple was a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in that area.

If Alexei or Noelle will read this blog, maybe, they can identify some pictures!

 

 

This Obelisk is one of two built by Ramses II. The other one was given, in exchange for a clock that doesn’t work, to King Louis V and stands in the Concorde Square in Paris.

 

 

Alexei tried to teach me a lot of things, but honestly, my brain couldn’t hold them.  I was amazed at his level of information including his ability to read hieroglyphics.

 

 

 

 This mosque was built on top of the temple when it was buried under 20’ of sand.

 

 This is the court of Amenhotep III.

 This is toward the back of the Temple.

 I was enjoying seeing all of this, but, my favorite times were these:

 

 

Sorry for the blurriness.

I also loved the temple at night.

 

(Picture by Noelle Meluskey)

The blue of the night reminded me so much of the blue water at the Blue Hole in Dahab.  At a certain point, they were the exact same color. As above, so below.

The Avenue of the Sphinxes looks cool in this shot too. This avenue  originally went from Luxor Temple to Karnak.

(picture by Noelle Meluskey)

It was a wonderful first time introduction to the ancients of Egypt, however, in my mind there was a little more going on. When we first began to walk toward the temple, I could hear a woman talking to me in my mind. Her voice came from across the Nile and was centered at Hatshepsut’s Temple.

“I need you to come here to see me.”

“I am coming tomorrow. What is happening with you?”

“I don’t know what the wise thing is to do. I have been staying here for thousands of years, waiting for the time I will rise again.  I am wondering if this is a mistake.”

Suddenly, I could hear a male’s voice coming from Luxor Temple.

“Do not give up.  We have waited this long, we can wait longer.  Our time will come again. We are from the Gods, we will return.”

The woman said, “What for?  We are irrelevant now and have been for some time. Whether I am here or not doesn’t matter. These people come to see our buildings and to learn about us, but, we do not factor in their lives anymore. I don’t want to be nothing. I am feeling like it is a mistake to stay here longer.”

I can see she is becoming a little distraught. “What do you want?”

“I don’t want to be stuck and that is how I feel.  I am a woman of action. I have been doing nothing for so long now.  I am thinking my beliefs have been wrong.  I want to move on.”

The man yelled, “If you give up on the Gods you will be nothing!”

I asked her, “What do you say to that?”

“Perhaps it is true, but, what I am experiencing now is “nothing”.  I don’t want to let fear of the unknown keep me stuck here. It is possible that if I take the chance and leave I may have an opportunity to create a new me, a new self.  I don’t know, but I have seen your mind and the things you have been doing with people; I want to you to help me move on.”

She’s seen my mind?? Hmm, okay, that’s a first, but it’s cool.

“Can you let go of your beliefs and perceptions and open yourself to another way of perceiving?”

“Yes, I am ready.”

It was easy to take her through a brief visualization and statement of intent to see things in a different way. She was soooo ready.  As I watched, she just let go, became a light and zoomed off into light. I heard her voice on the wind, saying, “Thank you.”

Well dang, Linda, you’re doing it again. You know there’s a lot of old spirits who have intended to hang around here, you gonna be talking to all of them? Nope, just the ones who talk to me first.

I am on vacation.

DAY 14 – LUXOR cont. – HATSHEPSUT, RAMSES III, etc

Noelle is sick in bed today. Bummer! She says she will be okay and just needs to sleep.

Alexei and I are continuing with our plan which is to visit his “girl” Hatshepsut’s temple on the west Nile at Deir el-Bahri.

Hatshepsut was one cool chick depending upon whose point of view you take. I think it’s cool that although someone tried to erase her from history, the laugh is on them. Part of her history is still debated, but, I am going to tell you what I have gleaned from various sources including Wikipedia and a National Geographic article by Chip Brown.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

Hatshepsut is said to be the first great woman in recorded history, paving the way for other great women such as Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I.  She took the position of pharaoh and reigned for 22 years. While being successful in warfare in her early reign she is generally considered to be a pharaoh who began a long peaceful era in Egypt; re-establishing lost trading relationships and bringing great wealth to Egypt. She was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt.  Her building projects raised the bar of ancient Egyptian architecture to such a level it would not have a rival for another 1000 years. She sent out an expedition to the land of Punt (possibly current Ethiopia and Somalia) which brought back, among other things, 31 live myrrh trees. This is the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

While women had a high status in ancient Egypt, a woman pharaoh was a very rare thing. Why she did it, no one really knows. Depending upon whose point of view you read, Hatshepsut was either a wicked, crafty, step-mother or she was a very intelligent, unique woman and a skillful political leader.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose and his Great Royal Wife, Queen Ahmose. While Thutmose had been married into the royal line, his wife Ahmose is considered to be of the blood royal. Unfortunately, they only conceived a girl. Eventually, Thutmose produced a son by another queen and named him  Thutmose II. It is he who actually inherited the crown because, yeah, he was male.

Following a common method of fortifying royal lineages, Hatshepsut married her half-brother Thutmose II. They had a daughter. Once again, that was a problem because kingship was not supposed to be passed down to daughters. Religious beliefs said that women were not adequate enough to handle the role. So, Thutmose II had a son by a lesser wife and named him Thutmose III. Unfortunately, “T -2” died shortly later and left a son too young to rule. In this scenario it was normal for the queen to step in as a regent, handling political affairs, while the little guy grew up and learned the ropes.

Hatshepsut did not do that.  Why? No one knows for sure. After initially acting like a typical regent, Hatshepsut began taking on kingly functions like making offerings to the Gods and ordering obelisks built. Soon, she just assumed the role of “king” of Egypt and relegated her step-son to second-in-command.  Was she the evil step-mom or was she a skilled politician? Remember, Egyptians believed the pharaohs were divine; but, her brother/husband, Thutmose II, was the offspring of an adopted king and therefore his son, Thutmose III was not of royal blood. Only Hatshepsut was a true blue blood and had a biological link to divine royalty. Wisely or shrewdly, when Hatshepsut’s husband had died she did not call herself the King’s Wife, rather, she took the title, God’s Wife of Amun. This way she was not just the daughter of a king, nor just the wife of a king – she was the wife of a God and, dude, she could sure as heck be a pharaoh. The chick was smart!

Oh yeah, this has all the makings of a good soap opera.

In her written texts she made no secret that she was a woman; the suffixes of words referring to her had the female endings. But, as the years went by she seems to have decided it was easier to have her likeness depicted as a male king, using the traditional male pharaoh’s headdress, kilt and false beard.

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

She also created a fable that said the god Amun had come to her mother in the form of her father Thutmose and that Hatshepsut was Amun’s daughter. The oracle of Amun proclaimed that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut be pharaoh.

It must have been an effective media strategy that helped her to be accepted by the masses and the religious leaders because it seems no one disputed her “pharaoh-ness”. However, after her death, some someone tried to erase her from history.  For a long while it was thought her step-son, Thutmose III, was trying to get back at a “step-mommy dearest”; but, why would he? In addition to being Egypt’s most successful general –known as the Napoleon of Egypt- he was also an acclaimed athlete, author, historian, botanist, and architect. What would his beef be? Did he hold onto a twenty year resentment and then rebel after her death?

Was it his son, Amenhotep II, who worried that his lack of “royal blood” would question his right to be pharaoh?

Was it an attempt to erase the fact that a woman had been equal to or better than a man at being a pharaoh?

No one knows the answers at this time. At any rate, the random, sporadic erasures took her name (cartouche) and her image out of the public eye.  At her Deir el-Bahri temple numerous of her statues were torn down and smashed or disfigured before being buried in a pit. At Karnak there was an attempt to wall up her obelisks. Amenhotep II actually began usurping many of her accomplishments claiming them as his own.

          The statue on the left is supposed to look like the one on the right.

This erasure of Hatshepsut almost caused her to disappear from Egypt’s archaeological and written records. Fortunately, when 19th century Egyptologists started to interpret the texts on the Deir el-Bahri temple walls their translations were making no sense due to the conflicts between the pictures of two seemingly male kings and the feminine endings of the nouns and verbs being used in the texts. It was in the non-public recesses of temples, etc. that her identity as pharaoh was found.

In 1903 archaeologist Howard Carter found Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus in the 20th tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV20), but, it was empty. No one knew if her mummy had survived or where it could be.

Carter made another discovery in a tomb close by. KV60 was a minor structure whose entrance was found inside the corridor of another tomb called KV19.  Inside KV60 were two naked mummies, one who was found in a coffin and the other was lying amidst rags on the floor. The one in the coffin was thought to have been Hatshepsut’s nurse and was taken to the Egyptian museum. The other one was left on the floor of the tomb where it had been found.

Over the years, Egyptologists lost track of the entrance to KV60 and the mummy on the floor effectively disappeared.

In 1989 Donald Ryan came to explore several small undecorated tombs, including KV60.  He arrived too late his first day to do any real work and so just decided to stroll around the site. He wandered over to the entrance of KV19 and for the heck of it, hoping the entrance to KV60 would be nearby, he began sweeping the corridor.

He found a crack in the rock! A stone hatch revealed a set of stairs and a week later he entered the lost tomb. He found the naked female mummy lying in a mess of rags, but there was still nothing to say she was Hatshepsut.

Two decades later CAT scan tests done on four unidentified female mummies were still inconclusive. But then a wooden box engraved with Hatshepsut’s cartouche (name) was scanned.  In it was found to be her liver and a tooth with part of its root missing. The jaw images of the four mummies were re-examined and right there in the mummy from KV60 was a root with no tooth! They were measured and it was a match! It is not 100% proof, but pretty close that this denuded mummy found lying on the floor on top of rags was Hatshepsut. Now she is enshrined in one of the Royal Mummy Rooms at the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

This chick could not be kept down!  I like her.

Despite the prevailing beliefs, Hatshepsut proved that a woman was as capable as a man to successfully create and rule over a prosperous Egypt.

No wonder Alexei loves Hatshepsut! He is excited to visit her temple today.

We took a water taxi over to the west bank then rented bicycles to go to Deir el-Bahri.  It is near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings which came into existence because of all the pharaohs who later chose to associate their complexes with the grandeur of Hatshepsut’s.

When we got to Deir el-Bahri and I saw the temple in the distance, I have to say I was disappointed.  What is so special about this construction?  It looks like so many other administrative type buildings.  Then it occurred to me, yeah Linda, but this one was built first! This building is a colonnaded structure that was built nearly 1000 years before the Parthenon!

It is called Djeser-Djeseru and it sits atop a series of terraces that used to have wonderful gardens.

 

 aerial view

 As we began our tour of the temple, one of the local “guides” came to talk to us, but, he soon backed away as he listened to Alexei’s obviously knowledgeable lecture. It was the first, but not the last time I would hear   the locals call Alexei, “Doctor”.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember most of the lecture, but, I will show you some pictures. I have added contrast lighting to the pictures so you can see them easier.

 

 

 

 

  

We did take some time out for me to mediate here. I tucked myself into a small shaded recess and said “Hello” in my mind. Once again, I could hear the woman’s voice from last night.

 “I appreciate that people come to my temple and that I am remembered for what I have done, but, it isn’t enough. I want to be relevant! I can’t be that by hanging around here. I am moving on now. I am letting go of what I was and will see what I can become. Thank you for helping me take this step.”  And then she was gone.

Hmm, I wonder what this means or how it will manifest? I thought  the Egyptian belief was that the soul would move on; why would she be stuck here? I don’t know.

I wonder am I resting upon my laurels, my past? Am I relevant in my present? Is it time to take a step into the new me, whatever that is? In my book I ask the question, “What would a Linda created by Love be like?” Is this my new step? Whatever my step is, I am ready.  In my mind I see me at a precipice and like Indiana Jones, I step off.  Here I am, Love, ready to be my full potential in whatever way serves Love best for the highest good.

We left Hatshepsut’s temple and visited some small private tombs of nobles. One was the tomb of Ramose

When we entered the tomb I felt love.  There was picture on a wall of Ramose and his wife and I told Alexei that I thought they must have loved each other a lot because I was feeling so much love in this tomb.

 I liked being in this tomb. A lot of the pictures on the walls looked more like real people in everyday life settings. There was more color. The whole feeling of the place was so different.

While writing this post I googled this tomb and found that Ramose had been a governor and vizier to Akhenaten.  He was one of the earliest converts from worshipping the traditional polytheistic Egyptian gods, of whom Amun was supreme, to following Akhenaten’s worship of one god, Aten, the light of the sun. His tomb reflects the period between the two faiths and the change of artwork in the Armana period going from the traditional unpainted stylized reliefs to more of a painted realistic/naturalistic style.

 

I didn’t know this then, it just felt good to me in that tomb.

We went on to visit the tomb of Menna who had been a scribe. Artwork here showed the daily life of the working people.

 

Next we went to Medinet Habu  a complex of various temples including that of Ramses III which is considered to be the best preserved mortuary temple. Alexei says Ramses III is my “boy” because of my reaction to the temple. What can I say; the feeling was just so different, so self – aggrandizing male! These walls did not contain the delicately carved or painted scenes I had already seen that day.  No, these walls were carved for permanence. “Nobody is gonna be erasing me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever Ramses intention, I am grateful because the artwork was really beautiful in places and I didn’t have to squint my eyes to see it!

 

 

Ramses III was the last great pharaoh and although he protected Egypt through wars with the Libyans and then the Sea Peoples, history in the Middle East was changing.

 

This was the time of the Trojan War, the fall of Mycenae- ancient Greece, and the beginning of its dark ages.  It was the end of the Bronze age and the beginning of the Iron Age but Egypt had no sources of ore and fell upon economic hard times. The first known labor strike in recorded history happened during Ramses’ reign. Also, a lot of infighting began, again, between the northern and southern sections of Egypt. The priesthood became very powerful and eventually took control of the government. There was a conspiracy in Ramses’ Harem to poison him due to two of his wives competing over whose son would be the successor.  Although the main conspirators were all found and punished, it isn’t really known if Ramses died from the poison or a snake bite.

Dude, you just never know what is gonna bring you down, do you?

DAY 15 – LUXOR cont. – BALLOON, VALLEY of the KINGS, etc

YAY!!! We are going on a hot air balloon trip today.  Noelle is feeling better which is good because we have to get up early. We will be taking a water taxi, as usual, to get to the west bank.  Here is a picture of the water taxis during the daytime. Usually, we would climb through one after the other until we got to the one we had contracted with, but,

this time, we are on a balloon tour and it’s dark so thank goodness the taxi is right at the dock!  And, hey, there is breakfast!!. Look at Alexei in his jalibeya (man dress) and keffiyeh (turban). Whenever he was dressed in this local outfit, people would ask his name and he would reply, “Ismi, Macmoud.”  They would always delightfully crack up. I don’t know why, but it was fun to watch.

 

I have wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride for a very long time. I tried to do it in Sedona, Arizona, but the wind wasn’t right and they cancelled it.  This one is a go and I am like a kid…so excited!

 

Up, up and away we go!!!

 

There is Deir el-Bahri with Hatshepsut’s temple (in the bend of the cliffs) in both pictures along with various other tombs:

 

 When we went to Hatshepsut’s temple yesterday we  passed a village that Alexei said had been filled with people including  children on his last visit. In fact, we had brought a bunch of pens for the kids because they love receiving them. But, now the village is empty. Apparently the government is planning on creating a huge kind of “theme park” that will link the various archeological sites and so the people had to move. Here is the empty village from yesterday:

 

Here is another village.  I am not sure if this one has people still in it.

 

Thank goodness for the Nile River and the irrigation channels that come from it. I am not sure what the wall is for. I don’t think it can keep out desert storms!

 

All too soon the ride was done.  I am happy I finally got to do a balloon ride and what a great place to do it. Another check off of the ‘ol bucket list!

 

 Next, we are going to the Valley of the Kings.

Back in the old, old days, i.e. the Old Kingdom (2000’s to 3000’s BCE), pyramids  were built in which to bury the pharaohs as we shall see later in Giza. But, after the pyramids of the Old and Middle Kingdoms were plundered, the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (1500’s to 1000’s BCE),  went underground in a valley on the west bank of the Nile.  In 1979 the Valley of the Kings became a World Heritage Site. Over 60 tombs are here, ranging from simple pits to a complex tomb with 120 chambers. It is in this valley that the tomb of King Tutankhamun was found.

 (Northern view of valley – Picture from Wikipedia

 Below is a one dimensional map of the tombs.

 I wish I could have taken a picture of the huge, three dimensional, map model I saw in the museum site at the V of K.  It showed the tunneled corridors descending into various depths and ending in tombs and how some corridors took off of other corridors.  I could really grasp the enormity of what had been accomplished by looking at this format.  However, we were not allowed cameras, so all of the following pictures are from other sources. There are a lot more pictures you can see on line if you do a google search, but, they have copyrights, so I am not using them here.

 

(Picture of area around KV62 from Wikipedia)

 

 (Picture of entrance to Horemheb’s tomb from Wikipedia)

(Picture by Crystalinks.com)

Not all of the tombs are open to visitors and many are open only on a rotating basis. We decided to not see King Tut’s tomb because, one,  we would be seeing his stuff at the Cairo museum; and, two, the fee to his tomb was three times the amount of others. So, we decided to go to Ramses III and to Merenptah’s tombs.

As we entered Ramses’ tomb, suddenly, in my mind, a monstrous face appeared.  I think it was trying to scare me.  I started laughing, “Hmm, what the heck are you doing? That doesn’t scare me.” It squinted its eyes at me and then disappeared.

Noelle glanced back at me and gave me the “eye”; she knew something was going on in my head.

I don’t remember a lot about what I saw in the tomb, because the spirit kept distracting me by showing me how cool he was. He would point out various pictures of himself and his deeds and say, “See, see.”

I have only one picture from Wikipedia.

 

 Finally, I said, “You are a dead king being remembered through decaying ruins. Is that what you want? Is that all you are?”

“What do you mean, is that all I am?”

“You’re stuck in who you used to be. Wouldn’t you like to come into present time and explore who you could be now? All this other stuff already happened.  Yeah it’s cool for me to visit; but dude, you been there, you done that. Have you stopped living? I don’t think so – you are here, I am talking to you. You are still alive, but WHO ARE YOU NOW!?”

Woah, that caught his attention.  He disappeared for a little bit, then returned.

“What happens if I leave here?”

“I don’t know for sure. Don’t you have your beliefs about becoming one with Osiris and Ra? Aren’t you supposed to go through a bunch of challenges and perils in the underworld, then come out on top and be immortal?”

He gave me a wry look and replied, “Well that hasn’t happened. So now what?”

“I don’t know for sure.”

“You sent Hatshepsut off into a white light.”

“No, Hatshepsut saw a white light and chose to go into it. A lot of my patients do this too; I thought it might be a Christian cultural thing, but maybe not. I don’t try to explore the afterlife too much because I want to be able to flow with my patients’ belief systems and allow Love to guide them to find Truth for themselves in their own time and in whatever way is best for them.  After all, who am I? I don’t know what the Truth is. I believe in Love and I just keep following my path in Love, learning as I go, helping as I can. I do think that my self- identity as Linda is just a small part of who I really am. Linda, the “mini me” is only a character the “bigger me” is playing in this reality right now. I think that when I allow my consciousness to expand, I become the “greater me”, part of the One – the Source, and that there is no end to my beingness. It is all a matter of which viewpoint I am seeing myself from at any given moment.  As I change my viewpoint from the Source, and my perspective compartmentalizes while descending through filters of beliefs and life experiences I eventually percieve life through the mind of “mini me”, Linda. Then through this character, Linda, I experience myself in a variety of relationships with all the parts of the reality I am in. Through my relationships with all, I get to explore myself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I get to experiment with different aspects and combinations of myself to further my evolution as a creative being. It can be fun, it can be scary, but it’s all good. To me, the worse thing I could do is to get stuck trying to hold onto something that doesn’t serve my evolution now. Stuck because of fear.  I have scared  myself in the past – scared by what I created and then scared of how my fearful reactions created more scary stuff; but, I have since chosen to trust Love and to allow Love to guide my choices. Now I am more able to act rather than react. Now I can trust and enjoy living, exploring and expressing myself. I choose Love and when those times come that Love leads me to my next step – I take it.”

Well, that was a mouthload, Linda!

He stared at me, then got a little smile on his face.  A white light appeared before us. I turned to look at it. When I looked back there he was in full regalia sitting upon a huge white horse. He yelled, the horse reared, and they charged into the light.  I heard his voice floating back to me, “I will be back!”

“Well okay then.”

Hmm, that was quite the interchange.  I continued to explore Ramses’ tomb and then, as we were heading out, I saw a white light off to my right.  There was this hunky dude, in a T-shirt, jeans and bare feet.  He smiled, “I think I’m gonna like me in this now.” Then he and the light were gone.

Oh, baby, yeah; I have no doubt you are gonna have fun!

I started laughing again and Noelle said, “Okay, who are you talking to inside that head of yours?”

I just shook my head.

We left Ramses’ tomb and headed to Merenptah’s. In my head, I heard a voice say, “So you got rid of Ramses.”

“No I didn’t.  He made a choice.”

“I heard the whole thing and I saw the whole thing with Hatshepsut too.”

I stopped walking and stared at him, “Okay, so what are you going to do?”

He grinned.  A white doorway appeared. He straightened his shoulders and regally went through it.

I looked around and, just like my experience at Monte Alban, little white lights shot off into the sky.

Now both Noelle and Alexei are looking at me. “What’s going on?” Noelle asks.

“They’re leaving.” I said.

Alexei said, “Linda if you send  all of them away, what’s going to be left?”

“I’m not sending them, they are choosing to go.” I defended. I thought to myself, “What’s left? Beautiful ruins  of historical achievments for us to learn from, admire,  and enjoy.”

Such as Merenptah’s  sarcophagus.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

 We left the Valley of the Kings and took a water taxi back to the east bank. This time Alexei got to steer!

 

 Next stop is the hotel and then the Luxor museum. We took a buggy ride and Alexei got to drive this too.

 

 The museum was very cool to visit. I liked it. It was opened in 1975 and had great displays.  It prides itself upon the quality of their artifacts and the uncluttered way they are displayed.  But, Alexei said, “Wait until you see the museum in Cairo!”

(Picture from Wikipedia)

 (Picture by rosegirl)

(Hathor – picture from Wikipedia)

We headed back via the same carriage and Alexei drove again. Noelle calls this my Mother Teresa look. Whaddya  think? If only I was haf as good as she was.

 

 

 I want to comment here about how much the economy is hurting due to lack of tourists.  Despite our telling this carriage driver we did not want to ride back from the museum he waited almost two hours for us to finish our visit and then talked us into taking the ride again. These people are desperate for tourists. I felt it so strongly at Luxor in particular. In the Souk (markets) where we were headed to next, I could feel the desperate need to sell stuff. I have been to markets in poor places and have bought from very aggressive sellers, but, the feeling here in Luxor was different.  Also, the little “baksheesh” (tip) was everywhere!  With any little help a person gave to me, they expected baksheesh.  One guy kept hounding us to tell him what we were looking for so he could take us to the right shops.  We told him no and then ignored him as he followed us.  When we did stop at a shop, he told the seller there that he had brought us and wanted baksheesh from him.  Over the days I became aware of how I stopped asking for help and was even trying to not  look like I might need help, because I didn’t want to deal with it. It was weird because this kind of stuff doesn’t usually bother me.  It came to a head later, in Giza. Another lesson for me.

 I also felt like people were not living and that they were just trying to exist. I had emailed my sister with this concern.  The energy was so low.  I really wanted to see people outside of the markets and in their natural home life, but, I wasn’t sure that would happen. I did see a small family reunion in the hotel lobby. Everyone was happy to see each other, but still, the energy seemed so tired.

We planned to spend the rest of the day “souking”; first though, a trip to our favorite ATM.  To get there we had to go through the “tourist’s market” where we had been many times already.  This time though, Noelle fell. The men all around us jumped to their feet, ready to help.  One of the shopkeepers came running and offered an oil to put on her tender ankle. Embarrassed, Noelle struggled to her feet and brushed away all of the attention.  I noticed the guy though. I had seen his shop many times but had never gone in. Now, I realized he was a healer and that he had some kind of healing agent he was trying to get her to use. How funny that I am just now noticing him.  Nevertheless, we left in a hurry.

Noelle felt okay and thought she could still go souking. The following pictures are of the markets.  There are different types of markets from those for tourists to the ones locals shop from.  Pretty much anything you want you will find in the souks. A little disclaimer here – it is entirely possible I have mixed up pictures of markets from  Luxor and Aswan, sorry.

 

 

 

 Ahh, sugarcane juice, Alexei’s favorite:

 

 Falafel and Hummus, I think:

And shawarma for me, of course!

Then there is the sheesha – the water pipe smoking. This is mostly a man thing. In fact, I don’t think I saw any woman who was not a tourist, smoking a pipe.   Alexei loved to have his sheesha and tea. I tried the pipe once and inhaled- big mistake for me; I am a singer, smoking messes up my vocal chords. Thereafter no more inhaling, if I smoked at all.   Noelle would smoke now and then; but mostly, we had the tea.

Well, it has been a long day. Noelle managed to souk while gimping around on her ankle. Tomorrow we head out to Karnak. So, one last sheesha ‘n tea, please.

 DAY 16 AND 17 – LUXOR cont. – KARNAK

Today we are going to Karnak. Karnak is a huge open air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is the main place of worship for the Theban triad of gods: Amun-Re, his consort Mut, and their son, Montu or Khonsu; or something like that.  Yes, the alternate names of the gods and the evolutions of their aspects can be very confusing to me. It is way more complex than what I am presenting here, believe me.

Karnak is a complex of temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings.  Ancient temples were considered to be the residences of the gods. The Temple was a closed compound, open only to the priests and the pharaoh. The public could only enter the courtyard.

What is so cool about Karnak is that the construction of all these things took place over a couple of thousand years beginning in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) and ending with Cleopatra in the Ptolemaic Times (Greek rule of Egypt 305 – 30 BC) when the Romans took over. Approximately 30 different pharaohs contributed to the buildings making Karnak attain a size, complexity and diversity not seen anywhere else.

 (1914 by Cornell University – from Wikipedia)

Karnak is divided into four parts: the Precinct of Amun-Re, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu( Khonsu) and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV.  Only Amun-Re’s precinct is open to the public at this time.

Below is the sacred lake where the priests would do purifications and during festivals, images of the gods would travel across the lake in boats. This sacred lake is the largest known sacred lake.

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

Next is the great Hypostyle Hall built by Seti I. The roof is gone but the hall covers 50,000 sq feet. It has 134 columns in 16 rows. The two middle rows are about 36 feet high. It was a forest of columns.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

(1838 Lithograph by David Roberts – from Wikipedia)

It was in here that I first saw in my mind an old, tired looking man sitting at a table writing something down.

He said, “I am weary.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking care of business, of course.”

“What business are you taking care of?”

“God business, except I have no more power. No one believes in me anymore. I am an unused deity.”

“What does that mean? If you are God, you are God, right?”

He sighed, “No, Linda. I am a created deity; I have no power except that which my followers projected onto me. They gave me their own power and then put their faith in me to tell them what to do.  It is useful because  when they act in the name of god, they are not responsible for the success or failure of the action, rather, the outcome is god’s will. Also, when believing they are acting out god’s will, people will allow their power to expand exponentially and they can achieve things they never could if they believed they were acting only for their own will.”

“Why?”

“People are not comfortable acknowledging their personal power so most of them deny it exists. Mostly they are afraid of how their weak, unwise egos would use it, so they give it away to gods and other images of power and then let themselves be told what to do.”

“So, what do I believe in then?”

“You already know the answer to this, Linda.  You told it to Ramses. Believe in your SELF.  You are an expression and manifestation of Love, Linda. When you are in communication with your Inner Voice and align your Linda- self with your God-self and Source in Love then you are One. Then instead of using power to create for the ego, you use it to create for Love. You don’t have to be afraid of acknowledging yourself anymore.”

And then he was gone in a burst of light. Just like that.

Holy Moly, I don’t know about this one, I don’t feel very powerful. I have my own issue that I can’t seem to get over, i.e. overeating.  Maybe I have given my power to this.  I don’t know, I have to think about all of this, but not right now cuz I am still checking out Karnak.

We headed back into the “Holy of Holies”, the sanctuary where the priest performed sacred rituals and the king would commune with the god, Amun. By the way, I read that the word “amen” said at the end of a prayer, is a direct reference to the god Amun who was also called Amen and Amon.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 This is the Ptolemaic gateway in front of the Temple of Khonsu (Montu):

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 Hatshepsut restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient Egyptian mother goddess. She had twin obelisks erected at the entrance to the temple. One fell and the other is still standing as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth.

(Precinct of Mut -Picture from Wikipedia)

(Picture by Steve F.E. Cameron- from Wikipedia)

This is the statue of the sacred scarab which represents the god Khepri, the reborn sun at dawn. The scarab is a dung beetle that lays its eggs in a dung ball which it then pushes around with its feet. The eggs would benefit from the protection and the warmth of the dung.  The image of the larvae coming out of the dung ball became the symbol of rebirth; the dung ball became the symbol of the sun rising up into the sky; and the dung beetle pushing the dung ball became the symbol of the sun traversing the sky each day.  The local guides say that if you walk around this statue seven times you will never again have love problems. There were people doing it!

 

(Picture by Steve F.E. Cameron- from Wikipedia)

 We stopped at a snack bar for a break and found that a cat had kittens and one of the grounds keepers was fishing for little fishes that she could eat. This entranced Alexei.  He loves animals.

After this nice interlude we decided to go back to the hotel. There is still so much to see at Karnak, but, we were weary. On our way down the path that led out of the complex, Alexei was talking, but I could hear a wailing sound.  I thought it might be a baby crying in the village about a 1/4/ mile away.

Noelle stopped walking and asked, “What’s that sound?”

Immediately, Alexei stopped talking and like a hound dog began to track the sound.

In my mind the thought came, “NO! Don’t go look, what will we do with what we find? We are on vacation in a foreign country, what do we do?”

OMG! Where did that come from? That kind of fear thought is so not me.

Is it?

But, before I could start berating myself for having it, my Inner Voice said, “Calm down and observe.”

I became very neutral and almost in a detached space as I watched   this experience unfold before us.

Alexei walked into the huge, sandy, undeveloped area between Karnak and the village.  About 100 yards into it, I could see him bend down and the wailing stopped.  He came back carrying a small puppy that lay contentedly on his forearm. It had been left out in the sun.

Right away, Alexei and Noelle were trying to figure out how to smuggle the puppy back into the hotel. Alexei was making plans to take her home with him to live with his two other dogs; and, “Hey, where can we find some milk?”.

They found some milk at a tourist shop and we took a taxi back to the hotel. They went inside while I went to the ATM.  When I came back to Alexei’s room the little girl had been washed in cool water, taken some sips of mild and was now resting in a blue towel Alexei had brought from home.  I went over to check her energy.  It was very strong to my senses.

Noelle said, “Look, Linda’s giving her a healing.”

“No, I’m not. Her energy is strong, she could make it.  I am asking Love to take care of her and for whatever is best.”

Alexei said, “That is her name then – Karnak Inshallah”

Inshallah means “God willing”.

We had to run some errands. I don’t remember where I went, but Alexei and Noelle had to go to the ATM and somehow they got into a conversation with the healer guy who had tried to help Noelle when she had fallen before. This guy keeps popping up! I wish I had taken time to meet him. He offered to take care of Karnak Inshallah and  to make sure she got good care.

That made me aware that no matter where I am or what situation I am in, I can rely on Love. I don’t need to feel the fear of “what to do”; instead, just choose Love, act, and follow Love’s guidance.  I thought I had already learned that when I took care of Bella as related by her story in my book. I guess I still need more learnin’.

When we got back to the hotel, we found that Karnak Inshallah had died. It was a somber moment for all of us.

The next day, by himself, Alexei took Karnak Inshallah over to the west bank of the Nile. He found a beautiful, peaceful place to bury her.

Rest in peace little Karnak Inshallah.

DAY 18 AND 19 – ASWAN

We are going to Aswan today, but before I get into that, I want to tell you about our last night in Luxor.

Do you remember my comment about how the people of Luxor seemed desperate, not living, but, just trying to exist? I wished I could see people in their more natural settings. Well I did. This last night in Luxor we went to the square outside of the Luxor Temple and it was filled with families. There were Mothers and Fathers with their babies and little ones; teen age boys exuberantly playing soccer; toddler boys trying to kick a soccer ball that came up to their knees; vendors selling refreshments and balloons.  It was such a relaxed, pleasant time.

Then there were horns honking as a large group of motorcyclists noisily drove down the street. They rode with two to three guys on a bike and no helmets. I could tell they were celebrating something. Later as I walked, alone, back to my hotel, I saw them all parked outside of a photo shop.  I stopped to talk with them and found that their friends were getting married.  The wedding party was inside to get the pictures done.

The evening was fun, it was alive, and I was happy to be able to share in it.  That night, I received an email from my friend, Nadia, who works in the same hospital I work in.  She is from Luxor and had given me her family’s contact info for emergencies. Now she said her family would like to meet me. I would have loved that too, but, it was too late. I am grateful for this insightful night in Luxor.

Okay, back to today!  We are taking a train from Luxor to Aswan.   Aswan was the ancient Egyptian’s gateway to Africa. Now, it lies just below the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser. It is the smallest of the three major cities along the Nile and has a large population of Nubian people who were relocated when building of the dam flooded their homelands. The High Dam was built in the 1960 -70’s because the Low Dam was not high enough. There is a lot of political history with the building of the High Dam which I am not going into here. Aswan is also home to many of the granite quarries from which most of the Obelisks were built. There is a lot to see here and I know we will only be seeing a fraction of it.

The hotel we had planned on staying at didn’t exist anymore. Our ever resourceful Alexei scoured the travel guide during the train ride then while we waited at the train station in Aswan, he found a hotel for us.  Here is our view:

 Perfect!

Yes, it still had the tiny bathroom, but what the hey, it was clean.  Yes the lobby was on the second floor, but by this time, I was strong enough to carry my luggage up the first stairs myself. Yes, it had one of those tiny elevators that began at lobby level, but at least it was there and it worked.  I loved it!

We all agreed that the first thing we wanted to do was to rent a felucca and go sail on the Nile.

I don’t know, maybe it was this sail ride as my introduction to Aswan, but, I felt so much more relaxed in this city. We would only be here a couple of days, yet, I wished we could stay longer to see the entire city and to visit the surrounding areas.

That evening we headed out to have sheesha and tea at the market.  Noelle and I actually smoked a little that night to the delight of three men sitting next to us. One was in the honey bee business, one was a banker and one was a history professor.  The beekeeper spoke just a minimum amount of English, but somehow, we were able to communicate. They took pictures of us with them.  I know they were delighted with Noelle and her girls.

The next day, we went touring. First up was the Unfinished Obelisk which is the largest known ancient obelisk. If finished it would have been about 137 feet and weighed about 1200 tons. It was found in the quarry in 2005. The cool thing about seeing this is how you can get an insight into ancient Egyptian stone working techniques.  You can see the marks from the worker’s tools and the line markings that they followed.  They were carving this stone right out of the bedrock, but cracks appeared in the granite and the project was abandoned. I am neither a stone mason nor an engineer, but, when I look at this, I don’t see how there wouldn’t be cracks. The length and angle of the obelisk just looks like there would be too much stress on it.

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

You can also find rock carvings and remains in this open air museum and archeological site where most of the famous obelisks were worked.  Before the tour we watched an interesting video of the site.

We left the obelisks and headed to the Temple of Philae. Philae is actually a plural word that refers to two small islands in the Nile – Philae and Agilkia.  These islands were centers of commerce between Egypt and Nubia (Ethiopia), but, their main feature was their architect. Monuments and temples from the late Egyptian Pharonic periods through the Greek Ptolemaic to the Roman times of the Caesars’ can be found here. The principal deity here was Isis. It was the last pagan temple to exist in the Mediterranean world when it was closed in the 6th century and Philae became the seat of the Christian religion. The temple was made into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary until Muslim invaders closed it in the 7th century.

In 1902 the Low Dam was completed on the Nile River.  Its height was increased twice. Many of the ancient landmarks including the temple complex at Philae were getting flooded. So, in 1960,  Egypt and UNESCO began a massive project to save the buildings. First they built two rows of steel plates that held sand to block the water; residual water was pumped away from the buildings. Then they cleaned and measured the monuments with photogammetry, a method that enables the exact reconstruction of the original size of the building blocks used by the ancient builders. Then they dismantled the buildings, transported them to the higher ground on Agilkia Island and reconstructed the monuments. Awesome!

When we arrived at the dock on the mainland there were MANY small boats vying to ferry us to the island. Alexei made a deal with one and we found ourselves on a very small, twitchy motor boat, hoping we wouldn’t end up swimming.

I could see a small island ahead of us and  I could see beautiful golden light radiating into the sky like a huge halo.  It was coming from something behind the island. I heard a voice saying, “I love your intention to love. I love the love you are bringing to my island.”  I was filled with Love and Joy.

I turned to Alexei and asked, “Do you see that beautiful light?”

Of course he just grinned and shook his head no.

“Whose island is this? Who are we going to see?  What temple?”

“Mainly it is Isis.”

“Isis?”

“Isis was the first daughter of the god of the Earth and the goddess of the sky. She was married to her brother, Osiris who was killed by his jealous brother, Set. One version of the myth is where Set, along with the Queen of Ethiopia, conspired with 72 accomplices to plot the assassination of Osiris. Set fooled Osiris into getting into a box, which Set then shut, sealed with lead, and threw into the Nile. Isis, searched for his remains until she finally found him embedded in a tree trunk, which was holding up the roof of a palace in Byblos on the Phoenician coast. She managed to remove the coffin and open it, but Osiris was already dead. She used a spell learned from her father and brought him back to life so he could impregnate her. Afterwards, he died again and she hid his body in the desert. Months later, she gave birth to Horus. While she raised Horus, Set was hunting one night and came across the body of Osiris. Enraged, he tore the body into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout the land. Isis gathered up all the parts of the body, less the phallus (which was eaten by a catfish) and bandaged them together for a proper burial. The gods were impressed by the devotion of Isis and resurrected Osiris as the god of the underworld. Because of his death and resurrection, Osiris is associated with the flooding and retreating of the Nile and thus with the crops along the Nile valley.  Osiris is the god of the underworld, a merciful judge of the dead and the grantor of life, re-birth and regeneration. Isis is the goddess of love.”

Hmmm, well I am feeling a whole lot of love right now. As we motored toward the island, I had an image of a woman placing her forehead against mine.  She wanted to give me her knowledge and experience. I wanted it, but, I wouldn’t take it in like this.  I insisted she give it to Love and I would receive it all from there. You know, that is what I trust.  She was cool with that and the image faded away.

Since I have been home, I don’t feel any more knowledgeable or experienced which is kind of a bummer.  When I googled “Isis”, I found this comment: “Isis was a goddess in ancient Egypt whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world.  She was worshipped as the ideal mother, wife, matron of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden; she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers. Isis worship was concerned about the acquisition of knowledge since knowledge could only be attained from the gifts of the gods. Worship of Isis did not include a messianic view but it did provide a relationship with the divine that was not stopped by death.”

“Hey, Isis love, if you are listening, I did not refuse your gift, I just need it to come through Love.”

Isis is still worshipped in our times. Apparently there is a Temple of Isis in Los Angeles, in northern California, in Ireland and a whole Federation of Isis. They say that Isis asks only that our “spark of divinity within” be allowed to thrive, to grow, to become strong, and that we become more purely an expression of our own divine spirit.

Hey, I’m down with that! No wonder I like Isis!

Our boat came to the dock and, as I stepped onto the island, I felt an immense sense of peace and love. O my gosh, I really love it here.

 

 

The grand entrance to Nubian Temple of Isis   is where we began walking.  Below is a drawing of the same area done by David Roberts in the 1800’s:

(Picture from David Roberts)

 Here is a view looking out from an opening in the colonnade area back to the little island :

I was feeling so good here. Alexei found a carving of Isis:

 

Here is a drawing of the inside of the temple from the 1800’s Description de L’Egypte:

 

(Picture from Wikipedia)

 Beautiful, isn’t it?

Suddenly, I heard a voice yelling, “Noelle, Noelle!!”  I knew this was not in my head.  We turned around and there, in his black full length robes was the professor from the sheesha place.  He excitedly came running up to us and gave us hugs. Behind him were a couple of other men and a whole bunch of teen age boys…his students! Immediately, everyone wanted pictures…mostly with Noelle and her girls:).

It was fun for awhile, but, Noelle was getting a bit irritated because it was very distracting from our tour of the temple complex. I enjoyed it, but, she was right, I found it took me out of my wonderful, loving, spiritual connection and brought me back into present time teenage, male hormones. We did continue to tour and the Island was beautiful, but, I don’t remember it all anymore partially due to the boys constantly coming up to have pictures taken with us.

 

 

 This is Trajan’s Kiosk, built by Roman Emperor Trajan:

I know we went inside of other temples, but I don’t remember much cuz the boys were there too.

Our visit to Philae had come to an end.  I would love to visit it again.

 At the dock, the boys were there to send us off with a lot of yelling and smiles.

They were very cute. I told Noelle that she and her girls did a lot for international relations. I don’t think she thought it was funny.

After a quick stop at our hotel, we took a long, peaceful, lazy felucca sail on the Nile again. Ahhhh!

 This time, we went down past Elephantine Island then came back to it and stopped at the back end of a Nubian village near a hostel like hotel:

 

 We were not in the tourist area and that was too bad because all we did was walk in between the houses and couldn’t find our way to the main streets.  We did meet a bunch of little children who squealed with delight when they asked Alexei his name and he replied, “Ismi, MacMoud.”  I don’t get why that just kills everyone. Back at the hostel hotel, Noelle and I received our first henna tattoos:

 

Would you believe it? Our time in Aswan has come to an end. Now, I know it was much too short a time to spend here.  Tonight, we are taking an overnight train to Cairo.

DAY 19 cont. and DAY 20 – CAIRO

It is late afternoon of day 19 in Aswan and we are headed to the train station for the overnight train to Cairo. Originally, we had planned to cruise the Nile up to Cairo, but, we wanted to spend an extra day in that city so we are taking a faster transport to get there. I am excited because I have never been on an extended train ride, let alone an overnight one.

As we pulled our suitcases into the station we heard, “Noelle, Noelle!”

What the heck?!

OMG, the professor and the boys are taking the train too! They quickly mob us, once again asking for pictures. I think it is cute as hell, but, Noelle is so over it.

We said our goodbyes and found our way to the overnight car and our rooms.

 

But, before the train is ready to leave, Noelle hops off to go buy some snacks from a vendor in the station. When she gets back, she is flushed and embarrassed.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I was afraid I had taken too long and that the train would leave so I started running back. As I ran, the men in the station stood up and started clapping!”

Ahh, Noelle, you and your girls are so entertaining. I still laugh about it today.

That evening, I was hoping to party a bit, to celebrate our trip so far, but, we could not get back to where the professor and the boys were – a fact that Noelle was happy about. So we went to the lounge instead; but dang, they did not serve alcohol. Thank goodness Alexei had brought a bottle of Limoncella from Italy for just such a celebration!  Mmm lemon and vodka.

Okay, party over, time for bed. Noelle gets the top bunk cuz I know I will have to pee in the night.

 

 

I was right; I had to pee in the night. Now that was a little adventure all in itself: dimly lit bathroom, a toilet with a hole in the floor, the wind blowing upward as the tracks whiz by while I am whizzing – o yeah, memorable! Then I couldn’t find my room in the dark!! Fortunately at that moment we were passing some town that had lights on and as they flashed through the windows I tried several locked doors until I found my own.

Please, God, no more peeing tonight!

Pee free, we made it to Cairo in the morning and headed back to our hotel on Tahrir square. Our hotel is the building on the left just past the green bus.  The tent city is gone from across the street. I am bummed because no one is there now.

 I am sorry that Noelle will not get to meet all of those people. I heard there are continuing demonstrations on Friday nights, so we shall see what that is like tomorrow.

Here is the view from Alexei’s hotel room window. That pink building is the museum and there is the burned admin building too.

Very cool.

We are going to visit pyramids at Saqqara and Dahshur today.

Do you remember when I wrote about Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor? Well, that was the big burial place for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. During the Old Kingdom time – 3rd millennium BCE- the capital of Egypt was in Memphis just south of Cairo. The ancient Egyptian name for this city is of course different, but, I am not really sure what it is because I have found two different names, so I will just call it by its latest name, Memphis. The big burial place during this time was the strip from Giza to Dahshur and it has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1979. And, before you start wondering, I am pretty sure Elvis is not buried there. Bad joke, sorry.

It was fun to take the taxi ride out to Saqqara and Dahshur because we were out of the city and into smaller villages. This is something we had not really done much of during our trip.

The camel gets a ride:

 

 Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt with numerous pyramids.

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

The most famous pyramid there is the Step Pyramid, built for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser, by his vizier, Imhotep. It is known as the oldest, large scale cut stone building in history. (The oldest un-cut stone pyramid is in the city of Caral, Peru.)

 

Once again, as we toured the complex, the local guides were quieted when they heard Alexei teaching us about what we were seeing.  Even still, they tried to let us take forbidden pictures or go into places we weren’t supposed to go, all for baksheesh.

Here is the Roofed Colonnade corridor of the hypostyle hall:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 While Noelle rested, Alexei took me to the north side of the pyramid where the temple of the serdab is. I didn’t get what he was saying until now as I am writing about it. The serdab is a small enclosed structure that houses the “ka statue”. The king’s ka is the part of his soul that was believed to inhabit the statue in order to benefit from daily ceremonies. Anyway, as we came to the spot, Alexei told me to look into this hole in a wall and this is what I saw:

Here is a better picture from Wikipedia:

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 Cool, huh?

I think this next one is of the Great Trench that surrounded Djoser’s complex, but I am not sure.  It looks more like a great path to me.

We could have spent a lot more time here, but the wind and the guides were making it a little difficult, so we took off for Dahshur.

Dahshur is a little further south than Saqqara.  It is mostly known for several pyramids including two that are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt – the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, both constructed during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu (2613 -2589).

The Bent Pyramid is unique and is believed to represent a transitional form between step – sided and smooth sided pyramids.  Archeologists believe that the original angle of the pyramid was too steep and was becoming unstable so the builders decreased the angle to finish it and this gives it the bent look.

While Alexei took a closer look, these guards ask to take mine and Noelle’s picture:

 

 

 We were used to this by now, but, they wanted baksheesh. Dang, I am sorry, but, the baksheesh thing was getting irritating. When I was in Mexico, I budgeted money to give to beggars and street performers, but this baksheesh didn’t feel like that. It wasn’t the same as freely giving. However, I didn’t have time to process these feelings and just took our camera and left.

Next stop was the Red Pyramid named for the reddish color of its stones. Originally the stones had been covered by white Tura limestone, but during the Middle Ages, these were removed to use on buildings in Cairo. The Red Pyramid is the largest of the three major pyramids in Dahshur and also the third largest Egyptian pyramid after those in Giza. It is also believed to be the world’s first successful attempt to build a “true” smooth-sided pyramid.

 We planned to go inside this pyramid and began the climb up to the entrance. When we finally got there, a pleasant man gave us some flashlights to use, but he didn’t ask us for baksheesh and that was nice too. We started walking down into the pyramid and about ten steps in I stopped.

“Uhm, you guys go on ahead. I’ll wait here.”

Alexei just kept going without even a look back. Noelle looked but kept going.

I sat down on a step and examined my feelings. Maybe I am scared, I don’t know; but, it did not feel right in here to me.

After about another 50 steps, Noelle stopped too and sat down.

 

Our intrepid, Alexei, went all the way, hollering back to us the things we were missing seeing until we couldn’t hear anymore.  This is a picture of the main burial chamber from Wikipedia:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 That’s okay, I was glad when he returned and we walked out of there.

I have one more picture of a pyramid that we did not see, but, I found it on Wikipedia and I think it is an interesting example of how using the right materials makes all the difference. This is the Black Pyramid, one of the five remaining pyramids of the original eleven at Dahshur. It was built in the Middle Kingdom time of 2055 -1650. It had been made of mud brick and clay instead of stone, then encased in limestone.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

Well, that’s it on these pyramids.  We headed back to Cairo and to shopping at the Khan el-Khalili souk. I can’t wait.

The Khan el-Khalili souk dates back to 1382 when the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili built a large caravanserai there. A caravanserai is a sort of hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for economic activity. The caravanserai is still there although we did not see it. For readers of Nobel Prize laureate, Naguib Mahfouz, the Khan is the place of his novel, Midaq Alley. The Khan has also been the site of a couple of terrorists’ attacks.

For me, the Kahn was huge, bustling with new and old magnificently interesting sights; the buildings, the people, the wares.  We saw only a tiny bit of this old bazaar. I could have spent a couple of days just walking around this place.

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 

 

 

I loved it.  It was here that I finally got the balls up to bargain and I won! Well, to be honest, I sent Alexei back with my final offer.  I couldn’t go because the lady that had re- done Noelle’s henna walked by, saw mine and was so irritated with the original work, she make me sit down and “get it done right!”

 

She was right. It kept the memory alive long after I got back home. I loved it!

DAY 21 – GIZA and CAIRO

Today we are going to Giza. I can hardly believe it. I never had imagined I would ever actually see the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Thanks to Alexei, here I am!

The Giza Necropolis has three main pyramids: The pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure as well as a complex of several other smaller pyramids and buildings. I love this picture showing the past and the present together:

The Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek). It is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis and was finished around 2560 BCE. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. It used to be covered by casing stones and had a smooth outer surface, but most all of that is gone and what you see now is the underlying core structure. It is also missing its pyramidion or capstone.

 (picture from Wikipedia)

Some people believed that the pyramid was built by slaves but modern discoveries say it wasn’t.  One source says it was built over a 20 year period by two groups of 100,000 skilled workers who were then divided into smaller groups of 20,000. Another source says the people worked on it for three months of each year during the annual flooding of the Nile when it was impossible to farm the land and they were unemployed.  Maybe they are talking about the same people, but, I don’t know.

The Great Pyramid is the only pyramid in Egypt known to have both ascending and descending passages. The Descending Passage appears to go to a lower chamber that wasn’t finished. The Ascending Passage, of course, goes to the King’s Chamber and has a Horizontal Passage that goes off to the Queen’s Chamber.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

Today, tourists enter the pyramid via the Robber’s Tunnel. This was a tunnel dug by workmen employed by Caliph al-Ma’mun around 820 AD. But hey, he wasn’t the first one to go a- thieving.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I am determined to go all the way into this pyramid. It felt okay as we traveled up the Ascending Passage; but, when we got to this one place where, after climbing about four steep stairs, the passage divided into two elevated walkways, I started to feel just a leetle bit cramped. I think this is the part called the Grand Gallery. See it on the map above and here is a picture:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

Still, I was okay because it was just so cool to be here. When we got to the King’s Chamber, I don’t remember that there was a lot to see besides the sarcophagus. Coming back down the passage is when I started feeling  uncomfortable. I am pretty sure it is because I was matching other tourist’s fears and then mine were magnified by our combined energy.  I really had to blow my matching fears, choose Love and get a grip. I tried to help one woman who was beginning to come unglued by claustrophobia, but she had to make a break out of that place pronto! Another lady had tears in her eyes as her friends encouraged her to keep going.

Finally, we made it out and I was glad to know I had done it. Right then a young boy, maybe age 12ish came up to me to hand me something.

“No thank you”. I said. I didn’t want to buy anything right then.

“No, no, gift, gift.” He said.

“I don’t believe you, I am not interested in buying anything now.”

“Gift, gift!” He insisted.

“Really…okay then.” I took it with a smile.

Then he held out his hand for baksheesh.

O My God, I am so damned gullible. This was my last baksheesh straw. My button was pushed.

“You said this was a gift. You lied. I can’t fucking believe I bought that shit!”

He just gave me the sad face.

I gave him a couple of US dollars. He took it and made another face, handing it back and wanting Egyptian pounds instead.

“Dude, these dollars are more than the pounds you would get!” I took back the dollars and started to give him some pounds, then… I lost it and snarled, “Here take it back, I don’t want this gift. It’s bullshit.” In my anger I thrust his gift, the pounds, and somehow even the dollars back into his hands just as a camel rider told the boy to leave me alone. The kid made out very well.

But, for me, the baksheesh thing had finally penetrated my armor and I had to deal with what was bugging me about it.  I had to explore why it was pushing my buttons. Okay Linda, what is it? Process, use your tools.  The begging in Mexico never bothered you, why would this? Begging is upfront, it’s clean and honest. You know what is going on. This isn’t. I never know whether an action or a kindness is freely given or if I am expected to give money in return. It isn’t honest. Okay, where do I match that; do I do it too? I thought I had already learned the value of giving and receiving unconditionally. I have learned it. I practice it. That isn’t it; there is something more, what is it? Review: pretty much everyone who has asked me for baksheesh was trying to do a job, a service, to make money even when I didn’t want their offering.

Ahh, my book; is that what this is about?

I wrote a book, two books even, that I see as a service, but I also hope to receive money for them. I guess I don’t know how to reconcile that. I gave away hundreds of my first book because I thought it was so important for people to have the information. I am even putting it on Twitter now, but, I cannot afford to continue giving away my first book,  nor any of the second book; and, yes, I would like to make enough money that I could retire or cut back work at the hospital.  I am not entrepreneurial. I am in conflict.

I need an attitude adjustment and a perceptual tweak.

Suddenly, I remembered a patient/acquaintance I once had named Darcy Rezac who wrote a book entitled: The Frog and Prince: Secrets of Positive Networking to Change Your Life. The message it had was, “What can I do for you?”

In other words, “How can the job/service/item I am offering help you?” DUDE, I can wrap my head and heart around that! Yeah, I even already have a job providing a service as an RN. It is upfront that I get paid for that. I don’t have a conflict about it; it’s my job.

Linda, so is your writing. Okay, I get it. Now I can be upfront about it. I am offering my knowledge and experience as a critical care nurse in the form of two books that I know have information that can be of help to people; AND, I get paid each time someone buys a book. It’s my job and I love it!

Thanks to all of you folks who asked me for baksheesh and kept pushing til I could come to this realization.

Darcy, I think I finally got it! Thanks so much for your book as well as yours, Gail’s, and Judy’s wisdom.

All of that I worked out as we headed toward our camel ride tour. We had already paid for it, but my camel driver asked for more… of course he did. This time it didn’t bug me. I calmly made a choice and gave him a little more.

This is my third trip on a camel and my driver suddenly gave me the reigns to do my own steering! Very cool.

When the camel tour was done we walked around to see the Great Sphinx of Giza.

  

The Great Sphinx – The Terrifying One – is a statue of a human head with a lion’s body.  It is the largest monolith statue in the world and the oldest known monumental sculpture. It is believed to have been built during the reign of Pharaoh Khafra (2558 – 2532 BCE). Really that is about all that is known, as basic facts about it are still being debated.

Well, that was it for our trip to Giza. We headed back to Cairo and planned to go to the American University Bookstore just down the street from our hotel. I wanted to get the book about Akhenaten, by Naguib Mahfouz

Ahhh, it is Friday and the weekly demonstration is starting on Tahrir Square below our rooms.

 

  

 We decide to go for a walk before we go to the bookstore.

 

 The vibe is not the same as before when the people were celebrating. Now, they are trying to keep the movement alive and debating about how the new government should be.  Still, people are glad to see us and are friendly.  Noelle got her hand painted.

 

We walked around to see the artwork:

 

 

 

 

Eventually, we headed to the bookstore. As we approached the stairs to the subway, I saw a man sitting down on the short wall at the top of the stairs. In just a flash, his legs went up in the air, his body fell backward and down. I heard a loud crack when he hit the ground.

“NO!” I yelled. “DID YOU SEE THAT?”

Noelle and Alexei had looked up at my yell then ran down the stairs. I quickly followed.

Most of the man’s body was lying on the ground floor on his back. His left leg from the thigh down was lying on the first stair. When I got there Noelle and Alexei had already checked for breathing and a pulse. Of course, he was unconscious. Blood was pooling around his head. It was commute time now and people were crowding around us. I knelt down between the man’s legs and put my hand on his chest. His breathing was getting shallow and I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.  Noelle was keeping people away from him as we did not want to move him and create more problems.

I stood up and said to someone, “We need an ambulance. You know wooo –wooo.” I tried to simulate a siren.  He ran off up the stairs. A business man in a suit holding a briefcase came down the stairs by me.

“How is he doing?”

“I think he may die.”

“I think so too.” He replied and walked off.

I could see the man’s breathing was becoming irregular and he was using effort to inhale. Maybe he’s herniating his brain. I knelt down again. Now I could see blood was pooling in his mouth and blocking his airway.

“Shit, he can’t breathe, we need to turn him.”

“What do you want to do, Linda?” Alexei asked.

“I want to turn him.”

Keeping my eyes peeled on the man, I stated to the crowd, “I need plastic gloves!”

A handkerchief came into my line of sight.

“No, gloves!”

A package of Kleenex came into my view.

“No, gloves!” I repeated.

A small blue plastic bag was there.

“Ok.”

I put my hands and forearms into the bag, moved around to the man’s head and kneeling just outside the growing pool of blood, I bent over and stabilized his head and neck by putting my hands on his shoulders and his head between my forearms.  Alexei and Noelle grasped his body in the appropriate places so that we could roll him like a log, keeping his spine and neck in alignment to prevent damage.

“Okay, on the count of three. One, two, three.”

We successfully turned him to his right side away from the stairs. The blood poured out of his mouth.

I waited.

He sucked in a big breath and kept breathing.

Whew!

Someone slid a small back pack toward me to put under his head.

“It will get all bloody.”

“it’s okay.”

“You speak English?”  I asked a young woman. She nodded yes.

“Please tell everyone, we are ER and ICU nurses from America. We know what we are doing. We have to keep him on his side so the blood doesn’t block his airway and we have to keep his spine straight to prevent paralysis. She told everyone and also informed me that an ambulance was on the way.

A man came down the steps to us. He had a stethoscope and tried to turn the victim to his back so he could examine him.

Noelle yelled, “NO!”

So he reached over the man’s body and listened to his heart, then left.

We waited.

I tried to feel his scalp for a source of bleeding, but I couldn’t find one. Blood just kept pouring out of his mouth. My back was screaming from bending over. I finally had to slide the backpack under the man’s head. It was a perfect fit and kept him in good alignment. Just as I straightened up, the medic showed up. Via the young woman’s translations, I was trying to give him a report of the mechanism of injury and all that we had seen and done.  He didn’t seem to pay any attention and appeared to be assessing the situation for himself. Noelle was pantomiming putting a cervical collar on the man’s neck for stabilization and the medic nodded.  Alexei stood up with me.

“What now?”

“We need to back off and let him do his thing.”

Someone handed me some Kleenex to wipe the blood off of me as I took off the blue bag. Too late, it was mostly dried up. I opted for returning to our hotel across the street instead of going to the bookstore. As we left, people reached out to touch us and gave their thanks.

We got back to the hotel and Noelle went off to Skype her parents. I went to clean up and Alexei disappeared. I marveled at how strangely calm I was; no drama, no trauma. Good, I like that in me. I went to say hi to Noelle’s parents and Alexei came to us.

“I watched from my room with the binoculars. They just took him away on a backboard and with the C- collar on. They weren’t doing CPR so I guess he is alive.”

Okay then. On that note, I went to bed.

DAY 22 – LAST DAY CAIRO

Well, today is the last day of my trip. We are chillaxin and just going to the museum.  This museum was built in 1902 and has over 120,000 items. During the 2011 revolution it was broken into and two mummies were reportedly destroyed. Alexei tells me there is a lot of great stuff there, but, that the building is getting old and there is a plan to build a new one.  He says it is crowded, dark and just…old.

I thought it was perfect!

We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I am inserting pictures from Wikipedia.

 

 

 

There is a lot of stuff! We went into the display for King Tutankhamun and saw his gold mask and that was cool. But, I really felt an impact when I saw a statue of Akhenaten. I don’t have a picture of it, but, here is another one:

Akhenaten was originally named Amenhotep IV and ruled Egypt for about 17 years. He died around 1336 BC.  For many years he was called the “Heretic Pharaoh” and was all but lost from history.

Akhenaten believed in Aten who he declared was a universal deity,  the ALL-encompassing Creator, and the only God. The symbolic representation of Aten is a rayed solar disc, in which the rays are commonly depicted as ending in hands. A sort of “hieroglyphic footnote” that accompanied the symbol stated that the symbol was only “a representation of something that, by its very nature as some time – transcending creation, cannot be fully or adequately represented by any one part of that creation”.

Some modern historians say that Akhenaten was the original monotheistic ruler, appearing almost two centuries before the first archaeological and written evidence of Judaism and Israelite culture.

Some liken aspects of Akhenaten’s relationship with the Aten to the relationship of Jesus with God. Akhenaten referred to himself as the son of the sole god:  “Thine only son that came forth from thy body”; “Thy son who came forth from thy limbs”; “thy child’, etc.  He placed a heavy emphasis on the heavenly father and son relationship. This close relationship between father and son meant that only the king truly knew the heart of his father and that the father listened to his son’s prayers.

 As you can imagine, the traditional priesthood did not like this. During his reign, Akhenaten embarked upon a wide scale erasure of the traditional god’s names. He shifted funding away from the traditional temples.  Eventually, he moved the royal court out of Thebes/Luxor and into Armana, a new city he built for the Aten. The priests were not happy at all.

For many years people believed Akhenaten neglected Egypt’s foreign affairs in favor of his internal reforms.  But the recent discovery of Armana in the 19th century by Flinders Petrie and the finding of the Armana corpus of 380 + letters showed that Akhenaten was, indeed, involved in the affairs of Egypt. He appears to have tended more toward diplomacy than war. That sounds good to me, but, I wonder how his Generals felt about it.

Akhenaten changed the style of art during his reign, encouraging a more naturalistic representation of life by adding a sense of action and movement. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaton’s’ family were shown taking part in naturalistic activities, caught in mid-action, and showing affection. By contrast, in the traditional art form, a pharaoh’s divine nature was expressed by repose, even immobility.

 A lot of discussion continues with regard to Akhenaton’s physical appearance.  I read some almost scornful comments that his body was effeminate and misshapen, so different from the athletic norm in the portrayal of pharaohs.

 

 There have been discussions that he could have had various genetic abnormalities that would have caused the physical attributes of being taller than average, a long, thin face, long curved spider –like fingers, sunken chest, larger breasts, sagging stomach, thick thighs, spindly calves, etc.

There is also a discussion that the body-shape depicted relates to some form of religious symbolism because the god Aten was referred to as “the mother and father of all humankind”. It is suggested that Akhenaten was made to look androgynous in artwork as a symbol of the androgyny of the god; and, that the art would depict a symbolic gathering of all the attributes of a creator god with multiple life-giving functions. The bottom line is – we don’t know if he really looked this way or not, and if he did, why? If it was real, I think it is cool that he didn’t try to hide who he was.

Akhenaten’s primary wife was Nefertiti. He is also the father of Tutankhaten whose mother was Akhenaton’s biological sister.

When Akhenaten died he was briefly succeeded by two others that lasted only a couple of years each. Finally, he was succeeded by his son Tutankhaten who by that time had re-aligned with the priests and renamed himself Tutankhamun, the famous boy king.  The capital was moved back to Thebes/Luxor.   Eventually, King Horemheb tried to erase all traces of Atenism and the pharaohs associated with it which is why Akhenaten and Armana virtually disappeared until that 19th century discovery.

It reminds me of Hatshepsut and how you just cannot keep a good thing down. I felt a connection with Akhenaten and I liked reading his “Great Hymn to the Aten”. But I liked even more a couple of the attributes he ascribed to Aten on his monuments:  “Thy beams of light embrace the lands… and thou bindest them with thy love.” I loved reading the book: Akhenaten – Dweller in Truth, by Naguib Mahfouz. I don’t know how much of that book is based upon truth or is fiction. For me, romanticism or just wishful thinking, I like to think of Akhenaten as the first monotheistic ruler who tried to live and rule in Light and Love.

Ahh, it’s the last night in Egypt. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and then walked around downtown Cairo visiting shops. We grabbed some ice cream cones and in the night headed back to our hotel. I walked through the busy nighttime traffic in Tahrir Square and as I reached Alexei on the other side of the street, I found him grinning at me.

“You are not even aware of how you nonchalantly, while eating ice cream, just meandered through that busy traffic as if you have been doing it all your life.”

“Hmm, I guess now I know how to ‘walk like an Egyptian’!”

I am going to stop this tale of my Mid -East trip now with one last picture of that first night in Tahrir Square when I began my trip. I am grateful I got to travel when I did and meet so many wonderful people. A lot of strife and struggle is still happening in the Mid – East and it is spreading, I know. This picture reminds me of the celebration and joy after the revolution; and the continued efforts to bring the Light of Love and Freedom into the dawn of a new tomorrow.

The end.  🙂

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