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Walk Like an Egyptian

Our plane connection in Cairo had a seven-hour layover with a flight at an ungodly 4 a.m. to Aswan, so rather than twiddle our thumbs in the airport all night, we located a private driver (“Armet”) who gave us a speedy tour of his beautiful city by night lit by the many mosques both ancient and new and waited patiently while we had our first authentic Egyptian dinner at “Café Riche.” Café Riche is well-known center-city restaurant once famous as an intellectual hotspot that one journalist reported has a “story like the water of the Nile, flowing down the river continuously, constantly, slowly.” The food was good, the service very pleasant and as one often sees in this part of the world, the owner sat at a desk in the front window counting his money and balancing his books at the end of the day.

(Café Riche. 17, Talaat Harb Street, just off Talaat Harb Square, Downtown, Cairo. Telephone: +202 3929793)

The sun was coming up, but the full moon was still bright as our plane landed in Aswan Tuesday morning at 5:30 a.m. An escort met us there to lead us by hand to the “felucca” (boat) that crosses the Nile to and from the tall and luxuriously contemporary Movenpick Hotel where we connected with 11 other friends, gathered together in Egypt to help celebrate the birthday of photographer Michael Honegger. It was a surprise for Michael…both WHERE he was being taken and WITH WHOM he was going. We are 10 women and three men — friends and relatives from the U.S. and France. His partner, playwrite Tim Smith, has orchestrated the trip for all of us down to the tee.

By 10:15 a.m. we had catnapped and prepared ourselves for a three-hour ride by van to Abu Simbel, an archaeological site comprised of two massive rock temples in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. “The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors.” (Wikipedia.org)

Amazingly, both temples were relocated in their entirety exactly as they were in the 1960s, to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile. Lake Nasser is a stunning shade of deep aqua and the natural rock formations of the shoreline are pyramidal. The same thought comes to everyone’s mind as you walk along the path to the temples and notice the shapes along the coast: which came first?…the proverbial pyramidal chicken or the proverbial pyramidal egg? Hard to tell.

That evening we stayed in the town of Aswan to have dinner in a local restaurant and wander through the “souk” (market) before heading back to the hotel overlooking the Nile. The venders hawk the Westerners to entice them into their stalls to buy…anything. They were not fooled by my tall blonde-haired friend’s headscarf (trying to look less conspicuous), but laughingly, every single one asked if I were Egyptian. “Why?” I asked. “Do I walk like an Egyptian?” “No, but you look like one. You have Egyptian eyes,” t

he Nubian men answered.

Remember the song by The Bangles?:

Walk Like An Egyptian

All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don’t you know
If they move too quick (oh whey oh)
They’re falling down like a domino

All the bazaar men by the Nile
They got the money on a bet
Gold crocodiles (oh whey oh)
They snap their teeth on your cigarette

Foreign types with the hookah pipes say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian

Blonde waitresses take their trays
They spin around and they cross the floor
They’ve got the moves (oh whey oh)
You drop your drink then they bring you more

All the school kids so sick of books
They like the punk and the metal band
When the buzzer rings (oh whey oh)
They’re walking like an Egyptian

All the kids in the marketplace say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian

Slide your feet up the street bend your back
Shift your arm then you pull it back
Life is hard you know (oh whey oh)
So strike a pose on a Cadillac

If you want to find all the cops
They’re hanging out in the donut shop
They sing and dance (oh whey oh)
Spin the clubs cruise down the block

All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin
And the Chinese know (oh whey oh)
They walk the line like Egyptian

All the cops in the donut shop say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian
Walk like an Egyptian

Today and for the next three days we will take the seven-cabin felucca, “La Flâneuse du Nil,” ‘down’ the Nile ‘northbound’ (the Nile flows south to north) to Luxor (the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes) where we will visit the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor including the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens before completing the tours at the Pyramids in Cairo.

Luxor has special significance for Parisians. A legend says that j2999ephine said to Napoleon before leaving to conquest Egypt in 1798, “If you go to Thebes, do send me a small obelisk.” True or false, the obelisk of Ramses II is what stands now at the Place de la Concorde. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th-century and once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple.

In a strange way, I feel at home here. Perhaps it’s due to the two times, each for almost one year, that I spent living in the Middle East in the 1970s…or perhaps it’s the walk…like an Egyptian…I’m learning to do.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Judith Merians, a Hollywood entertainment lawyer and studio executive in Los Angeles for over 25 years, happens to be one of the lucky 13 on our trip down the Nile. Just after we return, on November 14th, Judith will be conducting a Power Workshop called “Women on Top” (in English) for those who have you ever felt invisible, unheard in a business or board meeting and need to learn how to get a team to follow their lead, negotiate for business or for personal purposes or pitch an idea. The Women on Top Workshop will address these questions relating to effective communication, successful negotiation, self presentation/marketing and the owning and communicating of one’s power. When: Saturday, November 14, 2 to 5 p.m. in Saint Germain en Laye, 45€ (refreshments will be served). For more info contact Tama Carroll: 06.14.39.49.90.

P.P.S. Don’t show up Tuesday, November 11th at La Pierre du Marais for our monthly coffee gathering, “Parler Paris Après Midi”…because I won’t be there (still in Egypt!), but do mark your calendar for November 17th when I WILL be there! See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

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