Monday, September 10, 2012

Up, Up, and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon) (2 Nov 2008)

As I've mentioned before, I'm not afraid of heights. Belinda is. It was my idea to go for a hot air balloon ride first, but by the time we got to Egypt, I'd kind of relinquished the idea, because I thought it was going to be hellaexpensive, and really, you can't see that much from the air, right? However, Belinda read about it online and decided she really wanted to do it, and it turned out to be much cheaper than we thought, so we signed up for it yesterday. It meant getting up at 5 to be out of the hotel at 6...across the river, into another van that took us across the floodplain of the Nile, past banana fields and sugar cane.
Balloons were coming down from their sunrise flights to pick us up for the second shift - I had my eye on a really beautiful green balloon that looked like a mosaic of malachite, but we ended up in a plain red one with Magic Horizons printed on the front (which was just as well, I like red, and it made for some pretty spectacular pictures).
As we approached the balloon through a cornfield, there was a loud rush of flame, and I joked that the dragon was angry...I thought about adding something about sacrificing a virgin, but in the group I was in, it was quite possible that I would have ended up the sacrifice. I never realized before how big the baskets of hot air balloons can be, but they fit 22 of us in that thing, comfortably.
Captain Bob, who was a hoot - he took flying lessons in England from the same man as one of our fellow travelers, and so he had the guy come over into the center part of the basket and had him help fly the balloon, and he made a lot of funny comments - hopped in and we were soon on our way, seeing the West Bank (and the rooftop livestock of the inhabitants thereof) from the air.
We took a "little walk" that we didn't really need to take (I guess it's probably my fault that Belinda can't read my mind) to find something for breakfast, then went to the Luxor Museum. Now THAT is a MUSEUM! The interior was painted a very dark grey and lights dramatically highlighted the sculptures. The weapons were displayed in such a way as to demonstrate their use (rather than as sticks lying in boxes...ahem, Egyptian Museum...), and everything was labeled. SO much of the collection was complete, or mostly so, but even the pieces that were more fragmentary were displayed in such a way that you saw their beauty...and some of the pieces were restorations that the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) selected from the Egyptian Museum for special treatment. There was still a shortage of seating, but because it was a smaller museum, and each piece was displayed in such a way that you actually got to see it (instead of just being part of the blur), you didn't need to sit a while the way you do at the Egyptian Museum. If THOSE guys were smart, they would break the Egyptian Museum into - let's say five - five different museums, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, Late Period, and, let's face it, King Tut deserves his own museum. Then they could charge admission for each museum, they'd make a ton of money, and you wouldn't feel like you had to do the whole thing in one go (did I mention their "cafeteria" is only accessible by exiting the museum?). They could give things more space, they could rotate the collection so that you had to go back again and again to see more. And they could hire the curator from the Luxor Museum to sort it for them.

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