I can honestly say that we’ve tried just about every form of transportation on this trip, with the notable exception of bicycles (which would be ridiculously stupid on Egyptian roads, but you do see them). We’ve traveled via bus, van, train, boat, felucca, horse-drawn carriage, and camel. And yesterday, we took a trip to the Valley of the Kings the old-fashioned way: by donkey.
Still sore after the camel-riding experience, we hoisted ourselves upon our donkeys and immediately got to the business of balancing ourselves, which is trickier on a donkey than on a camel or a horse. Now, when I picture people riding upon donkeys, I imagine a slow-moving, forlorn-looking thing just plodding along at a snail’s pace, but I’m here to tell you that I had the Porsche of all donkeys. “Donkey” (his name) was fast and compact and an overall spunky little thing. He looked tiny, but moved like his tail was on fire. Unfortunately for me, he was also a bit quick to respond to certain things, like the prospect of some food on the side of the road, the prospect of being too far behind (he was determined to be in the front as much as possible), and the prospect of returning home at the first chance. Within the first ten minutes of riding him, I experienced almost all of his speeds, as well as a hairpin turn to nibble on some grass. The latter had me toppling off of him, but thankfully he was small enough that I landed on my feet (Brendan was not so lucky…when his donkey went into gallop mode, he fell off and ended up with scrapes). For myself, I got back on Donkey and, now that he found himself behind the others, I had the experience of what it feels like to be on a donkey when it’s in full gallop. It’s scary. Our trip to the Valley of the Kings was one of alternately screaming “Whoa!” and laughing hysterically in equal measure.
Anyhow, the Valley of the Kings is where the tombs of all of the ancient Egyptian kings were buried, including the infamous King Tutenkhamun. The insides of the tombs are covered with reliefs and frescoes, many of which are still brightly colored with their original pigments. Once again, I found myself pondering over the same thought that I have whenever I encounter something so ancient and so breathtaking: what kind of cultural legacy are we leaving? What will scientists say about our age and the people who lived in it?
Contrary to popular belief, slaves did not build these tombs (nor did slaves build the pyramids, for that matter). Instead, workers were paid for their efforts. The ruin at the Workers’ Village (which is near the Valley of the Kings) and documents that were found there indicate that not only were the ancient Egyptian workers paid for their toil, but there was a point at which the workers went on strike in 1177 BC—the first ever workers’ strike on record.
We returned from our little excursion to the Valley of the Kings upon our donkeys. Funny enough, my little guy knew exactly what point of the journey was the way home and kept trying to go there rather than take me to the end. Apparently, donkeys are very smart creatures and will return to their homes unaided when their work is done. Well, Donkey knew his work was about done and gave it a go. A little cajoling got him to abandon the idea until I could safely relieve myself of his services. Sure enough, once we were off of our donkeys, they all walked home together…all by themselves.
I have a new respect for donkeys, but I probably won’t get on another one again anytime soon. If you didn’t have back issues before getting on a donkey, you may very well have once you’re done.
Yesterday marked our last night on the boat, which also means the last night of truly exhausting relaxation. We enjoyed every bit while it lasted, but I think we’re all ready for it to end and get back to the business of traveling, with all of its madness and rewards. Next stop: Hurghada (which is next to the Red Sea ) via another police convoy, and then we climb Mt. Sinai.
It will likely be a few days before I post again, so Happy Thanksgiving everyone!