Michael Divine

The same day that we were wandering the streets of Luxor is the same day that a lunatic shot 26 people, most of them children, in a public school in Newtown, CT. The same day, another lunatic on the other side of the country opened fire in the Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, CA, just a few miles from where I live. Sometimes it seems like I’m more likely to be killed in my own country than elsewhere. So, really, Egypt felt perfectly safe. There was no tension. We were greeted with respect and kindness. No one spoke out against us. Children waved and said hello. It was lovely.

The twisty alleys passed by random stores and cafes, shisha bars, piles of dirt, old underfed horses, mules pulling one axel carts ridden by farmers with scales selling fruits and vegetables.

We came upon a huge unfinished mosque – only it’s grey cement shell was complete. Two cats played at the entrance and, upon our arrival, they trotted into the dark cove of the entry way. Rounding the corner, we came upon activity: three barefooted men shoveling dirt into a wheel barrow at the base of the mosque. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Egypt.

It’s no wonder it’s slow going when the construction crew doesn’t wear shoes, I laughed quietly to Luna after we’d passed.

We rounded onto a busy street and eventually made our way back to the hotel. She said she appreciated my calm sense of wandering and my good sense of direction. I appreciated the company.

Luna and I returned to the hotel towards late afternoon and retired to the roof top with Turkish coffee. I took out my sketchbook, letting impressions flow onto the page. The glowing gold sun sank below the corner of the Luxor Temple’s great stone pylons, the obelisk towering over it and everything was gold. Later I grabbed Violet and we went and all dinner outside downstairs. Eventually, and quite early, we all fell asleep.

We thought we’d be up later but call to prayer at 5am (it happens five times a day) woke us with it’s cacophonous and disharmonious (to our ears) songs. All minarets have loudspeakers protruding from their balconies – often times with poor sound quality – and it seems that most anyone from whatever particular mosque gets to take a turn at it. Most of them hold the microphone too close to their mouths. It sounds like coyotes howling from opposite peaks. Occasionally someone finds some harmony. Mostly it’s just a prayerful white noise echoing through the city five times a day – an hour before sunrise, sunrise, noon, afternoon, and sunset. Yeesh!

We headed up to the roof for sunrise and watched the mountains in the distance turn pink. Watched the hot air balloons float overhead. Watched the Nile flow along. Watched the sun flash behind the new mosque being built. It was chilly and brisk and perfect and crisp.

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