Let's recap, shall we? Ray hurt his back 2 weeks ago. Massage,
chiropractic treatment and drugs allowed Ray to get on a plane to Egypt.
This morning, Ray felt well enough to join Andrew in the hotel gym for
Ray's first workout in weeks. Ray felt great! His back was flexible and
pain free. Happy at last, Ray enjoyed a shave and shower… Then he
sneezed and promptly re-injured his back.
The timing was particularly bad because today was to be the culmination of
a lifelong dream… to see and touch the Great Pyramids of Giza, towering
structures of fame, mystery and foreboding, and the pinacle technological
achievement of humanity's first true civilization. Few landmarks have
elicited such imagination, fantasy and anticipation.
But the back ache gave us the excuse to do the tourist thing and rent
camels. Yes, we were bilked. But whatever. The fact remains that we rode
camels –named Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton (Clinton had diarrhea)–
through part of the Sahara desert, arriving upon the Giza plateau to behold
mankind's most ancient physical achievement.
So many things in life fail to live up to their expectations. The pyramids
are not among them. Considering when they were built, they are gargantuan.
Their blocks are gargantuan. They were built, no doubt, by giants: men
whose imaginations, power and will dwarf those of we pathetic modern
And there is every indication that the pyramids were built by mortal,
fragile humans, however colossal their dreams and achievements. The
pyramids are imperfect, and one can almost smell the blood and sweat
spilled in their backbreaking construction. The lesser tombs of the
workers are visible in the great tombs' shadows, as are the ornate
underground tombs of the architects.
And it is there, in the lesser tombs, that the disappointment of modern
Egypt arises; for despite necessary restrictions on the use of cameras (in
order to preserve these fast fading treasures of humanity), every minor
official offers tourists the chance to snap a photo in exchange for a
piddling bribe of a couple of US dollars. Even I enjoyed a priceless
scamper up the side of one of the great pyramids, in defiance of reasonable
law, and in exchange for pocket change.
The decline of the greatness of Man is measured in nickles and dimes.
And yet I do not regret my transgression. The pyramids were meant to be
touched, just as they were meant to scrape heaven.
Tonight is New Years Eve. Andrew and I will attempt to return to the
plateau to welcome 2008 by beholding the profiles of antiquity, cut out
from the backdrop of Egyptian winter stars.