Saturday, April 30, 2011

Medinet Habu

 Dateline: Thurs., April 28th

This morning I moved out of Luxor. Across the river, to Medinet Habu. And this afternoon the temperature in Luxor hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). In breezy Habu, it must have been at least 10 degrees cooler.

And my house is remarkably cool. It's an apartment really, but it feels like a house. The building has a Nubian-style brickwork dome as the ceiling of each room. And the floor tiles are not modern ceramic, but traditional hand-made tiles, with geometric designs in earth-tone colors. (The tiles could have come straight out of the Pharaoh’s palace, in nearby Malqata! But they didn’t, of course.) The point is that these domes and unglazed ceramic tiles are thermally efficient, as well as beautiful.

Later in the afternoon, my landlord kindly drove me to the main road to do some shopping. As we drove back up the road, he observed that Qurna Mountain had disappeared. Qurna Mountain is the hiding place of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Medinet Habu is almost in the mountain's shadow, which sounds ominous. But the mountain is like a friendly and protective presence—which I can see as I look out of my bedroom window or relax under the grape arbor at the side of the house.

The khamsin had kicked up. A strong wind straight from the Western Desert and, beyond that, the Sahara. And so the mountain was hidden by a shining invisibility of sun and sand. Although, as we approached, the mountain re-appeared.

This evening I walked around the corner in search of food at one of the many nearby restaurants. These restaurants, and a hotel, are ready to serve visitors to the temple of Ramses III, which is just opposite the restaurants—or rather, the restaurants are opposite the temple, since the temple was here first, of course!

The wind was really kicking up, so, reluctantly, I ate in the dining room, instead of on the terrace with a full view of the temple. The wind was warm. Not warm, but hot, as if someone had opened an oven door.

In the small hours, I woke up. Because I was a little cold, I think. The wind was now blowing almost chilly through my open window.

What I haven’t mentioned is the exhilarating quality of the wind. Disquieting, energizing, almost electric.

To be continued.

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