Monday, April 11, 2011

Letter to my friend...

Dear J,
I've been walking down memory lane lately, and I was reminded of you. It was so long since I have written to you. I guess I have been working a lot and not really thinking about all the things that plans that we have made together. I was really just going through each day without thinking and I feel as though my brain is rotting from all the mundane things that I have been doing.

I miss the discussions that we have had, the "What if," questions, the ambitions, the plans we had as we grew up. I almost forgotten why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place.

The story has changed over the years, I could never pin point when I really wanted to be a doctor. There was a time when I really believed in Evolution, where it was survival of the fittest, the weak are not deserving of this harsh world. Modern medicine defies that theory. I did not like the idea of not just the fragile and weak, but also the nasty and sinful genes being passed on to the next generation. I hated humans for defying the laws of nature.

I loved animals, and I still do. I wanted to be a zoologist, a biologist, a nature photographer, a vet. I wanted to help animals more than I liked humans. My favourite author is James Herriot. His witty and artistic description of his adventures of veterinarian was very intriguing. I could understand all the jargon. Even now, after being through med school, the jargon made more sense and his tales of patients/owners really sounded like my own patients.

My parents discouraged me from pursuing that career. I took the "next best thing," which was treating humans.

What I liked about animals was their innocence, their basic instincts. If you remembered the series "The Walking Dead," where it was either you losing your higher functions as a zombie, or heightening your will to survive as a survivor. That's the same as animals, the basic need to survive. The selfish gene theory.

Anyway, children's minds work similar to animals. They live of basic instincts, something that cannot really be taught by others, but can be manipulated. Treating children was like treating innocence.

I sat in a surgery while I was in JC. It was the basis of my essay for entry into med school. I sat in a reconstruction of a cleft palate of a young girl. It was more than just cosmetic, but the surgeon explained that this surgery will change her life. She would be able to live normally. I watched a life changing surgery, as I decided that, that was what I want to do. I want to make a difference in someone's life by using what skills God gave me and helping them out.

Now that I have re-ascertain what I want to do, this is what I shall work hard for...

Yours Truly,
Ken Rhee.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Strangers: Angela

The following are fictional writing and any resemblance to actual events are purely coincidental:

It was supposed to be just another day at work; long and uneventful, but safe. Who would have known that my boss was such a jerk? I had to leave. He had no right to come on to me like that. He came into my office, with a promise of a long awaited promotion. But he also brought in his 'moves,' hinting that I will never get out of my position if I do not sleep with him. I thought I had to, but the more I dwelled on it, the more disgusted I was of myself for even thinking of it. I was fortunate that the strong smell of his cigarette stench emanating from his mouth when he tried to kiss me brought me back to my sense.

I managed to hold on to my tears all the way to my car. There, I let it all out. I sat in there, for almost 2 hours, hating myself for letting such a thing happen. I am pretty sure that I just just lost my job, a job that I kept through the recent bad economic times even though a lot of my ex-colleagues had to be laid off. I was proud of my job, I loved my job. I could not help but thinking the reason why I managed to stay while so many others had to go, was that that creep wanted me in bed with him. I cringed even thinking of his stupid face.

I wanted to drive. I wanted to drive on and on and on forever. I did not want to go back home to face my family after what just happened. So I drove.

Until I ran out of petrol 10 minutes later. I parked my car by the roadside, with the fuel indicator glowing bright. I realised I parked right in front of an MRT station.

I wiped my tears and tried to look my best, bought the most expensive fare and boarded the train. It was crowded as usual. I was forced to stand but all I wanted to do was to curl up and cry.

All men are evil, I started thinking. Men are evil because they crave power. Power over others, power of wealth, power of position. My boss was an ass. My 'boyfriend' is a self-absorbed narcissist. My dad pushed us to do way beyond what we could. I hate men, I don't need them. Sometimes I just want to live as a spinster with my 7 cats and 3 dogs.

I managed a smile as the person standing in front of me was wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon cat and a dog being best buds.

"So you CAN smile," the man with the shirt suddenly spoke.

"Excuse me?" I was stunned.

"You've been crying. But I'm glad there's still something that is cheering you up." He smiled and looked away as if nothing happened.

I wiped my eyes again. I guess they must have been red or swollen or something. And probably now my cheeks are probably red. This day was not meant to happen. If only I didn't stay back longer than I should. If only I would have said 'no' straight up. If only...

"You should smile more. You look prettier if you do."

"Excuse me?" I stared into his eyes, trying to decipher what he was trying to do.

"I am not sure what happened, but he's not worth crying and being angry over. Everything happens for a reason. This could be the start of something."

"I don't think you understand my situation at all." But in actual fact, he nailed the gist of what happend to me. Was it written all over my face?

"I am sure I don't. I'm just voicing my opinion. I'll stop now. I'm getting off soon anyway." He smiled again. And with that, he alighted and was gone.

That was 2 years ago. I have since started my own business with a few friends. Life has been good. I know I was not that all nice to him, but the guy in the cat and dog shirt really helped me that night. I dwelled on it, pondered at what he told me, finally concluding that he was right. That night, I made a change in my life.

How often nowadays, do you see a stranger on the train and actually cheer you up? Or even just casual talk for that matter. Everyone is so engrossed in their daily lives and ignoring everything else that is going on around them. Most of the people I see on the train all have that look, that they have only one track mind, to get from A to B. I guess that is how I used to be as well.

I do wonder, if I could ever meet with that guy ever again. I would love to thank him for what he said to me that day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sizzling Singapore Summer - Part 1

I will never be able to forget the way she looked up at me lying down in bed. The look will shall forever remain in my memories. The moment I saw her, only a few days ago, it was lust at first sight. Yes, LUST, and not love nor like, and we both knew it was never going to last the moment our eyes met.

The days we spent together went fast. Two days was long enough for a fire to engulf the both of us, but too short for it to ever mean anything. We spent every second of my short time here in Singapore together, in the confinement of the cheap hotel room we found on such short notice. Our belongings dumped in the hotel's locker room, there was nothing to disturb us upstairs.

It was a rainy day, the day we met. I was feeling gloomy myself, just coming out of the Kwan Yin Temple at Bugis. Against all my non-adherence to the principles of astrology and soothsaying, I went in to pray. I had not set foot in this temple for almost 5 years, when I used to frequent it back in my Singapore days. The familiar scent of incense of the joss sticks, the cluttered shoes surrounding the central carpet, sound of clicking bamboo of the Cham Si... it all brought back fond long ago memories of rituals i've done over the 6-7 years around my education in Singapore. I was happy and free then. And after 9 years, I find myself drawn towards finding out my fortune, written on a flimsy piece of pink paper.

I asked how my life would be for the new year. Prediction BAD. All I remembered was, my crops/silk worms would fail, I will lose a court case, I should think about moving house, pregnancy will be dangerous, business will fail, my investments will drop. I specifically asked about my love life, but i guess I really should be worrying about other things. It did end by saying I will persevere. But it didn't really sound like I will.

I struggled with the umbrella I brought. Perhaps it was old and rusty, or perhaps I didn't know how to use it, but with a hundred things going through my mind at that time. My clothes soaked up the falling rain, my shoes soaking up whichever raindrop that missed. Already, I was not happy with what I have achieved over the last year. The girl that I liked rejected me. I did not get into any program to further my studies. I lost a great deal of money on poor investments. Knowing the dark future ahead, I was ready to break down and create my own puddle of tears.

Then, she appeared out of nowhere. She was holding up an umbrella over me, and she was smiling at me. At first I was stunned. Why would anyone stop and help this crazy guy sitting in the rain trying to open a rolled up newspaper, shouting vulgarities? But she was pretty. I wouldn't say she's the model I-want-to-have-sex-with-her type of hot. But there was just something about her that made my heart flutter. All I could think of was how she must be a really kind soul that helps anyone in need, and she probably will save the next guy who has a nervous breakdown in the middle of the street in the rain as well. To her, I was probably one of the damsels in distress who can't even take care of himself. I looked down at my wet shoes.

"Let's go get you dry."

I was stunned. She held my hand and pulled me to the sheltered walkway. Her hand was both cold and warm at the same time. I could tell that she was in the cold rain for a while, but yet her hands stayed relatively warm. It was like magnetic or magical touch, as I felt a jolt of electricity that made my heart pump even faster. She let my hand go and closed her umbrella. Without thinking, I started walking. I can't remember whether I was following her or she was following me, but we walked on for a while.

"Where do you live?" she asked me.

"I'm not from around here," I finally managed to say. "I'm here on holidays."

She smiled and told me that she lived on the other side of the island. Then she suggested something that I would never have thought she would, "Let's check in at the next hotel we see and get you dry."

I just nodded. And soon found ourselves in a small room in the SEA hotel.

I then sat down at the bed and stared into nothing. So much had to happen to me, and now this; A beautiful young lady who came to my rescue, looking so alluring and compassionate. I don't know what was written on my face, but she sensed that my mind was cluttered with worries and burdens. She told me that everything happens for a reason. I didn't pay much attention to what she was saying then. It was something along the lines of salt, and hope and believing, and smiling.

"I like it when you smiled back at the temple."

"You were watching me?"

"I have a confession to make. I am strangely attracted to you since I saw you at the temple. I cannot explain it. And when I saw you sitting in the rain, I knew I had to meet you."

I tried hard to digest what I have just heard. "You're really pretty, too," was all I could muster.

Then she laughed. Her laugh was even more alluring. As if I needed another reason to fall for her more. I smiled.

After a short pause, she came up to me and started undoing the top button of my shirt. I was again stunned, but I stood up in surprise. She held her spot and I found myself standing right in front of her, the lumps of her breasts just touching my chest. She still smiled and continued unbuttoning my shirt. Her eyes, after undoing the second button looked at my lips, and I knew that she wanted to kiss them. I let her finish the buttons and I slowly leaned forward to kiss her. I did not encounter any rejection and she leaned forward to meet mine.

I licked her lips, encouraging her to open them. She reciprocated and we were engaged in an intensifying french kiss. She pulled off my shirt and slowly run her warm magnetic touch down my chest. I put my hands around her waist and back, and pulled her closer. I rubbed her back as sensually as I remembered how. I didn't know how far she wanted to go, but she lifted up her blouse a little and directed my hand to the back of her bra. I stalled, but continued caressing her back. She quickly undid her blouse and threw it to the side. Her hands dug into my back, and I took it as a signal that she wanted the bra off NOW. I complied and unclasped her bra with a quick pinch.

She drew back and smiled at me. Her eyes seemed to sparkle, making it the second most memorable moment. She was so beautiful.

(( insert detailed erotic description here ))

to be continued?

~~~ this writing is purely fictional ~~~

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Epic Egyptian Experience - 21 January 2011

I have to say, last night was the best night on this journey so far. I guess that the 5-star conditions finally set in for me. Or maybe it was because I lack sleep from the long journeys, interrupted hours, and uncomfortable seats. I was dead tired, so much so that I could not hear my brother snoring at all. I didn’t even hear him get up, or his alarm ringing. I had a very comfortable bed with nice cooling blankets, and air conditioning, and I really wanted to just continue sleeping there. It wasn’t that I wanted to continue dreaming. Strangely, I was dreaming about hospital and work.

Anyway, my brother finally woke me up, as we were to head to our first stop of the day, the Temple of Edfu. The temple is also known as the Temple of Horus, where it was fabled that Horus resides.

Our guide also explained the basic layout of the Egyptian temples. The first thing you will see is the great wall entrance, or pylons. These walls were huge, with 4-6 flagpoles in front and murals carved into them, usually signifying the person who made it and who the temple was for. The pylons then opened into the open court, where commoners are able to congregate to pray or give offerings to the gods and priests. This court also would have a row of pillars just inside the walls of the temple. Another set of pillars is found in the Hypostyle Hall, which is a roofed portion of the temple, open only to priests and royalty. Then at the end of the temple, there will be a sanctuary, where the idol of the God would sit. In this case, there would be a statue of Horus sitting in an altar in the sanctuary. Variations of this layout would incorporate the side rooms for making perfumes, incense, surgical tools etc.

Every year, the priests would organise for Horus’ wife, Harthor, to be brought from her temple to meet up with Horus in his temple. During that time, there would be a large feast that would last a week, celebrating their reunion. Both of the statues of Horus and Harthor would be placed together in the sacred chamber and they would supposedly do what married couples do.

It is such an interesting concept that is polytheism. Just like the Greek and Romans, the Egyptians worshipped many Gods, in the forms of human like behaviour; Gods having wars with one another, killing each other, consummating and producing offspring. What was different was that the Egyptian Gods also had heads of animals, like Horus, Sobek, Bastet, Anubis. Each God had different rituals to them, which had to be done to the letter, as not to anger them.

The culture of the ancient Egyptians was so strong, such that the Greek and Romans who came to conquer Egypt were captivated by the culture and kept it going, despite them having their own believes and rituals to follow.

Then, suddenly about 2 thousand years ago, it all changed, polytheism was looked down on. The so-called Gods were too human like in nature, fallible. Perhaps their beliefs were shattered when they found another civilization that flourished under different Gods. So the idea of monotheism, where there was only one true God and this God is all encompassing, omniscient, omnipresent, Omni-whatever. And before you know it, Islam spread across the nation and stuck.

I find it surprising that Christianity did not stay long. Even though the Holy Crusade extended its reign and left their mark in the temples, Islam still prevailed. Perhaps by the time they reached Egypt, the Crusaders were corrupted and conquered with tyranny and corruption, instead of the noble idea that it was originally from. The temples were defaced, graffitied with their crucifies, and even the sacred temples were defiled by common folk entering them, pillaging and looting. The ceiling, as our guide pointed out, still bore the soot that came from the fires that were made by the Crusaders.

Even now, new graffiti can be seen added to the walls, despite all the signs as to not touch the wall placed everywhere. I would very much like my name to be on such a historical site, but don’t they ever think that if everyone does it, there won’t be a historical site any more?

Fortunately, most of the structure still remained intact. The magnificent front wall of the temple still stood strong, almost complete. The murals still retained most of their carvings and some even still have their paint intact.

I just hope that the amount that we pay to visit all these sites will be used for the restoration or protection of these ruins. Interestingly, the Arabic/Islamic countries only need to pay 2LE, or 1LE if they are a student. I cannot think of the logic behind that, but it does attract tourists from Africa and the Middle East, including Egyptians themselves. We joked about picking up Arabic, just so that we can pull off being from an Arabic country and only pay 2LE and avoid tips.

We learnt an interesting phrase from 4 local post-grads on holiday. “Ana Mesri” meaning, “I’m Egyptian.” They were in the same tour group as us, sharing the same guides. They were a friendly bunch, and we became friends. Being Egyptians, they were a source of useful information, like where to go, where to eat. My father would be sharing his frightful experience with the traffic in Cairo, and complain about giving tips everywhere, and listened to their explanation of their life in Cairo. Their presence definitely added to the experience.

It made me think about what I would be able to say about my own country. Honestly speaking, I have nothing nice to say about Malaysia, nothing good to share. Perhaps I could talk about the beautiful jungles and scenery, or wonderful food, which can all be found all over the world. To cut things short, I am not patriotic at all towards Malaysia and I am glad that I am not living there.

I guess one thing that I appreciated from Malaysia is that I learnt how to respect other religions, races, traditions and cultures, something even Malaysians don’t ever learn. When in Rome, do as Romans do… or in this case, ~Walk like an Egyptian~

The Epic Egyptian Experience - 20 January 2011

The next ruins we visited were in Abu Simbel, 3 hours away by bus. This meant that we had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 2 am, to be able to make it at sunrise. Of course, we missed the sunrise again, being in the bus. I was on the West side, so I had lots of shots of the fading moon instead.

The bus was much more pack than usual. I should clarify that this microbus, what we termed it, was a larger than normal van that had a 5 rows of 2-1 seats, and the passageway was made such that it could hold one more seat per row, which was what they did. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had to choose the seat where the wheel was, so I had no legroom at all. Fortunately I could not sleep, so I could constantly move as to not let my leg fall asleep, or cramps, or clots.

And it being a 3-hour ride, with no stops in between, we had to put our bladders to the test. All I could think of was that the human bladder can hold 600mls and the kidney produces 60mls an hour of urine. Technically we would be able to hold for 10 hours. Of course, statistics never do us justice.

Abu Simbel ruins were worth it though. Again the ruins were reconstructed from another site a few meters below, now submerged underwater by Lake Nasser. To think that we drove 3 hours and we were still at the lake made by the dam at Aswan.

One of the 2 temples had the 4 large statues of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramesses II, that were 3 stories tall. It was not as big as Mt Rushmore, but putting into consideration that these were built in ancient times without the use of modernized tools of today, it really is a marvel. Not only was it a temple dedicated to Ra-Horakhty, Ptah and Amun, and to Ramesses himself, but the temple was made as a symbol of supremacy over the surrounding area, to make the population feel puny and insignificant standing beside them. I dare say that they achieved their goal.

The second temple a few hundred meters away had 6 smaller statues; this time was of Ramesses II’s wife, Nefertari, portrayed as Harthor. You were still dwarfed by the size of the statues. Like the other statues, these also were entrances to a temple inside. Photographs were strictly forbidden inside the temple, but they had similar layouts. The temple had different chambers with pillars and walls full of engraving and hieroglyphics. They probably told glorious tales of the kings and gods.

The perimeter of the ruins had a fence, patrolled by guards both on land and in the lake. The Tourism Police was what they were called. Taking bribes was their job, after looking after the place from actual thieves. They would offer to take your pictures, for a small price. They will offer to take you to forbidden areas for a price.

After an hour, we started our way back to the microbus and it was another 3-hour journey back to Aswan. We arrived back at the hotel just in time for lunch. We said goodbye to our fellow companions from the microbus and quickly finished what was left on the buffet table. Shortly after, the cruise set sail.

Did I mention that our hotel was on a cruise ship?

The “Aton” was the name of our cruise ship, one of over 400 such ships going up and down the Nile. Our ship was not as lavish as some others, but it was still deemed as a 5-star hotel. The ship was not as big as ocean liners, but would probably fit 5 stacks of 9 average size busses. The top deck was carpeted in synthetic grass with a small swimming pool at the front. There were also many chairs for sunbathing under the Egyptian sun and watching the scenery passing by. Despite cruising slowly along the Nile, it was so stable. If you kept still for long enough, you could feel the engine churning, but otherwise, indoors, you would not know that we were actually moving.

Our next destination was the town of Kom Ombo, housing another set of ruins, a temple for both Horus and Sobek. Much to my dismay, we did not wait for the guide to explain what was going on. So we ended up exploring aimlessly around the ruins without knowing what the temple is for. We eaves drop on the other tour groups, their guides explaining various bits of information here and there. Eventually, I managed get an accelerated explanation from our original guide. He described the Egyptian calendar, which was engraved onto one of the walls. It turns out that the Egyptians also had 365-day calendars, also divided into 12 months. However, they had 10 days in a week, and 3 weeks in a month, with the extra days for God celebrations. Their calendar also corresponded with the seasons, such as for harvesting.

It is interesting to know that an ancient civilization like this followed a solar cycle, rather than the lunar one that we see in almost all the other civilizations. The lunar calendar was probably easier to follow on a daily basis and the moon phases are easily predictable. However when you worship a sun god, like Amun-Ra, I guess you should follow a solar calendar instead.

Ra soon set on us, and it grew dark, so we had to make our way back to the cruise ship, and before we knew it, we set sail again down the Nile.

The Epic Egyptian Experience - 19 January 2011

The next leg of our journey was a 15-hour train ride from Cairo to Aswan. We started at 2200hrs yesterday and the train slowly made it’s way down alongside the River Nile. Unfortunately, the so-called First Class cabin’s windows were hazy with mildew. We could just make out silhouettes of date trees under the moonlight. We were at first disappointed, but we will eventually be cruising down the Nile soon.

The cabin had space for 6 people, but for the first 30 minutes we enjoyed the extra 2 seats. Eventually, a group of French people boarded the train at Giza, taking up the last 2 spots. They weren’t a friendly bunch, I guess mainly because they don’t speak English. But it was late at night anyway, so we just minded out own business and tried to get as much sleep as we could.

I did not get a good night’s rest. The seat did not incline enough to get a good backrest, there was no pillow or support for my head, and the constant droning of the train tracks was more than an annoyance than anything. I decided to keep my iPhone’s player on for as long as the battery would last. Surprisingly, it lasted me the night and still had 50% left.

In the morning, the French group left, and the two seats were then filled up again by newly weds from Jordan. Fortunately, they were much friendlier and kept us entertained in this long train journey. And at last we reached Aswan, home to the famous Aswan Dam and Upper Dam, an hour late. We got down from the train, said goodbye to the couple and to 2 other Chinese girls from the next cabin, wishing them a wonderful holiday…

Only to meet them again on our way to see the Dams and Philae ruins. Although we were in different hotels, our itinerary were organised by the same guides it turns out. The Dams were huge, one built after the other, one bigger than the other. It was not as big as the Hoover Dam, it was not even really unique. Why we paid 20LE for it, I still do not understand.

After the 10 minutes allocated to take photographs, we had to leave for the Philae ruins. The ruins were relocated after the dams were built, when the lake behind the dam was formed. The ruins were more majestic than the ones that were in display at the Museum, and having a guide to tell us a bit more about the history of the place was really better. He told us of the story of the Gods, Isis and Osiris, and Seth, of how Seth killed Osiris and scattered his remains all across Egypt and how Iris had to grow wings to scavenge for his remains. Eventually, Osiris was reformed and Isis gave birth to Horus. Horus then waged war against Seth, and lost his eye in the process. Horus was gifted an eye, which was as powerful as a falcon’s eye. That is why Horus is always depicted as having a falcon’s head.

Our guide also told us the history of the ruins, having 3 different influences incorporated into the ruins; the Greek, Roman, and the Holy Crusade. All of which left their markings on the Egyptian architecture. In modern times, it was called vandalism. The pillars that once bore the hieroglyphics of the tales of Isis and Orisis, now had random Greek writing and crucifixes carved into them. Almost all the faces of the carvings were scratched out, particularly the face of Isis, as it had more male features, so says the guide. Also, the Christians shunned polytheism.

The ruins were as tall as a 3-story building, and to think that they had to cut it up, transport it to higher ground, and reassembled piece by piece. Just like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, only actual size. It was one of many such ruins along the Nile that had been relocated because of the dam.

The ruins were located on an island in the reservoir lake, Lake Nasser. We had to ferry across in a motor-powered boat. The boat ride allowed us to, for the first time of our lives, touch the waters if the River Nile. Maybe it was just my imagination, but touching the water felt different than touching any other water. It was sort of thicker, as though mixed with algae from being stagnant behind the dam for so long. It also looked darker than normal fresh water, supporting my theory. I was so tempted to drink from it as well, but the thought of having gastroenteritis at this point in our vacation stopped me.

We got back an hour before dinner, so we decided to visit the Aswan bazaar. The Al-Khalil bazaar that we went to yesterday was more crowded than this one. Yesterday, we had to traverse the slum areas inside the walled section of Islamic Cairo, through alleys, through mud and dirt. When we finally got there, it was a real busy market place. There were vendors everywhere, even approaching you announcing, “1 Dollar, 1 Dollar!” “Everything 5 Pound!” It was easy to get lost in the bazaar, lost in the crowd and lost in the price wars. Luckily the taxi driver warned us, “Look yes, No buy.” Which was what we did.

The bazaar in Aswan, although less crowded, felt much bigger. The streets themselves were wider and we had more room to navigate through. The vendors were just as aggressive, approaching us, spewing out all their greetings in the Asian languages. Being friendly, they ask where we are from, welcoming us into their stores. When you have nothing to buy, it was easy to just smile and politely say no.

Unfortunately, when I am in a manic mood, there was so much I want to buy. And once I get reeled in, I find it hard to turn them away. So I left with two souvenirs, much to my family’s disapproval. There was a big silence on our way back to the hotel.

I guess I would never be able to survive in Egypt. I don’t like bargaining because I am never good at it, and I am always the one who gives in first. In my defence, the peddlers are still trying to earn a living; I’m giving them charity. My mother told me not to be so soft hearted.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Epic Egyptian Experience - 18 January 2011

One of the places in Cairo that was mention worthy was the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, where most of the artefacts recovered from the various pyramids are displayed. These ranged from huge stone gateways, or what was left of them, to tiny figurines made as jewellery. All of them tagged and numbered, for ease of cataloguing by the curators. Evidently, there was a joint venture between the Egyptians and the Japanese going on and the artefacts were presumably going somewhere…

What disappointed me about the museum was it was all for show, and nothing much to describe the culture. There were small cards with a short description of the artefact in display, but that was it. There was no family tree, no epic tales, and no folklore. It was really, to me, a display of rocks and really old stuff.

Perhaps if we did pay extra for a guide to take us around and describe what was going on, it would have been a better experience. They would be telling us interesting things like the paint on this statue was of its original state, or those hieroglyphics depict the tale of someone doing something epic, or these sarcophagus contained the body of so and so’s niece and her viscera were contained over the other side of the museum.

I was also disappointed because my favourite part of Egyptian history, the animal gods, was not clearly defined. After spending 3 hours in the museum, I only could name a few of them; Osiris, Horus (raptor), Sakhmet (Lion, goddess of war), Anubis (jackal), Bastet (cat), Isis (winged).

There were many hieroglyphics on various walls and papyrus, of which I could only imagine told tales of glory or adventure. I found small scarab shaped talismans with hieroglyphics, described to contain the story of a wedding, and another about a hunting party. As I do not know how to read them, I could only joke and infer that these hieroglyphics were probably some kid’s picture book, or the stories are actually newspapers comics. But I guess the experts have deciphered it and they ARE what they say they are.

I was also intrigued when we got the section of practical artefacts. Not the figurines but proper everyday items. Items that are essentially unchanged over the millenniums that we still use today. A wooden device with long teeth arranged neatly in a row, A COMB! A hand held device with a metal paddle, beautifully decorated, A MIRROR! A straight, long device with markings on them, A RULER! A hollow tube with small holes at strategic points, A FLUTE! An upside down V with a piece of string tied from the angle to a weight, A THINGAMAGIC THAT FINDS STRAIGHT ANGLES!

The other section that intrigued me was the jewellery. Not so much of how shiny and colourful they are, but some of them were se elaborate, and made up from tiny pieces of material. I could not fathom how they made such tiny little beads, smaller than the ones I were using, and weaving them so tightly together. There were also shaped components, smaller than your fingernail, with intricate detail, like the eyes, or feathers.

I won’t say that the museum was a total waste, but it would have really been better if there were more information about their life and culture of the world oldest civilization. It would have also been better if they actually let us take photos in there.

Jumping forward in time to the last few centuries, we visited the Citadel, housing Islamic Egypt. Inside the walls, were a few mosques and the military museum. The mosques were magnificent, both on the inside and the outside. The first one had 2 rows of pillars on the inside circumference, each pillar had a tale to tell. The decorations around the top were different from each other. One of them even had a cross, signifying that the “Holy Crusade wuz here”. Others, we’ve been told, were from Greek, Roman origin, some from Luxor, Persia and others I did not catch.

The second mosque was more majestic that the first. The inside was lit with a thousand lights and chandeliers made from crystals. The dome was beautifully decorated with murals, as though it was made from stained glass. The carpet subtly had decorated rectangles, arranged for worshippers for tier prayers. There was also a beautiful golden door situated just off the centre of the room, leading to a flight of golden staircase.

Jumping ahead in time to the last few decades, the military museum showcased the latest wars that Egypt was involved in, particularly World War 2 and their independence. Again, the museum did not capture my attention. The writings on the wall were in broken English and did not seem to follow any particular order. I could not clearly see Egypt’s involvement in the war. At the end of the museum, there was a Hall of Martyrs, with hundreds of photos of war heroes, and a miniature of the commemorative structure of these martyrs, but again, no caption.

The citadel was also situated on a hill overlooking the whole of Cairo.

A snapshot of Cairo does no justice to the city. A photo would only tell you that Cairo was perpetually in a mystical fog or haze or mist, which doesn’t seem to lift at any time of the day. The pyramids were barely visible in the far distance. You can clearly see the scattered bricks, of never finished buildings or ones that have crumbled, Almost all the of them were coloured with dust and dull colours, like the city have not been looked after for a long time. Visually, you knew that the city was alive though, because of the fresh colourful litter that were scattered in the streets. The other thing that ensured you that the city was alive is the sounds of cars beeping and their engines roaring. Then every now and then, you would hear whole city in prayer, the mosques booming in unison. You could even feel the ground reverberating beneath you. The city of Cairo was very much alive.

That was our trip through the history of Egypt in 1 day.

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