Journey Up the Nile River

Journey Up the Nile River

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

July 2019

There are many kinds of vacations—the relaxing, island vacation, the adventuruous trip up the mountains of Peru, the majestic splendor of old churches throughout Europe, and then there is the Middle East. A term coined in 1850s by a British India official, it is composed of 18 countries, 60+ languages and nearly four million people. It is the birthplace of most of the world’s religions and “has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area.”

So, let’s just say, it’s not Hawaii.

There are over 200 Nile cruise ships. Many originate in the small town of Aswan, which is down the Nile. This is where our journey begins—after we leave the hustle of Cairo. To get to Aswan you travel by plane or train—driving is not recommended.

An overnight trip to Aswan by an overnight train is a unique experience. The train station in Cairo grows smaller in the distance as we head south on a 549 mile journey. Waking early morning, a rattling train is now alongside the Nile River; a country with a long history that hasn’t seen, in these parts, enormous change: Men still pull carts with cattle, horses carry cane sugar. In one brief moment a dead cow carcass can be seen in a small pond by the side of the road. Time has stood still in these parts.

Aswan is a smaller version of Cairo. To be sure, there is a McDonalds, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and likely anyday, a Starbucks, but for now, it is a popular city that sits on the Nile, with a substantial amount of river boats.

Aswan is the “Jewel of the Nile”. Pink and grey granite thrusts upward through the Nubian sandstone, forming mountains, cliffs and jagged outcrops. While there countless mosques, there is also Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral—a towering catherdral  in the Coptic architecture — the architecture of the Copts, who form the majority of Christians in Egypt. 

Security is a way of life in Egypt. In Cairo and in places like the Coptic Church, security runs high. Armed guards and blockades can be found at many hotels and indeed at this Coptic Church. But retail and restaurants flourish in the city of Aswan—it is only until late one after noon on a Friday that the azan, the call to prayer can be heard by countless speakers throughout the city—these callers, called muezzinine, are a cacophony of  sounds—it becomes a surreal moment in a backstreet hotel as the soundtrack shifts, the sun sets, we are surely not in the West anymore.

The river Nile. The view of the river as seen in Aswan.

Photograph by Zuke Oshiro

“What you can expect from a Nile River cruise is the adventure of a lifetime.”

DAY ONE we board the Santuary IV. The Sanctuary Sun Boat IV is a contemporary chic, sleek boat with heavy art deco influences. There are 36 standard cabins, two presidential suites and two royal suites. We are greeted as enter the plank by the entire staff offering refreshments and introductions. We are divided  into groups and assigned an English-speaking tour guide, who will accompany us to the various temples along the way. Afternoon tea will be served. Everynight an activity is planned—tonight, after a gourmet dinner is served, we watch as traditional fokloric music and a “whirling dervish” perform.

As one look about it becomes clear that this journey invites all kinds of people—local Egytians, A London-based Sufi businessman with his family, and elderly couple from Scotland, a couple from Cape Cod, a Brazilan opera singer and her daughter, and Egyptian family with their California-based son-in-law. The staff is attentive, ocassionaly too attentive, but the dinner, which is buffet-style, is a nice start to the this ride up the Nile.

A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat used in protected waters of Egypt. Its rig consists of one or two lateen sails.

Photographed by Zuke Oshiro

DAY TWO a large buffet breakfast is served each morning. Groups gather on the first deck and we head out for adventure.  We journey to the majestic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilika. We begin to make friends with some Egytian locals and their California-based relatives. The temples are surreal. Over three thousand years old, the preservation is impressive. We are to dress like and Egyptians for a post-dinner party. We bargain with the locals to buy a “galabeyya”, the traditional Egyptian outfit. Each night, at dinner you are seated in the same place. We are seated next to a Brazilian opera singer and her daughter. The after-dinner party is a chance for everyone to mingle and dance into the wee Egyptian hours. This is the requisite fun of travelling by boat—it’s a small party, you get to know everyone, and their stories.

DAY THREE we set off the visit the Temple of Horus. We begin to understand some aspects of the Egyptian pharoah culture. The mythology is deeply complex. For example Horus, is the sky god and there are two, Horus the Younger and Horus Elder. There is a surprising lack of sexuality in these temples, and everyone is quite fit. The drawings are impeccable and rarely vary in form.

We head to The Temple of Esna. The Temple of Esna, which was buried beneath its own debris for many centuries, is located in the center of the town, close to the River Nile and only a short walk from your boat through the local market. We are given passage by way of carriage. The remains of the Temple contain a hall of columns with 24 pillars beautifully decorated with lotus and palm capitals. Also notable is that while looking up, astrological symbols can be seen, 12 of them.

To suggest that it is overwhelming is an understatement. One has to pinch themselves to remind themselves of the reality—you are in Egypt, in the MIddle East and these are the temples that Hollywood has been in love with for so long.

So that evening, as entertainment, they have set up a projector to show the 1978 film, “Death on the Nile”. This version features Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian sleuth. Actually filmed along the same route we are on, this two hour and twenty minute film runs late into the Egyptian night—we all retire early for our last day.

 

DAY FOUR The east and west banks of Luxor. This is the big one, the grandaddy of temples. We’re suddenly seeing more people at these temples.  First stop, Temple of Luxor, dedicated to the god Amun. We have had a change in our tour guide! The people in our group requested a new guide. Welcome Medhat, looking like something out of a central casting for Indiana Jones, he is informative and affable. We move onto the Temple of Karnak.
After lunch, visit the Valley of the Kings or The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes, as it was once known. We will have the chance to visit at least one tomb in the Valley of the Queens, and visit the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. On the way back to the river Nile, you will pass by the famed Colossi of Memnon, known in Ancient Greek times for their haunting voices at dawn.

 

It’s over. We arrive at our final moments on board the Santuary IV — saying goodby the ship is abuzz with activity. Rooms are quickly seen to. We head to the Luxor airport to head back to Cairo. We have made friends. We travel over vast stretches of desert, broken by the sudden appearance of a great lake, which seems to run for miles. We are back in Cairo for 12 hours.

There was something about this trip, that for the well-worn traveler speaks to that ocassional need for danger—not physical danger, but to be somewhere where your native language is foreign, the landscape, the people, the culture is vastly different than anything previously experienced. Bali was one of those places, The Maldives certainly. Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, all spoke to a distance of things known, flavors never tasted, history seen in terms of thousands instead of hundreds. Dangerous? Sure—you’re in the Middle East—you cannot get to Israel easily from Egypt though it is under 500 miles away. But it’s Egypt, it’s Cairo. It’s the Pyramids! It’s everything you ever imagined and more. To be sure, there was a moment, leaving the hustle of Cairo in a taxi and the Pyramids suddenlhy appear in the distance—it’s a moment. Crusing up the Nile via a five star luxury boat, that too, was many moments.

https://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/egypt-holidays

Generation Z: A Photographic Series By Jennifer Blue

Generation Z: A Photographic Series By Jennifer Blue

AN INTERVIeW WITH Jennifer Blue

The world of Jennifer Blue is teeming with visual ideas—and with her new series, GEN Z, she captures in the most straight-forward manner, the faces of a generation. Her past investigations into image have produced a variety of subjects: Panoptics, Sentient, Hunger, Babe and Pugilists. Her work invariably dances around our notions of documentary, commercial work and art.

What does Gen Z mean to you and what is your relationship to it? I work in the library of a creative college. Recently, overnight, I observed a tsunami of new students wielding a completely different aesthetic and sensibility than their predecessors. Curious, I began to explore these individuals with conversation and camera. At this juncture I believe that Generation Z and myself mutually intrigue and inspire each other.

Shooting in film or digitally? I am shooting this series digitally, in the spirit of the digitally savvy Generation Z.

Is this an ongoing project and will you revisit some individuals as they pass from their Gen Z status? An interesting prospect. Most of my subjects have been captured very spontaneously. Too, the interaction with the subjects, for the most part have been a short-lived, impulsive splash. Yes, I would like to follow through with some of the subjects into the future.

Whose Photographic Work is inspiring you? Rineke Dijkstra

What is photography in the year 2019? I think that most viewers are hyperaware of being manipulated by advertising images. Fatigued with this manipulation, viewers are looking for genuine representations of the diversity of real life in 2019. Observe the increase in nonbinary, non-ageist, non-affluent imagery, due, I think, to the increased appetite for this type of media. 2019 is more of a celebration of documentary rather than commercial photography, in my opinion.

for more BLUE visit https://www.jenniferbluephotography.com/

Mexico: A Love Affair

Mexico: A Love Affair

Frequently, we are asked, “is Mexico safe?”, which is ironic considering…but let’s leave politics for the pundits and facebookers. Mexico is a feast, literally of places to visit. From Los Angeles, Mexico City is a three- and half-hour plane ride costing under $300. Hotels, restaurants, museums abound and are all reasonably priced. The people are extremely friendly. Due to its rich culture and history, Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world for number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of those is Miguel San de Allende, located 170 miles from Mexico City, and a 10-hour drive from the US border. While the outlying areas of the town and municipality have changed over time, the historic center remains much as it was 250 years ago. The layout of the center of the city is mostly a straight grid, as was favored by the Spanish during colonial times. However, due to the terrain, many roads are not straight. There are no parking meters, no traffic signals and no fast food restaurants. And we are thankful for that. There are weddings by the hour—initiated by the callejoneada, a wedding parade that’s customary in San Miguel. The parade has a mariachi band and a donkey with Tequila shots. Welcome to Mexico!

We have travelled to the west side of Mexico where you will find Puerto Vallarta — a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in Jalisco state. It is known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife scene. Its cobblestone center is home to the ornate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, boutique shops and a range of restaurants and bars. El Malecón is a beachside promenade with contemporary sculptures, as well as bars, lounges and nightclubs.  Made famous by American film director John Huston. Even though John Huston had visited the town when it only had a few thousand souls in 1929, while navigating up the Pacific coast on one of his innumerable trips to his beloved Mexico, plus another time while scouting for locations for Typee (a movie he never shot), not much had changed when he came back in the early 1960s with a new movie project, “The Night of the Iguana”, and a location for the set called Mismaloya, tipped off by a local entrepreneur. The small town flourished with tourists, especially Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who had a house in town where they would fight, drink, make love and make up. This is considered part of the so-called “Mexican Riviera” a term coined by the Princess Cruise Line.

On the other side of the continent is Mayan Rivera. This is a stretch of Caribbean coastline on Mexico’s northeastern Yucatán Peninsula. It’s known for its numerous all-inclusive resorts, such as those in the town of Playa del Carmen, and its long beaches. To the south, Tulum is home to yoga retreats and the preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan port city, perched on an outcrop above a white-sand beach. You could include Cancun, which on the “American side” is about as Las Vegas as a tourist attraction can get. Be warned—you will be dogged and hassled until you relent and enter an establishment. But, if your travel a short distance south, you will come to Playa del Carmen. A party town, this is also where you can get aboard a boat and head to the island of Cozumel. Going further South you will find Tulum—a town that sits on the Carribean Sea. Here, you can experience a cenote — a sinkhole, and there are many. In Tulum, you can experience   the Castillo, or castle, which is perched on the edge of a 12-metre limestone cliff, overlooking the Caribbean coast. Negotiating its steep steps is best done sideways, a fact which will assert itself on the way down. There is something magical about the place, and upon setting foot on the warm white sands of the Carribean, it is hard to not jump into sea. And you will. No matter which coast or inland destination, Mexico provides a unique experience for any traveler.

When we think of Mexico, we think “so much, so close!” Any direction you look, Mexico has offerings like few other countries.

Outfest: STEVEN ARNOLD: HEAVENLY BODIES

Outfest: STEVEN ARNOLD: HEAVENLY BODIES

Steven F. Arnold (1943–1994) Born in Oakland, Ca., he moved to Los Angeles and set up a studio on the bend of Beverly and Virgil. His studio was dark—only when he lite it did you see all the extravangrant props and elements of his photography. In some ways, he felt San Francisco—though every visit to his studio would have someone from the movie business; Ellen Burstyn and Grace Zabriskie were regulars. He shot mostly from a tall ladder looking down. It was the first time I came to realize that a six pack could be created in illusion by painting shadows.  He mastered in tromp l’oei (to deceive the eye) and the creation of photographic tableaus.He was  also a filmmaker,  painter, illustrator, set and costume designer, and assemblage artist.

This Sunday, Outfest presents the documentary about his life.

Angelica Huston narrates this exploration of the spectacularly dreamlike world of Salvador Dali’s protégé and PWA, Steven Arnold, and his strikingly creative and influential body of work filled with occult rituals, Hollywood camp, and surrealist art nouveau whimsy. Taken from more than 70 hours of original and archival footage, including rare scenes of Holly Woodlawn, director Vishnu Dass digs deeply into the decadent countercultural and inspiring life of this unheralded multimedia artist of the queer community.

STEVEN ARNOLD: HEAVENLY BODIES

google.com, pub-2907176749232271, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0