Friday, December 21, 2012

Very old

After visiting the pyramids at Giza, we decided to go and visit more pyramids.
It seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  It didn't seem possible, but we were seeking out some pyramids that were even older than what we had just seen.

The driver was in a foul mood in the car.  The inability of the tour company to squeeze any extra money out of me had clearly led to them being yelled at.  I had turned out to be a very poor investment for them.  I didn't care though.  If anything, I was happy to have thwarted their thieving ways, even if only briefly.

We reached the step pyramid at Saqqara after about an hour of driving.  Sitting in the car, the driver looked at my with contempt through the rear view mirror and asked me whether I had a guidebook.  I nodded with a smirk.

Once we got to our destination, we went inside into a good museum that was well presented and full of immaculately preserved items.  I was even surprised to find the "oldest" mummy that had ever been uncovered was in this museum.  For such a unique and precious artifact, the surroundings were simple and restrained.  This artifact was something that I would have expected would have received more acclaim and attention, it should have been surrounded by crowds and admirers.  Instead it lay in its glass coffin, undisturbed and unappreciated, much as it would have been before it had been excavated.

We left the museum and we found ourselves walking around the temple complex.  We walked through a series of halls that look old even by Egyptian standards and then found ourselves in front of the famous step pyramid.
This was the first pyramid.  All others started from this original design.  A simple enough idea of stacking several tombs on top of each other by the architect Imhotep led to his deification and the creation of a national symbol that would endure for nearly 5000 years.  

The thought of 5000 years was difficult to contemplate.  It is a number so large that makes my life seem but a faint whisper, a barely audible noise in comparison.  When I think about it more, it's because my life is but a faint whisper.

Yet when I think about this amount of time relative to the entire existence of our planet or even of humans, it no longer seems so impressive.  To think that 5000 years has left us with little more than a broken heap of rocks that require constant maintenance doesn't fill me with any confidence that anything I do will be remembered.  It doesn't leave me with much confidence that anything anyone around has done will be remembered.

We kept walking and found off to the side of the complex an old underground tomb.  The tomb was closed, but that didn't stop the guards from ushering us in to have a look inside anyway.  Inside I found some of the most beautifully painted tomb walls I had seen in my entire trip.  Nothing is free though and the guards proceeded to shake us down for some baksheesh.  In this instance, I was happy to oblige.

I was enjoying the open spaces.  At this point in my trip, I had  largely come out to visit to pyramids out of obligations.  I was sick of Pharonic Egypt.  However, this time out visiting the pyramids had been different.  I could actually see the beauty of my surroundings and I was once again in awe of the incredible monuments.
I kept walking a bit further away from the temple complex and found myself standing in the desert.
The clean and pure desert.  I love the desert.  I feel completely free when I stand in its emptiness and nothing disturbs me.

No comments: