Egypt or Arbitrary Story #6 or Why is Ra Laughing?!
I’d always wanted to go to Egypt. When I was little, my mom took me to the King Tut exhibit at the Smithsonian. We stood in line for 6 hours, and it was worth every second.
Worse, I decided at that moment I would be a pharaoh. Why shouldn’t I wear golden masks? Sit on golden chairs? Live forever in my huge pyramid? It seemed like a no brainer. So, while other kids were playing Superman, I was playing Pharaoh. Hush. Stop laughing.
And, it got no better when I grew up. Except, now I added to the myth of pharaoh with my fascination for mummies. Or, more specifically, with the Mummy movies staring Brendan Frasier. They hit on all scores for me: Egypt, mummies, pharaohs, princesses, magic — like Star Wars, I watched the Mummy movies 1,000 times. Especially when sick, going through dental surgery, or other times when I had a great excuse.
“What do you want to do for Christmas?” Matthew asked.
This had become one of my favorite conversations, after the Athens trip. (See other blog posting if you skipped this one, “Arbitrary Story #3: Why do you’all want to go south?)
“I don’t know…what did you want to do.”
“I thought we could go to Egypt this year, continue the ‘cradle of civilization’ tour.”
I pretended to think about it.
“Egypt would be nice.”
So we did. And, as my big Christmas present, Matthew hired a real, genuine Egyptologist to show me around. He picked us up at the airport. He drove us EVERYWHERE. It was great.
Let me back up. If you’ve never been to Egypt, you may not know this. Scams are everywhere. Most are harmless enough, but some are dangerous. People meet you at the airport, say they were sent from your hotel.
“We’re sorry, but your hotel has burned down. Management has made a reservation at another, finer, better hotel.” And then they try to take you to their cousin’s “hotel”.
So, after reading these stories on the Internet, we thought a guide might be good. Plus, he could bribe the guards to get us into the attractions. That’s what you do in Egypt. Bribe everyone. Not big bribes, little bribes. But if you do that, then you get into the Mummy Room when it is CLOSED, instead of with the teaming tourist masses freshly arrived on buses. Let me tell you, it’s the way to travel. The private guide, not the buses.
I was excited on the way to the Great Pyramids of Giza. My guide was driving a new SUV. Again, total luxury for Egypt: the cabs, they are powered by your feet, Fred Flintstone style, and your luggage is tied to the roof. No joke.
“So,” I said, “tell me about scarabs.”
The Egyptologist nearly wrecked his new SUV.
“(Expletive in Egyptian) Mummy movies! They’ve ruined everything! Everyone thinks they’re an expert! Scarabs are DUNG BEETLES. Nothing more. They do not eat people alive, and they are not a threat.”
“Oh,” I said, a little disappointed, “well, tell me about the new theory of the building of the pyramids using internal ramps.”
The Egyptologist glanced back at me. A little puzzled. He had me down as a stupid American believing in piranha bugs. “How do you know about THAT?” He asked, a bit impressed despite himself.
I thanked Ra. I had just heard a documentary on NPR about this new theory, and had bought the author’s book at the airport. I produced it, like a magician out of thin air.
“Oh, I read about it in this book. I’ve always been a serious student of Egyptology.”
He nearly wrecked the car again. “I’ve been trying to get that! Where did you get that.”
“Oh,” I said, “this? Why, here, have my copy.”
We immediately became friends.
And, boy did that work out! He got me into the Great Pyramids when they were closed! I was in the king’s chamber, alone. Tons of ancient sandstone surrounded me, the desert sun rising outside, and I was in the presence of history. As I came down the main causeway, a film crew was entering.
“WHO ARE YOU?” said an official looking, pinched faced lady.
I blinked. “Why, I’m Mike Gatty, the photographer. And, WHO ARE YOU?” (Always look official. I’ve learned this the hard way.)
She paused, “I’m with Discovery. We have reserved this area for a documentary we are filming on the building of the pyramids, and the new internal ramp.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, sounding bored out of my skull. “I am quite familiar with that … ‘Theory’. I’m finished here. But, good luck with your shoot.” And I kept walking.
Later we went to the Red Pyramid, and my guide whisked me past the line, right up to some hieroglyphs. He started telling me about the history, talking very quietly, in my ear. I had big sunglasses on to cut the desert sun. I was wearing a baseball cap.
“Who is that?” I heard someone in the line ask, hand cupped to their mouth.
“I don’t know,” said their friend, “but it’s someone important. I think it’s Brad Pitt.”
So, let’s review: Guide. Egyptologist. Worth every penny. I’ve never been mistaken for Brad Pitt, before or since. And, somehow, I don’t think I ever will.
Ra is still laughing.