Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Luxor Marathon

Just returned from a vacation to Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt with Stephen, Jennifer, Sarah Fuller, and Brice Rogers. SUCH a great trip!
The main reason for the vacation was the Egyptian Marathon--the only recognized marathon in all of Egypt, and Stephen and I signed up for it. Actually, Stephen for the full and I signed up for the 1/2.

For the past couple months I've been training for this race, using it as a good excuse to try to stay in shape. Well, a couple weeks ago I was nasty ill, losing a lot of energy and nutrients with it, and just as I recovered I was kicked in the shin and ankle playing football with the kids and again couldn't run for a few days. Still, the race went so well! I finished in under two hours for the sixth place for women in the 1/2 marathon (out of 26 women) from around the world. Stephen finished in 3 hours 8 minutes and qualified for the Boston Marathon. The race started at Queen Hatshipsuts' Temple and looped around the Valley of the Nobles, Memnon, and the Valley of the Kings. How cool is that?! It was sweet to be running a race only to look up and see huge "Never Ending Story"-looking stone statues from antiquity staring down at you. Wonder if people ever had races back then? hehe...probably not.

It was an odd race, however. Although pretty well organized, the only food and drink at the service stations was water and bananas; and nothing to eat at the end. Thankfully I had friends handing out Stephen's powerbars and GU to replenish the body. Apparently two years ago they ran out of water and people had to stop racing! I think they took care of it this year.
Our spectators were the village children. The race was on Friday, the Muslim holiday, so the kids had no school. (I' m not even sure many go to school in the first place).

With only 400 or so racers, we really needed those kids to cheer us on, and they certainly did more than that! These kids ran with us! I'd say about 1/4 to 1/3 of the race I had children running along side of me in their floppy sandles keeping up as long as they could. When they got tired they would stop and rest only to hook up with more racers later. They also loved to give high-fives. In the first 10 miles I thought this was really cute, but in the last three miles it took too much energy to be slapping all those young hands. Still, they were great for pushing me along, because they loved to run just a bit ahead of me to show they could do it too, so I sped up a bit when I had them with me. I noticed some children had their own racing numbers, and they were legitimate! I realized they must have received them last year from some runners and kept them all year to wear them for this race. How adorable!

Going to Luxor for the race was the first priority, but so long as we were there, why not make a vacation out of it, right? :-) We spent three days in Luxor and Jennifer and I spent one day in Aswan visiting the Nubian village and bussing to Abu Simbel--the HUGE Ramses II temple just north of Sudan. The most exciting thing in Luxor was certainly all the tombs and temples. I just love seeing how people lived over 4000 years ago by looking at the pharonic art. You see people resting under trees, using mirrors to look at one's beauty, putting incense in one's hair as perfume, hunting animals with bows and arrows on a horse chariot, carrying water, fishing, funeral processions, constructing homes, making shoes, using money through a balance of weights system, women playing music with harp-looking instruments, giving and receiving gifts [specifically ivory, monkeys, and leopards from the foreigners], offering sacrifices and gifts to the Gods, punishing people with sticks, harvesting wheat, etc. It's incredible how constant human nature, the day-to-day lifestyles and customs, and the blessings and sorrows of our lives as humans are! Oh, and the jewelry of 4000 years ago would be fashionable today—that’s really cool.

I especially thought a lot about the Old Testament when as I was looking at the hieroglyphics and art. There was such an emphasis on pleasing the lords with offerings and sacrifices of gold and grains and animals. In Karnak temple there were areas designated only for the pharaoh and high priests, and some places only for the high priests, who were the only people who could reach the Gods. I’ve just finished reading Leviticus and Numbers and I’m finding many parallels between these books of the bible and the ancient Egyptian religious practices.

The one frustrating thing about Luxor is that it is such a tourist trap. Everything was expensive (relatively speaking) and we were hassled a lot. Jennifer, who was born in South Korea, really gets irritated with this because people always yell out to her saying “Chinese!” or “Japanese!” No one believes she is from America, and no one thinks Korea either. We decided she should start making up places that she’s from, since no one seems to know or believe her anyway. So, we started saying both of us were from “Pluto” (yes, the planet). Oh was this funny. “You are from Pluto? I hear Pluto is nice! Very nice!” or “Ah, yes, Pluto! Very good! Very good!” A couple times people asked, “Where is Pluto” but for the most part we got away with it. One time a man asked me where we were from and I said, “Guess.” I ‘guess’ he didn’t know the word because he said, “Oh, Guess, that is a nice place!” :-)

Other things we saw:
· We got caught in a funeral procession at one point. The men walk down the streets of the village carrying the casket while the woman, dressed from head to toe in black and some wailing, follow behind leaving a good 100m space between the sexes.
· We got caught in a protest in Luxor. Men and young boys were swarming the streets with posters protesting Denmark. Everyone was shouting and chanting and hitting the ground with sticks. Not too pleasant, but we didn’t get involved so that’s good.


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