“Travel to Egypt on a Magical Egypt Tour with John Anthony West, Emmy award winning writer, researcher, rogue Egyptologist and raconteur.”
MAGICAL EGYPT INTENSIVE STUDY TOURS
With its focus on Egypt’s “Sacred Science” (expressed in its glorious art and architecture through Symbolism, Myth, Mathematics and Cosmology) you will experience first-hand the Egypt of the ancient Egyptians, rather than the Egypt of today’s academic Egyptologists.
It is, literally, “illuminating.”
Breaking News: This may be your last chance
to see Egypt with John Anthony West
This is a test, this is only a test ... and a little informal market research exercise into the efficacy of advertising/promotion. (Before I started getting published I worked as a copywriter for a Madison Avenue ad agency, so I take a certain “professional” interest in such matters.
That subject line makes it sound as though the upcoming Egypt trip (2/17 - 3/03, 2015) will be my last one, doesn’t it?
That is misleading, and, of course, deliberate. But here’s the market research. Would you have clicked “more” if the subject line read simply “Last chance to sign on for the 2/17 - 3/03 Magical Egypt Trip”?
For the record, and for those planning an Egypt trip with me at some unspecified future time, rest assured that I’ll be doing them until I can no longer make it up and down the Red Pyramid of Dahshur (a more difficult haul than even the Great Pyramid). That’s my self-imposed signal that it’s time to give up leading trips... That, or I finally hit the jackpot in the Scholarly/Literary Lottery after all these decades and have to devote all my time to high profile, high paying writing or media matters of some sort. (As the pitch for the New York State Lottery goes, “Hey, you never know!.”) And, in fact, someone eventually does win the lottery!
In any event, if you’ve read this far, remember that while this is certainly not my last trip, it truly may be everyone’s last chance to see Egypt with tourism still way below normal. Everyone understands the attraction of an uncrowded Egypt, even those who’ve never been there.
But the question still foremost on most everyone’s mind, is of course the question of safety.
Is it safe? Virtually everybody asks me that, so if that question is on your mind, you have plenty of company.
It is safe ...and the fact is that for tourists, it has been safe all along ... though no one would ever suspect that, reading or listening to the incessant hyperventilated scaremongering of our Western print and media presstitutes.
It has been safe for tourists ever since (and even in the middle of) the 2011 Revolution that brought down Mubarak! We know. We were there for it! (Click on my PhoenixFire Audio blog #10. The Five Star Revolution for a full account.) And over the course of three years of major political protest and intermittent violence, no one has been after us, no one!
Now, with the Military firmly in charge, it seems to me likely to stay that way. At least for the foreseeable future.
The Muslimbecile Brotherhood has been has been declared a “Terrorist Organization” (which it was); its leadership has been jailed and awaits trial. Its power has been broken. And the military is busy making sure it does not re-group.
Notwithstanding pious admonitions and hand-wringings from Hillary Clinton and assorted Democracy-boosting, hypocritical Western windbags of both Right and Left (as if what we have here in Amerika is “Democracy”!) the Egyptian people are some 80% behind the military. Indeed, the Military only marched in when 30 million Egyptians took to the streets demanding an end to Muslimbecile attempts to Talibanize Egypt.
And once in power, as the history of the world vividly demonstrates, there has never been a Military that ruled in kid gloves, much less kid combat boots.
Some of you may remember me predicting this as the most likely post-Revolution scenario: i.e., that the Military would be deciding the route Egypt would take, and that effectively, the Egyptians being the Egyptians, would find a way to muddle through without self-destructing.
As I write this, both my Egyptian friends and American/European friends living in or traveling to Egypt report back that tourism is still way down, it is safe, and we are, as tourists, and as always, warmly welcomed. But the longer it stays peaceful, the sooner tourism will recover and the crowds will return in force. This is great for the Egyptian economy, of course (and I do not begrudge them that!), but it’s hardly conducive to experiencing Symbolist Egypt the way I like to experience it. And given the experience of the last three almost-tourist-free post-Revolution years, I’ve now been well-spoiled!
In other words, if you’re contemplating a trip, and there’s any chance of you getting on this next one, you should do whatever you can to join us.
I have enough people signed on to make this October trip fly, but there are still spaces open. So please spread the word.
If you need any further info, don’t hesitate to email, call or skype me.
I hope to see at least a few of you in Egypt in February. But if you cannot join us, that's no reason to despair, either. (Regret, perhaps, but not despair.). Anyone who’s already been with me when it was choc-a-bloc with tourists knows that I’m very good at avoiding the worst of the crowds much of the time ...but, alas, not all of the time.
PS. Please note that I am no longer doing the international ticketing. What had been the “Land Only Option” is now the only option.
PPS. Many people have inquired about this one already, and deposits are flowing in. So don’t wait too long to make up your mind.
THE QUESTION OF SAFETY -- A Personal Note from John Anthony West.
If you are interested in visiting Egypt you have doubtless been following the ongoing news from there with interest and, in all likelihood, no little trepidation. I can’t blame you. The media has gone out of its way to emphasize only the trepidation-inducing aspects of the ongoing situation. It is not that the presstitutes are lying (anyway, not this time) but rather they are not telling the "whole truth" or anything remotely like it.
Having personally experienced the turmoil from the onset of the 2011 Revolution (click on my audio blog PhoenixFire 10: The Five Star Revolution for an account of our adventures during those first heady days) and having revisited Egypt periodically since then on my trips, I can fill in the blank that most impacts the safety question ... as it applies to us personally.
So far, in two years of civil unrest, with any number of violent, sometimes deadly confrontations between the various Egyptian factions (Muslim Brotherhood, initial secular revolutionaries, the military, the police, in various combinations) there have been no deliberate attacks on tourists at the ancient sites, none; not even threats made.
In other words, no one is after us!
And I believe the chances are good that no one will be. We are too important to the Egyptian economy to serve as targets to further anyone’s political agenda.* Yet I can recall just one written article devoted to Egypt (in Newsweek, I think) that has bothered to mention, much less emphasize, this crucial fact. Nor do I know of anyone mentioning it on TV.
I do not think this is media collusion (e.g., such as resolutely refusing over the decades to take UFO sightings seriously) nor is it in any sense a media conspiracy intended to further impoverish and distress Egypt. But it might as well be collusion or conspiracy, since that is what all that silence has done. Millions of Egyptians dependent on the tourist trade for a living now have little or no living and there is no safety net (no unemployment insurance in Egypt!).
However, I believe the two and a half years of political turmoil may be nearing its end. From the onset of the 2011 revolution, I’ve been insisting that all the presstitute palaver about a “thirst for democracy” was nonsense, that the protests were fundamentally economically based and that it was Egypt’s privileged, powerful and entrenched military that would ultimately determine Egypt’s destiny. Which is exactly what is now happening.
Once installed in power, the freely (but barely) elected Muslim Brotherhood quickly revealed its utter political/economic/social ineptitude and, perhaps even scarier, its fundamentalist soul. 1/3 of the population, some 30 million Egyptians— a number of them former Brotherhood supporters-- took to the streets in protest demanding the Brotherhood step down. And the military stepped in to forestall what surely would have devolved into civil war.
Four months later, as this is written, with the military in near-total control, a resolution may be in sight. The Brotherhood has been officially declared illegal, many of its leaders await trial charged with a multitude of crimes ranging from corruption to murder. From the sidelines, disgruntled hard line Muslimbeciles issue dire threats to unleash a “civil war”, which are then duly reported by the Western press... with no effort made to analyze and/or assess the practicality of the threats.
My own assessment is, even if they are stupid enough and suicidal enough to try (and they might be) it still will not lead to a civil war. A civil war presupposes at least two more or less equal combatants. That does not apply to Egypt.
The well-equipped and trained Egyptian military has overwhelming firepower, and with some 75% of the public 100% behind them, Brotherhood incitement will not lead to civil war. Rather, it will set off a massacre, a Muslimbecile Masada moment, that will signal its formal demise. And it will not take long to carry out. Egypt is not Syria. That is the worst-case scenario and I think it unlikely.
But more likely, in my view, is a grudging but working truce-or-else imposed upon the now-outlawed Islamists by the military, probably some time soon.
* “Unlikely” does not mean “impossible”. Officially Brotherhood-supported or not, there is nothing that can prevent some nutcase from opening fire on a tourist bus or temple. That is what was happening sporadically throughout the 90s, but even in those times (as I pointed out ad nauseum to interested but concerned prospective travelers) the chances of them/us actually being in the cross-hairs were statistically less than being struck by lightning in a thunderstorm. The same applies today, and to drive home that point, especially to Americans here’s a lead story from today’s Huffington Post:
Report: At Least 9,900 People Have Died From Guns Since Newtown Shooting http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/gun-deaths-since-newtown_n_4165061.html Agreed. That’s America of course, not Switzerland, but even so! Given such figures, is there really any point in worrying about what might happen in Egypt?
IT IS AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NO GOOD
It is nearly three years since the early days of the “Arab Spring”, but not much that was good or lasting was blown in by those much ballyhooed winds of change. Regimes changed, despised autocrats were toppled, only to be replaced by nothing or no one better and sometimes worse, the underlying economic problems that, more than anything else, propelled the revolutions have not been addressed, foreign meddling, mainly by the United States has exacerbated everything it was intended to resolve.
Regarding Egypt, I can think of but one small group of people who have in any way benefitted from the ongoing unrest and nationwide economic deprivation. That small group is us!
That is to say, the small percentage of people intelligent enough to disregard the presstitute’s scare-mongering and take advantage of the empty temples and museums and experience Egypt before the hordes of tourists return. Egypt seen under such conditions is an unimaginable, life-enhancing, life-transforming experience.
Do not get me wrong. For Egypt’s sake I really do hope the military manages to effect a working and lasting peace and meanwhile finds a practical way to address the myriad economic problems the Brotherhood would not address at all. I hope tourism rebounds swiftly and once again provides livings for the millions of Egyptians whose livelihoods depend upon it. (Though even as I express that sincere wish, I confess I cannot help but be reminded of St. Augustine’s famous fervent prayer: “Lord, give me chastity! But not yet.”)
In any event, until Egyptian tourism recovers, I will take full advantage of the prevailing emptiness. My intention is to run as many trips to Egypt as I can (doing my small bit to help the economy in the process.) My best guess is that if the military succeeds in keeping the peace and dealing with the devastated economy, it will be at the very least a full year before tourism rebounds significantly, probably more to recover fully.
So, if you want to visit Egypt and see it as it’s not been seen since Nasser’s day, bear in mind that it may never again be as empty as it is now. Consider scheduling your trip sooner rather than later.
I hope to see you in Egypt!
John Anthony West
• Travel Tips and Reading List PDF •
Currently Scheduled Egypt Trips:
Magical Egypt Tour Itinerary
Regular Tour Price: $4,995*# single person, double occupancy (includes hotel accommodations, domestic air travel, tips and services - unless specifically mentioned otherwise).
* Due to an added day on the trip, the descending dollar and sharply increased hotel rates, I’ve been obliged to raise the price for this tour. Sorry, but it can’t be helped.
# While plane fares are locked in, there could be unannounced additional taxes levied, fuel surcharges and security fees applied. If that happens I will have to pass those on to clients, but these will not be exorbitant.
Note that International airfare to and from Egypt is NOT INCLUDED.
PDF version of Magical Egypt Tours itinerary
1: Depart USA for Cairo, Egypt
6:30 PM Typical departure time from New York JFK. Check in to your airline at least 3 hours prior to departure time. Prior to departure check up-to-the-moment security regulations.
Day 2: Cairo / Giza
12:30 PM (EST + 7)
Anyone arriving on this day will be met at the airport by a Quest Travel Representative, shepherded through customs, and taken to our hotel at no extra charge. For those arriving on another day, there is a $40 per person extra charge (well worth it to avoid the hassle of hiring a taxi.) Your visa may be obtained at the airport ($15 usually, but may be a different price depending upon country of passport origin)
Depending upon traffic, it's roughly an hour to our Mena House Hotel in Giza, a stone's throw from the Great Pyramid.
Check in. The rest of the day is free.
HOWEVER, you should look for a flight that arrives in Cairo sometime in the afternoon if possible. Many flights from Europe come in late at night, meaning that people will get very little sleep since we start off for the Giza Plateau early the following morning - a 6AM wakeup call.
Some may prefer to come in a day earlier and get a good night's sleep. Quest Travel, my Rep in Cairo can make all necessary arrangements if you choose to come early.
I'm not sure how this applies to those coming in to Cairo from the Far East, but since they'll be making up time, maybe they would also depart/arrive on the same day.
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Day 3: Giza Pyramids and The Great Sphinx
We begin with an 8AM private visit to the Sphinx enclosure. (It is not open to the public.) We spend about 2 hours in the enclosure and around the Sphinx and its adjacent temples. Lots of geology, but this establishes the validity of the 'Lost Civilization' theory, important for everything that follows. Also, there are discussions of the many (usually unacknowledged) mysteries involved in building these amazing structures, what lies behind their extraordinary energetic/emotional impact, etc.
We work (walking) our way up the Plateau, past the Old Kingdom tombs of nobles and notables, toward the pyramids. There is more important evidence along the way (e.g. 'Tomb' of Khentkaus, a Queen of Menkaure, the builder of the Third Pyramid). Also, because few tourists visit these places, we're on our own and get a good visceral sense of what Egypt was like in those distant times.
Up on the Plateau, around the pyramids, there is a lot more evidence (architectural and geological) for the 'Lost Civilization'. We will examine huge, 200 ton paving blocks we could barely move today, etc. Two distinct masonry styles and therefore two distinct building periods...
This takes us to between noon and 1 PM, depending upon how much input we get from group members. There are always lots of questions and if anyone in the group has expertise relevant to and/or complementing my explanations, discussions can be long, lively, detailed and instructive.
Then we visit the so-called Solar Boat of Khufu. This amazing, intact funerary boat, is both a demonstration of the extremely sophisticated woodworking techniques in place 2500 BC and also of the power and wisdom of anchoring the spiritual quest in the material/physical world. As soon as the spiritual Quest is relegated solely to the intellect, as is generally the case today, it becomes abstract and effectively ineffective.
Lunch. (Included.) By now it's 3 PM, and that's enough for most of us! Evening is free.
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Day 4: Sakkara and Dahshur
6 AM wake-up call, 7:30 Departure. It is essential to start punctually and get there at opening bell. 20 minute bus ride to the Sakkara Necropolis.
We start with the Old Kingdom Tombs of the Nobles of the Vth and VIth Dynasties (ca. 2350 - 2200 BC), with their vibrant, detailed, but apparently quite mundane 'scenes of daily life'. They are most assuredly scenes of daily life, but more importantly, they are actually metaphors for transformation. (Even the "Quackademics" are coming around to recognizing this deeper significance, though of course they haven't a clue as to either the meaning or validity of 'transformation').
Sakkara usually gets crowded early so we sometimes have to change our sequence of visits to try to avoid the crowds or even choose alternative tombs to visit.
After the Noble Tombs, we go to and into the Sakkara Step Pyramid Complex itself, built in the reign of the IIIrd Dynasty Pharoah Zoser (ca. 2700 BC), under the direction of his genius Master of All Trades, the legendary Imhotep.
Sakkara is supposed to be the first major stone complex in Egypt, and for that matter, the world, but the sophistication of its plan and the virtuosity of its execution makes it hard to believe that it was invented on the spot — like imagining the 2008 Porsche just happened out of the blue. Nor is it the first major stone complex either. More on this on site!
We discuss Egypt as a 'legacy' not as a 'development'.
Sakkara is also remarkably 'modern' looking, as though it were a new campus for, say, The University of Arizona, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on a particularly inspired day. There are reasons for this —
The interior of the Necropolis enclosure was the scene of the Heb Sed festival, which is best understood as an initiatic process; the culmination of a life of inner work, rather than as physical proof that King was fit to go on reigning (the usual explanation).
We find more evidence for the 'Lost Civilization Theory' (henceforth, LCT) close by the Step Pyramid itself, such as examples of calculated resonance at work in certain strange shrines. The theme of 'transformation' is expressed in innumerable metaphors. Egypt is a "One Issue Civilization" — virtually all of its creative energy is devoted to the quest for immortality and the development and perfecting of the soul. In words, this sounds as though Egypt gets repetitive, but actually it doesn't: any more than successive concerts or baseball games or chess matches are repetitive. The infinite variations complement/implement the exercise.
By this time, it's around noon. Lunch is included at a neat outdoor local restaurant. Great kebabs.
After lunch, it's on to Dahshur, and the Red and 'Bent' Pyramids.
The Red Pyramid, with its resonating main chambers and earlier megalithic third chamber (quackademics call this a 'plundered tomb chamber'. It is neither plundered, nor a tomb chamber) is the second most spectacular pyramid after the Great Pyramid
The Bent Pyramid is a generally unrecognized architectural marvel. 60% of the casing blocks are still in place, so you get a sense of what a completed pyramid once looked like, and the construction methods needed to build it defy explanation. If there are any architects or builders in our group, have a go at it. I've read that the Bent Pyramid is now, for the first time ever, open to the public. If it is, we'll go in. A first for me, too!
End of the day.
On the way back we stop at a carpet factory/school where they weave prize-winning traditional Oriental Carpets but also, unique to Egypt, woven one-of-a-kind wall hangings depicting local, Islamic and underwater Red Sea scenes. They’re like vivid primitive and often not-so-primitive woven paintings. Good, imaginative work.
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Day 5: Cairo to Luxor
We embark on a mid-day or early afternoon (we hope! — as opposed to morning) flight to Luxor. Check into our Nile-side hotel, the Sonesta St. George.
At 6 PM we visit Luxor Temple, where R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz developed his Symbolist Interpretation: the Temple of Man as a cosmological/physiological map.
We discuss and demonstrate what 'sacred' architecture is, and just why it works the way it does. By 7:30 or so, the Temple is usually emptying out and we have it nearly to ourselves. In a chamber that represents the vocal chords we see what is in effect a depiction of the 'Annunciation', the 'god' telling the Queen Mother that she will bear a 'Divine' child, 1350 years before this becomes central to Christianity. (All along we will be drawing attention to Egyptian doctrines, myths, and metaphors, that are normally associated with Christian doctrine. Gurdjieff called Egypt 'esoteric Christianity'.) We could use more time here, but we don't have it, and getting there earlier is no solution since it's usually jammed then.
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Day 6: Luxor – West Bank
40 Minute bus ride.
This area is entirely funerary in significance; here we have the massive funerary complexes of the New Kingdom, the Valley of the Kings, where all NK pharaohs are buried, and the well-preserved tombs of the Nobles — related to those we've seen at Sakkara but markedly different in execution and expression. This is a day much devoted to discussions of Egypt's complex and mysterious funerary beliefs and practices.
If we are mystified, we're not alone. Even to the New Kingdom Egyptian scribes recording the texts, they are 'mysterious', but in the broadest sense they're comprehensible; they combine the separate but intertwined doctrines: the path of Horus (which becomes the doctrine of 'salvation' in Christian doctrine) and the doctrine of reincarnation (corresponding loosely to the Vedic/Buddhist tradition). Since to our own "Church of Progress" both these paths lead nowhere, they are more or less dismissed as mumbo jumbo. But if the Church of Progress priesthood cannot make any sense of them, we can, and the experience of the visit, however, unfamiliar experientially, is nevertheless vivid. Even the to-us-bizarre practice of elaborate mummification starts to make sense.
We visit MEDINET HABU or THE RAMESSEUM (decision to be made last minute). Medinet Habu is both the Alpha and Omega of Egyptian Cosmology. It is here that the Eight Primordials come into existence. These are shadowy entities, both male and female, (portrayed as serpents or frogs) which precede manifestation, and play roles remarkably like the 'vibrating strings' of cutting-edge String or Torsion Theory. And is also here that storehouses in ancient times held the finished treasures of Egypt, furniture, unguents, musical instruments, jewelry, etc., in other words the fruits of all that transformational earthly creative activity. Medinet Habu is thus both planting time and harvest time. A little shrine dedicated to the princess Amenerdais, Head of the Chantresses (6th C. BC) was the inspiration for Verdi's Aida.
The Ramesseum is the mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great, and is less grandiose than the huge Medinet Habu, but very powerful, and it's here that the fallen colossus lies that inspired (in absentia) Shelley's famous poem Ozymandias. It's amusing to read the poem on site; fine poetry but lousy Egyptology.
We visit the great (but controversial) Queen Hatshepsut's Temple of DEIR EL BAHARI, the other temple with a peculiarly 'modern' look to it. To the ancient Egyptians it was 'the most splendid of all' — and so it must have been. Even in its present state it's pretty spectacular.
We have an early lunch at a lovely, typically rustic, outdoor Egyptian local restaurant, and then on to the VALLEY OF THE KINGS, where all the kings of the New Kingdom were buried.
Avoiding crowds in the West Bank is problematical but at lunchtime (for everyone else) we'll be relatively crowd-free at this otherwise thronged site. And we may be able to get special permission (an extra $10 each and worth it) to the closed but particularly vivid and significant tomb of Ramesses VI.
After the Valley of the Kings, we go back to our East Bank hotel.
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Day 7: Dendera and Abydos
An extremely irritating rule in place for over 10 years, obliging us to visit these two great sites as part of an armed convoy, has recently been lifted. So we're no longer forced to cut our visit short and we can go and come as we please. This is a serious improvement! But it means an even earlier wake-up call than usual, and 'usual' is bad enough.
We (discreetly!) pack doggy bags at breakfast since there's no place en route that we'd want to stop in for lunch, and we need every minute of this long day for the temples.
Abydos, built by Seti I, father of Ramesses the Great, is one of the highest expressions of New Kingdom relief work, most of it in excellent condition, and some with the colors still vibrant. This is an Osiris temple; Osiris representing the cosmic principle of becoming and return, and also of the divinity immanent within humanity. En route to Abydos (2 1/2 - 3 hr drive), I talk at length about the Osiris myth (which, historicized, becomes the central doctrine of Christianity, then the story of Hamlet, and most recently, Disney's Lion King) and its relevance to our time, and any other time.
Selective effacing of certain reliefs within the temple is always attributed to Christian fanatics, bent upon destroying the temple's pagan 'magic'. But it is no such thing. More on this anon and on site. The non-effacement of the temples may be the only crime where Christian fanatics are not guilty as charged.
Behind Seti's Temple of Abydos there is the Oseirion, one of the most powerful, mysterious, and resonant places of all Egypt, and almost certainly a major piece in the LCT.
We have our doggy bag lunch en route. The temple is entirely Ptolemaic/Graeco-Roman, (ca. 150 BC - 80 AD) and consecrated to Hathor, the Cosmic Feminine in her roles of Mistress of the Cycles of Time and Mother of the Universe. It's here that we get our first real taste of what time is doing to Egypt. While the knowledge of geometry/harmony/proportion and measure are still intact, the exquisite and apparently effortless virtuosity of New Kingdom art and sculpture has turned unwieldy, clumsy, and uninspired.
It is a fascinating lesson for us, watching Egypt degenerate and this is the first among many examples. Apart from being an exercise in art history, on the scholarly/philosophical/scientific level, in and of itself, it disproves the egregious fiction we've all been brought up with: that history is a fundamentally steady, linear and gradual ascent from primitive beginnings to our enlightened selves with our hydrogen bombs and bobble-head dolls.
In Egypt we see exactly the opposite happening in front of our eyes, and this calls for some serious discussion and in some cases a major revision of certain notions we've all had drummed incessantly into our heads in our so-called 'educational system'.
But re: Denderah, however corrupted the art, the temple retains its power. An inscription in a crypt closed to the public declares that Denderah is based 'upon a plan found on a goatskin scroll written in the time of the Companions of Horus', one of the two long, and perhaps-not-fictional periods the Egyptians said preceded the rise of their own Dynastic Egypt. So Denderah would be another good place to go looking for still more evidence for the LCT. Like all 'goddess' temples, Denderah was a healing site; a ruinous mud brick structure adjacent to the temple was once a sanatorium where dream analysis was carried out.
While reactions to Luxor Temple and Abydos are invariably very positive, Dendera often gets polarized reviews. For some, despite the inferior art work, it is a favorite temple, a place of profound cosmic peace. For others it is dark and gloomy, even spooky. It will be interesting to test our group's reaction to see if there is any correspondence to our Enneagram 'types'.
The wholesale, but obviously selective effacing of the relief work prevailing here demonstrates who is responsible: it is the Egyptian priesthood at some later date and for reasons of their own, effectively 'decommissioning' the temple.
We return to Luxor (about an hour's drive.)
Note: Depending upon local conditions, we do not necessarily visit these sites in the order listed, but we do visit all of them.
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Day 8: Luxor: Karnak Temple / Luxor Museum
— Very early 6 AM visit to the vast KARNAK TEMPLE, consecrated to Amon in his role of animator of form, the 'breath of life across the waters'.
Each major temple at Luxor represents one stage in their (and our!) cosmology, stages in the genesis of the universe. Huge joyous processions connected one temple to another. So the Egyptians, through an act of conscious deliberate sympathetic magic, were themselves mimicking and therefore participating in the process of creation itself. We can no longer do this — we've lost the necessary magic spell to access it — but the power of these temples provides an echo, an inkling, an appreciation of what life had once been like, when a genuine civilization, itself in a cosmologically ordained descending octave, last prevailed.
The Hypostyle Hall at Karnak is one of the architectural wonders of the world, and there is much else there that is both emotionally and spiritually moving, as well as intellectually revelatory. If Luxor is The Temple of Man, Karnak is the Temple of Organic Creation and the Hypostyle Hall symbolizes this with its double banks of 9 x 7 gigantic columns. Enneagrammarians should appreciate the significance of this instantly and perhaps even experience it.
We do a private meditation session in a secluded Sekhmet Shrine in the company of the great Goddess' granite embodiment. We leave Karnak awed, humbled, exhilarated and — very much looking forward to a late breakfast.
The rest of the day is free (hooray! shopping! Or just much-needed rest) until late afternoon and then we visit the small but beautifully designed, masterpiece-replete Luxor Museum.
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Day 9: Luxor / Aswan — EDFU and KOM OMBO TEMPLES
No longer tied to the convoy on this leg of the trip either, we can visit these two interesting Ptolemaic temples en route to Aswan (which wasn't worth it when we had to go with the convoy). With luck we should be able to schedule our visit at a time of minimum crowds.
Edfu, the best preserved temple of the ancient world, is consecrated to Horus of Behdet; that is, Horus in his specific role of avenger of the murder of his father, Osiris. (That's Hamlet but without the to-be-or-not-to-be waffling element). It is an appropriately macho and martial temple with many intriguing and important lessons to convey. Kom Ombo is consecrated to the duo of Sobek, the crocodile (Death as a cosmic function) and Horus, the Elder (Return to the Source as a cosmic function). Beautifully sited on a bend of the Nile, but now photogenically ruinous, Kom Ombo was in its day a healing temple and hospital.
Late afternoon arrival in Aswan, check into our Movenpick Hotel — a great place, on an island in the Nile, recently totally and tastefully refurbished. Evening visit for those interested to the thronged, and pulsating Nubian bazaar. Some interesting stuff to buy.
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Day 10: Aswan
No early wake up call today. Philae Temple is a zoo until midday, so that’s when we go there.
First we go to the UNFINISHED OBELISK at the ancient granite quarries, where a planned, half-excavated 1200 ton single block of granite failed to make it out of the bedrock. Here we get a good taste of Egyptian technology in action, and we believe we can explain here what is next to impossible to convey anywhere else in Egypt: how with very simple tools the Egyptians managed to accomplish what is practically impossible to accomplish even with modern machines — but even so, plenty of mysteries remain.
Then on to PHILAE TEMPLE, consecrated to Isis in her role of Mother of Horus (the Christians changed her name to the Virgin Mary, but she's Isis, like it or not). Philae is on an island in the middle of the Nile (now it's the lake backed up behind the British 'Low Dam' built in 1904.) Quintessentially feminine, it is one of the most beautiful and moving sites in all of Egypt, despite the relatively inelegant quality of the Ptolemaic relief work and the wholesale, but telling selective defacing. It's here that the transition of the ancient Egypt doctrine of Immortality segues almost seamlessly into Christianity in front of our eyes.
For the afternoon, an optional felucca ride. These are picturesque, lateen-rigged little sailboats and it's a gorgeous hour or so sail on the clear green purling waters around the Nile islands. With a stiff wind up it can be pretty exhilarating.
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Day 11: Aswan — Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel has always been high on the list of must-see Egyptian marvels, and so it should be, but tightened, paranoid security measures, a dreadful sound and light show, and hundreds of tourists streaming off the new cruise boats plying Lake Nasser between Aswan and Abu Simbel and mooring there in the evening have diminished that Abu Simbel experience. For the last few years I’ve actually removed it from the itinerary, leaving it as an option for those determined to go there no matter what.
However, post-revolution, and with tourism (as this is written) but a fraction of “normal” I’ve put it back on. Though I can’t promise it will be near-empty, it will definitely be worth the 3 hour busride back and forth.
Day 12: Cairo / Giza
We take a morning Flight back to Cairo and head to the museum. The Cairo Museum was built in 1907, before anyone knew how a museum should be designed, and it shows. Imagine a pretentious art nouveau civic warehouse that happens to be over-stuffed with unlit, badly lit, incompetently labeled and utterly incomparable masterpieces. It is an unforgettable experience, at least in part because the museum itself is so terrible. You feel like you're discovering the works of art all on your own! The Museum recapitulates our Egypt trip as we go from Pre-Dynastic to Old Kingdom to Middle to New to Ptolemaic and finally to Egypt's ultimate and inglorious dissolution under Rome.
Return to the Mena House Hotel.
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Day 13: Cairo / Giza. Two hour Private Great Pyramid Meditation.
For almost everyone our private session is a profound, life-enhancing experience. Formerly a $150 option, this major opportunity is now included as part of the trip.
Day 14: Cairo to New York
Breakfast followed by final departure.
Adios, Egypt — though if past experience is any indication, for many it will be au revoir!
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you do not see Egypt through 'symbolist' eyes, you do not see Egypt
John Anthony West
feel I've been given passage on the barque of eternity -- steered
by Consciousness and Action, or Magic."
it was like going into exile ... one of the many unique things about
your trips is the combination
of spiritual depth with intellectual
Whall, Lawrence Brightman
trip was absolutely incredible for me ... a life-changing experience."
absolute highlight was being able to get
into the Sphinx enclosure!!"
that I've returned, I turn grateful to your writings -- and those
of Schwaller de Lubicz --
and my experience deepens, broadens, fills
been on the standard tour of Egypt and it doesn't compare with your
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MAGICAL EGYPT -- TRAVEL TIPS AND FURTHER READING
The winter weather can be colder than you think in the North (around Cairo/Alexandria). Temperatures can get down into the 40's at night from mid-December to the end of February. Perfect travel weather but too cold to swim. There is often a high wind early in the morning in the desert. Have a jacket, and a light sweater or two that will keep you warm at a chill, windy 40°. Layers are better than one heavy item, since it warms up very rapidly once the sun gets high, and midday temperatures may be in the 80°'s under a bright sun. The chance of a winter rain shower or two is slight but present in the north.
Also bring gloves and a wool stocking hat or the like. Remember, once we’re out in the desert, we’re out and it could be a while before we have roof over ourheads and walls around us.
October / November and April / May average around 60 by night, 85 by day in Cairo, warmer to the south. Perfect. Bring your bathing suit.
The summer is hot everywhere, very hot in the south (110 and over in the afternoons) but bone dry and there are fewer tourists but still, more than you might expect. On summer trips we start early and get back by noon or thereabouts and lounge around the pool the rest of the day. It's unacceptable only to those who really hate the heat. For others it's not a major problem; certainly better than New York or DC in the 90°'s. (and such places have no pyramids or Luxor Temples to compensate for the discomfort.
DRESS & GEAR
100% cotton clothes are best, loose-fitting and comfortable. In particular, look for a good 4-pocket safari jacket --ideal for carrying the innumerable things you want to carry about and still have instantly accessible. Everything should be comfortable and practical. Good safari gear is not universally available. Look in outdoor/travel specialist catalogues such as Orvis, Eddie Bauer, Norm Thompson (all these are high end) and also Cabela's (very reasonable -- that's my supplier).
Dress clothes are not essential. But almost everyone likes to get a bit dressed up for the several parties at night, so an outfit or two is not a bad idea. Women often like to buy the traditional long 'galabiyyas', the long, flowing, comfortable, cotton gown that men wear in rural Egypt, and which, much gussied up with embroidery, serve as tour dress wear (for men, too).
Dress Code: The Islamic dress code for women, relatively relaxed in Egypt in any case, (no shorts, arms and head covered) does not apply to ancient Egypt (and never did). Most of our time is spent at the ancient Egyptian sites, or in towns geared to accommodate tourists. They are used to women in shorts with arms bared. But in Cairo or off the beaten track, the dress code is worth observing, if only to avoid hassle -- though the head scarf isn't essential.
Shoes: Stout light jogging or walking shoes. Essential! Chukka boot style is best for keeping sand out of shoes. Bring sandals as well.
Sun Hat: Essential! Cheap effective cotton sunhats are readily available in Egypt if you don't want to bring your own. My favorite, the old fashioned, (more or less) genuine, colonial pith helmet has re-appeared after a period of apparent extinction and is available, reasonably priced from www.villagehatshop.com. They do not, however, fold for easy storage and so need some special care to travel around with. There’s no real need for them in the winter months.
Sun glasses: If you like or need to wear them in bright sun, bring them. The sun is very bright indeed.
Water bottle or canteen: Insulated is better. Cheap army canteens available in Army/Navy stores are fine, though high tech camping versions may represent expensive improvements.
Tote or small back pack: Useful for cameras, doggie bags, extra bits of clothing, trail mix, etc. Colorful cheap canvas totes printed with Pharaonic motifs are readily available in Egypt.
Extra bag: Bring a spare, light, folding duffel to take purchases back home. Cheap, colorful (not very well-made) canvas duffels are available in Egypt.
Camera Equipment. Film cameras are now on the Endangered Technology list. If you’re still using one, bring the film of your choice with you; you might not find what you want in Egypt any longer. For the digitized, bring appropriate spare memory sticks, just in case.
Use of a flash is not permitted in temple interiors -- which poses a problem for cameras with an automatic built-in flash feature. If you try keeping your finger over the flash, the camera won't adjust to the proper larger lens aperture and slower speed needed to get a decent shot. It is now also illegal to use a camera in any of the tombs or museums.
Video Cameras: More or less the same restrictions apply, with a few additional wrinkles. You cannot use a tripod, but a monopod is OK ... usually. (There's bureaucracy for you!).
Medicine: Bring a two week supply of any medication that you need on a regular basis and think might be difficult to procure in Egypt. Bring contact lens spares, glasses, etc. Blowing sand can be a problem with contacts. Bring a pair of spare glasses just in case the problem becomes acute. If you have a favorite sun block, bring it; otherwise this and other normal toiletries are available at hotel concessions and elsewhere.
Mosquito repellent is useful. The best antidote for bites is probably 100% Aloe gel, available in health food stores.
Laundry: Laundry service is swift and efficient and not outrageously expensive, given normal 5 Star Hotel charges. If you don’t want to splurge on this option, either bring enough clothes so that you don't need to use the laundry service or bring Woolite or another cold water wash. With the new breathable, super lightweight, quick-dry nylon supplex gear readily available, you can get through the trip with just a few items of clothing for the entire trip. A couple of yards of nylon clothesline and clothes pins will also come in handy.
Flashlight: Essential, and invariably useful. The brighter the better.
Binoculars: Optional, but useful -- especially small, easy-to-carry, high powered, field glasses.
Odds and Ends, Miscellaneous, Afterthoughts: A few Ziploc bags of various sizes come in handy to keep things separate from other things, to prevent leaky bottles, etc., and often so does a bit of duct tape for emergency luggage repairs and the like. A box of man-size tissues is useful and so are pocket packs of Kleenex. Travel pillow: Those little U-shaped, inflatable travel pillows (available in luggage shops, mail order houses, and, usually, airports) take some of the stress off your neck on the long plane and bus rides. MAKE A FEW XEROXES OF THE INFORMATION PAGE OF YOUR PASSPORT. After an obligatory initial surrendering of your passport at our first hotel stop (to have it registered with the police) you can use the Xerox wherever your passport is needed without having to give it up.
No shots are needed for Egypt. A number of very nasty diseases are rife among the rural poor of Egypt, mainly acquired from unsanitary conditions; swimming in the stagnant canals, etc. But these do not affect the tourist trade at all. 'Pharaoh's Revenge' is usually the worst that tourists come down with. It's no fun, but is usually over in a day.
In the event 'Pharaoh's Revenge' hits, a bacterial antiseptic called Antinel (nifuroxazide - whatever that may be) is readily available in Egypt, apparently formulated for the infamous revenge -- even though no one is sure what causes it in the first place. It works, especially if taken at the onset of symptoms. Whatever the thinking behind it, Antinel works better than Lomotil or anything else people get from their doctors over here. There seem to be few if any side effects. Beyond that, the 'Revenge' is unpredictable. On some trips almost no one comes down with it, yet on another identical trip just a few weeks later or earlier, almost everyone comes down with it. No one knows why.
It is thought that megadoses of acidopholous starting at least six weeks before departure works as a preventative. A pharmacist tells me that to really be effective, you should take much more acidopholous than the label suggests: up to six tablets twice a day and always on an empty stomach. The newly developed Primadopholous is supposed to have the same effect, taken once a day on an empty stomach. I am not really 100% certain if the acidopholous works or if it's a health fiction. I know of no legitimate controlled tests. But it does seem as though those who take the pills get very mild cases, and are over it quicker than those who don't.
Jet lag combined with overstimulation is often a problem in the early days of the trip. I find that Melatonin, much touted as a jet lag antidote, works brilliantly. Calms Forte, a homeopathic sedative (available in health food stores) also lets you sleep your way out without the usual sleeping pill side-effects of drowsiness and heaviness. There is also another new homeopathic remedy specifically formulated to prevent Jetlag, called, straightforwardly enough NoJetlag. Otherwise, bringing the sleeping pill of your choice is not a bad idea.
Heartburn.The food is good in Egypt these days; usually very good. But it’s a different cuisine and the American/Westernized stomach often grumbles in response. Papaya Enzyme pills from the health food store seem to counteract acidity better than Rolaids or the like.
Hunger pangs: We are up early, and out at the sites for long hours so there are often protracted periods between meals. Egyptian-style snacks from local vendors are not recommended for the unacclimatized. It’s not a bad idea to bring a supply of Trail Mix or some other homegrown snack of your choice. We often pack individual doggie bags for ourselves at breakfast (sometimes these become lunch) but even so, snacks come in handy.
(Note: Though we stay in deluxe accommodations throughout, the trip itself is more arduous than many people anticipate. We are up early; we do a lot of walking and climbing and the impact of so much sacred art day after day takes its toll. This is not to discourage the elderly. On my trips the young get no less exhausted than the septuagenarians. But be prepared for an assault on your inner resources.)
RECOMMENDED READING LIST
There is no single preferred way to prepare for Egypt. Many like to read everything they can that’s relevant in advance; others prefer to read little or nothing, or just never get around to their homework before the plane leaves. Actually, it is a matter of personal preference. A familiarity with the principles and terminology of the ‘Symbolist’ interpretation obviously provides a head start toward understanding. But it is no substitute for the experience and a solid reading background in general can lead to preconceptions and expectations that have to be dispelled over the course of the trip. On the other hand, going in ‘cold’ with little or no homework done leaves you open, and the temples perform their stone magic with little or no internal or intellectual opposition. Many prefer it that way after the fact. After two weeks of Egypt, you have acquired both the experience and the explanation in tandem and you come back to your homework (usually exhausted but exhilarated). What you read now makes visceral sense and you have the context of experience. In other words, if you haven’t time to do your homework in advance, don’t fret about it.
Following is a selected list of the books that I consider most useful as advance reading. More complete bibliographies can be found in both Serpent in the Sky and The Traveler’s Key.
(Note: I have tried to list only books in print or that you stand a fair chance of finding in a bookstore or library. Asterisks single out those I consider most important for advance reading. I've also included newly published titles and others that only have come to my attention since the bibliographies in Serpent and the Key were compiled.)
'SYMBOLIST' EGYPT/ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY/ALTERNATIVE SCHOLARSHIP
* THE TRAVELER'S KEY TO ANCIENT EGYPT & SERPENT IN THE SKY: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (Quest Books), John Anthony West.
THE TEMPLE IN MAN, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions International.
SACRED SCIENCE, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions International.
* THE EGYPTIAN MIRACLE, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions International.
** THE TEMPLE OF MAN, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. (2 vols). (Handle with care! You’ve been warned!)
HER-BAK & HER-BAK, DISCIPLE, Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions International.
* SACRED GEOMETRY, Robert Lawlor, Crossroad.
* A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CONSTRUCTING THE UNIVERSE, Michael Schneider
* THE SCIENCE OF THE DOGON & THE SYMBOLISM OF THE DOGON, Laird Scranton
CONNECTIONS: The Geometric Bridge Between Art and Science, Jay Kappraff, McGraw Hill.
* EGYPTIAN MYSTERIES, Lucie Lamy, Inner Traditions International.
THE GODDESS SEKHMET, Robert Masters, Amity House.
TEMPLE OF THE COSMOS, & SHAMANIC WISDOM OF THE PYRAMID TEXTS, Jeremy Naydler, Inner Traditions International.
* THE MESSAGE OF THE SPHINX, (in UK, KEEPER OF GENESIS), Graham Hancock & Robert Bauval, Crown.
IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS, P.D. Ouspensky.
AWAKENING OSIRIS, Normandi Ellis, Phanes.
HATHOR RISING, Alison Roberts, Inner Traditions
SACRED SEXUALITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT, Ruth Schumann Antelme
THE GIZA POWERPLANT, Christopher Dunn
THE SPIRITUAL TECHNOLOGY OF ANCIENT EGYPT & BEFORE THE PHAROAHS, Edward F. Malkowski
LE MYSTERE DES CATHEDRALS, Fulcanelli: master alchemist.
FULCANELLI AND THE ALCHEMICAL REVIVAL, Genevieve Dubois
PYRAMIDS AND PYRAMIDOLOGY
* SECRETS OF THE GREAT PYRAMID, Peter Tompkins, Harper & Row.
THE GREAT PYRAMID DECODED, Peter Lemesurier, Avon.
TRAVEL AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTS
IN SEARCH OF SECRET EGYPT, Paul Brunton.
* LETTERS FROM EGYPT: A Journey on the Nile, 1849-1850; Florence Nightingale, Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
FLAUBERT IN EGYPT, translated and edited by Francis Steegmuller, Academy.
ONE THOUSAND MILES UP THE NILE, Amelia Edwards, Dover.
* RIVER IN THE DESERT: Modern Travels in Ancient Egypt, Paul William Roberts, Random House.
GENERAL INTEREST/ACADEMIC EGYPTOLOGY
ETERNAL EGYPT, Pierre Montet, Mentor.
ATLAS OF ANCIENT EGYPT, John Baines & Jaromir Malek, Facts on File.
MYTH AND SYMBOL IN ANCIENT EGYPT, R.T. Rundle Clark, Thames & Hudson.
* FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS & SUPERNATURAL, Graham Hancock, Crown.
BEYOND THE BIG BANG: Ancient Cosmology and the Science of Continuous Creation, Paul LaViolette, Inner Traditions International.
EARTH UNDER FIRE, Paul LaViolette, Inner Traditions International.
BLACK ATHENA: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Greek Civilization (Vol. I), Martin Bernal, Rutgers.
* VOICES OF THE ROCKS & VOYAGES OF THE PYRAMID BUILDERS, Robert M. Schoch
THE MATRIX OF CREATION & SACRED NUMBER AND THE ORIGINS OF CIVILIZATION, Richard Heath.
Download these tips and reading list! — As a .doc file, As an .odt file or As a pdf file
New, Relatively New and Noteworthy Books and DVDs.
(Go on line for further info/reviews on these and other titles. I have no time just now for even mini-reviews of my own.) But the Internet provides a unique service to humanity by making reviews, other vital information and reading samples of any given title available at the click of a button)
TRUTH IS THE SOUL OF THE SUN, Maria Isabel Pita. I almost never recommend novels set in Ancient Egypt. They rarely capture the essence of what I believe was the real Egypt. This biographical novel about Queen Hatshepsut is a compelling exception. See my own mini-review among the reviews posted on Amazon.
FORGOTTEN CIVILIZATION, Robert M. Schoch In his usual thorough way, Schoch may be zeroing in on the cataclysm that brought down the last Ice age and with it, the great civilization in place at that time.
SHAMANIC WISDOM OF THE PYRAMID TEXTS, Jeremy Naydler An erudite, intriguing and compelling re-interpretation of these enigmatic texts.
ATLANTIS AND THE CYCLES OF TIME, Joscelyn Godwin. Everything you ever wanted to know about both Atlantis and “Atlantis” but never knew where to look. A magisterial work of scholarship.
EGYPT’S ETERNAL LIGHT, Sarite Sanders. Arguably the best book of photographs of Egypt ever published. In b/w infrared, Sanders captures both the mystery and the majesty of Egypt as no one has ever done before. It makes an ideal present for the visual connoisseur.
THE COSMOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF MYTH AND SYMBOL: From the Dogon and Ancient Egypt to Tibet, China and India; SACRED SYMBOLS OF THE DOGON: The Key to Advanced Science in the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Laird Scranton. Step by step, and book by book, Scranton is proving the existence of an advanced cosmological science across the entire globe in ancient times.
MAGICAL EGYPT: A Symbolist Tour. 8 Episode DVD. This is the magnum opus based upon my work and of course centered upon Schwaller de Lubicz’s Symbolist re-interpretation of the ancient Egyptian sacred science. If you cannot travel to Egypt yourself, this extraordinary series is as close as you can get to the real thing. Created by my genius (a word I do not use indiscriminately!) partner Chance Gardner, MAGICAL EGYPT is a feast for the eyes and an endless source of delight for the heart, mind and soul. You can buy the set direct from me at a friendly discount.
The Demographics of Paradise: Egypt in Poetry; If I were Rumi: Poems from the Heartland; The Testament, and Thirteen Clues for the Beginning Mind: Stories (not poetry this time) of Inner Truth by Linda Pearce.
The rarest of literary art forms must be the truly metaphysical poem (as opposed to New Age “spiritual” woffle). When it happens, it is an alchemical fusion of resonating language, profound philosophy and precise passion ... an instance of language overreaching itself. Linda Pearce’s poetry realizes that heady and felicitous mixture as does nothing else contemporary that I can think of.
Order direct from her for autographed copies http://eternalplanet.com
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