Friday, August 10, 2007

Hot Air and Views

The Temple of Hatshepsut

Views from Hot Air Balloon

What the heck am I doing up so early? It's dark and I had hit my best sleep. I am in a boat with seventeen others, heading out from our cruise boat in a motor boat and on to some field in Luxor.

It's hot-air balloon time. We rise with the warm current, 17 of us stuffed into four standing compartments and I watch the sun rise over the Nile. Over the haze of modern Luxor, I can see ancient Thebes shimmer and come alive for that one instant where the powerful sun-god Ra appears to establish his mastery over the earth.

But the sounds of Luxor waft up. Prayers and shouts and music and Ra is defeated yet again.

The heat from the balloon is It is called a hot air balloon after all. And we float noiselessly over the Valley of the Kings.

And I see the temple of Hatshepsut rise up from the desert. Almost as if it is part of the desert.

A temple of a usurper, a woman who invented the story of her divine birth, where her mother was impregnated by the spirit of the great Amun-Ra. So she had to rule, not her stepson Tuthmoses III. A woman who did not call herself queen but a pharoah, a King of Egypt. A king because she was the son of Amun-Ra, not his daughter. A woman defined not so much by what she was but what she was not. And all the more powerful for it. She ruled for 27 years before her death.

Hatshepsut whose name was all but expunged by those who came after her. For never should a usurper be honored. But clues were left behind and the son of another pharaoah who treasured history left a trail to her in ancient hieroglyphs. History does not die. It can only be forgotten for a while. Hidden away until it chooses to come to light.

They said she was not mummified--the most horrible thing for an ancient Egyptian king--so that she would not be re-born. So that she would truly die and so that her soul would not ever ascend to the paradise of Osiris.

But then a lone tooth fit perfectly into an empty spot in an unidentified mummy's mouth and what was once the body of a 45-60 year obese female with bad teeth and hair was confirmed as the mummy of that most unusual pharaoah, Hatshepsut.

This happened just a few weeks before I leaned down from my balloon and saw her temple rising from the harsh sands of Egypt. Do kings remain kings forever?


Geets said...

Hey, nice to hear that you are holidaying in Egypt. I'm back from my vacation.
Just finished reading The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

Great to know you're back. Hope to hear more about your vacation. Did you like this book?

naperville mom said...

Wow! So you really got to go Egypt...Wonderful!

I read recently that Tuthmoses 3, in addition to not giving her a proper burial, destroyed everything that had her name on it. He was looking to wipe out her very existence, the saga of a female ruler. How atrocious, isn't it?