Las Vegas, Egypt, and Me

Las Vegas, Egypt, and Me June 1, 2018

 

The Paris, etc.
Some academics dream of lecturing at Oxford or Harvard. (I’ve actually done both, on a very small scale and in a very insignificant way.) But I’m about to realize my own personal academic dream yet AGAIN. I’ll be speaking on the Vegas Strip!

 

Some of you may be aware of the annual libertarian extravaganza known as FreedomFest.

 

I’ve participated in (I think) two or three of these previously, and I’ll be doing so yet again this year.

 

On Thursday, 12 July, from 1 PM to 1:50 PM, I’ll be debating with Michael Shermer on the topic of “Is Faith Compatible with Reason?”  To deliver you from the suspense, I’ll argue that yes, it is.

 

On Saturday, 14 July, I’ll be moderating a session titled “How to Turn a Bestseller into a Classic.”  The two discussants will be Maurice O’Sullivan, a professor of English at Rollins College in Florida, and Daniele Struppa, an Italian-born mathematician and the current president of Chapman University, in California.

 

FreedomFest is a very stimulating gathering with lots of interesting sessions and speakers, and I hope that you’ll consider attending.  If you do, please feel free to say Hello.  In fact, after Michael Shermer pummels me to the pavement and stomps on me, I may need some kind words of comfort!

 

***

 

From 26 December 2018 through 5 January 2019, I’ll be accompanying a tour of Egypt to which you’re invited.

 

Face it:  If you’re at all like me — it was actually much, much worse when I was a little kid — after all the anticipation of Christmas morning, Christmas afternoon and the next several days were a real let-down.  Here’s something, though, that will pick you up!

 

And, moreover, December and January are beautiful times to visit Egypt.  The temperatures are very, very pleasant.

 

Another factor to consider:  Also accompanying the group will be Hany Tawfik, arguably the foremost tour guide in Egypt.  (It was he who was chosen to take President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton around during their official visit to the country.)  This will be my fourth tour with Hany.  He’s very, very good.

 

Here’s a rough itinerary for what the Cruise Lady company is billing as “Ultimate Egypt”:

 

Egypt's largest city, at night
Cairo: Egypt’s capital, the largest city in Africa, and our first married home
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)

 

We fly on Day 1 and arrive on Day 2, spending the night in Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the largest in the Arab world.

 

On the Giza plateau
The “Great Pyramid” (of Khufu or Cheops) is actually the one in the background in this shot.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

On Day 3, we go out to visit the great pyramids on the Giza plateau as well as the Sphinx, and, for those who want to do so, we enjoy a camel ride.  Then we visit the solar boat museum, directly adjacent to the Great Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops.  We then go to the Papyrus Institute (which will include some shopping) and to the astonishing Egyptian Museum, which makes the Egyptian collections at the Louvre and New York’s Metropolitan Museum look truly poor and pathetic.  We’ll pay special attention to the relics of King Tutankhamen.

 

Roland Unger does solar boat
Khufu’s solar boat at Giza, near the Great Pyramid of Egypt
(Wikimedia Commons photo by Roland Unger)

 

On Day 4, we fly to Luxor, where we’ll visit the Valley of the Kings.  We’ll enter three of the spectacular pharaonic tombs there, and those who wish to do so can also go into King Tut’s famous tomb.  We’ll have a look at the magnificent temple of the female pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut, as well as the famed Colossi of Memnon.  That evening, there will be optional 2-hour horse cart tour through the city of Luxor, which I highly, highly recommend.  (Both times I’ve done it, members of our tour have been surprised at how fascinating and enjoyable it was.)  And, starting on Day 4, we spend our evenings aboard a Nile cruise ship, from which we’ll see Egypt the way the ancient pharaohs did, by boat.  But we’ll do it in far more comfort than they ever dreamed possible.

 

Séthi 1er est le 1er Roi important de l'époque Ramesside (1294-1279 av. J.C.). Il a fait construire de nombreux temples dont la grande salle hypostyle du temple d'Amon à Karnak ou le temple de millions d'années à Thèbes ouest. La tombe de Séthi 1er a été découverte par l'italien Belzoni en octobre 1817. Sa conception est totalement nouvelle. Une division est introduite entre les parties supérieures et inférieures et surtout la totalité de la tombe (100m de long) est décorée en relief peint. http://jdalbera.free.fr/thebes_2002_web/vallee_rois/index4.htm

 

On Day 5, we visit the grand Karnak Temple — the largest complex of religious structures ever built — which was dedicated to the god Amon, his wife Mut, and their son, Khonsu.  Some Latter-day Saints will find certain temple images of particular interest.  We’ll also visit the Luxor Temle, and then board our boat to sail southwards, up the Nile.  Among other things, we’ll transit through the lock at Esna, which is fascinating to watch.

 

At the entrance to Karnak
At the entrance to the Temple of Karnak, near Luxor, Egypt

 

In the morning, on Day 6, we’ll stop at Edfu, where the most complete temple in Egypt stands.  Returning to the ship, we’ll sail to Kom Ombo, docking right in front of the only double temple in Egypt, dedicated to both Horus the falcon and Sobek the crocodile.  We’ll have a devotional onboard in the afternoon.

 

A Kom Ombo relief
At Kom Ombo, Egypt (Wikimedia CC)

 

We arrive in the morning of Day 7 at Aswan, where we immediately visit the High Dam that was (controversially) built by the Soviets to control the annual Nile flood and to generate electrical power for a growing Egyptian populace and its expanding industry.  Then we travel about ten minutes by motor boat over to one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, the Temple of Philae, sacred to the goddess Isis. In the afternoon, we take another trip by boat to a Nubian village, where, among other things, we have an opportunity to have our pictures taken holding an adorable crocodile.  On that boat trip, we’ll pass by Elephantine Island, in connection with which there’s an important point to be made with respect to the Book of Mormon.

 

Philae Temple
The Temple of Isis at Philae (Wikimedia Commons)

 

On Day 8, we fly to Abu Simbel to visit the famous temple of Pharaoh Ramses II (“the Great”).  It’s the one, you may recall, that was dismantled and moved to avoid the rising waters of Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.  Then we fly back to Cairo.

 

Abu Simbel by day
The impressive temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)

 

On Day 9, we visit Saqqara, where stands the oldest Egyptian pyramid — which is also, arguably, the oldest stone building in the world.  (If possible, we’ll also enter briefly into the Pyramid of Unas, where the famed “Pyramid Texts” were discovered.  It’s often closed, but we were able to go into it a few weeks ago for the first time in many years.)  Next, we proceed to the ruins of the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis, visiting the ruins of the Temple of Ptah and the gigantic Colossus of King Ramses II. At a local carpet school, we watch the children learning to make rugs from the cocoon of the silkworms and learn about the different kinds of Egyptian carpets and, if the mood hits us, we buy.

 

Zoser's early pyramid
Zoser’s step pyramid at Saqqara, built during the Egyptian Third Dynasty, around 2670 BC, is perhaps the world’s first all-stone structure.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)

 

Rifa‘i and park
A scene in Cairo, near the Mosque of al-Rifa‘i    (Wikimedia CC photo by David Sánchez Núñez)

 

On Day 10, we visit Old Cairo (Coptic Cairo), including the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus where Christian legend says that the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus sheltered during King Herod’s massacre of male babies. Further into the quarter, we come to the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is said to be built near the spot where the baby Moses was found in the reeds — and which is definitely the site of one of the most important manuscript discoveries of modern times.  In the afternoon, we visit the enormous mosques of Sultan Hassan and Sultan Rifai.   And we then end our tour of Egypt with a felluca ride on the Nile.

 

Nile felluca at eventide
Evening, with a Nile felucca
(Wikimedia Commons)
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