'A beautiful thing is never perfect' - Egyptian proverb
Our day is not yet over.... We haven't got to the big stuff yet.
We leave the restaurant and drive through the streets, passing the wonderful Luxor temple, which we do not have time to to visit today. Huge columns, pylons and even an obelisk carved with ancient characters flash past the window of the bus. Our attention is drawn to the three-kilometre Avenue of Sphinxes, which has taken 70 years to uncover, and which now links this temple with the one at Karnak, where we are now going.
We tumble out of the bus after being refreshed and fortified at lunch and are immediately confronted by a dozen or so vendors selling all sorts of things. We don't have time or energy to haggle in this heat and we try to politely ignore them whilst moving towards the Visitors Centre and entrance to the Karnak Temple site. Here, we see the last of the sphynxes, which lead into the temple. We quickly pass through the Pylon and find a shady spot to listen to our guide's commentary. It is rough underfoot and hot - very hot and I realise that not much of the is sinking in. We view the various temples and still marvel at the engineering feats, but honestly, I cannot remember who invaded and what was destroyed by whom and rebuilt. The history is too complex for a lightning visit and maybe I would prefer to wander on my own. The remaining obelisk, built by Queen Hatshepsut and is referred to as being the tallest standing obelisk in the world, can be seen through an opening in a wall. Of course, there are obelisks in Paris, Rome, and London, which were removed from Egypt by so-called Egyptologists in the 1800s and after. Whilst I acknowledge that they, along with other artifacts, should never have been removed from Egypt, I do think that they are displayed in places where many people, who could not otherwise visit Egypt, have the opportunity to see them and to learn about them. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it!
The Great Hypostyle Hall with its majestic columns provides a shady and cool place to listen to the commentary. But the artists of the past beckon me, tell me to look at the engraved figures on the columns; bees, rabbits, images of gods and kings. The columns and the underside of the lintels were once painted and were not initially the sandy-coloured columns that I can see today. In fact, the undersides of the lintels are almost as colourful as they were when they were first painted despite centuries of being exposed to the elements.
We climb over rocks and fallen masonry in our quest to find the sacred lake. Its probably not really worth the walk - only because I would rather be wandering around the Hypostyle Hall. But we do go down to the lake and we look at a huge scarab. It's time to find shade and return to the Great Hypostyle Hall for one last look before we must leave.
All people are dwarfed by the huge columns and we take a brief few minutes to take some memories before venturing out in the sun once more and to take the long journey home through the Nile Valley and the vast desert.
Today has been exhausting in every sense of the word. The long journey in both directions add up to seven hours, but it is worth it. Every minute on the bus brings us closer to a few moments with the ancient Egyptians. Their history may never be fully known, but there is nothing wrong with a little mystique. Ancient Egypt is probably the common thread that binds most of us strangers together. Old and young people have trodden over sand and stone to take a tiny peek into the lives and deaths of a civilisation that had been so advanced that we still ask questions that cannot be answered - yet.