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In search of the lost tomb of Tutankhelvis

EGYPT | Sunday, 2 December 2001 | Views [5437] | Comments [8]

Down the nile on a felucca

Down the nile on a felucca

Meanwhile, back in Aswan, Batman prepares to escape from the clutches of the dreaded tourist police jokers by leaping onto the BatBoat...

Well, perhaps it wasn't quite the Batboat, but we did sail a Felucca (small single-masted sailboat) down the Nile for 2 days, traveling at a very leisurely pace (probably could have walked quicker), drifting with the current when there was no wind, or rowing if we actually needed to go in a direction somewhere (like the riverbank), and sleeping on the deck in sleeping bags as it got fairly cold once the sun went down.

This is of course the time when the locals break their Ramadan daytime fast with lots of food, music & partying. Having your dinner cooked on an open fire on the deck of a small wooden boat was a new experience for me, but somehow it worked without burning the boat down to the waterline.

After dinner was done, several other Felucca's pulled up alongside & the boats were tied together while still drifting down the Nile in the darkness. Out came the hand drums, Tablas ,an Oud (like a big fretless mandolin), a very battered clarinet sort of thing and a variety of small percussion instruments, and then the music started. Eventually tiredness overtook me, and the last thing i remember was lying in my sleeping bag on the deck, the water lapping gently at the side of the boat, a brilliant star filled night above, and half a dozen men singing happily & playing their instruments with the backing of pulsing percussion.

Waving goodbye to the felucca, we hightailed it back to Cairo in a long days driving, and set off for the pyramids the next day.

The Pyramids were impressive & large, it was very strange to be driving along downtown Cairo surrounded by fairly large buildings, and rounding a corner, seeing the great pyramid looming above them, only about 250 metres away. They are set back on a small hill of sand, with the desert behind them, and the city right in front. Went inside the great pyramid of Cheops up to the 'kings chamber' - the passageways to the other 2 chambers are closed for restoration. You have to bend down to travel through the passageway & it's quite steep too. The Chamber at the top is fairly tall, but still quite a small room with a simple sarcophagus. Quite eerie when you are on your own.

The Sphinx was much smaller than I had imagined, and clearly shows the work of a number of attempted restorations. Your not allowed close enough to touch it, but it makes for some good photos with the other pyramids in the background. A swirling sandstorm started up, and it was easy to see how objects this large & larger had been buried under the sand.

I also went to the original step pyramid at Saqqara, said to be the first stone pyramid (built in the 3rd Dynasty - around 2630 BC) and the basis of designs for future pyramids. It was only occasionally visible through the swirling stinging sand, so photo opportunites were somewhat limited.. Then it was off to Memphis (not in Tennessee, but an old capital of Egypt), but there isn't that much left of it, just some none too impressive ruins & few statues of Ramses II (not that you would see any statues of him at allllll in Egypt - the man really left his mark - and destroyed things by other people he didn't like).

Memphis was briefly revived in the 1st century AD by one of the later Roman emperors. In a break from the normal roman practice of trying to further ‘Romanize’ conquered countries, he renounced his own name to take the Egyptian name of Tutankhelvis. His attempt to remake Memphis the capital of lower Egypt was short lived, as was his reign as Pharaoh (96 - 100AD). Long considered to be a puppet of his high priest and adviser, Thomm, Tutankhelvis was neverless noted as a patron of the arts and somewhat of a poet/balladist himself. One latin transcript attributed to him was found on a temple wall in Memphis, and it is still debated as wether it is a song, poem or a command to the people. Reading as 'Populus orgy similarus amine domino XCIX', this roughly translates to '(We’re gonna have a) Party like it's AD99'

Tutankhelvis died in early AD100, from a combination of obesity, syphillis & liver failure, as did much of the population that year. Memphis quickly declined in importance once again, and was eventually abandoned. While the tomb of Tutankhelvis was discovered in a fairly intact state, his body was never found. When questioned about the absence of the body inside the seemingly unopened sarcophagus, the hired Egyptian diggers shrugged and simply said that "Tutankhelvis has left the building".

Over the years since then, several credible witnesses have claimed to have seen Tutankhelvis serving fries in the McDonalds in Cairo, although this has never been proved conclusively. While i was in Cairo, I decided to research this more thoroughly.

Anyway, after a few days wandering around Cairo I came to the conclusion that the best place to get lunch during Ramadan was indeed McDonalds. Shock horror gasp! Why? Well, it's one of the very few food places that are open during the day (and it has blinds that they pull down so the devout muslims outside can't see you eating). Eating your food on the streets in daytime could possibly get you mugged (Look, he's got maccas, kill him!) or at least really annoy some of the devout & hungry citizens who have been fasting all day. You are usually the only person in maccas, and so they cook all the food especially for you, it takes a little longer but gee it's hot (& fresh?) and tastes the best maccas can possibly be. But come sunset, the place is absolutely packed with very little standing room left, but only for about half an hour.

KFC is a bad choice for lunch, as they use the chicken left over from the night before, yukko. Admittedly, even that tasted better than the lamb/beef/strange alien creature's testicles that I ordered in a local restaurant one evening. It had a bizzare texture, a bit like play-doh mixed with breadcrumbs. If only I could read Egyptian... or perhaps it's just better not knowing what you ordered...

To be continued...


*it is possible there may be some extremely tiny historical inaccuracies in the above article, although it was extensively researched by Professor Arthur Dodgy.

Thank you very much, uh huh.

Tags: aswan, cairo, egypt, felucca, nile, on the road, pyramids, sphinx, tomb, tutankhelvis




What's Cairo like at the moment? Is it dodgy?
When I was there I stayed near Talaat Harb. In the Suisse Hotel. Bit of a dump, but it was cheap. Loved Cairo though, and going to the pyramids.

Let me know when you're arriving. Have you got somewhere to stay? From the 10th of December, my nan is going away to Saudi Arabia for xmas, so I'll have the house to myself, got 3 bedrooms. So if you want to stay you're really welcome. And it'd keep me company! It's going to be so quiet.

Anyway, let me know, talk later.

mandy x

  Mandy Dec 3, 2001 5:05 PM


Hi Mandy,

Cairo's not too dodgy, a bit less hassle than some other touristy parts of Egypt. There's not too many tourists here, plus it's Ramadan, so it's quieter during the day. But they all come out at night and it's a madhouse. You need your earplugs in to sleep, cos they don't quieten down until just before dawn. I'm staying in the 'magic hotel', cheap but not too dodgy, a long stones throw from the Egyptian museum. I've pretty well run out of things to do in Cairo and am twiddling my thumbs waiting for my flight to Vienna tomorrow afternoon.

When I get there I'll see how long I want to stay & look around, plus try and sort out my flights & travel plans in a more civilised country. I've given up trying to do it here as no-one seems to be able to help.

So after that I'll be off to England, I'll let you know when I work it out exactly. I was going to stay in hostels, but if your serious about your offer, I'd love to crash at your place for a couple of days, if that's no trouble. That would be so excellent! But be warned, I have about 50 million photos from my trip to look through!

Seeya soon!

  stowaway Dec 4, 2001 11:23 AM


ahhh, I remember Egypt at Ramadam. I really want to get back there. Loved it. I was working in the Haawa International Hospital. Bloody hard work. 16 hour days etc etc.

Have you bought any papyrus?? I can't think of anything to do there. I guess you've been to the pyramids?

It would be so fine if you stay at mine. No prob at all, and as I said, it's going to be real quiet there anyway now. Where do you think you'll be for xmas?

Anyway, better go, talk later!
mandy xxx

  Mandy Dec 4, 2001 1:50 PM


I'm heading off to buy souvenirs after this, so I'll see what I end up with. Cairo Is interesting during Ramadan, but I haven't seen it any other time to compare - I imagine it's busier during the day and not quite so partylike at night.

Yep, I went to the pyramids (& inside), and the Sphinx, the step pyramids, Memphis & a load of tombs around Cairo.

I'm not sure where I'll be at xmas, but should have it worked out in a couple of days. Thanks heaps for letting me stay at your place, although I was quite looking forward to staying at more dodgy russian-run hotels (NOT). It will be fab.

Catch you soon,

  stowaway Dec 5, 2001 11:32 AM


Sounds like your Roman Emperor suffered from some bad press, gee!

Was Tutankhelvis related to Bubba Hotep???

  vances May 26, 2008 10:15 PM


hello friend, I will be there in 2 weeks time. JoJo

  JoJo Jun 10, 2008 1:56 PM


Is that the "swirling stinging" sand rising up in that picture? Looks really cool

  mimi Jun 17, 2008 11:45 AM


Thanks for an amusing read!

  Lisa Jun 24, 2008 3:46 PM

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