I’m not a morning person. There's just something innately cruel about the sun rising as early as it does. Yet, I would skip out on sleep forever just to watch the sun rise over the sand in Luxor, Egypt. I can’t help but be blown away by the fuzzy pink disc pushing the night sky beyond and below the city limits. The glow of dawn peeks out between the silhouettes of mosques scattered across the barren landscape. I can hear the beautiful sounds of purring wind instruments floating on the breeze. In such moments, I feel like I’ve traveled back to the time of the ancients.
The chilly morning is refreshing, because I know how hot the coming day will be. Sitting on the bus, I can’t take my eyes off the world beyond the glass—even for a second. The hustle and bustle of little shops opening and brown shopkeepers smiling sets an energetic scene, but the bus passes on while the animated little town fades into the dust.
The bare sandy desert and lush green Nile are a surprisingly beautiful couple. The nearby fields seem to be overflowing, so the scattered mud huts stand out amid the green like sprouts reaching for the sun. Soon, the avenue of golden sphinxes appears, welcoming the faithful to Karnak temple.
We are greeted by a massive wall. An ancient Pharaoh stands there tall and proud, towering over a conquered people. His likeness is carved two inches deep into the sand-colored stone, which is impressive to say the least. We enter the great Hypostyle Hall where enormous columns stretch up to the clouds. It takes 12 of us with arms outstretched to encircle one of these columns. I take my time, slowly meandering through and examining the hieroglyphs as I pass.
Walking aimlessly from one temple to the next, I’m completely awestruck. Karnak has an energy that wraps itself around you and you feel the presence of something—I don’t know what. My companions and I explore for an hour or two, trying in vain to soak up everything Karnak has to offer. Before I know it, I come upon a dark room, which is atypical, since most of the temple ceilings have been destroyed over time. There is a man inside, so I decide to socialize.
He doesn’t speak much English, but I understand what he is struggling to tell me. “Baksheesh,” he repeats. Without even thinking, I pull out my wallet, take out five Egyptian pounds, and hand him his tip. He smiles a toothless grin and motions for me to approach the wall where he stands. His Arabic flows quickly, but the sound is beautiful with his words washing over me as he points out the image of an eye carved into the stone.
Reverently, he touches my forehead, closes his eyes, and begins to slowly chant in a soothing tone. I close my eyes too. He now guides me closer to the wall, where he presses my third eye to the cold stone eye. Three times he presses my head into the symbol and then steps back. The man delivers a solemn nod in my direction to confirm that I've received what I came for: a blessing in the earthly home of the gods.
Shauna Armitage is the Director of Marketing at Bastas Travel Consultants. She's also a passionate adventurer, constantly searching for transcendent experiences. Shauna has visited Alaska, Puerto Rico, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. However, her all-time-favorite destination is Cairo. You can follow her on Twitter @ShaunaScrabbles or check out her blog here.