I'm Wits Toopid

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times…

Posts tagged ‘Egypt’

I’m a a mere couple of hundred metres from the edge of the Nile yet standing at the precipice of 5,000 kms of the most uninhabitable land in the world. The thing that strikes me about the Sahara desert is that it’s less the pristine sandy dunes of legend and more mostly just an endless crappy Dublin beach mixture of sand and rocks. That said, it is pretty awesome.

I’ve taken the quicker route to the top of the dune, racing up the sheer sand wall (much to the disappointment of my lungs and those muscles in the backs of my legs that I reserve only for special occasions and exercise) but some of the group are taking the slightly longer, slightly less “Oh Christ, I think I just collapsed a lung” route. They stop for a break and I snap a picture of them, mere specs of dirt on the gritty sand horizon.

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“In the grand propylon, among the names of tourists and travellers, in a small plain hand, is written – “L’an 6 de la république, le 13 Mercidor, une armée Française, commandée par Buonaparte, est descendue à Alexandrie; l’armée ayant mis, vingt jours après, les Mamelukes en fuite aux pyramides, Dessaix, commandant la première division, les a poursuivi, au de-là des cataractes, où il est arrivé le 13 Ventose, de l’an 7.”

J.L. Stephens 1873

Egypt reeks and drips with the history of humanity throughout the ages. And something I hadn’t foreseen when I first traveled there is its interwoven involvement with world history long after it ceased to be the central hub of civilization. From the Greeks and Romans to Napoleon and the renaissance men of the 19th Century there are examples of Egypt’s part in human history time and time again.

This is most apparent in the graffiti that adorns the many monuments up and down the country. The etched names of various travelers from so many times annoys a little in that it spoils the epic beauty of the pieces but also humbles with the fact that so many have been humbled by these sights, right across time.

In Abu Simbel, deep deep out into the desert (4 hours by bus ride under armed guards) the legs of the 33 meter guardians of the temple are etched with the names of 19th Century travelers and you can only begin to think of the kind of journey they would have had to undertake to get this far from civilization.

I wonder who “L. Santoni – 1874” was and if he looked the same, in awe, up at this towering monument to just one man, 135 years ago.

The Colossi of Memnon, two 18 meter statues on the West Bank in Thebes, once stood at the gateway to a massive temple. Built for Amenhotep but stolen, stone by stone, over many successive reigns, these two statues are all that remains. During the time of the Greeks and even into the time of the Romans, one of the two statues became famous for singing every morning. The Greeks believed that this was Memnon, singing a greeting for his mother Eos* and inscribed in graffiti on the leg of the statue the story of Memnon and Eos. This inscription is still there today, Ancient Greek graffiti on an Ancient Egyptian statue.

*It is now believed that damage caused to the statue in an 27BC earthquake allowed the wind to cut through the statue each morning, creating the whistling or sining. It is also beleived that this ended after further damage caused in an AD 199 earthquake.

There is some really interesting further reading on this online:

“Travelers in Egypt” has a great article on Graffitti on Egyptian Monuments which gives a nice bit of history and I found this really interesting article (well, it’s more a collection of notes, but interesting none the less) on an Irish man called H.J. Curtin from Limerick who left his mark in the temple of Philae in May 1817.

For further reading on my adventures in Egypt, check out:

Standing at the Edge of the World

A Future Echo of Things to Come, Cairo, Egypt

also, for all you graffiti lovers:

European graffiti (Germany and Copenhagen)

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– Travelling between Kagoshima and Fukoka in Japan.

– Stopped because of smog, approaching Cairo, Egypt.These people live and make their living on the slow moving trains as they pass.

– Cambridge, heading home to London

– Dublin. Heading home. Resting your head against the window and inevitably falling asleep to the plastic scratches and reflections of others after a long days work.

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I’m clearing all this shite out of my room this week cause when I return I’ll most probably be purchasing a house. As always with a big clearout the task becomes a naustalgiafest and I end up spending hours sitting in a pile of dirt and dust and mess and looking through photos I have taken and stuff that I have written since 1992.

Thinking back like this is always a rose tinted affair. Life is always perfect, summers always sunnier. You always remember your shit smelling of butterflies and icecream, lolipops and bullshit.

But this time it’s also getting me excited with anticipation. In three weeks (to this day) I set off on a 5 week trip to Japan, Sydney, Perth and Hong Kong.” – Me, Sept 2009

…and so it began. In 2009 I started a blog to follow my adventures as I travelled Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. After I returned I gave up for a while but decided to take it up again last year and used it as an outlet and excuse for my burgeoning career as a full time spare time amateur photographer.

In honour of my 200th post. Here are my personal top 10 blog posts:


There is a warped majesty to the role of the Geisha in Japan; a bent honor. Sometimes considered an honored courtisan though sometimes there seems a feeling that seedier deeds are afoot, the Geisha of Kyoto, their home base of Pontocho, are masterful in their secrecy. They avoid the stare of the hunting public, dipping in and out of the tiny Pontocho sidestreets.

A freshly bought camera in hand, I spent one late evening stalking their shadows through the streets of Kyoto.

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– Hello?
– Hello…
*still silence*

When you answer the house phone at this time of the day on a weekday and get this long a silence it can only mean one thing; that douchey Indian “PC repair” phone scam lot are calling again…

Some people get angry at call centre scams… I just get even…

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There was no way of me knowing that within a month of me leaving Egypt in December of 2010, the Arab Spring uprising would have millions take to the streets and Tahir Square to rise up against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but on my last day in Cairo I witnessed, from my hotel balcony, a protest taking place against the results of an election that had happened just a week ago. A snapshot of Egypt as it lightly tore at it seams, ready to burst a month later…

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I see this bargain bin as I’m making my way to the peace memorial in Hiroshima. 300 Yen is about Euro 3.75 so I set myself a challenge, to pick out the best worst 5 CD’s that I could find in the bin. Competition was high but eventually I managed to wittle it down to these few choices.

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In May of 1935 my grandad, in his late 20’s at the time, braved the waters and travelled from Dublin to London to witness the Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V. The photographs that he took of the event are an amazing snapshot of pre-World War II London. 77 years later I moved to London to live here, strangely marked by the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elisabeth II. I decided to take to the streets to hunt down the locations of my Grandad’s 1935 photographs.

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A thick, rolling, rasping voice drags like melodic brick on concrete from the back of his throat. She flicks her hair, sweeps her hips, hiking her skirt, carefully torn fishnet tights, revealing just enough leg to send me to heaven.

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The quiet shuffle of the early morning set against an empty pale blue sky. Shopkeepers standing on their purches set against the empty streets of stone and house’ of wood and wash the stoop, first they carefully brush up any litter or leaves before a simple green hose from its constant purch next to the door and then, if needed, any details that need cleaning are tended to individually with a bucket and sponge…

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Everyone likes a good carnival, especially if you want some good photos, but, in Notting Hill’s cultureclashed yearly festival the festive plumage of the parade belies a more nihilistic anti-establishment freedom in the backstreets. Despite the strong police presence there is a feeling that if anything did kick off there is little that they actually could do; 11,000 officers and a couple of hundred thousand people in a maze of small streets. We dance on the precipice of anarchy…

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A motley crew of international ne’er-do-wells. A Japanese guy; crazy and happy; constantly (maybe?) drunk and with just enough a lack of English for hilarity to ensue. An Australian family with their daughter and her British boyfriend (about to do a stint in the army). A slightly hippieish couple from San Francisco. A very down to earth (are they ever not?) Canadian husband and wife; taking a break from their smalltown internet company to tick off a “must do” from the bucket list. An English guy; aspiring Geography teacher; come to learn a little about what he’ll be teaching. An Argentinian girl, but living in America, with a distinctly Irish name. And of course a geekish Irish mid-to late twentysomething lad with a penchant for the over-imagination. Place them all in Egypt, sailing down the Nile in a traditional felucca sailboat with their happy-go-lucky Egyptian tour guide and a couple of locals to help out and you have the perfect recipe for a horribly awful monster-disaster movie…

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By far one of my favorite highlights on my trip to Tokyo was my night in the Tokyo Cavern Club, a 7 days a week Beatles Tribute Bar in Roppongi, dressed in immaculate 60’s vintage style and full to the brim with beaming Japanese fans, the band admitted to not speaking any English so learning the lyrics to Beatles tracks orally. This lead to a fantastically crazy sound…

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