The Valley of the Kings

Thursday, January 31, 2008

BVU students explore the remnants of ancient Egypt

Buena Vista University offers students the opportunity to go beyond the classroom and discover the world during their January term.

Alicia Marlow was one of those students that took the opportunity to explore an area that she has read about many times. She traveled to Egypt; it was an experience she will remember for the rest of her life, she says.

"I felt like a nerd 'cause I knew a lot of (the history) already," she commented. "I've always liked ancient history." She had just completed an ancient history art class at BVU and was able to see first-hand many of the same things she had studied.

She, along with 14 other students and two professors (economics professor Eric Eller and math/business professor Tim McDaniel - left for their trip January 5 and returned January 20.

The journey included an itinerary filled with many popular spots, a bus to transport them, an experienced guide, and even room for adding places of interest off the beaten path.

The group began its travels in Cairo. There they were mesmerized by the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. The students had the chance to climb into the burial chambers, an opportunity given to only 200 tourists each day. "That was cool - thinking that not many people had been in there," she said.

Marlow and the rest of the group saw the amphitheater, the Roman Catacombs and many palaces. There were synagogues, mousks, tombs and the Monastery of St. Catherine's at Mount Sinai to visit.

The student marveled at ancient statues, noting the great deterioration of the art. They explored the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

The trip also offered a number of modes of travel: the group flew in but had the opportunity for a horse-drawn carriage ride, train rides, a cruise on the Nile and even a camel ride. All were new to Marlow.

"The rooms were small," she remarked about the ride on the train that lasted eight hours and took them from Cairo to Luxor. A four-day cruise down the Nile allowed the group to see other sites including Kom Ombo and a small Nigerian village. A camel ride was also an interesting form of transportation.

The village, she said, was one of those "added" sites that proved to be unique.

There they had the chance to visit the homes of some of the natives. Many of them, she said, raise crocodiles in fish tanks in their homes and after a certain age, the reptiles are released back into the wild, finding Lake Nasser to be a nice home. The crocodiles, she said, are placed in this area and kept out of the "touristy" regions.

The students were even given the opportunity to hold the baby crocs. "It was cool," she said.

In the village, she added, there were no cars, only paths. Goats and chickens ran rampant.

One of the great highlights was climbing Mt. Sinai and reaching the top in time to watch the sun rise. The journey began at 2 a.m.; the path led 9,000-feet upwards and it was dark. For a portion of the trip, the students had the chance to ride camels.

After seeing the magnificent site, the group went down. "I liked going down a lot better," she said, plus, it was daylight and she could see the steps.

The group had a long bus ride back to their hotels; the showers were a welcome site since they all smelled of camel sweat!

Marlow enjoyed seeing the hieroglyphs (writings in the tombs) and was given a few brief lessons by the group's guide on how to read the messages.

There was also the opportunity for new foods; falafels - fried ball or patty made from spiced fava beans and/or chickpeas - was a favorite. Rice, bread and noodles were served at nearly every meal. The group also "dined" at McDonalds which featured a McArabian which contained too many spices for Marlow's liking; she stuck to the menu she was familiar with. Pizza was also available but proved to be much different than the pizza she eats in Storm Lake. Oh well, chalk it up to experience.

Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan - names that will stick out in Marlow's head for a long time as places she would like to someday revisit.

"It was so fun. I saw all kinds of history that I'd read about. I'd go back again - but maybe wouldn't climb the mountain again!"

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