Looks a little sketchy to me…

Sometimes I like sketching better than taking photos, because it makes me really stop and see. When my camera ran out of battery in Luxor and I was without it for two days, it was a blessing in disguise because I made a sketch of our boatride on the Nile. The image quality is not very good, but you get the idea:

An expedition to the Garden Tomb with Dave; the Garden Tomb is my favorite place to go on Shabbat

We have weekly forums when guest speakers come and lecture on various topics related to the conflict; here are my notes from last week’s forum, Dr Sabella, a Palestinian researcher.

Well, folks, I’m off on a weeklong excursion to Jordan. I’m pretty stoked, but I won’t have internet access for about five days…so I love you all and thanks to everyone for reading my blog and commenting and just being interested in my adventures here in the Near East. Love you lots!

You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Gotten a Henna Tattoo in an Egyptian Bazaar

The lotus flower and the papyrus plant, symbols of the Upper and Lower kingdoms. Upper and Lower Egypt, united on my ankle!

Carriages were our main form of transportation around town while we were in Luxor. You can get a ride across town for only a dollar!

Throughout the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom, additions were made to the temple complex at Karnak by many Egyptian pharoahs, including Ramses I, Seti, Ramses II, and Merneptah. At the time of the exodus, Karnak was the center of religious life in Egypt, so in all likelihood, this is where Moses called the plagues down upon Egypt.

Sphinxes guarding the entrance to the temple (the heads have been removed).

The Karnak temple complex is the largest temple complex in the world (even larger than Temple Square!). The pillars are so big that it takes eleven people to stretch around one of them. They are assembled of many large stones stacked on top of one another. Then they are chiseled to make them look smooth.


1. Lay the bottom stone of each pillar. Fill up sand to the top of the stones.
2. Set the next stone for each pillar on the base stone. Fill up sand to the top of the next stones.
3. Continue stacking on stones and filling up sand until the pillar has reached the desired height.
4. Construct the roof of the temple and decorate the ceiling (you won’t need any ladders or scaffolding to do this, since you’ve filled up sand to the top of the temple).
5. Drain a little sand from the temple and carve the tops of the pillars to make the stacked stones smooth so that each pillar looks like one stone. While you’re at it, carve relief images and hieroglyphics into the tops of the pillars, and paint them.
6. Drain some more sand and carve and paint the next section of the pillar.
7. Continue draining sand, then carving the pillars until you reach the bottom.

And there you have it! I expect all of you to try it and send me photos of the results.

Watch out! They spit!

We had a lot of adventures on camels–at the pyramids at Giza and also in Luxor.

We crossed the Nile and took a camel safari on the west side of the river to see the “real Luxor.” We were the only Americans there, and we traveled through the village and through banana fields, onion fields, and fields of date trees. I harassed my camel guide to teach me as many Arabic words as possible–here is what I learned:

thank you…shukran
you’re welcome…afwan
good morning…sabaa al’khayr

We took a boat ride down the Nile on the Bob Marley.

I made a great sketch of the sun setting over the Nile, but since you can’t see it, enjoy this photo instead.

High on the Mountain Top

Sinai is exactly what you’d imagine it to be: dry. We drove for hours over sand dunes and flat ground so barren that not even sagebrush grew there. Once we had left behind all other human civilization, the flat dry ground turned to rocky and mountainous dry ground.

Mount Sinai and the eminences surrounding it are rugged and jut out of the earth. We set out at 3:00 AM to summit Sinai to watch the desert sunrise. Because we were hundreds of miles from any town or city, the stars were more abundant than I have ever seen them in my life; the whole sky glittered.

Along the trail, we were met by dozens of bedouin merchants who had gotten up in the middle in the night in hopes of making some money from us. “Camel? You need camel? Camel to the top?” “Coffee! Tea! Chocolate! We have!” “Need flashlight?”

The last half hour of the hike was up steep stone steps to the summit. We reached the top just as the first light was appearing over the horizon. I left our big group of students and went with a few friends to the edge of the cliff; we watched the sun rise in silence, then sang a few quiet hymns, including “High on the Mountain Top” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

We watched the sun slowly turn the deep blue of morning to its orange glow. I thought of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, and the great miracles that the Lord did for the Israelites. I thought of Brigham Young and my pioneer ancestors, and the great things that the Lord has done for me. Moses spoke with the Lord here more than three thousand years ago, I thought, and his covenant with Abraham is even older than that. But it still applies to me, and someday it will apply to my children, and theirs… To quote a favorite hymn:

For God remembers still
His promise made of old
That he on Zion’s hill
Truth’s standard should unfold

The Lord’s promises are being fulfilled in our day. That is why the most beautiful, breathtaking sunrise I’ve seen is on Sinai. The Lord is the light of our souls, and his promises and blessings are sure.

Stranger in a Strange Land

We’re back! I survived our eight-day sojourn in Egypt, and I experienced so many amazing and eye-opening things that it felt like a month instead of a week. For that reason (and because I’m exhausted), I’ll just post a few random things for now and a detailed overview of the trip can come later.

In Cairo we visited a papyrus factory, and this is the papyrus that I bought there, depicting the goddess Hathor, queen Nefertari, and others. We watched a papyrus-making demonstration.


1. Slice off the green bark or outer covering of the papyrus stalk so that only the white core remains.
2. Cut the core into thin slices.
3. Pound the slices with a mallet and roll them with a rolling pin to make them all the same thickness.
4. Overlay the flat slices in a criss-cross pattern, the same way you make a lattice-work crust on a pie. Make sure there are no gaps in between.
5. Let dry.

The amazing thing about papyrus (especially for history’s sake) is how durable it is. Papyrus can be washed, dried, and re-used. If you tear it, you can fuse it back together with a little water. If you crumple it up, it won’t be damaged. Thank goodness for papyrus!

Going to the pyramids was fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams! I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real. It was incredible to stand in front of them and think, These monuments were five hundred years old when Abraham came to Egypt! By the time Moses was born, they were ancient! Now that is old.

We got to venture inside the second pyramid, the pyramid of Kaphre or Cephren. We crawled in the main shaft to the actual burial chamber where the pharoah was entombed. Of course, his mummy and his treasure have all been removed, but his stone sarcophagus was still there. The sarcophagus was carved from a single block of stone with such precision that even with our modern tools and technology it would be difficult to re-create it. In modernity the pyramid was first explored by Giovanni Belzoni in 1818, and he carved his name and the date on the wall inside the sarcophagus room.

On our first night in Cairo, some friends and I decided to take a taxi to go to the Sound and Light show at the pyramids. The show was going to be in Spanish, but we decided that a light show at the pyramids was too cool of an experience to pass up, so we went anyway and I did my best to translate.

Gaza, Egypt, and Unrest

I have only been here three weeks, but it feels like months already. Or maybe a lifetime.

I was worried about living away from home for the first time, but fortunately I’ve been too buys to get terribly homesick. Between the heavy load of schoolwork I have here, the articles I write for work, and my sightseeing…um…obligations, I never have a spare moment. This semester seems pretty relaxing compared to last semester, however. Taking a full-time schedule of classes and working three jobs nearly killed me. : )

We weren’t allowed in the Old City yesterday. Since Tuesday there has been a lot of unrest because of the situation in Gaza. If you haven’t been following the situation there, here it is in a nutshell: Hamas launched airstrikes on Israeli settlements from Gaza, so the Israeli government shut off Gaza’s fuel and other resources. On Tuesday, Hamas operatives blew down the border wall between Gaza and Egypt, and now hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza are pouring into Egypt to buy fuel and food. More than seven miles of the wall has been torn down, and the refugees have been flooding the border ever since.

We are leaving for Egypt tomorrow morning for eight-day trip. We’ll be crossing the Israel-Egypt border sometime tomorrow afternoon. We’ll have an armed guard on each of our busses, and we’re all hoping that there won’t be any complications–keep your fingers crossed!

Jerusalem is a true melting pot of Muslims, Palestinian Christians, Russian Jews and Christians, and Jews from all nations. But once we cross the border into Egypt, we’ll be in a land that is almost entirely Muslim. It will be an eye-opening experience, I’m sure.

We wont’ have computer access in Egypt, so I won’t be posting for a while. I love you all! Until after Egypt!