Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Curse of the Sunglasses in the Pharaoh's Tomb

(Background story: In 2010 I went to Egypt and joined a crew tour to the Pyramids of Giza. In Giza, you have the option of going into the tomb deep in one of the pyramids [I think it was Chephren's ] which was accessible via a long narrow tunnel that was used by the workmen to escape once the tomb was finished and ready to be sealed. This tunnel is half the height of a man and very claustrophobic. I made a serious miscalculation in this tomb that could have landed me in a hospital. Thankfully it ended with nothing more than a sprain, and what I consider a lesson from the Gods of Egypt!)
I only went into the tunnel that barrels down into the depths of Chephren’s tomb because I wanted to be able to boast later on that I went inside one of the pyramids of Giza. How was I to know that I would be following somebody’s behind as we crouched in the dim, cursed passageway that was so low you had to bend down and present in turn your posterior to the person who was following you, willy-nilly? How low can you go?
But worse was still to come. Because of the blinding light of the Egyptian sun, I wore sunglasses that I forgot to take off when we entered the tunnel. Somebody was saying “ Go! Go! Go!”, so Go! Go! Go! I went, still wearing my sunglasses. I noted how dark it was. If I was somebody else, observing me, I would have said:" It's doubly dark because you’re wearing sunglasses in this cave, dummy!” But I forgot, because I was excited and thrilled to be seeing the tomb of a Pharaoh. And everyone knows that this pyramid is the gateway to other worlds. At least that’s what the movie “ Stargate” told us, although Michael Bay, in “Transformers 2” , may have another idea.
Osiris, husband of Isis, Father of Anubis, O Lord of the Underworld, you truly strike fear in people’s hearts!
At least that’s what I gathered from seeing the sweaty, pale faces of other tourists whom we met as they tried to claw their way out of the claustrophobic tunnel. I saw one woman who could hardly breathe from sheer panic. She saw your shadow, in the darkness, and she didn’t like what she’d seen, I guess. I didn’t have time to sympathize with her, because a) I didn’t want somebody to bump me from behind and b) I didn’t want to bump my face on somebody’s behind. Crouching and sucking in the hot, damp air of the tomb, I honestly started to feel like Gollum.
Ah, my Precious!
Then the tunnel started to ease up, widen a bit, praise be to the Sun God RA! The ceiling disappeared. I could stand up. Then the line of tourists stopped. We weren’t moving. There were too many blinded Caucasians (mostly) trying to gain purchase in the dark. I got impatient. I shouldn’t have. I felt like I was driving in Miami while a whole bunch of retirees were also driving in front of me on their way to their doctor’s appointments. Not. Good.
So I stepped out of the line to get into the tomb. I put my right foot out and placed it down into ….empty space.
O Chephren! Was this the fate you had in store for me, a supplicant sight-seer, bandmaster of the M/S Ocean Princess, lover of Chopin and chop-suey, hater of the slide-guitar, and admirer of art that is NOT displayed on the ship’s (bwahaha!) art gallery? Am I going to break my leg here in the darkness of your tomb? Am I going to fracture something worse?
A thousand apologies if, when my foot didn’t find the hard, granite floor, the first word that came to my lips started with an "S" and ended with a " T". Reflex, O great God, reflex.
When my foot did find the floor, from the height of the ramp that I was trying to make a shortcut, I felt a sickening thud. Instinctively I rolled on my back to lessen the impact of the crash and I lay there, in the dank interior of your tomb, and again, that immortal word rushed through my mouth, S………T!
IMMORTAL GODS OF EGYPT, it was great that there were mortal tourists, passengers on the ship, who brought me to my feet.
“ Are you OK? Are you OK?” They asked me. I'm sure some of them thought " Do we have to carry this joker out on a stretcher?"
But I could walk, although with a limp. There was a gash on my knee, but nothing was broken. The pavement of the Pharaoh’s tomb, for all I know, has a permanent record of my presence in it now, in the form of the molecules of blood from my wounded knee. Let that be my offering to you, O Chephren etc.
And what was in the tomb? What did I/we see after all that huffing and puffing and all that drama?
NOTHING, not even a sarcophagus.
! !! *(See below for translation.)
And what was the important lesson that I learned on this great adventure into the depths of the Pharaoh Chephrens’ pyramid, out there in the middle of the desert that is not quite desert because it’s surrounded by the tacky city of Giza?
Don’t ever forget to take off your sunglasses when going inside a tomb or you'll break your leg!
Still, O GOD OSIRIS, I must give thanks to you for sparing my limb! It took me a while to re-align my knee-cap, but, hey, how many times can you say, with a straight face: I nearly broke my leg inside a pyramid in Egypt?

*Egyptian hieroglyphics phonetically explained:
- F
- K
- Th
- T

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