CAMELS AND ANCIENT KINGS: Trip to Egypt from Aunt Carolyn’s Memoir

CAMELS AND ANCIENT KINGS: Trip to Egypt from Aunt Carolyn’s Memoir

CAMELS AND ANCIENT KINGS: Trip to Egypt from Aunt Carolyn’s Memoir
Carolyn T. Arnold at Luxor, Egypt, August 1963

My husband’s Aunt Carolyn was an intrepid tourist, first on her own and then as a tour group leader. This is an excerpt from her memoir, recalling a trip to Egypt in the summer of 1963.

My group flew to Cairo one year. After spending some time in Cairo, we flew to Luxor to see the Valley of the Pharaohs and King Tut’s tomb as well as tombs of lesser nobles. It was extremely hot in the desert, but we sat in the shade of a small rest house while our guide told us of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and other stories of the Valley of the Queens and of the old city of Thebes.

On the other side of the river we visited the magnificent ruins of ancient Karnak, excavated more than one hundred years ago. They were situated only a short distance from our hotel, but it was traditional to ride to the site in old-fashioned horse-drawn buggies. So, of course, we rode to the site, two or three to a buggy. We made quite a caravan. When we returned many children lined the road shouting and clapping their hands. I asked the driver what they were saying. He replied, “They were saying, ‘Hello Father!’” We thought they were clapping for us!

That evening I suggested a ride in a felucca–a small sailboat–on the Nile River at sunset. The guide offered to recruit several feluccas for us at $3.00 each. I should have remembered that since this was his first asking price, I should have bargained. Still, it was delightful on the river with the farmers and donkeys on the opposite bank silhouetted against a glorious red and gold sunset.

Later, back in Cairo, while waiting for our plane at the airport, we recalled the pleasant time we had in Egypt–the dinner at the hotel with the belly dancer and fortune teller, the visit to the pyramids and the Sphinx. We laughed about our camel ride. One mounts while the camel is sitting with legs folded under. After one is seated in the broad wooden saddle, the camel starts to rise, first on the front feet, which swings the rider violently back. Then, the rear feet unfold, which jerks the rider forward. There were many squeals as we climbed onto our saddles. A “driver” walks down the road beside each camel and rider on the way to the Sphinx. Once the driver asked me if I wanted to hold the reins. I agreed, as it was something to hold on to. Immediately, my camel took off at a gallop away from the road toward the desert. Smart animal, it knew a greenhorn was aboard! My screams were loud. I expected to become lost on the endless desert with that mean animal. However, the driver called the camel. It did smirk, the arrogant creature.

Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my
husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began
traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling
trip through Ireland in 1950.  She went on from there to spend a year
as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and
beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and
nephews (including Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching,
she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around
the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her
spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence
they do today. A number of excerpts from her memoir have appeared on The Intrepid Tourist. You can find them by searching for “Aunt Carolyn” in the Index.

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