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Pole to Pole

Day 57: Luxor

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI'm brought back down to earth as the first wave of tourists appears, adjusting cameras, complaining about meals the night before and arguing over who has the air tickets. Then I catch sight of Tadorus, whom I must remember to call Peter, like a white wraith among the massive pillars, stick resting across his shoulders. If you need a lost sense of wonder restored, then Peter is the man. Despite his eighty-odd years spent in and around these buildings with scholars and archaeologists, he still finds some things unexplainable. A statue of Rameses II, ninety-seven feet high and made from a single piece of granite, weighs 1000 tons. Cranes nowadays can only lift 200 tons, yet this massive statue was brought to Luxor from Aswan overland, 3000 years ago. Peter strikes a theatrical pose, 'How, Tadorus, they say?' He pauses and his big, round, sad eyes blink slowly. 'My answer, magic.'

The temple of Abu Simbel, further south, was, he tells me, aligned by the ancient Egyptians so that the sun shone onto the face of Rameses twice a year - once on his birthday and once on his coronation day. When Abu Simbel was re-sited in a forty-million-dollar operation to save it from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, all the calculations of the world's experts could not enable the sun to shine on Rameses' face more than once a year.

Peter shakes his head sorrowfully, 'Nothing better,' he sighs, 'nothing better.'

Here is surely a man born 3000 years too late. I'm sad to say goodbye to him.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 57
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Luxor
  • Book page no: 124

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