While Pharaoh Khufu stole the limelight for 4,500 years as the king who built the Great Pyramid of Giza, much few people may acknowledge that Khufu’s success was built upon the earlier experiments of his father, Pharaoh Sneferu. At 40km south of Cairo, Dahshur was the experimental ground for Sneferu, who famously built the three predecessors that ultimately led to the success of his son’s Great Pyramid. The three Sneferu’s pyramids in Dahshur reveal the evolution of pyramid construction, from Meidum Pyramid: Egypt’s first smooth-sided pyramid that had partially collapsed since the ancient times, to Bent Pyramid: another smooth-sided pyramid whose change of inclining angle midway had led to a bent effect, and finally to Red Pyramid: Egypt’s first successfully constructed smooth-sided pyramid.
After Saqqara, we intended to go to Abusir, another necropolis of Memphis just like Saqqara. However, we were told that Abusir was not open for some reason, so we turned to Dahshur instead. Dahshur was another well-known necropolis that served the royal members of Memphis in the Old Kingdom. Famous for its three unique pyramids, Dahshur is a must-see site if one is interested in Egyptian pyramids. Our taxi drove us to pass by the Bent and Black Pyramid, and then stopped at the biggest of them all, the Red Pyramid. There were not many tourists around, so we decided to pay the admission to enter the Red Pyramid. Named after the slightly reddish limestone, the Red Pyramid is Egypt’s third largest and also the oldest smooth sided pyramid.
The sloped passage down to the burial chamber at the pyramid’s heart was narrow and dimly lit. With an slope of 27 degrees down, a 1.2m width and 0.91m height, the journey down the 61m passage was no small feat. For the entire way we were forced to hunch down with our backs touching the passage ceiling, and move down carefully one step at a time. We heaved a sigh of relief after reaching the end of the tunnel, but was a little disappointed to find the empty chamber at the end. As expected no artifacts were in display in the chamber. The 15m corbel vaulted ceiling was quite impressive, given the fact that we were almost 100m below the top of the pyramid, under millions of tons of limestone.
Our next stop was Mit Rahina Museum or what commonly known as the Memphis Open Air Museum. Memphis, the ancient Egyptian capital in the Old Kingdom, was once a prosperous trading, manufacturing and religious centre in the region of Nile Delta. For many centuries, the ruins of the abandoned Egyptian capital had been pillaged for constructing other structures in the nearby Arab cities. Not much of the great city survived to the present day, except the artifacts in the open air museum and what might still lie underground. The biggest draw of the museum is an enormous limestone statue of Ramses II lying in the establishment’s feature gallery.
After the legendary lost city of Petra and epic desert of Wadi Rum, we finally arrived in Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city right by the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea. Serving as an essential port for the Middle East, Aqaba is also popular among tourists, thanks to its regular ferry services to Egypt and the world famous Red Sea coral reefs in the area. Before heading over to the land of pharaohs, we decided to spend a relaxing day in Aqaba.
In the morning, we took a shuttle bus from Crystal Hotel to the Royal Diving Centre. After paying a 10 JD entrance fee, my friend and I, who had never dived before, went for an introductory session. Then we spent the afternoon snorkeling with a disposable underwater camera. We saw some nice corals and a lot of colourful fish. We snorkeled for a few hours and returned to the diving centre. Upon leaving we tried to get the refund of the entrance fee. Their policy was that whoever diving at the centre would not require to pay the admission. The staff hesitated for a while and told us the cashier was closed for the day. We had no choice but to return the next morning. The next morning we returned to the Royal Diving Centre for our refund. The staff tried to avoid us. We expressed our discontent and at last a manager came out with a big smile and gave us the refund. Leaving the diving club behind, our hired taxi took us to the passenger ferry terminal. It took us over an hour to go through the customs and deal with the departure tax. At last we were led to board a shuttle bus that drove onto the ferry along with the passengers.
Once on board, we found the Egyptian custom officer to stamp our passports. The ferry didn’t leave the dock until way over 11:30, over two hours since we got to the terminal. At last, the ferry sailed slowly southwest towards the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, with Saudi Arabia to our east. At around 14:30 we arrived at the Egyptian port of Nuweiba. The hectic scene of Nuweiba was our first impression on Egypt. At the minbus station we met three Australians. The six of us hired a minivan to Dahab, the popular backpacker resort at the Egyptian side of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Dahab seemed pretty quiet to us, probably because of the recent terrorist bombing a month ago on April 24th, which claimed 23 lives in total. The town looked very young and causal. At the station we met Alex, a staff from Bishibishi Garden Village, a relatively new hotel in Dahab. We met Jimmy the owner and decided to stay at one of their air conditioned triple rooms. After dinner, we strolled around Dahab, dropped by an internet cafe, and bought another disposable underwater camera for the following day.
Below the acropolis hill of Pergamon stands the town of Bergama and the scattered ruins of ancient Pergamon. A short taxi ride took us from the acropolis to the Red Basilica in Bergama. Originally a temple built by Roman Emperor Hadrian dedicated to Egyptian deities, the basilica was later converted into a Christian church in the Byzantine era. The brick structure itself is massive and red in colour, and hence the name Red Basilica. Massive red brick structures were common in Roman Italy at that time, but was something rather new and unique in Asia Minor. We stayed for roughly half an hour to appreciate the structure’s grandeur from the remaining archways and masonry shell.
Outside the Red Basilica, we had a quick bite at an pancake eatery. The town was pretty laid back, with donkeys wandering on the street and artisans sitting in front of shops weaving carpet. We ventured further uphill behind Bergama, passed by a military base, to the ruins of Asclepion, a medical complex in the Greek and Roman times. Most of the remaining buildings we saw dated back to the Hadrian’s time. There were theatre, pools, libraries, temples, and houses. Patients who came to Asclepion were offered spiritual treatments at temples, as well as physical exercises and spa services at the adjacent facilities. After a full day of sightseeing, we headed back to Izmir and then transferred to Selcuk.
At 21:00, we arrived at Selcuk Bus Station. A guy named Michael approached us to sell us bus tickets. At last, we bought from him tickets to Pammukale for the day after tomorrow. The van from Homeros Pension finally arrived and took us to the beautifully decorated guesthouse.
Bergama was quite a laid back town in the Aegean region of Turkey.
Sleepy street scene of Asclepion in midday.
Dated back to the 11th century, Bergama is famous for its carpet weaving. Most Bergama carpets are made with wool.
Donkeys and ponies were quite common in Bergama.
The Red Basilica was one of the largest surviving Roman structures in the Greek world.
The enormous structure formed only a part of an even larger religious complex.
Unlike Ancient Rome, red masonry used in such enormous scale was something new in Asia Minor
One of the rotundas of the Red Basilica is now occupied by a mosque.
Asclepion, the ruined medical centre in the Roman times, was a well known treatment centre in the classical times.
There were hardly anyone else when we visited Asclepion.
The theatre of Asclepion revealed that the ancient medical centre was once also served as a social venue.
Fine details at the theatre stair.
Ionic columns and remaining frieze and cornice could still be found at the ruins.
In times of Antiquity, Asclepion was the 2nd most popular medical treatment centres just after Epidauros in Greece.
Two billions years has passed since volcanic lava hardened into rock formations that stretched as far as the horizon, covering over half the size of what we now know as Canada. Millions of years of rain and snow gradually sculpted off the high peaks and odd spires, leaving behind a low relief of undulating rocky terrain mainly made of volcanic igneous rocks. Being as some of the oldest rock formations on this planet, the Canadian Shield or the Laurentian Plateau is far older than any myths or tales being told in North America. 10,000 years ago, the last Ice Age came to an end, and the retreating glaciers carved out valleys, scraped away sediment and soil, and left behind thousands of lakes and rivers and bogs that make up the majority of Canadian landscape. Part of the southern tip of the Canadian Shield is exposed with visible ridges and low plateaus. Along with the myriad of lakes and rivers and bogs spreading over this tip of the rocky shield, and the relatively young forests of spruces, birch and maple, people found a charming beauty from this piece of ancient land. Native people once resided here a few thousands years ago, then came the Europeans, then came loggers and the railway, tourists and the highway. This is how the tale of Algonquin Park unfolds.
The Acer saccharum or Sugar Maple, from maple syrup to autumn foliage, is a major contributor that shapes the identity of Ontario, Quebec and Northern US. Despite its vast distribution across much of the Northern Hemisphere, the maple and its leaves are commonly associated with Canada and the Canadian flag. First being adopted as an emblem by a group of French Canadians in the 18th century, the maple leaf was then included in the coat of arms of Ontario and Quebec and later of the entire nation. As a symbol of strength and endurance, the maple leaf was finally chosen and became the Canadian national flag in 1965. Appearing on a number of Tom Thomson’s paintings, the sugar maples in the Algonquin emerged as the visual focus in this Canadian landscape every autumn. Seeing the fire crimson maple crowns stand out against a backdrop of dark evergreen and golden birch trees reflected in the serene lake water has become an annual ritual for many, attracting uncounted numbers of tourists every October entering the gate of Algonquin and hiking one of the interpretative trails along the Highway 60 Corridor. This is the moment when the unforgiving nature appears to be the tamest and easiest for human appreciation. This is how the maple story intertwines with the tale of the mighty ancient rocks of Algonquin.
We may not be lucky enough to have caught the peak of fall colour every year but we still enjoy every moments in Algonquin Park when the fallen leaves with various tones of red and orange pave the trail.
At the lookout of Booth’s Rock trail, distant maple hills and the peaceful Rock Lake make up the stunning scenery of Algonquin. It was the most rewarding moment to reach the lookout overlooking the river from a high point.
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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario