When we arrived in Edfu our boat docked right at the intersection of two main roads in town. David and I spent the evening on the upper deck, drinking Egyptian beer and watching the circus that is the traffic pattern in Egypt. We watched as motorcycles with three or more riders ran down the road in the wrong direction. Buses, huge deliver trucks and small cars shared the narrow strip of asphalt with donkey carts and horse drawn carriages. As in Cairo, the pedestrians basically meandered in and out of traffic at will. At one point, we saw a group of men pull a table and chairs out into what would be considered the right hand lane of traffic if the Egyptians believed in the “lane” system of driving. There they sat, smoking their shisha (hookah) pipes and playing games.
The next morning we were taken by horse drawn carriage to the Temple of Horus. The entrance is flanked by two huge granite depictions of the god Horus as a falcon. The 100-foot carvings depict the pharaoh in battle as a show of strength to the people. The main theme of this temple is the triumph of good god Horus over the evil god Set. Since I never played games like dragons and dungeons where there were multiple layers of players good and evil, I felt extremely ill-equipped to keep up with the players in the ancient Egyptian struggles of good versus evil. Although this was not our first temple or our first set of hieroglyphs, I was completely mesmerized by the beauty of it.
Dave sat up front with the driver of our carriage on the way back. Mom and Dad sat in the seat and I got to try and fit my rump on the small seat usually reserved for people’s feet. It was a close fit but once settled in, we all felt secure. David actually drove our cart for several blocks until he saw that there was a truck coming straight at us. He quickly gave the reins back to the carriage driver who nonchalantly moved us over an inch or two to allow the truck to pass.
We clopped down the main street engulfed in the myriad of sounds that had become natural to our ears; horns honking, car engines revving, horses clomping, motorcycles whining, donkeys braying, all punctuated five times a day by the loud speakers at the mosques calling the faithful to prayer. Suddenly our carriage lurched sharply to the right. The sound of our driver’s angry voice yelling in what sounded like not so nice Arabic phrases at a fellow Edfuian joined the fray. It took me a couple seconds to realize what was going on. We had been sideswiped by a donkey cart! Dave had watched the whole donkey on horse incident from his seat next to the driver of our carriage. The donkey made a blind left-hand turn across, what in the US would be considered two lanes of traffic. This resulted in a donkey on horse collision shoving both parties into one of Edfu’s side streets. Luckily no one in our carriage was injured, our horse was fine and by the fact that the donkey cart continued down the street without breaking gait, we assumed all was well with the donkey as well.
At this point I assumed our carriage driver would just continue down the side street, go around the block and drop us off at our dock. Instead the driver backed the horse carriage out into the oncoming traffic in the busy street. This time, I got the bird’s eye view. Car, bikes and motorcycles swerved around us as our driver slowly backed up into the congested main road. I have to admit that I got more than just a little bit panicked at the site of a giant tour bus with its enormous front windshield bearing down us. We had been in the Egypt for a little over a week and had marveled at how the drivers, pedestrians and livestock seemed to share the narrow strips of asphalt without witnessing a single accident. I was afraid our luck had run out and our second accident of the day would be tour bus on horse. I was pretty sure we would not fare as well the second time around. To my utter amazement the barreling tour bus came to a stop just inches short of our carriage Just when I thought that our ride back to the boat couldn’t get any more exciting, we looked over and saw a farmer chasing a water buffalo down the main road while busses, cars and motorcycles swarmed around them. For us the ride back from the temple was something akin to Toad’s Wild Ride but to the Egyptian people, it was just another day in the neighborhood.