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A Love Affair Consummated
Gloria Taylor Brown
When I went to Egypt last year, I fell in love. I related the story of this relationship and how it came to pass in an article last year, called My New Love Affair.
This year, I was delighted to take a group of pilgrims with me to Egypt to meet my new love.
When we left New York JFK Airport, I finally let myself relax a little bit. I had been holding my breath — figuratively speaking — for almost a year, hoping and praying that this tour would actually happen, and I would get to do what I had planned so long ago.
I was joined by dear friends Nicki Scully, Mark Hallert, Kathryn Ravenwood, and Normandi Ellis, one of my favorite writing teachers and Egyptian scholar extraordinaire, who came along as a co-leader. We left a few days early for the tour, so that we could take care of any business and jet-lag issues prior to the arrival of the rest of the tour.
Everything went off without a hitch, and soon all 19 members of our tour group were together in the shadow of the Pyramids. We saw the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and the Giza Plateau. And then we went to the building I had really come here to see, the boat museum, built for the Pharaoh’s 4500 year old Boat of the Sun, after it had been resurrected just 20 years ago by a diligent group of archeologists, from where it had been buried beside the Great Pyramid those many years ago. A beautiful cedar planked boat, with high prow and stern, the boat was tied together with a rope that shrinks when it gets wet, tightening the planks into a secure and leak-proof vessel. A house on the center section of the boat allowed its passengers to remain cool in the hot sun. Propelled by oars, it was a capable and beautiful ship. I was delighted to show it to my friends, and to have them stare in awe at the size of this vessel from Ancient Egypt.
I realized that I was still holding my breath, just a little, because as far as I was concerned, the real reason for this trip still waited far to the south, in Upper Egypt. This was just a prelude, foreplay, if you will, of the event to come.
After a long night’s journey on the train to Aswan, a short bus and then water taxi ride, at last I was once more with my love! The dahabeya Afandina had captured my heart, and now, for the first time, I was to spend eight whole days in her arms…er…upon her decks.
The crew, all 8 or 9 or more — I couldn’t ever get an accurate count— greeted us, with wide smiles and strong hands, guiding our feet as we stepped, right foot first, onto our home for the voyage. They smiled with joy at the expressions of amazement upon our faces, as we explored the various decks and rooms, delighted in the superb interior design and the excellent soft beds, so different from the hard palettes on the train.
Our luggage had arrived, and we were told to unpack and let the suitcases be stored away for the time we were on the ship. To hang our clothing in closets, to stow away in drawers, to put our personal snack foods in the room refrigerators, to put our books beside our beds was an unexpected luxury. Small but fully functional bathrooms accompanied each room. (I never did figure out where they put all the luggage — there must be a massive hold somewhere that they stow the mountain of luggage that we had brought.)
At last we were settled, the tour members were exploring the boat, and I was able to take a few moments to stand upon the upper deck and be alone with this love of mine. Forty- five meters long (147.6’), 8 meters wide (26.24’), she is not a small one, only as compared to the great barge hotel boats that ply the river Nile, carrying up to 150 passengers each. Afandina carries only a maximum of 20 passengers in luxury accommodations.
I allowed myself to shift my senses, so that I was in touch with the heart of the boat, to feel the purr of the great generator that provides power. I reached out to touch the threads of her beginning, slipping back in time, past the recent journeys, past the shipyard building the hull, the shipwrights working in the hot sun to bring her into being, back to the time when she was only an idea, a glimmer in the mind of one man. Like Ptah speaking the world into being with a single word, Mohamed Nazmy had created the Afandina twice, once in thought, and then in deed. I sensed the care, the love, the consideration that each and every aspect of her creation had taken, as he sat and imagined how she would be, and then cajoled, drove, demanded that the workers create his vision, never ending in his passion for excellence. I watched as the great steel hull was built, strong enough to survive the ever-shifting sandbars of the Nile. I saw the carpenters matching the grain of the wood that would be her interior, the careful selection of the soft furnishings from couches to chairs to beds that rivaled those of the finest hotel in Cairo. I listened as the applicants for the jobs on board were interviewed, chosen for their skills and for their personalities, as well. I saw her come into being, fully functional, a great vessel awaiting the individuals that would sail with her. I watched as important people with important jobs arrived, as rich people, accustomed to luxury took her for granted.
I moved forward in my vision to NOW, allowing my senses to stretch to the bow and the stern, to the top of the mast, and the bottom of the keel. I felt the wind gently blowing against my sails, the water continually caressing my bottom, the scrape of the small tug against my side as it was snugged tight, ready to provide the motive power to travel up the great river. A sense of power began to rise through my feet where they touched the deck, encircling my legs, and rising still, like the power of the kundalini energy rising through the charkas— I became one with the Afandina. My very existence was entwined, in that moment, with the vehicle of my dreams, as my love and I consummated an affair begun long ago.
Tears flowed down my cheeks, unchecked, to drip upon my breasts, and disappear in the hot Upper Egypt sun. I raised my arms, drawing to me all the power and energy that had been made available to me in that single, eternal moment of NOW, as I accepted the gifts of my lover, and gave as she would take from me. I let out my long held breath, breathing freely once more with a shudder that ran through my body. I relaxed into the depths of that connection, that consummation so devoutly desired.
With my companions, we wrote, we toured, we laughed, and we shared. We became a family. We ate like kings and queens, slept in quiet anchorages along the river, explored the unique and the mundane, the sacred and the profane. We celebrated ceremonies to the Gods and Goddesses in their ancient temples, consecrating ourselves to their service. We saw many things that were a wonder to behold. We wrote a book, together.
Too soon the voyage was over, our bags repacked. Forced to return to the world of the land-bound, I separated myself from Afandina, no longer sensing her every move, slight though it might be on the calm river surface. I drew back into the shell of myself, the body that seemed so small, compared to the expanded being I had become, if only for a brief week.
I have been boatless, since my husband and I sold our fifty-foot sailboat 15 years ago. A sad parting, it was then time to become land travelers. Now, I am boated again, even if only for a brief stay each year with my beloved Afandina.
Come with me this next year, and I will introduce you to my love, as we explore the temples, the people, the places along the Nile, spending time once more once more with the dahabeya Afandina, a golden boat that will become our home. It will be a cruise to remember, as we express the gratitude for all the blessings we have received, on the blessed Afandina. Insha’Allah, Saalam Alaikum.
Join Gloria on a A Special Dahabeya Tour of Egypt with Gloria Taylor Brown Nov 22 - Dec 6, 2010. Click here for details…