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Egypt: Anubis Comes to Life

October 5, 2010

Descending the Cairo Side a novel of the traveling life

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Velda and I walked through the splendors of the Karnak temple near Luxor, Egypt without talking much. After two months in-country we were feeling jaded. By the time we finished with the monumental portion of the complex I was at a loss for words.

We noticed an ancient wall, partially fractured and blocked off by a wrought-iron barrier. Someone had gone to considerable lengths to close a shrine from outside scrutiny.

I had an idea. “Let’s climb over the wall and take a look.  We can get over the fence if we’re careful, and drop down the other side.”

“And climbing back out?” Velda asked.

“We’ll get to that problem later. There must be something valuable inside”

“You have a vivid imagination.”

“Let’s just go.” I stepped on a stone block at the the fence’s base and grabbed the top crosspiece. Positioning my other leg between the bars I wriggled up and jumped down, landing with a thud. Velda came over a second later. Together we approached the wooden door. It was jammed shut so we pushed. It creaked open and a ray of light pierced the blackness.
A beautiful basalt statue greeted our eyes, as if carved only yesterday. The head of a jackal topped a perfect human form. Its eyes were dead sockets that blazed fiercely at the world like those from an old horror movie monster.

“Anubis,” Velda whispered.

“What?”

“The jackal god. Something to do with the dead.”

“Like everything else here.” I touched it.  The statue was as smooth and cold as glacial ice. I ran my fingers down the torso. The thing felt alive in a clinical but otherworldly fashion.

“It’s gorgeous,” I allowed.

“I bet this is worth a fortune. I wish I had a camera.”

“Why?”

“No one will ever believe this.”

We moved back. The statue’s ears were pointed and alert and its head wore a kind of crown. The eyes stared fixedly ahead, but the mouth smiled in a sinister way.

“How’d you like to have that in your living room,” I said.

“And how would we get it out of the country? Twenty years in prison for smuggling antiquities seems like too much of a price to pay for getting caught.”  .

“You do have a point there.”

We admired Anubis for a few minutes. “I guess we ought to go,” I said finally, turning to the fence. To climb back into the public area would be a difficult task. There were no loose blocks to help as steps. I frowned. “You go first.”

“Can you help?” Velda asked. I cupped my hands together and pushed. She went over like a sack of potatoes. Not one to lose her poise, she rebounded quickly and pronounced, “Easy as cake.”

“Yes, and easy for you to say. Now, what will I do?” I examined the barricade.  A piece of ancient wood lay on the ground to the right of the chapel, and I dragged it to my position. After straining, I was able to fashion a kind of support beam.

Velda watched my performance. “You should have been an builder,” she said.

I huffed and puffed like a lazy, couch-surfing kid. “Enough frolicking for one day. Let’s get out of here.”

“Don’t you want to look around any more?”

“What could compare to this? Anyway, you see one temple and you’ve seen them all.”

“Kit, I think you get bored too quickly.”

But our modest venture cured me of that malaise for the rest of the day.


Article first published as Anubis Comes to Life After an Off-Limits Excursion on Technorati.

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