Like I keep saying: Food in South Africa is Good. Died and gone to Heaven Good

I wasn’t kidding. Here are more photos to prove my point. As the Japanese say: “The eyes eat too.” This idea of beautiful food presentation is known as moritsuke. 

No words needed!

as delicious as it looks
edible flowers
carmelized parmesan (you’re welcome)
absolutely beautiful

And I’ve got more pictures where these came from … hungry yet?

Each bite a fusion of luscious yumminess. No other way to describe it even comes close

NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. All photos ©Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s pictures from our trip to South Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Miles Dewey Davis III

Miles Davis was born on May 26, 1926 in Alton, Illinois. Mr. Davis was and remains one of the most important and influential figures in music. He was a trumpet player, bandleader, and composer. I saw him perform twice, once in a huge stadium, the second time from the third row in a small theater. Some concert experiences change the viewer/listener. Miles Davis sure changed me. In his honor and in reverent reference to his Sketches of Spain, I give you the post I wrote after we visited the Mezquita in Córdoba. – Jadi

Uwe’s camera always captures the exquisite details

We began our trip to southern Spain in Granada. When I stood inside Granada’s Cathedral, I suddenly – and very vividly – remembered what and how I’d seen it 40 years earlier. At the Alhambra, my memories were blurry remembrances of running water.

A few days later in Córdoba, I had a further experience with spatial imprinting. We spent a half day in the Mezquita, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The outer wall to the Mezquita, Córdoba
A door to the Mezquita, Córdoba

The Mezquita was first built in the mid-6th century as a Visogoth church, built up in the 780s as The Great Mosque of Córdoba, and finally re-dedicated as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) in 1236. The Mezquita’s altar incorporates and blends Catholic iconography and design into the original Moorish structure.

The early Muslim prayer hall is filled with rows of arches in colored bands of stone. They seem to stretch into Eternity.

This hypostyle hall (meaning that the roof rests on pillars) contains a grand 856 columns of finest jasper, marble, onyx and granite. These columns are topped with the arches, which are futher topped with more arches.

No, this is not a repeat of the earlier photo. This angle gazes in another direction in the prayer hall

If Granada’s Cathedral is all soaring heights, the Mezquita in Córdoba is an endless repetition of forms. Gaze in any direction and turn your body in a slow circle. The repeating arches always bring the viewer back to the beginning again.

I didn’t know until later that Uwe had photographed me, standing quiet in awed delight

The repeating patterns are beautiful. They’re haunting, too; it’s no accident that what I recall best from my first trip to Andalusia are deeply buried memories of graceful forms in plaster, stone and tiles.

What would I say if you were to ask me to select one thing I remember most after my first visit to the Mezquita as a teenager, all those years ago? I’d say: A sense of wonder.

Islamic architects and artists are masters of geometric decoration. Their patterns’ deeper purpose is to bring visitors and viewers to a sense of another, underlying reality. Maybe it’s just the beauty in the world. Perhaps it’s the presence of God. I’m perfectly fine with either explanation.

The mihrab niche. The Mezquita’s mihrab ((Arabic: محراب‎‎ miḥrāb) is exceptional because it points south rather than southeast and to Mecca

I rediscovered the whimsical and the wondrous as I gazed at repeating, interlocking, intertwined squares, circles, triangles, flowers, tessellations and stars.

Artwork both secular and sacred is woven into every stroke of calligraphy that embellishes gorgeous walls and doorways and niches at both the Alhambra and in Córdoba. The effect is one of standing in a house of mirrors or an echo chamber with lights and patterns extending on and out into Forever.

No single detail stayed. Just… a fleeting glimpse of the Divine.

In memory of Miles Davis, May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991. And how could I highlight this post in any color other than Kind of Blue?

NOTES: Sacred Geometry; Crystalinks; Islamic geometric patterns. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as Andalusia Memories 3: Cordoba and the Arches of Infinity All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  Go to my earlier posts to read more about our visit to Andalusia.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Southern African food isn’t better than Sex, but Boy it’s close

surf and turf perfection

I don’t know about anyone else, but food is a big part of why I like to travel. Why do you think we go to France so often? Paris is 2 1/2 hours away by fast train, and yes, we go for the culture and history. But we plan big parts of our visits there around meals. It’s probably been our favorite food destiny, with Italy and Spain as close runners-up.

And then we went to South Africa last November…. Oh. my. God.

springbok heaven
a dessert too pretty too eat. just kidding!
beauty on a breakfast plate. none of the peppercorns were placed at random
every bite was perfectly ripe

Not to mention the wines and craft beers. My last food post was a naughty Valentine’s Day heart. But in some of the next posts I’ll  give you pictures of food to feast your eyes on.

Without bread, without wine, love is nothing ~ French proverb

oysters. I am still dreaming about how good they tasted

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2023. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s pictures from South Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Ariadne, White Strings, and Labyrinths 2

This is the most-read post I’ve ever written. It concerns wandering souls, and white strings to keep believers in Laos tethered and connected, and a way out of  labyrinths.

I offer you the original on its 5 year anniversary. May your souls stay safe.

Note the white cotton threads

When we visit the temples in Laos, we often see monks tying special white cotton strings to the wrist of a person’s right hand. Sometimes the monk ties connecting strings to whole groups of people. What are they, and what’s the significance? The answer, it turns out, varies in the different regions of Laos (as well as the Sipsong Panna autonomous prefecture of the Tai Lü in the extreme south of Yunnan, China, and Northern and Isan Thai cultures) and depends on time and place….

Full moon Vientiane, Laos

Strings are tied in the Baci ceremony, and the meaning depends on the occasion. Take weddings, for instance. According to an old Laotian legend, the cotton threads are tied to ensure a happy marriage. We each have a tree in the heavenly garden, and that tree has branches intertwined with your predestined partner. When our trees come to this earthly existence, the cotton threads binding them are cut and we’re born separated and alone. If you can find your soul mate again after searching for him or her, at your marriage you are rejoined by retying the thread.

But in Laos, threads are also tied on newborn babies and their mothers [1], or on people going home or departing from home, which explained the many men, women, and children with these bracelets we saw at airports. The ceremony is performed for specific events in a life: success, health (both for the cured and the sick), and annual festivals like the sacred Wax Castle Procession in Vientiane (we witnessed a high number of Baci ceremonies during that time). [2] The ceremony is done after a death, too, to bring back any wandering, missing spirits and reinforce the harmony of the surviving family members.

The entire ceremony is rich is symbolism. The white color means purity, and the strings are believed to bind the 32 kwan, organs or parts to the soul, to prevent them from wandering away. The Baci ceremony is also known by the term su kwan, “calling of the soul”. [3] When kwan wander away from your body, this creates an imbalance in the soul that can lead to illness and bad luck.

Foundation stones are honored

The ceremonies take place in Buddhist temples, but kwan and the Baci ceremony predate Buddhism. [4] I’ve had strings tied to my right wrist in Buddhist and Hindu temples from Thailand to India, but have never taken part in a Baci ceremony. Regardless, a white bracelet should be worn for at least three days. Then the threads can be unknotted or allowed to fall off on their own, but should never be cut.

NOTES: [1] A Baci ceremony for new mothers and their babies is performed to welcome the baby, and to recall any kwan that may have wandered off from the mother during the birth. [2] The Wax Castle Procession falls on an especially auspicious lunar calendar date: the full moon of the seventh lunar month. [3] Concept of Kwan: Kwan are components of the soul but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body, or part of it”, “the private reality of the body, inherent in the life of men and animals from the moment of their birth,” and simply as “vital breath”. – Pom Outama Khampradith, Bounheng Inversin, and Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith, writing for Lao Heritage Foundation. [4] Check out my posts about the Rocket Festival we saw on our first trip to Laos!

P.S: Baci in Italian means kisses, and it’s an awesome chocolate candy that contains a whole hazelnut at the center.

© Jadi Campbell 2023. Previously published as Laos White String Bracelets: The Baci Ceremony. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

To learn more about kwan and the Baci ceremony: https://www.laos-guide-999.com/baci-ceremony.html

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Ariadne, White Strings, and Labyrinths 1

I’m fascinated by the power of labyrinths. To wind your way back out you must rely on faith – or receive the aide of someone like the princess/priestess Ariadne. She provided Theseus with a thread to guide him out of the labyrinth in Knossos. He killed her brother the Minotaur and then fled Crete with a ship and a crew. Theseus took Ariadne with him, but abandoned her on Naxos. She had powers he couldn’t control and he was afraid.

I’m reminded of Ariadne and her string in the labyrinth each time I am in Laos. People use bracelets of white threads to keep them connected and safe. Before any big life event people go to the temple, and Buddhist priests tether the parts of their soul to place and persons, so the pieces don’t wander away and become lost. Uwe and I have been honored to witness the ceremony each time we’ve gone to Laos.

I wrote a post about the special event that’s read repeatedly, over and over, all around the world. I don’t know what element of this ceremony fascinates my readers so much, but with the exception of just one single month, somebody somewhere has viewed this post since it first published in April 2018.

As of this evening, here are the stats:

Tomorrow I’ll publish the original post again on its 5 year anniversary.

It remains my most viewed post ever.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2023. Previously published as Laos White String Bracelets: The Baci Ceremony. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

To learn more about kwan and the Baci ceremony: https://www.laos-guide-999.com/baci-ceremony.html

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Happy Easter

I’m always delighted to find traditionally painted eggs while traveling. These eggs are from the former Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. Sometimes they even come with a certificate of authenticity, like the 3 eggs I got in the old castle in Ljubljana!

Eggs are symbols of fertility and rebirth in ancient pagan cultures. As well, the egg shell represents the sealed tomb and the cracking of the egg represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead at Easter.

May we all feel reborn. Happy Easter, everyone.

The brown eggs are from Ljubljana. The Easter bear is from Pam and Niko

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2023

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #13 Cowbells in the Fog

Objects appear in my books. This is never random. Items can have numens, just like places do.

Take, for example, the cowbell.

When my mother died, Barb and Dad and Pam and I spent some sad days together in Asturias where Pam was teaching. It was a miserable time. All four of us were in deep shock. But there were moments of intense magic amidst all that grief. One of them came on a late spring afternoon, punctuated by the continuous music of unseen cowbells just over the foggy hills. We were alone, just my family minus Mom, and the air reverberated with grazing cows we couldn’t see, wearing metal necklaces that called to us.

My father surprised me with an old and well-used cowbell for Christmas the following year. When I rang it, the sound of that bell transported us right back to a remote Spanish hillside.  He told me he got it in memory of that day.

It is one of the few gifts for me he ever picked out himself.

Later – many year later, when I wrote my first book, that afternoon of sound made a special guest appearance. When I began to write the scene I rediscovered all the details, with perfect clarity.

“When he first met Naomi, they hiked to a pilgrimage point in northwestern Spain up in the startlingly verdant Asturian hills. They ate a picnic lunch in a field filled with small wild irises and tea roses. At the end of the day it grew colder and fogs blew in. They gathered up their blankets and basket to the clanging of cowbells someplace off in a valley in the mists, heard but not seen.

The next day they returned to visit the shrine. The altar overlooking the valleys was busy with worshippers and a statue of Our Lady of Covadonga. But the narrow neck to the cave at the back of the sanctuary literally glowed with thousands of votive candles. They crouched in the cave in wonder. Whatever incarnation of the mother of God they honored up in front, her older chthonic image ruled undisputed within the earth.” – from the chapter Waiting in Broken In: A Novel in Stories.

A few years ago my friend Nancy gifted me with a Tibetan singing bowl. It keeps company with the distinctive clank of a cowbell from northwestern Spain. I’m not sure which item possesses the more powerful numen.

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2023.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Alastair Ian Stewart

Al Stewart was born September 5, 1945 in Glasgow, Scotland. He writes and sings what might best be called historic folk-rock. One of my favorite songs by Al Stewart is 1976’s Year of the CatSome years ago I met my sister Pam in London and took her to Cats for her birthday.

“Jadi!” Pam whispered towards the end of the show. “Why is that prostitute cat climbing a ladder to heaven??” 

“Uh, Pam,” I whispered back. “Think! What has nine lives?”

But back to Year of the Cat…. The lyrics begin like this:

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat

– Source: LyricFind; Songwriters: Alistair Ian Stewart / Peter John Wood

Year of the Cat lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Carlin America Inc.

***

Songwriting doesn’t get any better than this. In his honor here is the post I wrote about his feline friends. – Jadi

I used to lead a writers’ group. I once compared the job to herding cats and the group loved the description. It became one of my official titles: Jadi Campbell, Herder of Cats.

You want us to do what? Seriously?

Try to herd cats sometime; it simply can’t be done. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a basket in the middle of a long room. The basket opens up and out pop fifteen cats of all ages and breeds. Can you picture them? Long hair, short hair, Manx, kittens, tomcats, calico, tiger striped, Egyptian, Persian, running, sitting abruptly to wash a paw, tumbling, chasing one another, purring, wandering away in all directions. Now, keeping your eyes closed, try to get those cats to all head in the same direction – the one that YOU want them to go in.

Go away, I’m busy

You will open your eyes and comprehend it is impossible to get a single cat to do what you want them to, much less a clowder of them. [1] Not only that: you start sneezing, because you’ve discovered you’re allergic.

Waiting for the rest of the clowder in Portugal

NOTES: [1] Yet another word to describe a group of cats is a pounce of pussies. Even better is the definition for a group of feral felines: A destruction of wild cats. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as The Animal Kingdom: A Clowder. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Thinking about Veterinary Dentists

This post features photos of the African hippo from our trip in November 2022 to South Africa and the Schotia Game Reserve. Hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on the planet, and one of the largest and heaviest. Only elephants and white rhinos are bigger. They kill 500 people each year. Hippos may look slow, but a hippo can outrun any human. And they’re territorial. Don’t get between a hippo and the water!

This hippo was submerged in a watering hole, minding his own business….

He eyed the safari jeep rather crossly when he spotted us. When we didn’t leave, the hippo began to open his jaws.

And open. And OPEN. AND OPEN. This is his (extremely effective!) way of warning potential threats what they’ll deal with if they’re stupid enough to want to come any closer. He gave a shockingly loud roar and held his jaws open for quite a while.

Is there a dentist on call in the game reserve?

Eventually he grew disgusted, or bored, and left his watering hole. Not without giving us one last, long meaningful look…. A gaze that said, “Just wait til next time, suckers. I’ll get you yet.”

Time to go forage for dinner

Hippos are listed as a vulnerable species. Save Animals Facing Extinction Org lists ways we can help. And Happy Valentine’s Day!

NOTES: A hippo’s closest relative is (wait for it) WHALES. I kid you not. Source: Natural Habitat Adventures A shout out to Theresa at https://heytraveler.com/ for guessing correctly! To learn what to call a group of hippos, go to my earlier posts The Animal Kingdom: 16 & The Animal Kingdom: 36 ©2023 Jadi Campbell. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor

Actress Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27, 1932  in London, England. She was talented, beautiful and wildly glamorous. My favorite role of hers is Martha in the electrifying Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but Elizabeth Taylor is perhaps most identified with her role as Cleopatra. In her honor, here is a post I wrote after visiting Egypt and the Nile River. —Jadi

***

This is Part 2 to my post about our brief trip to Luxor, Egypt. As I look through Uwe’s photographs from that week I’m struck by his images of the Nile.

Cleopatra: He’s speaking now, Or murmuring ‘Where’s my serpent of old Nile?’ — Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 4

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Eternal and timeless somehow
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There is something sensuous about this river… One of my very favorite Shakespeare plays is Antony and Cleopatra. Here is the description of Cleopatra floating down the Nile:

Enobarbus: The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
The winds were love-sick with them, the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes.

…From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her, and Antony,
Enthroned i’ the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too
And made a gap in nature.

Agrippa: Rare Egyptian! (Act II, Scene 2)

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The Nile is iconic. It’s the longest river in the world, around 4,160 miles or 6,670 kilometers The Nile originates at Lake Victoria and Lake Tana, and ends at the Mediterranean. It flows northward through Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Egypt.

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It is the largest oasis on the planet. When we visited in May 2013 tourism had declined so far that there were no longer any direct flights to Luxor. Instead, we flew to Hurghada on the Red Sea and a van met us. We drove for four hours across the barest desert landscape imaginable. No nomads, no towns, no vegetation or animal life to be seen. When we reached the Nile, visible signs of life appeared again.

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All of the great ancient cities we visited are on the river’s banks. Karnak, Luxor/Thebes. Dendera, Edfu. From our hotel balcony we gazed directly across the river to the Valley of the Kings. The Valleys of the Kings, the Queens and the Nobles are on the west bank of the Nile River as you must be buried on that side in order to enter the afterlife.

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We sailed downriver to Dendera, enjoying the scenery that flowed slowly past.

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The fertile Nile was the original source of Egypt’s wealth and today 40 million Egyptians (50% of the population) live near its banks. There was life on the shores and in the water everywhere we looked.

Cleopatra: …we’ll to th’ river: there, My music playing far off, I will betray Tawny-finned fishes. (Act II, Scene 5)

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Antony: The higher Nilus swells, The more it promises; as it ebbs, the seedsman Upon the slime and ooze scatters his grain, And shortly comes to harvest. (Act II, Scene 7)

The Egyptian calendar was based on the Nile’s three flood cycles. According to Wikipedia, “[t]hese seasons, each consisting of four months of thirty days each, were called Akhet, Peret, and Shemu. Akhet, which means inundation, was the time of the year when the Nile flooded, leaving several layers of fertile soil behind, aiding in agricultural growth. Peret was the growing season, and Shemu, the last season, was the harvest season when there were no rains.” [1]

As I looked out at the river and thought about my mother, I sensed the rhythms of life and death more clearly than ever before.

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To the ancients, the Nile was the River Ar meaning “black” because of the rich, fertile sediment left on the banks from the Nile’s flooding. When the Aswan Dam was built in 1970, the annual flooding ended. But by the time we left I knew why Shakespeare’s hero confessed,

Antony: Egypt, thou knew’st too well My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’ strings, And thou shouldst tow me after. (Act III, Scene 9)

 In memory of Elizabeth Taylor, February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011

NOTES:[1] Season of the Harvest, Nile-River-Facts, Ancient Egypt Online, www.sciencekids. Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Egypt 2: Along the Nile. More of Uwe’s pictures from Egypt and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.