Personal Journeys


April 20, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Along the Nile, a warm reception

By Donna Smither

SPECIAL TO THE SUN Kom Ombo, site of an ancient temple midway between Luxor and Aswan in Egypt, honored the crocodile, which was believed to bring the Nile floods each spring. The Nile, a source of fertilization and irrigation, brought people to the temple each year to worship the renewal of agriculture and life in the desert. Today the ruins highlight the Egyptians' sophisticated culture.

Our ship, cruising between Luxor and Aswan, had visited the town of Idfu and then docked in view of the Kom Ombo temple. As we looked at the moon behind the temple on a warm June evening, we heard music from a nearby garden. Even though it was late and the town was unfamiliar, our Egyptian partner traveling with us assured my friend Regina and me that a stroll along the walkway would be safe.

As we walked, a Nubian girl who sold crafts on the streets spotted the necklace I had purchased from her earlier and approached us. Soon other children and their parents swarmed around us.

The Egyptians wanted to know if we were Americans -- they had not seen any American tourists since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

"Americans have not been here for a long time," they told us. "Do you hate us? Does your country hate us? We don't like terrorists."

We were overwhelmed by their hospitality. Youngsters studying English in school engaged us in a makeshift conversation, telling us they were happy to meet Americans. Cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors stopped by to be introduced to us and to express their feelings of friendship.

In the excitement, I realized that my friends and I had been separated. When I asked about their whereabouts, my new friends took me to a garden where they believed Regina had gone to take pictures of a wedding reception.

My new guides led me through a narrow passage and took me to a stage to kiss the bride and groom. Even in this crowded, unfamiliar place, I had a sense that I was being cared for.

More and more strangers surrounded us to be introduced. I didn't feel alarmed, even though I recognized that I was in a foreign land where I could not speak the language. The hugging, the photographs and the celebration of the wedding feast took on new meaning.

Was this night a sign of peace for me, for each of us? What if every North American and Egyptian could see each other face to face and feel the wonder of acceptance and connection?

Donna Smither lives in Phoenix, Md.

My Best Shot

Carol Erhardt, Baltimore

A birthday at sea

To celebrate the 60th birthday of my husband, Dave, we visited Key West, Fla., with friends. One of our many water activities included a sunset sail on a schooner. When the sun started to set, the captain blew a conch shell, and the champagne started flowing. It was breathtaking.

Readers Recommend


Judy Volkman,


Sometimes the most interesting places are close to home. I had been traveling to Western Maryland on a regular basis and had seen road markers for the painted Community Bridge in Frederick. One day, I took a side trip to the bridge and was fascinated by its artistry.

The Burren, Ireland

John Astegher,


I retired last May and immediately flew to Ireland, rented a car and drove around this beautiful country. While crawling on the rocky glacial wonder known as the Burren, I spied this sight -- the Poulna-brone Dolmen -- through a hole in the rock.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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