The school has never had a serious, multi-day field trip. It is the sort of thing that puts a school on the map so to speak. It involves a ton of planning and tremendous responsibility too. I have been teaching a unit that stretches from early humans to the Ancient Egypt and Kush (Nubia and present day Sudan roughly) and we live in this country with more remarkable ancient monuments and artifacts than probably anywhere in the world. And the little city of Luxor lies at the heart of it all. That is where we headed. By bus to Cairo. By plane to Luxor. 874 kilometers if you drive on the Desert Road.
As a leader and chaperone, you wonder about the human element – children being separated from their parents, especially their mothers in this case, in many cases for the first time. Planning the itinerary is straightforward, time consuming, but it’s just about making arrangements. No one is going to start crying if don’t see King Tut’s tomb. But lots of kids cry because they miss their mommy. However, they didn’t! They would sometimes say they missed their moms but they were cheerful about it. The parents were kept up to date via a What’s App parents group link so that they received information all day long, every day. The children were not allowed to bring cell phones, only cameras. In this world, would Canadian schools be able to have a field trip with no student cell phones allowed?
Luxor is so interesting. When you drive over to the West Bank and head toward the Valley of the Kings you pass through the old world in many ways. Girls marry between the ages of sixteen and twenty. As women many are covered in black from head to foot, although not necessarily wearing a full, face covering niqab. It is very fertile but with little modern machinery. It is dusty and feels kind of slow and underdeveloped. People including children often use donkeys and donkey carts as their main mode of transportation. It is National Geographic style Egypt. Such a contrast between the huge cities of Cairo and Alexandria which are so noisy and crowded and energetic.
Then there is the heat. That was intense. 45 degrees is as hot as I have ever experienced. We were not that far from the Tropic of Cancer as you can see on the map. Judy was our resident First Aid department and she gave the kids some real lessons on hydration, de-hydration and its symptoms. They internalized it and we kept after them to find shade, drink water frequently, keep their hats and sunglasses on and get to the pool as soon as we returned to the hotel. Even so, some were a bit woozy although not seriously so.
The Karnak Temple is the second largest ancient religious site in the world (after the Angkor Wat Temple of Cambodia). The monuments are imposing and massive to see in daylight. At night, at nine o’clock during the Sound and Light show, it was terrifying for the children. At first. Booming voices and spot lights being shone on random giant stone figures had them jumping out of their skin. One boy, taller than me but only eleven years old, would not let go of my hand. He kept saying: ‘We are in hell! We are in hell!”. Another girl said: “If I ever did anything bad to any of you, I am sorry! I am going to die! I am going to die!”. Meanwhile, I am thinking I have traumatized each of them for life. But when they wrote their reflections in their journals at the end of the trip, what was the best part of the trip? The Sound and Light show of course.
So it is over. The morning after we returned, one of the girls, who was very nervous before the trip, said to me:” Mister (they call me Mister) I want to go back to Luxor.” There was our reward… though we won’t return right away thanks!