Venus & Ulysses 2004

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June 2004
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06/08/2004: "A Successful Transit"

Tonight is our last night in the Middle East, and our transit thus far has been quite successful.

Our first afternoon in Cairo was spent seeing a small part of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, home of most of the contents of Tutankhamen's tomb (the more colorful of which many of you might have seen in 1977 on the "Treasures of Tutankhamen" US tour), and many other examples of Egyptian civilization from 3000 BC onward. One needs to spend days there to see all the rooms, let alone all the stuff in each room.

The next morning we saw the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. You never see how close they are to hotels and houses in Giza -- Ray got a good picture of them emerging from the smog as we drove there. They're pretty timelessly amazing, though. We went inside the Great Pyramid, as many places as they'd let us. The camel ride salesmen there have adopted the tactic of asking you for your ticket as if they were official ticket checkers, helpfully explaining that that ticket entitles you to go in the neighboring tombs (which ultimately result in tips for the custodian who unlocks them and lets you in and tells you how special it is that he's letting you take pictures inside, even though it's not allowed).

And today we stayed at the hotel and watched Venus go in front of the sun. About 8:20 am, we started watching the sun in the telescope; a little bite was taken out of it until the entire planet was enclosed by sun. It went about a fourth of the way in and then went back out again -- the whole process took six hours. For about the last 45 minutes or so, we set the telescope up near the hotel restaurants -- many hotel staff and several tourists enjoyed looking at the little black hole in the sun. Be patient -- it'll happen next in the US in 2012.

Tomorrow we jump into the hyperspace of the airline system and emerge in Dublin, Ireland, hopefully accompanied by our luggage. We've gone out of our way to have Syrian food in Syria, Jordanian food in Jordan, and Egyptian food in Egypt, because those specific restaurant specialties are rare at home. Egypt especially has lots of good dishes which we'll have from time to time when we get home. But in Ireland and England, perhaps we'll have Indian or Chinese food, maybe French or Italian -- I'm not really that psyched by the concept of "Irish food" or "English food". Beer, on the other hand...

All in all, a successful transit of Venus, Egypt, and our Middle Eastern arc.