A son et lumiere is no way to illuminate the past
I've always thought that expectation is a key factor in travel? I can stroll down a side street in Vilnius and discover a weird statue of Frank Zappa in a car park and be thrilled by the serendipity, yet if something has a tremendous reputation that proceeds it, then I'm often on standby for a gigantic squib.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, a Texan dude ranch, and any 'son et lumiere' anywhere, has left me decidedly disappointed...
Lighting some significant structure with garish beams and accompanying this with a booming soundtrack and trite narration, has always struck me as pointless. The majesty of the Pyramids at Giza is temporarily vandalised each evening just after sunset so that tourists can be packed into an open air viewing area and marvel at one of the world's wonders lit up lurid green and bright pink.
The Son et Lumiere at the Pyramids - multi coloured madnesst. Photo My Bathroom Wall
The concept was the brainchild of Frenchman Paul Robert-Houdin, who hosted the first son et lumiere at the Chateau de Chambord in France, in 1952. The one at the Pyramids dates from 1961, and still attracts a sizeable audience nightly.
The Sphinx glowing orange; it's riddle emphatically unthreatened. Photos My Bathroom Wall
To the bashing of symbols and the hamming of an overly pathetic narrator, the great pyramids and sphinx are lit in green, blue and red, with unhelpful graphics and slides sometime appearing on the side of the face of the sphinx of the side of a wall. It all drives me potty quite frankly.
The real sunset is spectacular lighting enough; peaceful, natural and profound. Photos My Bathroom Wall
The best part of the 'show' is the naturally gorgeous sunset that sends the sky orange and purple as the pyramids themselves recede poignantly into the growing darkness. Yet at this point the queue to buy fizzy drink and snacks, to chat and update social media accounts seems to take centre stage rather than the great sandstone monoliths themselves. Then darkness falls, the crowd falls silent, and the spotlit piffle begins.
See Sound and Light, which also hosts son et lumier shows at the ancient Egyptian sites of Karnak, Philae, Edfu and Abu Simbel.
Where are other Son et Lumiere shows? There are a good few in France, some in the USA, and one at Masada in Israel.
Yet the strangest I ever saw is the one in Fez, Morocco. Instead of selecting one particular building to inflict the sound and light onto, the whole city is illuminated from a nearby hill. The huge spotlighting looks like something from the second world war, and there's a feeling of half a populace caught in the glare. It's truly appalling, and apart from learning nothing about the city, the most magnificent mediaeval city in the world looks ludicrous with a searchlight pointed into its face at close range.