Friday, November 08, 2013

Drooling at the Egyptian Museum . . .

The Egyptian Museum, in the heart of Cairo, was stunning in so many ways. We spent two whole days exploring these iconic and unforgettable artifacts of Egyptian history and culture. We entered with a crowd to find a jumble of works everywhere, with connecting rooms leading in all directions.

Sky Goddess Nut protecting
the Earth and all its peoples (Wikipedia)
I was entranced to discover the Goddess Nut, carved on the inside of the top of a stone sarcophagus, her long body connecting earth with heaven, her star-spangled body protecting the mummy beneath her, visible only by mirror.

The Museum featured Pharaoh Tutankhamun's funerary exhibit, just before it traveled to the United States. We stared at wealth beyond measure, making our way through crowds, thin glass protecting golden masks, crowns, jewels, masks, and coffin covers.

King Tut's solid gold funerary mask (Camp)
Tutankhamun, popularly called King Tut, lived from 1341 BC to 1323 BC, a short 18 years. Yet the wealth found in his tomb was stunning. Here we saw shawabtis, those small (nearly hand-sized) carved stone figures called 'answerers' because the decreased could call on these shawabtis to do any work. Their main purpose to wait upon the now deceased Pharoah throughout eternity.

Shawabtis found in King Tut's tomb (Camp)
Researchers in 2010 revealed that King Tut was the son of the revolutionary Pharoah, Akhenaten, who ruled also for roughly 17 years, from 1353 BC to 1336 BC. Compare the classic funerary mask of King Tut above that of Akhenaten.

People were shocked by Akhenaten, his stone portraits astonishingly different from previous pharaohs, personal, intimate, as shocking as his belief in one God. No wonder the priests rebelled against Akhenaten when he moved the capital to Armana in the desert. But his successor, Tutankhamun,  reinstated the priests, traditional worship, and moved the capital back to Thebes.

Full of history, we walked to the Nile, explored neighborhoods near our hotel, ate lunch and dinner at open air cafes, and braved death to cross the street, pedestrians and motorists in some elaborate game of chicken. Next challenge: the Metro.

My goal is to share pictures and memories of our trip to Egypt with you throughout November. Have you traveled to Egypt?What memories do you have of the Egyptian Museum?

Read more about the Goddess Nut, King Tut, and Akhenaten on Wikipedia.

And here's a link to Reading the Past which features an interview with Anne Cleeland, talking about 19th Century fascination with Egypt, and her latest book, Daughter of the God-King, which tells the story of a young woman whose parents disappear while digging away in the Valley of the Kings. It's on my to-read list!


Annis Cassells said...

Thanks for this post, Beth. I'm looking forward to more of your Egyptian adventure.

We were booked to fly to Cairo the week after 9/11/2001, and had to cancel our trip. Our kids and family said, "You want to see the pyramids? Rent a movie!" Now, with all the upheaval and their treatment of women, we will have to see it through others' eyes.

Thank you. xoA

Beth Camp said...

Part of my reason for posting these memories of a time when we could travel easily and be welcomed far away is exactly the troubled times that prevent us from going now. We learned so much about these wonderful people from sharing their food and customs. Today's realities make me sad.