Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just another day in Cairo at the Egyptian Museum

A second visit to the Egyptian Museum left us as dazzled as the first.

When we walked in, we were literally overwhelmed by the monolithic artifacts in the atrium, so close together that we pass riches upon riches of ancient treasures. The atrium leads to over 100 exhibit halls where some 120,000 artifacts are either on display or held in storage.

Even now with books around me and the resources of the internet, I find it difficult to decide how to give a sense of these treasures at the Egyptian Museum. I did fall in love with the Egyptian goddess, Nut, her star-spangled body carved into the underside of a sarcophogus, protecting the mummy beneath.

Atrium, Egyptian Museum
Note stone sarcophogus at bottom of picture,
sliced apart, with a mirror below so the visitor
can see Nut carved on the underneath
of the sarcophogus cover
(Camp 2004)
We strolled past hundreds of mummies, joined crowds at the King Tut exhibit, and wandered through as many of the exhibit halls as possible, thankful the signage throughout was in Egyptian AND English.

Hatshepshut wearing Pharaonic beard,
the trappings of office
New Kingdom (Camp 2004)

This was my first real introduction to what researchers now take for granted -- a female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut, ruled for 22 years about 3,500 years ago. Her stone portrait at the Egyptian Museum is beautiful and proud. I am dismayed that those who followed her, defaced many of her statues to remove any reference to a female Pharaoh. It's common to see broken noses on statues -- even the colossal Sphinx, as if that act of violence would remove the breath and power from the entity being defaced.

We are still, in these early days of our month-long visit, struggling with sleep deprivation, staying several days in Cairo. In the afternoon, we visited the al-Azhar Mosque and a book market to find several books on Egyptian culture, in English.

Our lunch at Akher Sa'a (near the Windsor Hotel) was fabulous. We found it a little difficult to order with our limited Arabic, but Allen ordered soup and, in French, eggplant. For 28 cents, literally a feast was spread before us, each dish unique and delicious -- lentil soup with nuts, tahini, spicy pickled carrots and cauliflower, eggplant dip, eggplant pickled with cold parsley-lemon potatoes, and eggplant in a rich tomato sauce, a salsa of cucumber and tomato, and a basket of hot fresh pita bread. All impossibly fresh and delicious.

More about the al-Azhar Mosque next time.

The Gallery at  Tour Egypt gives a sense of the scope and breadth of museum artifacts.

Read a little more of Hatshepsut at Wikipedia.

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