Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 3: The Egyptian Museum!!

The day continued with a trip to the Egyptian Museum. GCT really manages everything for us. Everytime we go anywhere they send advance scouts to buy our tickets for us so we only have to queue for the metal detector. This was also the first time we met our Uzi Guy. Apparently after the Luxor Massacre in 1997, the State Department put Egypt on the "Do Not Go There" list. Egypt then volunteered to basically do anything the State Dept could think of to make it safe for the American tourists to come back. One of those things is the ubiquitous Tourist Police:

Tourist Cop at Hotel

Another is the Uzi Guy: a young dude in a suit with an Uzi who rides ALL BY HIMSELF at the front of every tourist bus in Cairo. We weren't allowed to take his picture!

The Egyptian Museum:

IMG_0361 cairo

This museum was absolutely amazing. It’s not one of your glossy, scripted, "walk through with a headset listening to an audio tour" affairs. It’s dim, dusty, and crammed from floor to ceiling with artifacts. The air is dusty and smells a little acrid - that's the Cairo smog – and there are people - art students? - scattered around the place sketching the artifacts (no photography is allowed).

You can’t stand back to see the stuff because of the other stuff. You look at a beautiful statue of the Pharaoh Menkaure, and you lean against a huge stone thing while you are doing so, then turn around and find you were leaning on a mummification table with a drain and a sink for…fluids, or a complete mastaba tomb. The artifacts are labeled with these little ancient typewritten labels in Arabic and English or French, and occasionally all three.

Ihab started us with the Narmer Palette which Dad and I had heard about from the Great Courses series of tapes we borrowed from the library. This is basically the first written document ever (it has hieroglyphic writing on it giving the Narmer's name (he was king of Upper Egypt - the southern part), and tells the story of his conquest over the people of Lower Egypt (the delta area).

He then took us over and showed us the stone mummification table, following which we went upstairs and looked at Tutankhamun's treasure. Some of what we saw includes: An entire hall filled with the nested shrines that pretty much filled his burial chamber, several complete chariots, bows, arrows, a whole case of duck-hunting “boomerangs”, his gold mask and inner coffin, outer coffins made of gilded wood, a ton of jewelry, three huge funerary beds with posts in the form of hippos, lionesses and cows, and his inlaid gold throne. I adored the bed with the spotted cows and the canopic shrine with its four protective goddesses.

They turned us loose after awhile, to explore on our own. We utilized our time well! We poked around and found the area devoted to Akhenaten the “heretic king” – his statuary looks extremely odd so they either the utilized some strange artistic conventions or he was kind of deformed. I actually kind of like him, though – maybe it’s because of Nefertiti, his wife, or maybe because I sympathize with the monotheism. Also, right at the end, I discovered a huge plaster floor that was from Nefertiti’s palace at Amarna, painted with beautiful scenes of duck hunting in the marshes among the papyrus. A lovely thing!

We also bought a ticket for the mummies. This cost a little extra - £100, or about $17, and got us into both mummy rooms – they just recently opened the second room. We saw Tuthmosis III, Ramses II (the Great), Hatshepsut (and the box with her liver and tooth that they used to identify her), and about 8 later Ramseses. Plus more. Actually I found the mummies extremely creepy, but when you go to Egypt you have to see the mummies.

At the end they told us we could take pictures outside if we wanted, so I got Ihab and Daddy to sit still:

IMG_0360 ihab

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