Sunday, 2 September 2012

Jane in Egypt 1979 - My first trip to Egypt

2nd Sept 1979 Egyptian Museum & Citadel

Continental breakfast, toast croissants, rolls & date jam, coffee tolerable, orange juice available for 22pt.
Visited the Egyptian museum, our guide was Austrian lady called Inge. As a lot of history is open to interpretation and not all views coincide but she was well informed and very interesting. Egyptians had chewing gum. Resin mixed with spices was given to the workmen to stop thirst. Limestone statues of Rahotep & Nofret 4th dynasty. This was the brother to the king at the decline of the old Kingdom. At this time nobles were getting very powerful and non conformist. This is show by Rahotep’s moustache, the only statue showing this as all went clean shaven. Limestone statue of King Djoser 3rd dynasty. Builder of the step pyramid, this status was found in the Serdab and is a Ka statue. Oldest copper statue, smaller one son of King Pepy I, Medium geese. Painted statue of scribe with glass eyes, very life like. A very handsome man. Dwarf Seneb and his wife and two children. This is another example of rebellion. Egyptian art was very stylised and an important man like this could have been portrayed normally but he decided to show himself as he was and this was not the acceptable art form at the time.
Ka Aper, this very well fed official with his pot belly, a very human figure.
Another good looker in limestone Priest Ranofer.
A smaller area devoted to El Amarna includes some lovely coloured pictures of wild life scenes.
Hathor cow with figure of Amenhotep II, this is a lovely piece showing clearly the artist conformity to lack of perspective on a 3D piece. Tutankhamen exhibition has some pieces missing including the gold mask; these are on tour presently in New York raising money for various new projects.
Blue faience tiled wall, there were originally 4 walls from southern tomb of King Djoser, and 3 are in New York. Although this museum is fascinating & unique due to the vast quantity and lack of space it is more like a store room and even the most beautiful pieces are not seen to advantage.

Today the Egyptian Museum is still a dusty, badly labelled store house and very hard to enjoy BUT there are plans very much in progress to make a brand new, all singing, all dancing museum at Giza. Certain objects have been moved, for example the blue tiles are now a wonderful feature of the Imhotep museum at Sakkara. Other pieces have also been moved and feature in other museums in Egypt under much better conditions.

Figure 4 Djoser's tiled wall

Guides in the Egyptian museum still have their own personal patter and its basis on true Egyptology varies. I am afraid Inge was way off base with her comments about Rahotep being a rebel; mind you it is a good story. In reality only someone well in with the royal family would have had the money and influence to have been able to use the best sculptures in the kingdom.  You still get show exactly the same highlights and in a 2 hours visit it is tricky t take it in. I would recommend half a day with a guide and another half day on your own with a bit of research in advance. However Inga must take the credit for my copious notes in the diary.
I felt smug in the Tutankhamen exhibition I am afraid as I had seen in the UK in 1972 and its display was a much higher quality. The others in the group who hadn’t seen it felt cheated.
Went to the Nile Hilton for lunch and a fruit platter consisting of pear, apple, fig, orange, paw paw, guava etc & cheese 1.90LE

Rendezvoused outside the museum and went on the Citadel and mosques. Mosques are very plain as opposed to Istanbul. Mostly undecorated plain stone. Any decoration is quotes from the Koran or geometric designs, put on over shoes to enter. Citadel was built by Mohammed Ali who was a recent Arab leader who ruled after the defeat of the Mamalukes. Mamalukes were themselves slaves.

Figure 5 Me at Citadel and Mosques

Went to bazaars which were mostly closed, saw examples of honey comb architecture and place for scales to hang. Inga took us to shop which I should think she has a commission arrangement with, nobody bought anything.
Returned to hotel approximately 5-6 had a shower, went to bar, then had dinner at 7.00 soup, stuffed pancakes, steak, veg, salad, dessert. Retired to bed early @ 9:30.

The Hilton for lunch, I was awestruck, living the high life.

My comparison of the mosques that I had seen at Istanbul when on the school cruise is interesting; I certainly would not make that comment now. It is more a difference of style Egyptian and Turkish.
Back then, they provided overshoes but nowadays most people take off their shoes. We were also instructed on dress, to cover shoulders and arms. Some of the ladies took scarves, actually I recommend to people to dress in loose gypsy style clothes. These are cool and flowing as well as being respectful. Tourists back them tended to ask and look up these facts, nowadays it seems people are more careless about foreign sensibilities.

I cannot imagine today going to the Khan el Khali and finding is closed! Ever. Although guides getting commission is as true as ever.  You won’t get a better price going without a guide; the shop keeper just keeps more of the price.

Having a shower was a diary worthy event for me as well, it was the first time I had one. At home we had baths and I had never seen a shower. Notice that none of the food served is Egyptian, such a shame. Hotels today are just as guilty.

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