The Egyptian Museum / The Pharaonic Village
Trip Start Jan 26, 2005
25Trip End Feb 25, 2005
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I had contacted Hamis Travel Services before leaving home about a tour for two days in Cairo as well as for help getting train and ferry tickets. After waiting around a bit I called their office only to find that there had been a mix up about the date we were arriving. So Dave and I were off to the Egyptian Museum on our own. By circling around the back of the hotel and traversing various parking lots, we quickly walked over. There was a crowd waiting to get in. After standing in line, getting tickets, checking my camera and going through multiple security checks, we entered the museum only to discover that all the guides you could hire were outside. One of the world's greatest treasure houses, the museum is packed to bursting like an old-fashioned warehouse. You could wander through the museum for days and not see everything. Some kind of help was needed.
Instead of facing the hassle of going out, finding a guide and trying to get back in, we decided to rent digital guides to help us out in this totally overwhelming museum. An initial attempt to punch in a set of exhibit numbers yielded no results. We had tried the wrong numbers. Although some of the exhibits have no numbers at all, others have more than one set. Eventually we figured it out and spent the rest of the morning searching out exhibits in the program, calling one another excitedly when we found one. At one point we wandered into an almost deserted gallery, filled with smaller treasures, measuring instruments, etc. We were both perplexed by a carefully labeled but blank space on the wall. Where was the "?" that was supposed to be there? It was a thoughtful, quiet moment. Then we were back on the track of major treasures and their thickly packed human shields.
We did use some of our time to visit the King Tutankhamen exhibits. These were crowded but spectacular. Photographs are no longer allowed inside the museum so there was no opportunity to personally record these magnificent treasures, which are well worth joggling your way through the crowds. If you can see the National Geographic production, 'Mysteries of Egypt' before your trip, you will appreciate even more the artifacts before you.
After the museum we took the metro to Hamis Travel Services, which had an address in the train station. Friendly people pointed us in the right direction and we arrived at the train station without any difficulty. However the agency was not immediately evident but upon asking directions we were told it was in the next building. Luckily David stopped me from interrupting the prayers of those who were kneeling in a prayer area of the station. I had been so intensely looking for the agency sign that I had not looked down.
Upon arriving at Hamis we received profuse apologies from all for the confusion. After we added a few things to our bill and received a discount to compensate for the misunderstanding, we picked up our tickets and returned to our hotel by metro. Hamis Travel Services was very helpful, especially in procuring train tickets. If you use them, remember that you must pay in dollars.
Then we were off to try to find The Pharaonic Village, a theme park with scenes from ancient Egypt. Although guide books are not very kind to it, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit there. The taxi driver had no idea where the Pharaonic Village was although I showed him on my map. Due to this "misunderstanding" he needed a larger fare. We did eventually get there. The entrance is not as grand as the words "theme park" suggest and the price is higher that I had hoped although they did give us a discount for our student/teacher cards.
Once inside it was well worth the money and effort. Although it is not a sophiscated theme park, it manages to give you a better understanding of life in ancient Egypt. Its several museums also allow you to explore different facets of Egyptian history.
At the Pharaonic Village, visitors step back in time as they sail through a network of canals and view recreations of ancient Egyptian life by actors and actresses. In this scene you see a recreation of the Biblical story in which Moses is found by an Egyptian princess. There are also several small museums covering different aspects of Egyptian history.
Oxen pull the plow in this recreation of an ancient Egyptian agricultural scene. Ploughing may have been done with the aid of an animal, such as a cow or ox, or by the farmer himself. As the flooding of the Nile deposited nutrients on top of the soil only light plowing was needed. After the seed was sown, animals such as goats might would over the newly seeded fields to push the seeds into the ground and out of reach of greedy birds. Irrigation from the Nile would have transformed this into a green field.
The Nile was the source of water for Egypt as there is almost no rainfall. Water was drawn from the river to irrigate the fields. This device, called a shaduf, was used to raise water from the river to the fields. It consists of a beam with a bucket on one end counter balanced by a weight on the other. After the water is lifted from the river, it was poured into a canal, which carried it to the fields.
Farming was the source of Egypt's great prosperity as the fertile soil deposited by the Nile each year allowed crops such as wheat and barley to be grown in large amounts. Everyone in the farmer's family helped with planting and harvesting. During the flood season or "Inundation" when work could not be done in the fields, many farmers worked on royal buildings or temples as part of their obligations to the gods and to their king. The farmer also paid part of his crop to the government as taxes.
Mudbrick was a basic building material. It consisted of chopped straw mixed with mud from the Nile. Ancient brick makers then shaped the bricks in a wooden mold and left them to dry in the sun. These were the building materials for houses and most buildings.
We had been immersed in Egyptian history and were now ready to return to the haven of the Garden City House Hotel where he had dinner. It had been a great first day in Egypt.