Cairo - Signs of past life

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Hi all from Egypt - home to the oldest of old known civilisations and today's largest and most prosperous African state. I've escaped the frigid winter of higher latitude northern Europe and whisked my way down here to start the second phase of my overland journey to London.

How did I do this you ask? I would like to say by teleportation machine but alas instead must admit to a quick flight from Copenhagen direct to Cairo to continue on my way. Is that cheating in the quest to do Sydney-London overland? I reason not, I was pretty well there anyway (no more than a couple of days concerted travel across the last section of western Europe) and this backwards jaunt adds at least five more months and many thousands of extra kilometres of hard work to my quest. And there will be a bunch more interesting stuff to show you on the way, so I won't make this little side trip make me feel too guilty. I hope you won't too ;-)

Anyway, talk of Egypt always imbues young minds with fantastic imagery of grand ancient civilisations and times gone by. I, like most of you out there no doubt, have always held the land of the Nile as a dream destination that we will get to once in our lives. So much rich culture, so much physical evidence remaining to prove it. So what better way to start than at The Egyptian Museum.

Set on the banks of the Nile River, this place is a rambling collection of more than 100,000 relics from pretty much every period of Egyptian antiquity (up to early AD times). Lonely Planet reckons if you spent 1 minute on each item it would take nine months to see them all. Displays cover two floors and I should note here that no cameras are allowed to be used inside so all these pictures were taken covertly - hence the odd compositions and blurred images of this entry. Sorry about that but did my best under the watchful eyes of many guards around the complex.

As you'd expect, every type of antique can be found here. Row upon row of mummies and shapely decorated coffins, statues and figurines, hieroglyphic tablets, jewelery, papyrus scrolls, war chariots, funerary (tomb) furnishings all the way down to the tiniest ring and amulet - absolutely everything you can imagine or associate with ancient Egypt.

Main attractions on the Ground Floor include an absolutely massive double statue of Rahotep and Nofret (cool names) looming over visitors in the main hall (check out the chick just behind in the photo above left for a sense of scale). There's also a room dedicated to the Pharaoh Akhenaten, the 'heretic' king who set about changing the gods during his rule around 1350BC - essentially to the first monotheistic faith in history. As usual, change didn't go down too well and he was done in but some of the large bellied statues and images of queen (Nefertiti) of his time remain.

Another highlight is the larger than life statue of Chephren, constructor of the second pyramid at Giza, although security was tight around that area (near the entrance) so no chance of a pic.

Upstairs is where most of the action is - the Royal Tombs of Tunis and Jewelery Rooms are glittering collections of gold, masses of it. But it's Tutankhamun's tonnes of gold that outshine the rest and would be most familiar to everyone out there. Unfortunately the place was so dark that getting any quality photos was difficult, despite the complete lack of security inside the room. Apologies again for the blur and a pox on camera manufacturers for the new green and orange direction finding lights now built into cameras...

The Royal Mummy Room can also be found up here, housing eleven big cheese Pharaohs from the golden age of Egyptian power (from 1550 to 1050BC or thereabouts), including Ramses the Great (Ramses II). That's him above centre and above right, looking remarkably well preserved for his advancing years. This room is expensive by the way, about $US12 for a full-priced ticket but I suppose that goes to maintaining the humidifiers that keep these guys constant.

A special mention goes to these two statues, both found on the Ground Floor if I remember rightly. One looks pretty Sphinxy and is very well preserved - handy as the actual Sphinx down the road is getting harder to recognise as the days go by. The other is a great statue of a young Ramses II being watched over by the god Hathor, in the form of an eagle. I just liked them because of their completeness, detail and originality amongst the vast collection of often dilapidated antiquities.

Words from the Wise #71

(In honour of all the poor mangy donkeys I've seen around Cairo and who I will continue to see around the Middle East.)

"Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass."
Japanese proverb, compliments of Nathan H.
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