Monday, April 27, 2009


EGYPTIAN MUSEUM -- None of the stuff that was once in the tombs and temples (furniture, jewelry, pottery, etc.) is there anymore. Anything that wasn’t looted by grave robbers or taken to foreign countries is in the Egyptian Museum. It is a beautiful old rose-colored building of two floors.

It is filled with ancient statues, sarcophagi, furniture, jewelry, pots, and decorative items. Most of the second floor is devoted to the items taken from King Tut’s tomb. Since this is the only tomb discovered intact it has provided a wealth of beautiful items and information for historians. They started working on a pharaoh’s tomb as soon as they were crowned and continued until they died – making it more elaborate as time went by. Tut did not reign very long so his tomb was relatively small. Makes you wonder what was in Ramses II’s tomb since he reigned for 67 years. Brian paid the extra fee to go into the “Mummy Room” where about 10 mummies are on display including some famous pharaohs. Ramses II is in there as is Hatshepsut. Mary felt sorry for Hatshepsut as her mummy was described as “the mummy of a fat woman” before it was identified as being her. 3500 years later she is the fat chic pharaoh.

What does a mummy really look like? They are wrapped in brown cloth strips about 6 inches wide that look a lot like Ace bandages. Some also had a few flower garlands (dried and brown of course). Most had their heads exposed. Some had their hands exposed. The skin was dark brown and pulled back from the teeth. The nose was still erect (they put peppercorns in there to keep it that way). The eyes were closed and there was no fat under the skin so the skin was very tight against the bone. Some also had hair. Surprisingly Brian did not find it at all creepy.
We had only a few hours here and would definitely like to go back someday.

GIZA – Although Egypt has some 200 pyramids, these are the most famous. Located just outside Cairo, they can be seen from the city. The biggest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and the next biggest is that of his son. They are both about 4500 years old – 25 centuries before Christ! Cheops’ son built one slightly smaller than dad’s but on higher ground so he was able to appear to honor his father but have the most noticeable pyramid (the one with some of the limestone outer covering still intact). You are not allowed to climb on the pyramid but are allowed to go inside. Our guide told us you had to walk bent over; it was hot as the devil in there; and there was no decoration – just plain walls. We decided we would be content staying outside.

There were hawkers everywhere and one became Brian’s new best friend and gave him a traditional head scarf, then took his picture. Naturally he wanted a big tip for this service. There are tourist police here to control the most excessive vendor and camel-driver behavior. Here is a picture of one on camelback.

Go to Egypt and not ride a camel? Not us! You have to lean way back as the camel gets up or you will fall forward over his neck since his back end gets up first and those legs are long. Getting down is the same drill. We got a 5-minute ride and had some great pics taken. Clyde could not decide which camel he wanted to be on. Brian learned to ride like an Egyptian.

This was followed by a great lunch at a nearby hotel and then back to the ship. The Mena House Oberoi Hotel was historic as it was built for Queen Eugenie of France to stay at when she came to open the Suez Canal in 1869(?). Quite a beautiful place and a great meal with great service.

One interesting sidelight. As we listened to our guide Nisham describe the religious beliefs of the early Egyptians we were struck by some similarities to stories in the Old Testament – but remember that the Egyptians were many centuries earlier. Instead of Adam and Eve, they had four original people, two men and two women (brothers and sisters). One of the brothers killed the other ala Cain and Abel. Later the earth was destroyed in a great flood. After you die there is a judgment day where your heart is weighed against a feather of justice to see if you can go to heaven. A heavy heart indicates bad deeds in your life. (I wonder if the expression “heavy hearted” comes from there). And there are other similar themes.

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