CHARLES DIGITAL here, with a weeklong tour of the top sites in EGYPT
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A Confederacy of Pumos
The DJT USSF INTERGALACTIC JUGGERNAUT
A Confederacy of Pumos
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
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my dog has more clever monikers than I do
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
A Confederacy of Pumos
Taylor Swift is not a hobby zhe is a lifestyle
A Confederacy of Pumos
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
RSF's dead brother
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
A Confederacy of Pumos
my dog has more clever monikers than I do
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Date: September 8th, 2018 5:50 PM
Howdy, everybody. We have a great weeklong trip planned out for you in Egypt's top two tourist cities, Cairo and Luxor. This is a CHARLES DIGITAL trip, not a BOBBY DIGITAL one, so the same rules apply: The trip is not quite as all-encompassing, and the photos are shittier. Deal with it.
Another quirk is that our first day of the trip isn't actually in Egypt. Instead, you have a daylong layover in Munich, Germany! As you go to get some currywurst in Munich's absurdly nice airport, a creepy statue looms over you:
Munich is a historic city, with an excellent history museum, several palaces, a famous town hall, and many famous churches.
We aren't going to any of those things just yet. Bitch, we're going to look at cars.
Munich isn't all lederhosen and schnitzel. It's also the home of BMW, Germany's legendary luxury car company. Besides the company's HQ and massive factory, Munich also has a company museum and BMW Welt, a show floor for the company's hottest models.
Let's stop into BMW Welt first. You can just walk in! Tons of Asians are posing with cars they can only dream of buying. They aren't all powerful, rich corporate attorneys like you are.
Another girl poses near a classic motorcycle:
There's a special exhibit showing off the company vehicles that were featured in the latest Mission: Impossible movie:
These two cars are one-of-a-kind, sporting an absurd paint job that incorporates gold dust:
BMW knows it has to appeal to shitlibs these days, so BMW Welt has a bunch of exhibits about how the company is leading the way on recycling and electric cars:
A children's exhibit answers the question: Is there a car heaven? In the words of Mario Maserati, you betta belee dat!
Can't afford a BMW car? Don't worry, there's a gift shop where you can buy far cheaper BMW clothing and souvenirs to show off your fandom.
Let's head over to the museum next door. An exhibit awkwardly brags about how BMW elite vehicles represented the Third Reich in the top motor races of the 30s:
Another exhibit awkwardly touts their failed venture in F-1 racing.
During WW2 BMW made airplane engines for the Luftwaffe. Several are on display, including one of the first turbojet engines.
This wooden car symbolizes BMW's robust design philosophy, or something:
The BMW 507 was a gigantic commercial flop and nearly broke the company, but Elvis was a fan, so it still gets a top display location:
This is Europe, so of course there's a random clown doing balloons.
Another exhibit shows cars painted in the bizarre "Memphis style" of the 1970s. Hey, you're going to Memphis in just a couple days!
All right, that's enough of expensive cars. Let's head over to Olympiapark, one of Munich's most popular locations and the site of the 1972 Olympic Games.
An election is coming up in Bavaria, and libs are super mad as fukkk about AfD's popularity:
Another poster for the Pirate Party promises faster Internet for all:
After a short walk, you reach the Olympiaturm, Munich's tallest building.
The height designations on the elevator are...very precise.
At the top of its elevator, there is a tiny rock and roll exhibit for some reason:
You have a great view of the old Olympic village. There are clay tennis courts AND the left-most high-rise is where the Israeli Olympians were abducted in 1972. DBG MAF!
You also have an awesome view of BMW Welt, plus the company HQ and their gargantuan manufacturing plant.
Now that we've seen the Olympic Park, let's hop on a train and go into the heart of Munich. Our first stop is the Odeonsplatz:
A gun battle in this plaza marked the finale of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler's first effort to take power. Even today, neo-fascist groups hold rallies here. Overlooking the plaza is the Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshal's Hall. One statue honors Count Tilly, an imperial commander in the Thirty Years War who famously sacked Magdeburg:
There's also a statute honoring heroes of the Franco-Prussian War:
Next door is the Theatine Church, one of Munich's most famous and a classic of Baroque style.
A king and queen of Bavaria are buried here:
The palace next door has a garden. Some guy is making money by playing a kooky Renaissance-looking instrument.
As you keep walking, you come across Bavaria's war memorial to the dead of both World Wars. It's built below ground-level, like an open tomb.
You keep walking into Munich's English Garden, the largest municipal park in Germany.
The "Chinese" pagoda at the center of the park would surely make libs furious about cultural appropriation if built today:
There's an awesome open-air food market selling traditional German food by the pagoda. Let's have some! You're about to go to Egypt, where the food is infamously bad, after all.
You head back into town and pass a white guy meditating while an Asian guy practices kung fu. They're both members of Falun Gong, protesting the Chinese government.
Finally, you head to the city's historic heart, Marienplatz, outside the town hall. There's a statue honoring the plaza's namesake, St. Mary, along with plaques for the plaza's two papal visitors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI:
You're just in time for the glockenspiel show! It's super famous, but frankly not terribly interesting, though you do get to see the Bavarian knight unseat the Lothringen knight, just like he always does.
All right, that was good for a quick one-day jaunt through Munich. You head into the Marienplatz train station, figure out its confusing map (https://chroniclesofemilia.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/de-1275512.jpg), and make your way to the airport. Two hours later, you're off to Cairo!
Date: September 10th, 2018 12:50 PM
read this again
Date: October 18th, 2018 2:45 AM
also, fix whatever issue is causing the apostrophe's to look like emoji questions.
Date: September 9th, 2018 2:31 PM
All right, one four-hour Lufthansa flight later, you're in Cairo! Your first job is getting into the country. Unlike with the EU, you need a visa to get into Egypt, but no worries: It's simply a way for them to extract some extra foreign currency from visitors. They don't even ask any questions.
After getting your visa, no fewer than four different security personnel check your passport, but none of them ask any questions. They just make sure you have your visa stamp and then wave you on. Yeah, get used to that sort of thing.
One you enter the baggage claim area, you're immediately accosted by a horde of aggressive Egyptian cab touts. Look out! They're trying to get you to massively overpay for a trip downtown. One tout opens by proposing 500 LE for a trip. What a joke! Don't even think about paying more than 150 LE for a trip at current exchange rates.
After waiting way too long to hash out negotiations for a cab, you finally get downtown and check in to your hotel, the Osiris Hotel in downtown Cairo. It's not a luxurious experience, but it's a good location and has free WiFi.
After a few hours of sleep, you get your first experience with Egyptian cuisine at breakfast. Here's an omelet:
This isn't a day for waiting, though. The Egyptian Museum opens at 9 am and we're getting there the moment it opens.
On the way over, you pass a bunch of catdoods who have colonized a motorcycle:
You also pass your first Christian church in Cairo. It's an ARMENIAN CATHOLIC Church, meaning it follows the Armenian Rite but is in full communion with Rome.
Uh oh! To get to the Museum, you're gonna have to cross a street.
Egyptian streets are like the Wild West. No lanes, no right of way, no mercy. Crossing the street is like playing a game of Frogger. If you're worried about dying, a tip: Just wait for an Egyptian to start crossing and stay a little downstream of them.
After a few close encounters with Cairene motor vehicles, you finally make it:
This is the Egyptian Museum, the crown jewel of Egyptian antiquities from the Neolithic Period all the way down to the Ptolomies.
The facade of the Museum lists the great kings who reigned at each of its five capitals: Thini, Memphis, Thebes, Sai, and Alexandria. Thini is Egypt's most ancient capital, and if you zoom on its box, you'll see that among its 9 great kings are the gods Osiris, Typhon (Set), and Horus, as well as Menes, the semi-legendary unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt. In Sai's box, you'll see the Persian kings Darius and Artaxerxes, and in the Alexandria box, you'll see Alexander, Cleopatra, and a set of legendary Roman emperors from Augustus down to Justinian.
You head inside. One of the first attractions is the famous Narmer Palette, among the oldest historic documents in history, dating all the way back to 3100 BC. It shows Narmer overpowering his enemies, using artistic forms that would remain standard for thousands of years. On one side he wears the crown of Upper Egypt, and on the other the crown of Lower Egypt, so many scholars believe this palette symbolizes the first unification of Egypt:
You also see a colossal statue of Ramses II (get used to that phrase), though this one was hijacked by his son Merenptah, who chiseled his own name on the statue to take credit for it.
On a less colossal scale, there's the small granite statue of Hetepdief, a priest of the 2nd dynasty:
The entryway is filling up really quickly as people pour into the museum, so instead of sticking around here, you head straight to the back for one of the Museum's best exhibits, the Amarna Room.
Egyptian art was unbelievably consistent from 3100 BC all the way up past the New Kingdom. But there was a big exception: In the 1300s Pharaoh Amenhotep IV launched a religious revolution, suppressing the cult of Amun-Ra and the other Egyptian deities and instead promoting a form a monotheism focused on the god of the solar disc, Aten. He accordingly changed his name to Akhenaten, founded a new capital at Amarna, and for about 15 years, Egyptian art went fucking bonkers. The weirdness starts with Akhenaten himself, who commissioned statues showing himself with cartoonish, hermaphroditic features.
Another feature of Amarna-period art is the use of elongated heads, which certainly must egg on the "Pyramids were built by grey aliens" crowd.
Yet another unusual feature was how the pharaoh was portrayed. Traditionally, the pharaoh is always shown in his public role, serving the Gods, unifying Egypt, smiting enemies, and so forth. But Akhenaten uniquely had himself portrayed in domestic scenes, spending time alone with his wife and dotters:
After finishing up with the Amarna room, it's time to head upstairs before the crowds grow too large to see the Museum's most famous exhibit: The gold of King Tutankhamun.
King Tut was Akhenaten's son, and originally went by Tutankhaten, but he changed his name when he ended the Amarna revolution and restored the old cult of Amun-Ra. A minor pharaoh who died before turning 20, Tut is infamous today because his tomb was found completely intact, with all its gold and other burial goods still inside. Today, these goods are on display in the museum. Pictures are totally banned, but the one guard is overwhelmed by the crowd, so you manage to sneak a shot of Tut's golden death mask:
You sneak some other photos of his jewelry and his outer sarcophagus:
You then go to check out Tut's chariots, but you can't! Egypt is building a new, bigger museum out by the Pyramids, and the chariot has been moved there in advance of its expected opening within the next few years.
This footstool allows the pharaoh to ALWAYS rest his feet upon his conquered enemies:
This box holds jars that held the internal organs removed during mummification:
Speaking of mummies, you decide to head over to the museum's other major exhibit, its numerous mummies recovered from Egyptian tombs.
First, there's a room for an underappreciated phenomenon: Animal mummies. They have a giant mummified crocodile:
There's also baboons and dogs, among other things:
Sometimes, the Egyptians cut off and mummified individual parts of animals, with the idea that the part could then be eaten repeatedly by the dead in the afterlife:
There's even fake mummies. Mummification was a big business, and sometimes the poor were scammed with fakes that were simply filled with sand!
What isn't fake, though, are the royal mummies recovered from the Valley of the Kings. In a separate room with careful climate control, some of the greatest New Kingdom kings rest in a state of remarkable preservation. Ramses II reigned for more than 60 years, and you'll see a fuckton of his statues on this trip, but now you can see the man himself (once again, photos are BANNED and you sneak a few when you can get away with it):
Merneptah, son of Ramses II, is a popular contender for the Exodus pharaoh:
Thutmose III was the greatest conqueror in Egyptian history, campaigning as far as Mesopotamia and extending the Pharaoh's rule into Palestine and Nubia.
Hatshepsut's mummy notes that she was fat and had bad teeth:
Some of the mummies still have remarkably well-preserved hair:
A sign notes that this baby mummy had its head ripped off in 2011 during the revolution, when looters and rioters broke into the Egyptian Museum:
Nearby is a fragment of the Palermo Stone (the biggest fragment is in Palermo, hence the name). Of uncertain origin, the stone lists the pharaohs of the first five dynasties, their important deeds, and the height of the Nile in each year. It's one of the earliest written historic records we have in Egypt.
A set of three statues commemorates ancient Egyptian naked bodybuilding:
Believe it or not, you're still only halfway through the museum! You decide to pause, take a break, and post on Zozo for a bit.
Date: September 9th, 2018 2:51 PM
Date: September 11th, 2018 12:16 PM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Letís keep exploring the Egyptian Museum! Even after finishing with Tutís treasure room and the Mummies, thereís plenty of other stuff to still see. Like this golden Horus head:
These tiny golden flies were handed out to Egyptian soldiers to honor their bravery, like an ancient Medal of Honor.
This golden statue used to be really incredible, but then looters destroyed it in 2011. Sad!
Itís an ancient Egyptian board game! We wouldnít want the dead getting bored in the afterlife.
One room is dedicated to the many, many copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead that have been recovered from tombs. These texts explained to the spirits of the dead how to navigate the challenges of the afterlife so they can reach Osiris and, if they are sufficiently righteous, be admitted to paradise. This scene shows the weighing of the heart, where if a personís heart is heavy with sin, it is fed to Ammit, the part-crocodile, part-lion, part-hippo demon of retribution. If your heart is fed to Ammit, you die forever.
Another papyrus shows a really unusual scene: Giant mice being served by cats! This ďsatirical papyrusĒ is often believed to be a commentary on the Hyksos invasions, when a chariot-using culture from Asia temporarily conquered Egypt.
This kooky wooden statue is the symbol of the ka, the spirit double Egyptians believed each person possessed. Egyptian afterlife beliefs were premised on the notion that each personís ka lived on after death.
Once Greek culture penetrated Egypt during the Ptolomaic period, it greatly altered Egyptian funerary art. For one, paintings could get far more realistic. This painting shows two brothers who may have died together in battle:
Another late innovation was ďmummy masks,Ē realistic paintings of the deceasedís face that were painted on wooden boards and then placed on top of their mummies.
Some masks were fully sculpted instead of being painted:
All right, now itís time to head back to the first floor, now that the museum is more evenly populated. The first floor is a little more coherently organized, with some big items in the central atrium, plus a chronological path through Egyptian history going clockwise around the outside.
The central atrium has the worldís largest collection of pyramidions, the decorated capstones that were placed atop finished pyramids. This black granite pyramidion is from the collapsed Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III at Dahshur.
You also see the famous Israel Stele. While Egypt figures prominently in the Bible at many points, the Israelites are totally absent from Egyptian sources. The one exception is this stele, in which the pharaoh Merneptah boasts that ďIsrael is laid waste, its seed is no more.Ē This is also the oldest extant reference anywhere to Israel, and the steleís existence makes Merneptah a popular contender for the Exodus pharaoh, among those who believe the Exodus happened.
A colossal statue shows Akhenatenís father Amenophis III chilling with his wife and three dotters.
Oh, hey, a bunch of Egyptian boy scouts are here! And yes, theyíre still boy scounts. No all-gender ďScouting BSAĒ nonsense here.
Now, you finally decide to travel chronologically around the first floor. One of the first sites, then, is this limestone statue of King Zoser, who built the first great stone pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. This statue was originally recovered at Saqqara in his serdab, a room with a small hole that allowed the pharaohís ka to escape (or see offerings that we left for him).
Up next is a very well-preserved statue of Khafra, the builder of the second-largest pyramid at Giza. A sign nearby notes that it was found at the bottom of a well near the Giza necropolis. This statue is featured on the Egyptian 20-pound note:
Old Kingdom Egypt really really loved dwarves, so tons of them held important court positions and could pay to have statues like this made of themselves:
You pass by the statue of Kaaper. It portrays a minor official and is only made of wood, but is famous because thousands of years later it still looks incredibly lifelike, particularly due to the use of copper and rock crystal to craft fake eyes.
The most famous ďseated scribeĒ statue is in the Louvre (and on the Egyptian 200-pound note), but it wasnít the only one of its type. This one is beat up, but still shows his own set of lifelike eyes:
Slightly less lifelike but still remarkably well-preserved are the seated statues of Rahotep and Nefert, which highlight the Egyptian artistic convention of making women substantially more light-skinned than men.
This guy apparently got a hot Egyptian wife and had several kids even though itís clear that when standing heís like 2/3 his wifeís height. Shortmos, rejoice!
Most Egyptian art follows traditional forms and isnít super-realistic, but there are exceptions. These very lifelike paintings of geese date all the way back to 2500 BC.
Khufu built Egyptís single most-famous monument, the Great Pyramid, so itís a fitting irony that only one statue of him survives, and itís this tiny ivory statuette that stands less than 8 cm tall. Initially only the body was found, and excavators spent a staggering 3 weeks searching before they found the head.
In this Middle Kingdom relief, the pharaoh appears to be making out with Ptah. Hot.
King Horís ka-statue represents his ka rather literally, sprouting out of his head:
The original Sphinx is pretty beat up, but this smaller statue shows what itís supposed to look like when intact.
In the New Kingdom area, you see the ďPunt Reliefs,Ē chronicling Egyptian trade voyages to the land of Punt. The Queen of Punt is portrayedÖvery oddly, suggesting she may have had an unusual disease.
This statue of Queen Hatshepsut is a good example of how she had herself portrayed as a man in pharaonic art:
This relief shows Ramses II subjugating a racially diverse assortment of Egyptís enemies. Traditionally, Egyptians conceived of four different races: Egyptians, Nubians, Libyans, and Asians. All of the latter three are getting clowned on here:
This black statue shows Ramses II hanging out with the ďOsirian TriadĒ of Osiris, Horus, and Isis. Notice their arms wrapping around each otherís shoulders, like theyíre having a fun chill weekend during UG.
This very unusual statue shows Ramses II yet again, but instead of being a powerful pharaoh, heís a young boy being protected by Horus. Cute!
This is Meritamen, Ramses IIís hot dotterÖand later his wife. Yikes! A tour guide later argues that this was a ceremonial position not requiring actual incest, butÖthat doesnít seem to be universally agreed upon:
This baboon statue represents Thoth (who isnít always an ibis), and in accordance with traditional artistic practice, is rocking a huge boner:
Eventually, the Greeks conquered Egypt, and sometimes the influence they had on art was strange. These statues mostly follow traditional Egyptian norms, but then stick a Greek-style head on top:
Fittingly, your tour of the Egyptian Museum ends with another bizarre encounter with an ancient Egyptian poaster:
Wow, that was a long tour! But the day isnít even close to over. Up next is the Cairo Citadel, fortress of Saladin!
Date: September 11th, 2018 12:21 PM
Itís a pretty great museum isnít it. Although I remember it being disorganized, am I remembering right?
Date: September 11th, 2018 12:33 PM
Now that youíre saying it I remember using the Rough Guide for Egypt to navigate and understand all the exhibits
Date: September 12th, 2018 12:50 AM
Date: September 12th, 2018 12:41 PM
What do you think of these hieroglyphs?
Date: September 12th, 2018 2:18 PM
Date: September 13th, 2018 12:47 PM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
After that long trek through the Egyptian Museum, itís time for a break, right? Wrong. Weíre not even stopping for lunch, bitch. Shit in Cairo closes too early in the afternoon to waste any time on mere food. You hail a taxi and request your next destination: The Cairo Citadel.
The taxi driver gives you a blank look.
You try again: ďAl-Qalah?Ē Nope.
Finally you pull out Google Maps on your phone and simply point to the location.
ďAhhhh, Salah al-Din!Ē he exclaims. Thatís right, your next destination is the great fortress first built by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty, and star of Age of Empires 2ís easiest non-tutorial campaign. Very few reminders of his reign remain on the citadel, but as you walk up after being dropped off, you can still see an impressive set of medieval walls and towers:
Just inside, some guy is advertising a service that lets you rent Islamic or Pharaonic clothing to wear for photos. For some reason, Saladinís portrait from Civilization 4 is used in the ad:
After a short walk to the center of the Citadel, you arrive at its first attraction: The Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
Itís the first of many, many mosques you will be seeing over the next three days, but itís a little different from the rest. Though today regarded as the founder of modern Egypt (despite being Albanian himself), Muhammad Ali was officially just the Ottoman Sultanís viceroy. His mosque closely imitates Turkish architectural traditions, rather than native Egyptian ones, though some interpret this as a show of defiance, as the mosque closely imitates those built by the sultans themselves.
Despite its large size, the exterior is a little unimpressive, being built of perpetually dust-covered alabaster and capped with a dome of finestÖtin.
The inside is a little more impressive, showing the Ottoman love for very low-hanging lights:
In the corner, Muhammad Aliís tomb lies behind a barrier that makes it really hard to see. This is another feature youíre gonna see in several mosques. Some doods snap a selfie by it, the way you might take a selfie by Washingtonís tomb at Mt. Vernon or something:
Outside the mosque, you get a view of Cairo that would probably be a little better if the cityís air pollution wasnít so bad.
If you look carefully (zoom in on the center), you can see the silhouettes of the two larger Giza pyramids some ten miles off.
The Al-Gawhara Palace, used by Muhammad Ali, is under renovation. Muhammad Ali chilled in this palace while his men butchered Mamluks within the citadel during Aliís seizure of total power.
Muhammad Aliís mosque isnít the only one in the citadel. The Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir is substantially older, dating back to the 1300s. Instead of aping the Ottomans, the corkscrew minarets with a bulbous top copy styles used in Persia, where the mosqueís craftsmen hailed from.
Some free Islamic literature is available in just about every language, for the purpose of bringing tourists into the ummah, inshallah.
The Citadel isnít all mosques and palaces. It also houses Egyptís military history museum, celebrating the many glorious victories of the modern Egyptian military. Like the Al-Gawhara Palace, the museum itself (created out of the former harem palace) is closed, but thereís plenty to see in the courtyard, like this statue of Ibrahim Pasha, Muhammad Aliís son and easily Egyptís greatest general since 1800.
The courtyard has a bunch of Egyptian tanks, aircraft, and SAM launchers, primarily purchased from the Soviet Union and used in the wars with Israel.
It also features some tanks captured from Israel in 1973, including this M60 Patton tank:
Most places wouldnít proudly display amphibious transports alongside tanks and fighters, but Egypt is different: They get a top spot!
These vehicles were crucial to Egyptís breakthrough across the Suez Canal in 1973. A metal mural nearby, reading right to left, shows the Egyptian interpretation of the Yom Kippur War, with Egypt uniting to defeat the Zionist menace and then force the signing of the Camp David Accords, which returned control of Sinai to Egypt in return for a peace treaty with Israel.
The real star of the entire museum, though, is this statue making the extremely debatable claim that Egyptian troops are ďThe Best Soldiers on Earth.Ē
Egyptians really donít give a shit about proper spelling on their signs:
Another small museum on the Citadel is the National Police Museum, commemorating the efforts of Egyptian law enforcement over the millennia. The first exhibit is a series of panels on infamous crimes in recent Egyptian history. The English translations are comically bad, though you can make out that one man apparently became an infamous killer after being cucked by his wife:
The museum also has prison cells that were used by the Mamluks, Ottomans, and the British to hold prisoners during the countryís long and turbulent history.
Some have figures inside representing typical prisoners from different historical periods.
Others, though, are rather unceremoniously being used as storage rooms.
The museum also has a few exhibits from the history of Egyptian police workÖlike this model depicting the time dozens of Egyptian police were killed in a battle with the British.
Another exhibit openly celebrates the Egyptian ďheroesĒ who assassinated the British governor-general in 1924:
Other famous assassinations in Egyptian history have exhibits as well, but for some mysterious reason the assassination of Anwar Sadat is totally unmentioned.
Yet another museum on the Citadel is dedicated to the carriages used by Egyptís kings. You canít take any photos as they are once again banned and for some reason this museum is crawling with police. Hereís one from online:
Thereís also a THIRD major mosque in the Citadel, the Sulayman Pasha al-Khadem Mosque. It was built shortly after the Ottomans conquered Egypt, and was built in the Ottoman style for use by janissaries garrisoned on the Citadel. Itís closed, but you snap a photo from outside.
Whew! That took a few hours of walking through the brutally hot sun, but youíve finally seen the entire Citadel! But we arenít stopping yet. Itís getting late in the afternoon and things will start closing soon, so you pay a cab 20 LE (a little over a dollar) to drive you barely over 1 km to your next destination, the twin mosques of Sultan Hassan and Al-Rifaíi. Theyíre both huge, right next to each other, and you enter both via the alley between them, so itís hard to get a good external photo of them. Hereís one from online.
They look similarly on the outside, but roughly 600 years separates the two mosques.
You first enter the Mosque-Madrassah of Sultan Hassan (on the left up above), which dates to the 1300s. The building is huge, but was reportedly constructed in just three years, at an expense so great Hassan allegedly only finished because if he didnít, people would have ridiculed him as a poor. Despite being an Islamic building, the mosque was built in a cruciform shape, a style justified by its four wings, each housing a madrassah for one of the four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence.
Inside, a sign makes it clear how the current operators feel about womenís clothing.
Another colorfully advertises the childrenís lessons on offer:
The iwans in the central courtyard are enormous, and dwarf the handful of men currently engaged in afternoon prayers.
Next door to Hassanís mosque is the Al-Rifaíi mosque.
Itís a much more recent construction, only being finished in the 20th century. The building is impressive enough, but another attraction are the notable tombs here. Most of Egyptís post-Muhammad Ali kings are here, but for Americans the most notable resident is the last Shah of Iran, who died in exile in Cairo, and has a (relatively) humble tomb in the corner of the mosque:
One of the mosqueís nicer tombs (itís hard to say whose it is; your guide is shitty at describing this mosque) is screened off, but they seem to inspire devotion, as several people are praying fervently outside it.
Donít give up yet! You have one last major mosque to visit today: The Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairoís largest and the oldest to still retain its original form, dating all the way back to the 800s. Itís closed by now, but you bribe the muezzin to let you in.
The mosque is separated from the city by a large barrier alley, allowing the sacred to be kept distinct from the profane.
Most mosques make you take off your shoes, but Ibn Tulun just makes you put bags on over them, which isÖbetter, I guess?
The mosqueís spiral minaret evokes the more famous one in Samarra, Iraq. According to legend, the design was born when Ibn Tulun himself was caught absentmindedly wrapping a piece of paper around his finger; when questioned, rather than admit that he was zoning out, Tulun claimed that he was designing a minaret. Sadly, this legend is probably flame.
The muezzin wants way too much money to let you climb the minaret itself, but thankfully thereís a smaller mosque next door where the guardian is a little more reasonable. His minaret isnít quite as high, but you get a nice view of Cairo and of Ibn Tulun itself:
Almost there! Just a bit south of the Ibn Tulun mosque is the well-preserved tomb of Shajar al-Durr, one of the few female monarchs in medieval Islamic history.
Shajar took power after the death of her husband, but was then forced to remarry and abdicate. Rather than yield power, Shajar married the Mamluk captain Aybak, inaugurating the period of Mamluk rule in Egypt. Though officially she had abdicated, Shajar continued to exercise real power behind the scenes, and eventually ordered her husbandís murder. Reportedly, she tried to halt the murder at the last minute, but the assassins refused, pointing out that if they stopped, Aybak would simply kill them all regardless. The assassination marked her downfall, though, as the Mamluks rebelled, and then handed Shajar over to Aybakís other wife. Shajarís female servants beat her to death with bath clogs and then threw her body to the jackals.
But hey, they built her a nice tomb later.
The final mosque you see today is the Mosque of Saiyida Nafisa, which holds the body of one of Muhammadís great-granddaughters. Itís off-limits to non-Muslims, at least officially. Since this is only your first day in Egypt, you decide to not risk a fight with the religious authorities.
The mosque is right next to the Southern Cemetery, one of Cairoís massive necropolis slums. People live and work amid the tombs of hundreds of thousands of dead Cairenes.
You venture a short ways into the necropolis, seeking out the little-known tombs of the Abbasid caliphs, who served as puppet rulers for the Mamluk sultans. Sadly, the door to their tombs is locked and the guy sitting nearby doesnít have a key.
You made it, but youíre still about 2 miles from your hotel. Naturally, you decide to head back on foot to take in the city. There isnít much to see, but you do see people raising animals in the streets, like these chickens. Theyíd fit in really well with millennial white people!
This restaurant probably did not contact Disney to secure the rights to using Ratatouille characters:
Finally, around 7:30, you make it back to your hotel and get to sleep (no, you donít eat; for whatever reason Egyptian heat is great at wiping out your appetite). Today was a big day, but tomorrow is even bigger: Weíre going to the Pyramids!
Date: September 13th, 2018 1:01 PM
Who is the figure of the prisoner in the cell, someone particular or just a ďrepresentativeĒ prisoner?
Did you read those chose your own adventure books when you were a kid?
Date: September 13th, 2018 1:14 PM
One or two of your phrasings made me think of reading CYOA books as a kid (in a good way, I loved reading those, great sense of narrative)
Date: September 13th, 2018 1:15 PM
tbf they totally kicked ass before they got kicked in the ass
Date: September 15th, 2018 1:37 AM
Date: September 14th, 2018 12:44 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
A couple things I forgot in Day 1:
-In the King Tut collection there's a necklace that shows Tutankhamun being suckled at the breast of a snake woman.
-In the bathroom at the airport, there was an attendant who handed people toilet paper to dry their hands with.
-Getting into the Egyptian Museum required going through three layers of security, but all three layers were identical (complete with metal detectors).
Date: September 14th, 2018 4:16 AM
Do they still have metal detectors at all the hotel entrances?
Date: September 15th, 2018 1:36 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
You sleep horribly on your second night in Egypt: It turns out your roomís AC is on its last legs, and it goes kaput around midnight, which is bad news in a country as hot as Egypt. Icky. But thereís no time to complain, because you have to get up at 8 pm for a guided tour: Today, youíre going to the pyramids.
Hitting all the pyramids involves quite a bit of traveling, so itís worthwhile (and not expensive) to get a guide. For only about $35, youíve booked an entire solo day tour, with your own dedicated taxi driver plus tour guide. Your guide is this woman:
Her name is Bossi, and after a few years in the scam that is academia she has switched to doing tours to pay the bills.
In addition to your guide, you also have your own taxi driver for the whole day. Sweet!
Giza and its necropolis lie to the west of Cairo, as the Egyptians believed that west was the direction of the land of the dead. Getting there, then, means crossing the Nile, which means you finally get your first proper look at the strip of water that makes the entire country of Egypt possible:
As you drive out to Giza, Bossi asks what music you like, and you mention Iron Maiden and how they have a song (Powerslave) thatís explicitly about Ancient Egypt. Much to your surprise, she brings it up on her phone and plays it through the carís speakers, and at least claims to like it. Up the irons!
Getting closer to the necropolis, you pass the perpetually-under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum.
The GEMís foundation was laid a staggering 16 years ago by Hosni Mubarak, and serious construction started in 2012, but itís still not finished. If it ever opens, itís supposed to hold the entire King Tutankhamun collection, plus other antiquities taken out of storage from other museums across Egypt.
Another few minutes of driving, and you finally arrive at the Giza Plateau, home of the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu stands 455 feet high, and 756 feet to a side. Itís built of an estimated 2.3 million stone blocks, and weighs nearly 6 million tons. Perhaps most astonishingly, itís among the oldest monuments in Ancient Egypt, with a finish date estimated around 2560 BC. It was the tallest building in the world for 3800 years. During the time of Caesar, it was already ancient history, and tourists came to Egypt just to gawk at it and wonder how it was built (Herodotus thought it required the labor of 100,000 men). Today, the primary theory is that a few thousand full-time workers were supplemented by 30,000+ seasonal workers, who worked during the Nileís flood period (when agriculture is impossible) and were paid with food and beer. Itís generally believed that the blocks were put in place by building ramps and then dragging them into place. This theory has been greatly bolstered by the 2013 discovery of the oldest papyrus in history, the logbook of an official overseeing the transport of limestone to Khufuís pyramid construction site. The papyrus was on display at the Egyptian Museum.
Photos struggle to do the Great Pyramid (and all other pyramids) justice, because pyramids are sloping away from the camera and thus look smaller than they really are. The Great Pyramid is truly awe-inspiring in person, though.
If you look up at the top of the pyramid, you can see a small antenna-like object at the top. This, your guide explains, is to mark the original height of the pyramid, before the casing stones and pyramidion were stripped:
You can climb onto the lower portions of the pyramid (or the whole thing, if youíre willing to risk arrest: https://gizmodo.com/its-a-quick-and-illegal-climb-to-get-to-the-top-of-gi-1756258463), and gazing upwards from the pyramid itself, it almost feels like a wall of stone stretching up forever:
Thereís tons of graffiti etched into the stones of the pyramid by visitors from the past 4,000 years.
Cameras are banned inside the Great Pyramid, and unlike pretty much every other place where photos are banned, this entrance literally has a policeman taking peopleís phones at the entrance.
A sign next to the pyramidís entrance lays down the rules for going inside. No jumping in the sarcophagus!
The tour guide says you can go inside the Great Pyramid if you like, but you decide not to for a few reasons: 1. Itís a tiring climb to the Kingís chamber, and the inside of the pyramid is really hot, 2. You canít take any pictures, 3. It will take a long time and possibly force you to cut out other sites on the tour, 4. Itís literally an extra $20, and 5. When you get there, thereís nothing to see but an empty stone sarcophagus; pyramids donít have windows!
Fortunately, thereís a much easier option if you want to experience going inside a pyramid. Three small pyramids are next to Khufuís, and were used to bury his wives.
The leftmost one in that photo lets tourists go in for no extra fee. Itís a bit of a tight fit:
Youíre not supposed to take photos inside, but LJL nobody cares about keeping cameras out of this pyramid. At the center isÖa tiny empty stone room!
The inside of a pyramid is pretty hot, and spending just a couple minutes inside the burial chamber leaves you covered with sweat (the outside is actually quite pleasant, as the plateau is constantly buffeted with cool northerly winds).
After you step out, your tour guide tells you an interesting story: In addition to the three pyramids for Khufuís wives, in the 20th century the intact tomb of his mother, Queen Hetepheres, was discovered nearby. You saw an exhibit on her grave goods at the Egyptian Museum (https://imgur.com/a/tXiRIWG ), but your guide makes her story juicier. When the queenís carefully-sealed sarcophagus was opened, it turned out to be empty. So, a major theory is that Hetepheres had been buried near her husband, Sneferu, but Khufu wanted her relocated to be near himself. But her tomb may have ALREADY been plundered, and so to avoid pissing off the king, his attendants simply prepared and sealed an empty sarcophagus and delivered it to the king. 4600 years ago, the ancient Egyptians had already invented running flame.
Occasionally, itís pointed out online that stock photos make it look like the Giza pyramids are in the middle of the desert, when in fact theyíre surrounded by a major city on all sides. Thatís pretty funny, but also funny is the fact there is a large museum literally just a few feet from the Great Pyramid:
This museum costs a few bucks, but is worth a visit: It holds the reconstructed SOLAR BOAT of Khufu. The fuck is that, you ask? One of the biggest Egyptological finds of the 20th century was discovery of two buried boats right next to Khufuís pyramids. The boats were not actually intact, but instead was disassembled. All the pieces were there, though, so archaeologists have rebuilt the boat with all its original parts (save its rope, which was intact but not strong enough to hold the boat together). It measures nearly 150 feet long and would still float if put in the water today.
Photos are banned in the museum (are you noticing a theme here?) but you manage to sneak a handful:
The exact purpose of the boat is debated. Itís often called the ďsolar boatĒ because of the theory that it was supposed to be rebuilt by Khufuís attendants in the afterlife and then would carry him and the sun god Ra through the heavens. However, the boat appears to have actually been in the water at least once, so itís been proposed that the boat was also used to transport Khufuís embalmed body to the pyramid itself. Itís also been suggested the ship had a religious function, and was used by Khufu during his lifetime.
The second Khufu solar boat is still being restored; Bossi complains that the Japanese handling the restoration have horribly bungled things and caused irreversible damage to the materials.
Well, youíve spent more than an hour exploring just the vicinity of the Great Pyramid. Now itís time to give some attention to its sister, the Great Pyramid of Khafre.
You may have actually thought Khafreís Pyramid IS the Great Pyramid. Itís the middle of the three large pyramids, and in most photos it appears taller, mainly because it was built on slightly higher ground. But in fact, itís a few feet shorter, and several dozen feet shorter on each side, meaning its volume is substantially less. However, the pyramid rises at a slightly steeper angle, and its summit still contains many of the casing stones that once totally covered both pyramids, so up close itís arguably more beautiful and more imposing than Khufuís pyramid.
As recently as the 1600ís, almost all the casing stones on Khafreís pyramid were intact, based on the journals of a visitor at the time, but sometime shortly after they were plundered, presumably for use as building materials.
Close to Khafreís pyramid is a guy trying to sell camel rides. He poses for a photo:
Whoa, watch out! Right after taking this photo, he approaches and tries to get you to pose with the camel. If you let him do that, heíll definitely expect a big tip from you afterwards. You hurry away with your guide before you can let your own fear of awkwardness be used against you.
After some time at Khafreís pyramid, you meet up with your driver and head off to a scenic view of the entire pyramid complex. Along the way, you pass the far smaller pyramid of Menkaure, which is mostly notable for the giant gash in its side.
This gash was torn out by Saladinís son, Al-Aziz Uthman, who tried to destroy the pyramids but gave up after discovering that tearing them down was nearly as hard as actually building them.
The scenic view is, as youíd expect, very scenic:
These people are jumping while a photo is taken of themselves in mid-air.
The jumping pose is a Generic Pyramid Photo surpassed only by a photo of a person sticking their finger on the ďpointĒ of a pyramid. Like the guy in the middle of this photo:
A camel caravan is nearby, for people who canít properly enjoy the pyramids without also riding on a really smelly animal.
Well, that was an exceptionally fun couple hours, but donít even think of resting just yet. Your day is only beginning. You still have the Sphinx, the Saqqara Necropolis, Dahshur, Memphis, and the old Islamic quarter of Mamluk Cairo!
Date: September 15th, 2018 1:45 AM
Date: September 15th, 2018 11:34 AM
Author: H.R. Puffendorf
When my wife and I went into one of the smaller pyramids, there was a 9 year old boy at the bottom of the ladder you show in your pic "helping" people up. My wife went after me, and she was wearing a dress, and the little guy just stuck his head up there to catch a peek.
I also remember how hot it was in there.
I enjoy your descriptions of panicked avoidance of scams and tips too.
Date: September 17th, 2018 1:58 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Leaving the scenic view, you ask Bossi her opinion on different tourists. What countries send the best, and which send the worse? Bossi doesnít have a particular favorite country, but she finally confesses that in her opinion, Indian tourists are the worst, because they routinely proposition her for sex during the tour. Sadly, Americans do it too; her single least favorite tourist was a Pentagon employee who asked her back to his hotel room while he was on a tour with his daughter. Yikes! She also says that the Chinese tour groups are horribly aggressive and unpleasant, but she doesnít lead any of those groups directly since she doesnít speak Chinese.
Your next stop, naturally, is the Sphinx, which lies a short distance from the Pyramids, right on the border where the modern city of Giza sits. As you approach it, you pass the remains of Gizaís ancient dock. Today, it seems peculiar, surrounded totally by sand, but 4500 years ago, during the flood season, the waters of the Nile reached right up to it, and stones was landed here for use in Gizaís many, many massive structures.
The closest approach to the Sphinx lies through Khafreís funerary temple. The pyramids werenít standalone structures; they were part of large funerary complexes that included dedicated temples for each dead pharaoh. These temples were used for religious rites in their burial, such as the ďOpening of the mouth ceremony,Ē a ritual in which priests animated a dead body by opening its mouth so it could eat, breath, and speak in the afterlife. After being used for that ceremony, the temples were left standing so people could arrive to leave offerings for the dead, but deified, pharaoh. According to Bossi, popular pharaohs were still receiving offerings more than a thousand years later. Khafreís temple actually has two parts, the proper funerary temple close to the pyramid, and the ďvalley templeĒ by the sphinx, connected by a covered causeway. You pass through the valley temple, which remains well-preserved as it was covered by sand until the 1800s. The niche here once featured a statue of the pharaoh, who could receive offerings at it.
This pit was once completely filled with sand, and eventually a statue was discovered in it. Today, people fill their primal desire to throw money in pits.
After working your way through the temple, you reach an overlook right by the Sphinx:
The history of the Sphinx is more mysterious than that of the pyramids, but itís generally believed to be a likeness of Khafre, whose pyramid is directly behind it. The main body of the Sphinx is a monolith, meaning the entire structure was carved directly out of the bedrock. The
In front of the Sphinx is a stele, clearly a later addition:
This stele is the ďDream Stele,Ē and was erected by the New Kingdom pharaoh Thutmose IV. In the stele, Thutmose claims that Amun-Re visited him in a dream, revealed himself as Thutmoseís father, and promised to raise him to the office of pharaoh if he cleared the sand away from the Sphinx (then buried up to its neck). It is widely believed that Thutmose invented this dream, restored the Sphinx, and erected this stele to justify seizing the throne from his older brother.
After stepping away from the Sphinx, itís finally time for you first proper meal in Egypt that isnít a hotel breakfast. Thatís right: Youíre stopping at the Sphinx Pizza Hut/KFC.
Youíre not super-hungry (Egyptian heat is working its magic yet again), but you get a rice and chicken bowl that sets you back just 20 LE, barely more than a dollar.
After getting your food, you head up to the top floor, which has an excellent view of both the Sphinx and pyramids.
After eating, itís time to hustle back to the cab and head to your second big destination of the day, the Saqqara Necropolis. Lying very close to the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis, Saqqara is about ten miles to the south of Giza, and is both older and larger than the Giza necropolis. Not only that, but it served as a burial complex for the Egyptians all the way up into Roman times. Put another way, Saqqara was a cemetery for longer than Britain has had a written history.
The most famous part of Saqqara is the Step Pyramid of Zoser.
Built all the way back about 2650 BC (so old it actually predates Egyptís Old Kingdom), the Step Pyramid isnít just the oldest surviving Egyptian pyramid, itís the oldest known large-scale stone structure of any kind. Prior to this pyramid, large-scale Egyptian tombs were simple mastabas, flat-roofed rectangular buildings with inward-sloping walls. According to Bossi, a leading theory for the pyramidís development is that Zoser was upset because his mastaba couldnít be seen due to the equally-high retaining wall heíd built around it. So, he asked his priest and chancellor Imhotep to build another, smaller mastaba on top of it. Imhotep did him one better and built 5 additional mastabas, creating a six-stepped pyramid that rises more than 200 feet. The pyramid is built of stone blocks, but looks like itís built of brick, because builders used relatively small stone blocks, likely because they were still mentally in a world of brick construction.
The historical Imhotep is known only as a builder, but over time he became a mythic figure to Egyptians, who remembered him also as a physician, poet, astronomer, and all-around polymath. Heís also the villain in The Mummy. But it all started here, with the erection of the Step Pyramid.
To get close to Zoserís pyramid, you pass through a columned corridor that once provided the passage through the outer retaining wall. Three site guardians chill in the only bit of shade to be had, by the doorway:
4700 years later, the roof has been reconstructed, but the columns are original.
This pit is a drop of more than 100 feet straight down, and leads to Zoserís south tomb, which predates the completion of his pyramid. It also looks remarkably easy to fall into:
Some snake sculptures overlook Zoserís massive courtyard:
Flanking the courtyard are several chapel structures. These buildings, like many in Zoserís funerary complex, are actually fake. Theyíre facades, filled in with rubble, rather than actual functional buildings!
The exact purpose of the large courtyard, or these chapel buildings, is largely unknown, but the leading theory is that they were used for the Heb Sed festival, a jubilee festival occurring in the 30th year of a pharaohís reign. Weíre not entirely sure what happened in this festival, but it appears to involve ďrejuvenatingĒ an aging pharaoh by re-enacting coronation rituals, such as running back and forth between two altars (representing the two Egypts) and being crowned with the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt. Bossi also mentions that the pharaoh may have personally killed a bull in this ritual as well.
A few hundred feet southwest of Zoserís pyramid is the Pyramid of Unas, from the 5th dynasty.
https://imgur.com/a/Nb55gb9 (on the left)
The pyramid was a much shoddier construction job and has today crumbled to little more than a mound of dirt, but the structure is important as its interior contains the oldest example of pyramid texts:
These texts were meant to serve as spells and as a guide to help Unas navigate the afterlife. Such texts would later become a routine part of Egyptian tomb work, and youíll see many examples throughout the rest of our time here. To get an idea of what the hieroglyphs were saying, hereís a translation:
The Saqqara necropolis also contains quite a few tombs built over the millennia. You donít have time for all of them, but you stop in at a handful that serve as a preview for the more spectacular tombs to be seen in Luxor.
In your first tomb (which you egregiously did not log the name of) you see a relief of some dudes catching fish. Daily-life reliefs like this are common in the tombs of officials and other regular people, but rare in those of rulers:
Another relief shows a crocodile preparing to eat a baby hippo the moment it finishes being born:
One of the best-preserved tombs in the area is that of Maya, Tutankhamunís treasurer, which was only recently reopened. In one wall scene in the tomb, Maya and his wife approach Osiris in the afterlife. This scene is extremely common, but itís worth noting the protrusion from the womanís head. These are generally believed to not simply be a decoration, but a ďperfume coneĒ of scented wax that would gradually melt and release a pleasant aroma.
Elsewhere in the tomb is an image of Anubis in his traditional role preparing a mummy. Bossi argues that the jackal-headed Anubis is associated with mummification because the ancient Egyptians noticed that when wild dogs ate the internal organs of a corpse, the rest of the body decayed more slowly. A less exciting explanation is that jackals were simply seen often in cemeteries:
Your last (human) tomb of the day is that of Horemheb, who isnít actually buried at it. Horemheb was a general under the pharaohs Tutankhamun and Ay, but took power himself by marrying into the family when the male line petered out. This tomb was built when he was still just a general, and he built a new one for himself in Luxor after becoming pharaoh. Itís popular to speculate that Horemheb had Tutankhamun murdered as part of his plot to take control, but analysis of Tutís corpse suggests that malaria and an infected leg injury did him in.
Horemhebís tomb has a nice big hypostyle hall (that is, a room of columns) and some high-quality reliefs of people thing-doing, though the people look a little weird:
You have one last major stop to make in Saqqara, the Serapeum. Along the way, you pass the garbage-strewn Philosopherís Circle, where the Ptolomaic Greeks juxtaposed Egyptian religion with Hellenistic philosophy.
The shattered statues in this circle represent Plato, Heraclitus, Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, and other titans of Greek thought and literature. How scholars made those identifications given the statuesí near-total destruction is a mystery to you (okay, theyíre probably copies and more-intact versions exist elsewhere).
After passing the philosophers, you finally enter the massive underground Serapeum.
One of the odder parts of Ancient Egyptian religion was its intense reverence for certain animals (for instance, it was a crime to harm cats and families would go into profound mourning for a dead housecat). The most sacred of all Egyptian animals, though, was the Apis bull. One bull at a time, bearing particular body markings, was treated as the child of the goddess Hathor, and also as an incarnation of the god Ptah, who was the chief deity of the Memphis region. The Apis bull was used as an oracle (it was given yes or no questions, with certain head movements indicating the ďanswerĒ), and was treated extremely well until it died of old age. Killing an Apis bull was a tremendous sacrilege; according to legend, the Persian emperor Cambyses II murdered one during his conquest of Egypt, and subsequently went mad, murdered his family members, and died a violent premature death.
Anyway, when the Apis bull died, it was mummified and buried in a sarcophagus just like human elites were. The Serapeum is where these sacred bulls were buried over a thousand-year (the name comes from Serapis, a Greco-Roman syncretic deity combining the Apis with Osiris and some aspects of Greek underworld gods like Hades). Itís a pretty big space, and holds gigantic 70-ton sarcophagi the bull mummies were placed in.
Sadly, you still havenít seen everything the Saqqara necropolis has to offer. You could spend an entire day seeing all the various tombs, as well as the small Imhotep Museum nearby, but you donít have that kind of time. In fact, youíre already running out of time. You hustle off to your car and your driver begins speeding (literally) to get you to the last two stops on your tour: Dahshur and Memphis.
Date: September 17th, 2018 2:02 AM
Is it true Obelix broke off the Sphinxís nose?
Date: September 17th, 2018 10:34 AM
So a Taliban-style impetus has a long history. Huh.
Date: October 18th, 2018 2:02 AM
LOL, while working on tonight's post, found this hilarious example from the spells written in the Unas pyramid texts, regarding the crocodile-headed god Sobek:
"Unis is Sobek, green of plumage, with alert face and raised fore, the splashing one who came from the thigh and tail of the great goddess in the sunlight ... Unis has appeared as Sobek, Neith's son. Unis will eat with his mouth, Unis will urinate and Unis will copulate with his penis. Unis is lord of semen, who takes women from their husbands to the place Unis likes according to his heart's fancy."
Date: September 17th, 2018 10:50 AM
Charles there is some scholarship regarding the citadel that i did not see you mention. EDIT: actually turns out you did mention it.
the Mamluks were invited in under a pretense of peace, then locked inside near the front gate and a massive slaughter ensued from the high walls surrounding them. at the risk of sounding like a millenial faggot, it's pretty much the Red Wedding from GOT. from wiki:
Early in the year 1811, during a lull in tensions, after preparations for an expedition against the Wahhbis in Arabia were completed, all the Mamluk beys then in Cairo were invited to the ceremony in the Cairo citadel for investing Muhammad Ali's favorite son, Tusun, with a pelisse and the command of the army. On March 1, 1811, Shahin Bey and the other chiefs (with one exception) repaired with their retinues to the citadel, and were courteously received by the Pasha. Having taken coffee, they formed in procession, and, preceded and followed by Muhammad Ali's troops, slowly descended the steep and narrow road leading to the great gate of the citadel.
As soon as the Mamluks arrived at the citadel's gate it was suddenly shut before them. The last of those to leave before the gate was shut were Albanians under Salih Kush. To these troops, their chief now made known the Pasha's orders to massacre all the Mamluks within the citadel. They proceeded to climb the walls and roofs of nearby houses that hemmed in the road in which the Mamluks were confined, and some stationed themselves upon the eminences of the rock through which that road is partly cut. They then opened fire on their victims; and immediately the troops at the tail end of the procession, and who had the advantage of higher ground, followed suit. Of the betrayed chiefs, many were killed in the opening volleys; some, dismounting and throwing off their outer robes, vainly sought, sword in hand, to return and escape by some other gate. However, the few who gained the summit of the citadel experienced the same fate as the rest, for no quarter was given.
Four hundred and seventy Mamluks entered the citadel; and of these very few, if any, escaped. However, folklore has it that one of the Mamluk beys succeeding in escaping by leaping with his horse from the ramparts, and alighted uninjured although the horse was killed by the fall. Others say that he was prevented from joining his comrades, and discovered the treachery while waiting without the gate. He fled and made his way to Syria.
The massacre of the Mamluks at the Cairo citadel was the signal for an indiscriminate slaughter of the Mamluks throughout Egypt, orders to this effect having been transmitted to every governor. In Cairo itself the houses of the Mamluk beys were given over to the soldiery. During the two following days the Muhammad Ali Pasha and his son Tusun rode about the streets and tried to stop the atrocities; but order was not restored until 500 houses had been pillaged. The heads of the beys were sent to Istanbul.
Date: September 18th, 2018 11:32 PM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Your driver speeds along the roads south of Cairo (a frightening thing, you discover), as you have barely an hour and a half to see your last two Pharaonic sites of the day, Dahshur and Memphis.
Itís often remarked that the Giza pyramids are in the middle of a city and only photographic tricks make them appear isolated. While the Dahshur pyramids are only about 25 miles south of Cairo, they feel far more isolated, an effect enhanced by their obscurity; while the Giza pyramids are crowded all day, almost no tourists bother to visit Dahshur.
On the one hand, itís understandable, as the Giza pyramids are closer and a superior pyramid complex. On the other hand, itís a shame, because if they were anywhere besides the Cairo area, these two pyramids would be enormously popular attractions in their own right.
Another reason the Dahshur pyramids are less popular is that the area they were was a restricted military zone for a long time (and a barbed wire fence still passes through the area). Thereís still a base nearby, as well as a military school of some kind. A goofy scribe statue sits at the entrance:
Dahshur is home to two major pyramids, both built by the same pharaoh, Sneferu, father of Khufu. The older and more interesting of the two is the Bent Pyramid:
The Bent Pyramid was, we believe, the first effort at building a smooth-sided pyramid rather than the step pyramids that had come before. The name, obviously, comes from how the pyramid rises at a steep angle but then flattens out about halfway up. The theory is that the Egyptians realized the Pyramid would be too heavy and unstable if they continued to build at the initial angle, and so they altered the angle halfway. The catastrophic collapse of a similar pyramid at Meidum further south may have played a role.
While the Bent Pyramid is therefore something of a botched job, itís still beautiful today because of the major pyramids it retains by far the largest percentage of its casing stones. As a result, the sides of the pyramid are still smooth, and they had to build a staircase for people to access the entrance:
You can in fact enter the Bent Pyramid, but itís closed right now and in any case you donít have the time:
Off in the distance, you can spy the Black Pyramid, which collapsed in on itself long ago and no longer really resembles a pyramid. This structure was the source of the black pyramidion you saw in the Egyptian Museum.
You also have a great view of Sneferuís second creation, the Red Pyramid:
Thereís literally nobody out here. Itís just you, Bossi, your car, and this lone Egyptian policeman who must have pissed somebody off to get stationed out in a place where almost no bribes can be taken.
You next head over to the Red Pyramid, which honestly looks a little better at a distance due to the low angle making it unimposing up close.
Imposing or not, though, the Red Pyramid is immense, rising 350 feet and containing about three-fourths of the volume of Khafreís pyramid. This makes Sneferu arguably the true pyramid-building champion of ancient Egypt, as he completed two separate major pyramids during his life.
After this quick stop, itís time to head to your last big stop of the day, the ruins of ancient Memphis. Cairo is a modern city by Middle Eastern standards, only being founded in the 900s. Before that, there was Fustat, built by the first Islamic conquerors. Before Fustat, there was a Persian city named Babylon (often called Babylon-in-Egypt to distinguish from the Mesopotamian city). But before all these cities was Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom and one of the most important cities in Egypt for 3500 years. Memphis lies at the juncture of Upper and Lower Egypt, and may have been built as a planned capital by Menes or another early pharaoh to assert better control over the two kingdoms.
Sadly, not much of Memphis is left, as it was mostly a city of mud-brick, and the stone ruins were picked over by locals who used it to build up Cairo and other nearby towns. Still, thereís an open-air museum with a handful of nifty ruins. The centerpiece is a fallen colossus of Egyptian super-builder Ramses II. There were efforts in the 19th century to move the statue to Italy or to the British Museum, but the cost of moving it proved too great, so eventually they just built an entire museum around it and called it a day. Ramses has a lot of statues of himself out there, but this one stands out for its quality;
Ramsesí cartouche (his name written in hieroglyphs, contained within an oval) is placed all over the statue, which helped make it VERY clear who he was, while also making it harder for successors to stick their own name on the statue, which happened rather often to some pharaohs.
For example, this statue is attributed to Ramses II, but is probably a repurposed Middle Kingdom work:
As you view these two statues, Bossi mentions the popular portrayal of Ramses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus. She dismisses this, based not on Egyptological arguments, but on a Quranic one: The Quran says that Mosesí pharaoh had no children, when in fact Ramses had many children. Based on this, she believes the Exodus was under a Hyksos pharaoh, as several of them seemed to have been childless. This is an odd digression from scholarly considerations, but then again thereís very little extra-biblical evidence the Exodus happened at all, so itís probably not worth dwelling too much over.
The other major item in the museum is a large alabaster sphinx:
Both the Ramses statue and the sphinx once stood outside a great temple of Ptah, which today is totally ruined with only a few fragments left behind to excavate. Sic transit gloria mundi!
That finally wraps up a very long tour. After a half-hour drive, youíre back at your hotel, where you bid farewell to Bossi and your driver. But the day is not over. First, you take a brief rest in your room, where the hotel staff have fixed your air conditioner after you complained about it failing last night. In an attempt to win back your good graces, the hotel staff brings you a tasty lemonade for free!
Still, you canít relax for long. With the sun setting, you hop in a cab and head over to Islamic Cairo. Of course, all of Cairo is ďIslamic,Ē but this label refers to the medieval quarter of Cairo, built up under the Mamluks. The area has several gems of Islamic architecture, plus the Khan Al-Khalili, the cityís famous bazaar.
When you arrive at the south end of the quarter, the first mosque you see is the Al-Hussain Mosque, lit up with cheesy green lights:
The Al-Hussain Mosque is an old mosque, but not an old building; it dates to the 1800s. However, itís a sacred site to Muslims, as itís believed to hold the head of Muhammadís grandson Hussain ibn Ali. It also holds a particularly old Quranic manuscript. However, the mosque is closed to non-Muslims. Bossi thinks these regulations are almost never enforced, but itís evening prayers right now and a lot of young men are going into the mosque right now, so it seems best not to push your luck given Islamís history of not being chill about things.
Instead, you take a chance to explore the area of the Khan Al-Khalili. While popular with tourists (who buy jewelry and souvenirs), the bazaar notably is also popular with Egyptians and has a lot of ordinary shops mixed, making it feel a little more authentic. For example, you pass a shop that appears dedicated to selling only scales. A rather niche market, to say the least:
You can buy individual loaves of bread for a single Egyptian pound, barely more than five cents USD:
A restaurant and hookah bar has some horrifying wax ďperformersĒ hanging about:
At the north end of the old city are two of the three remaining gates from the old city walls of Cairo. The more imposing of the two is the Bab al-Futuh, or Gate of the Conquest, built in 1087 just before the dawn of the crusader era.
Just inside the northern gate is the Al-Hakim Mosque, which is treated almost like a public park by denizens, who bring their kids to run around in the middle courtyard.
As its name suggests, this mosque was built by the 11th-century Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim. Al-Hakim is a very unusual historical figure, to say the least. In the west heís widely remembered as the ďmad caliph,Ē thanks to his erratic and often despotic behavior. He routinely purged his top administrators, going through fifteen viziers in just 20 years. He was one of the first Muslim leaders to aggressively suppress Christianity, banning Easter celebrations and ordering the destruction of the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. But while some regarded Al-Hakim as a tyrant, the Druze literally view him as God incarnate, and believe he will one day return to lead an army of believers to conquer the world. And speaking of returning, Al-Hakimís reign didnít even end with his death. He routinely rode out into the countryside to meditate, and on one such journey he simply vanished and was never seen again.
Anyway, this mosque was his doing, but after his reign it was mostly repurposed, becoming variously a stable, a school, and a barracks for Napoleonís troops. Finally a few decades ago some rich Muslims paid to restore the mosque back to a worship-worthy state, and it remains so today.
Thereís a lot of other classical Islamic architecture in the quarter, mostly concentrated on the still-bustling Muizz Street. You canít go inside any of the old buildings at this late hour, but the interior of Islamic buildings is typically unexciting anyway, so admiring them from the outside is a perfectly good substitute:
This Egyptian Chad is playing some popular song on a guitar; a ton of chicks are watching and singing along.
He could probably slay tons of chicks, but he should be careful: Egypt is one of the most conservative societies on Earth when it comes to premarital sex. More than 90% of people considering it unacceptable and honor killings still sometimes occur. Tread carefully, Chad!
Your visit so far has been heavily weighted towards Cairoís Pharaonic and Islamic history, but there are occasional reminders of the sizable Coptic Christian minority. This shop has an image of the Virgin Mary on display:
After reaching the south end of Muizz Street, back near where you started at Al-Hussain, you decide to stop and eat some street kebab from a small shop. You foolishly donít ask the price before ordering and he extorts you by charging 150 Egyptian pounds! Fuck, thatís like 8 dollars! As part of the meal youíre given some cooked vegetables on a plate, but you donít get to eat all of themÖbecause a woman in a niqab walks by and snatches them up with her bare hand! What the fuck! You snap a photo of her as she walks away:
After eating, you pass by the Al-Azhar Mosque.
The madrassa originally operating out of this mosque is more than a thousand years old, making it by some measures among the oldest universities in the world (most lists donít count it, though). In the 20th century, its curriculum was expanded to include non-religious subjects and it was made a full university. Thereís a larger campus several miles to the east, and ultimate thousands of schools across Egypt are affiliated with the university in some capacity. It still remains Egyptís premier school of Islamic studies, though, and historically is conservative but also hostile to the extreme Salafist and Wahhabist ideologies emanating from Saudi Arabia.
At the far south end of Mamluk Cairo is the Bab Zuweila, the third of the three surviving medieval gateways to the city.
This gate has a particularly gory history. Muhammad Ali displayed the heads of slain Mamluks here after his seizure of power in 1811, and in the 1200s the Mamluks themselves flaunted the heads of six murdered Mongol envoys. Pretty much everywhere else on Earth in the 1200s, killing Mongol envoys was a one-way ticket to your entire country getting annihilated. But in what may be one of the most important battles in history, the Mamluks Qutuz and Baibars decisively crushed the Mongols at Ayn Jalut and halted their expansion into the Middle East.
Itís getting late and once again you have to get up early tomorrow, so you make your way back to your hotel on foot. The last thing you pass on the way home is the Abdeen Palace.
Built by Khedive Ismail in the 1860s, the Abdeen Palace transferred the seat of royal power from the Citadel down to a more modern, European-style palace in the heart of the city. Given the subsequent political turbulence in Egypt, this was almost certainly a bad move, as it left the king far more exposed to both mob violence and military action. Today Egyptís president lives at a different palace in the suburb of Heliopolis that is less likely to be overrun by rioters. The Abdeen Palace has become a museum, but not one that youíll be visiting during your lamentably short stay.
What a day! Tomorrow is your last full day in Cairo, and will be dedicated to the history and architecture of the cityís ancient Coptic Christian community.
Date: September 19th, 2018 12:03 AM
cr if you go to dashur you literally have your run of the place and can go inside
Date: September 19th, 2018 7:17 AM
the Dahshur site looks incredible
looking forward to the episode tomorrow about the Copts, didnít explore this aspect of Cairo at all
Date: September 20th, 2018 3:12 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Time for your third and final full day in Cairo. You have another tour booked today, but it doesnít start until 9 and youíre up at 6. Cairo is really far east for its time zone so the sun is already completely up, so why not have a short walk through the Cairo downtown?
According to the Bible, Jews lived in Egypt more than 3500 years ago. Even if you prefer to stick to secular histories, theyíve been there for 2500 years. In the first half of the 20th century, Egypt had more than 100,000 Jews, but the creation of Israel and subsequent Arab-Israeli hostility caused a mass exodus. Today, fewer than two dozen Jews remain in Egypt, and their main place of worship is the Shaíar Hashamayim Synagogue on Adly Street. It was built in 1899 and has a distinctive look that mildly evokes ancient Egyptian architecture:
Unsurprisingly the synagogue is considered a prime terrorism target, so it has more police and soldiers (you count at least ten) protecting it than it has worshippers. One of them sees you taking a photo and gets IRATE, saying you cannot take any more. Better move along fast!
The Sphinx isnít the only place with KFC. It appears to be absurdly popular here and while you do see other Western chains (thereís a Hardees randomly right on Tahrir) KFC is the only one you see over and over.
Egypt has migrants and homeless doods just like America. These three guys appear to have been sleeping in a park near Abdeen Palace.
One square at the heart of downtown is the Midan Opera, named after an opera house that burned down in the 70s and was replaced by a parking garage. In the middle of the square is a statue of Ibrahim Pasha, the greatest general in modern Egyptian history. He enslaved thousands of people while campaigning against the 1820s Greek anto-Ottoman insurgency, so Egyptian shitlibs will probably try to tear his statue down eventually:
At the west end of Midan Opera are the sad remains of the Continental-Savoy Hotel. Opened in 1869, it spent more than a half-century as Cairoís top hotel. Lord Carnarvon died here after financing the excavation of King Tutís tomb, becoming the first victim of the tombís supposed ďcurse.Ē The hotel closed in the 80s, and now is a collapsing ruin compared to what it looked like decades ago:
This guy is riding a bike while balancing a ton of bread on his head. Seems hazardous!
The true center of downtown is Talaat Harb Square. Talaat Harb was a FINANCE CHAD who founded Banque Misr, Egyptís first modern, native-owned and operated bank.
Holy shit, itís the Egyptian Lawyersí Association! Poasters on the Egyptian version of XO must congregate here to discuss scholarship.
This statue honors Abdul Riad. He was a top commander in the disastrous Six-Day War with Israel, and then got blown up by an Israeli mortar during the War of Attrition.
South of Talaat Harb is Tahrir Square. The big demonstrations during the 2011 revolution were here, although there actually isnít a lot of open space in the square. The area is dominated by modern high-rise hotels, plus the Egyptian Museum.
At the south end of Tahrir is Egyptís most infamous office building, the Mogamma (roughly meaning ďThe ComplexĒ).
The story goes that the Mogamma was built with Soviet funds and reflects Soviet values, but itís actually just a product of 1940s modernism and the notion that Egypt should have one, efficient, all-in-one administrative superbuilding. The building houses public offices for the Cairo governorate as well as the national interior, health, and education ministries. For decades, the Mogamma has been legendary for its impenetrable bureaucracy, operating essentially as a super-DMV and city hall that receives more than 50,000 visitors a day. Urban legends say that people have committed suicide from frustration after being repeatedly passed from office to office, while one of Egyptís most popular films, Terrorism and Kebab, is about a man who inadvertently starts a terrorist takeover of the building when he gets in a fight with a particularly bothersome employee.
Itís only 7 am, and already hundreds of people can be seen waiting in a line that stretches outside the building.
The area south of the Mogamma is Cairoís wealthy Garden City neighborhood, which includes the large British and American embassies. The streets flanking these embassies are closed off with cinderblocks due to security concerns:
Whoa, wait just a minute! Itís the morning, but that picture was clearly taken at night. Whatís going on? Iíll tell you. While walking around Garden City, you come upon the single, heavily-guarded entrance to the American embassy. You snap a photo of it, and the guards on duty FLIP THE FUCK OUT. They demand to see your phone, and when you resist (they seem to want to delete ALL the photos on your phone, which would be very unfortunate), they take you into custody and bring you inside the cordon to meet their supervisor. If you really are a spy, this is a bad move, as you get a great glimpse of the U.S. embassyís defenses: Several APCs and literally dozens of Egyptian soldiers. Fortunately, the supervisor is a little less intense than his subordinates. He makes sure your photo of the embassy is deleted, inspects your passport, and asks some basic questions about your stay in Egypt (the only Egyptian security official who ever bothers with that), but once heís satisfied he allows you to walk away without any further trouble. Close call!
Having made your escape, you next walk past Egyptís parliament building. Itís surprisingly rather small.
Egyptís justice and interior ministries are clearly fed up with civil disturbance, and have surrounded themselves with concrete barriers to keep out possibly-violent crowds.
Despite your scuffle with the Egyptian military, you make it back to your hotel in time for your tour. Youíre going to a Christian church, so naturally your guideís name is Muhammad Osama.
Itís gonna be a great day.
Date: September 20th, 2018 4:44 AM
180 scuffle with the fuzz
that Mogamma place looks killself depressing
Date: September 20th, 2018 9:17 AM
Date: September 21st, 2018 12:47 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Your tour today isnít as broad or as long as yesterdayís. Instead, your guide is here to take you to and from one of Cairoís harder-to-reach attractions: The Muqattam cave churches.
The churches arenít incredibly far off, distance-wise. In fact, theyíre closer than the Giza Pyramids. Socially, though, the churches are a huge departure from everything youíve seen so far, because the path to them passes through one of Cairoís worst slums, the Garbage City.
One of Cairoís peculiar features are the tens of thousands of Zabbaleen, poor Coptic Christians who for close to 80 years have made a living by collecting the cityís garbage and either using or recycling it. The streets of the Garbage City are therefore flooded with garbage of all types which the Zabbaleen pick over and sort. As you learn when the driver briefly has to roll down his window to clear a checkpoint, the stench is immense.
The Zabbaleenís way of life is threatened by modernization, as Egypt would badly like to have its capital city develop a normal waste disposal process. But itís also threatened by apparent bigotry. Traditionally, the Zabbaleen feed all the edible garbage to pigs, and then sold the pigs for meat within the Coptic community. During the 2009 swine flu scare, the Egyptian government ordered the wholesale culling of their swine herds, in a move that was widely seen as motivated more by the Islamic prohibition on pork consumption than by any health concerns.
The whole slum is visibly Christian in character, with Christian statues, signs, and symbols all over the place. Just like in Catholic countries, images of the Virgin Mary are particularly popular.
Thereís also a painted mural of what seems to be a well-regarded cleric; itís unclear if he is a modern or historical one.
After passing through the trash slum, you ascend Cairoís Muqattam. As you do so, you see Christian religious imagery carved right into the side of the mountain:
Eventually, you reach your destination, the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Simon the Tanner, or as it is better known, the Cave Church. The Cave Church is the largest church for the Garbage Cityís Coptic Christians, and as such is one of the largest Christian churches in the entire Middle East, with room for thousands of worshippers. Youíve probably guessed how it got its name: The whole thing is carved right into the side of Muqattam.
In contrast to the garbage-filled slum surrounding it, the Cave Church is perhaps the most impeccably clean place youíve been so far in Cairo, with not a single scrap of litter anywhere. Normally, the church would be sparsely occupied at this hour, but a funeral service is being performed.
A big crowd has turned out; women sit up front, almost uniformly wearing black, while men in ordinary clothes fill the rows further up.
As you wait through the funeral service, Muhammad Osama explains the history of Egyptian Christianity and St. Simonís in particular. Unsurprisingly, Egypt features one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. According to tradition, Egypt was first evangelized by St. Mark, author of the eponymous Gospel. Supposedly, the first Egyptian Christian was a shoemaker named Anianus, whom Mark visited to have a shoe repaired. Anianus accidentally cut himself while working, and cursed by crying out ďOh, the only God!Ē Mark seized this opportunity to preach the gospel, and won his first convert.
Whatever the truth of that story, Christianity flourished very early in Egypt, with a large presence by the mid-2nd century. Alexandria became one of the five patriarchal sees of the early church. However, the Egyptian church gradually grew apart from both Roman and Greek Christianity, due to Egyptian bishopsí rejection of the Council of Chalcedon. The key issue was that Egyptians adhered to Monophysitism, the belief that Christ had only one nature, either fully divine or part-human, part-divine. This clashed with the orthodox view that Christ had two natures, one fully human and another fully divine. This dispute was of macrohistorical importance; itís often theorized that the Muslims so easily conquered Egypt in part because the Monophysite majority regarded the Muslims and the Byzantine emperor as equally heretical. Today, the Coptic church prefers the term Miaphysite to Monophysite; Miaphysitism is a more moderate position, saying that Christ has two natures but they are mixed together rather than being fully distinct (isnít theology fun?).
Even after the Muslim conquest, Egypt probably had a Christian majority until the 1200s, and even today Egypt has the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, though estimates about the total number of Copts vary wildly (from 5 million to as many as 20 million).
Wow, the funeral is STILL going on. Muhammad Osama goes on to describe the story of St. Simon. Hereís how the story goes:
In the 10th century, Cairo was ruled by the Muslim caliph al-Muizz. Al-Muizz was a scholarly man, who tolerated all faiths and enjoyed hosting debates between men of different sects. One day, he invited the Coptic pope, Abraam, to debate his Jewish vizier, Yaqub ibn Killis. Abraam was supposedly trouncing Yaqub in the debate, so Yaqub played his trump card, quoting Christís words from the Gospel of Mattew ďTruly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ĎMove from here to there,í and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Citing this line, Yaqub argued that Abraamís faith was a sham.
The caliph turned to Abraam, and asked, ďDoes he speak truly?Ē
ďYes,Ē Abraam replied.
ďVery well,Ē said the caliph, and he then pointed toward Muqattam. ďMove this mountain within three days, or I will kill you and all your followers, for I will not tolerate any false beliefs in my kingdom.Ē
Quite fearful, Abraam prayed that night and received a vision from the Virgin, who told him to find a one-eyed man carrying jugs of water to the poor. This man was Simon the Tanner. Simon was a righteous man who took his gospels very literally, so literally in fact, that when he felt lust for a woman while fitting a shoe to her foot, he plucked out one of his eyes rather than letting it lead him into sin.
Pope Abraam asked Simon what the Copts should do. Simon said that the pope should gather the entire Coptic community at the side of Muqattam.
According to the story, on the dawn of the third day, both the caliph and his soldiers and the Coptic community were gathered at Muqattam. At Simonís urging, the pope cried out ďlord, have mercyĒ three times as the entire Coptic community prayed behind him. And then, to the astonishment of all, the mountain rose, into the air, so high that through the gap between it and the earth the crowds could see the rising sun. By this great miracle, the Christians of Egypt were saved, but Simon the Tanner was never seen again.
There is, of course, no contemporary historical evidence this miracle ever happened, but hey, itís a nice story. Also, the funeral is finally done! Letís go down for a closer look.
Only clergy are allowed through this gate, where relics believed to be those of St. Simon were discovered a few decades ago.
Painted images show Pope Abraamís vision of St. Simon, and the moment of the mountain rising, complete with the caliph tumbling from his horse in astonishment.
There are actually three churches at the site of St. Simonís. One is just a normal church building, but the Church of St. Mark is also hewn out of the mountain.
This church has carvings of the life of St. Simon. They include a scene of St. Simon preparing to pluck out his own eye, even though most Christian scholars would tell you to not take that particular verse literally.
This art portrays a supposed miracle related to the discovery of St. Simonís relics, where a piece of paper with the address of the place to luck miraculously blew into a guyís hand.
Oddly, another carving simply shows the scene where Potipharís slut wife tried to bang Joseph.
After you finish exploring, you return to your car and your guide drives you to pick up some lunch. Itís basic falafel and nothing memorable. After that, the tour is over, and youíre dropped back at your hotel. But guess what: Itís still only noon. Your next stop is a few miles to the south, in the neighborhood now known as Old Cairo.
Date: September 21st, 2018 5:30 AM
Incredible. Iím hoping to make a delayed Ethiopia trip next summer where the rock churches will be high on the agenda.
Date: September 23rd, 2018 11:10 AM
Definitely. No clue if the source material will be as rich as Egypt. But the trip will include a free stay at a Kenyan game park (if it finally goes ahead, depends entirely on wifeís availability) so there will hopefully be some bonus cool wild animal pics to complement the rock churches.
Date: September 21st, 2018 5:26 AM
In the 2nd pic of the Muqattam mountain, what is the religious imagery carved into the mountain? The 10 Commandments written in Arabic or something?
Date: September 23rd, 2018 11:47 PM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
The second half of todayís trip requires traveling about three miles south of downtown to Coptic Cairo. To get there, youíre taking a ride on the Cairo subway. Cairo is a chaotic city, but the subway is cheap (just a few LE per ride) and well-run, and the central Sadat station is right by your hotel.
One interesting quirk of the system is that there are special cars exclusively for women (though theyíre also allowed on the regular cars). You can see women on the platform waiting in a designated area to board it.
Even though youíre riding in the middle of the day, your car is packed. This must be a nightmare during rush hour!
After a short ride, you hop off at Mar Girgis station, which is directly opposite the Coptic Cairo neighborhood. The area youíre about to visit is remarkably small: A museum, several churches, a cemetery, and a synagogue all packed into an old neighborhood that is a few hundred feet across at its widest.
Your first stop is St. Maryís Coptic Orthodox Church, or as itís better known to the world, the Hanging Church.
The Hanging Church is so named because itís built right on top of the gatehouse of a Roman-era fortress. In ancient times it was well above the surrounding landscape; today itís only a few stories up because the elevation of the city streets has risen about 6 meters of the past 1500 years. However, through a hole in the floor, as well as the windows, you can see how the church is suspended well above the street below.
The Hanging Church is notable for more than just being a couple dozen feet above the ground, though. Itís one of Cairoís oldest churches, dating back to at least the 600s (although the actual structure has been restored or substantially rebuilt numerous times). For several hundred years in the middle ages, it was the seat of the Coptic pope. Several Marian apparitions are attested for this church, and in the legend of the moving of Muqattam Mountain, the pope had his vision of Mary and St. Simon while praying here.
The Hanging Church has more than 100 icons in it, but the most-revered is one of the Virgin Mary with the Christ child. It supposedly dates to the 8th century. Some terrible people have nicknamed it the ďCoptic Mona Lisa.Ē As you walk in, several candles are burning in front of it, and some people are leaving more.
Several icons honor St. Demiana and the 40 Virgins. Demiana led a convent of nuns who were all martyred during the Great Persecution of Diocletion. Demiana and her fellow nuns are very popular Egyptian saints.
This icon honors St. James the Sawn-Asunder, a Persian martyr who was cut to pieces by the shah. He is shown riding over his own cut up remains (and yes, if you zoom in, theyíve typo-ed his title as the ďSwan-AsunderĒ).
This icon shows a famous legend involving St. Mercurius, a soldier-saint from the 3rd century.
According to the legend, St. Basil prayed before an icon of Mercurius that the emperor Julian the Apostate not be allowed to return from his campaign in Persia to resume a persecution of Christians. Supposedly, Mercurius suddenly vanished from the icon, only to reappear a moment later with a bloodstained spear. Julian, of course, died in Persia after being speared by an unknown soldier.
The marble pulpit of the church dates to the 11th century.
Itís held up by 13 pillars that are said to represent Jesus and his 12 apostles. One pillar is black, representing Judas, while a grey pillar represents Doubting Thomas. Or at least, thatís what they say. From your perspective, there seem to be 15 pillars, not 13, itís hard to say which one is supposed to be grey instead of white, and the black and grey pillars seem extremely close to one another in color. Also, this is supposedly recurring Coptic church feature but you can only find mention of this tradition in articles about the Hanging Church. You make a mental note to ask a Copt about this if you ever get the chance.
The altar screen, made of ebony inlaid with bone and ivory, is also of medieval origin.
The modern entrance area for the Hanging Church has photos of Coptic leaders meeting with Nasser and Sadat, plus photos or paintings of each Coptic pope from the last few centuries.
Outside the church, you can see the remains of the Babylon Fortress, used by the Romans during their rule of Egypt.
The Coptic Museum lies right next to these fortress ruins, but for now weíll bypass it to see the rest of the areaís religious buildings. The largest one actually isnít a Coptic church at all. Itís the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which is the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, whose see covers literally all of Africa. Egypt only has a handful of Greek Orthodox Christians, but their history there dates all the way back to the 400s, when the church split over the Council of Chalcedon.
The current church building is impressive, but not old; it dates to the 20th century. A mosaic shows a church leader offering the church building to St. George (while the building also looms in the backgroundÖyeah). I have no idea who the two people are who resemble a news anchor team; maybe theyíre some rich Orthos who donated to have the church built.
The interior is well-decorated
An icon on the inside shows Jesus with silver hands and feet.
Traditionally St. George is believed to have been martyred by Diocletian in Nicomedia, but Egyptian traditions hold that he was at least imprisoned for a time in Egypt as well. A cave area below the church holds icons of St. George where people leave prayer offerings in niches.
After leaving Church of St. George, you finally enter the ďtrueĒ Coptic quarter. It requires descending a staircase and going through a small tunnel, which brings you to a small, claustrophobic quarter that lies several meters below the surrounding area.
Thereís several religious buildings packed into this tiny area. The first stop is the Monastery of St. George, a nunnery paired with the Church of St. George. There is only one way to describe this place: It has zero sense of religious reverence and seems to be pandering to tourists.
This well is supposedly the source of miraculous cures:
The chief attraction of the church is a chain fashioned to a wall, which is allegedly the chain St. George was bound in during his tortures. People are posing for photos with the chain.
This door dates to the Middle Ages. You find that claim a little more believable than the one about St. Georgeís chains.
After leaving the monastery you continue through the quarter to the Coptic Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. It has an unassuming street entrance.
Sergius and Bacchus are two more soldier-saints, supposedly martyred together by the Emperor Galerius. They are a popular saint pair for gay Christians because of the suggestion they may have been gay lovers instead of just friends. This church (which has been rebuilt and restored several times over) was long the place where the Coptic patriarch was chosen and consecrated, but later lost that status to the Hanging Church.
Thatís not what makes it notable though. Instead, this church claims to be built over a cave where the Holy Family lived during their flight into Egypt. And just like the Monastery of St. George, itís full of cheesy signage to highlight this.
THE WELL WHICH THE HOLY FAMILY DRANK FROM:
THE STONES UPON WHICH THE HOLY FAMILY TROD:
THE CAVE IN WHICH THE HOLY FAMILY LIVED:
THE WALL NICHE WHERE THE INFANT JESUS SLEPT:
THE GIFT SHOP WHERE YOU CAN BUY STUFF:
A chick poses beneath the pulpit. She needs to be in top form to make sure she maxes out her Insta likes on this trip.
The next building in the old quarter isnít Coptic or Greek Orthodox, or even Christian. Itís not even a mosque. Thatís right, itís the Ben Ezra Synagogue! While the building is recent (1890s), a synagogue has been on the site since before the Islamic conquest.
Every other site in Coptic Cairo freely allows photography, but Ben Ezra synagogue bans it. This simply means the site guards are comically aggressive in trying to extract a bribe for photos, though. In fact, theyíre probably the most aggressive baksheesh-seekers youíve seen this whole trip (they especially ramp up when they learn youíre American; maybe they think youíre a Jew). They also love walking up and pointing out obvious features of the synagogue in broken English so that you feel obligated to tip them for their heroic guide efforts.
Of course, this merely triggers your competitive impulse. Youíre not give them a single piaster. Instead, you wait for other tourists to enter and distract the guards for a moment, and then sneak a few photos of the interior.
The last church you see in the old quarter is that of St. Barbara. Once again, a church has been here a long time, but the original structure was razed by the Mad Caliph Hakim. The general form of the church dates to the 11th century, but there have been substantial restorations and rebuilds since then.
The church originally honored Saints Cyrus and John, but was renamed after its rebuilt in honor of St. Barbara, who has several relics here despite being of very dubious historicity.
As you leave the Coptic Quarter, you pass this sign which looks metal as fuck.
Itís now the mid-afternoon, but the day isnít finished. Up next is the Coptic Museum, the oldest mosque in Cairo, and a last evening in downtown before leaving for Luxor.
Date: September 24th, 2018 8:29 AM
How do Copts dress? Shirt and pants like othet Egyptians, or anything notably different? Can you tell who is a Copt from their appearance?
Edit I worked with a Coptic-origin guy once, to me he looked exactly like the Egyptians in the Asterix books
Date: September 25th, 2018 1:37 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Your last stop in Old Cairo is the museum you passed back by the Babylon Fortress. That museum is the Coptic Museum, dedicated to historical artifacts from Egyptís Christian community.
The museum is roughly chronological in its approach; the first artifact is a fresco of saints taken from the Monastery of St. Jeremiah.
Monasticism is Egyptís great contribution to Christendom; the practice originated here and several monasteries still in operation date all the way back to the 300s. St. Jeremiah is actually right in the middle of the Saqqara necropolis, but is a ruin and in fact was only discovered and excavated about 100 years ago. Today, a great many artifacts from it are in this museum.
But first, thereís some stone reliefs from the last gasp of Roman paganism. One item shows Aphrodite emerging from a seashell, just like in the Botticelli painting. Another looks vaguely Indian, though itís probably just a coincidence.
A collection of grave markers shows how even in the early Christian era, Horus and Anubis were still appearing in art, but gradually they faded away, and even the Egyptian ankh turned into a looped variation on the Christian cross (some people think the incidental ankh/cross similarity helped make Christianity so successful in Egypt in the first place).
The next room is all items from St. Jeremiah. The main feature is painted prayer niches, which would be used by monks to inspire their prayers. One shows Mary breastfeeding the Christ child, an image that has largely died out in Western Christianity but still appears in the East (btw, if you want to see something weird, google Lactatio Bernardi).
This stone pulpit is one of the oldest known, and may have drawn inspiration the Heb-Sed thrones used in Zoserís funerary complex next door to the Monastery.
Crazy thing to think: Zoserís funerary complex was as old to the St. Jeremiahmos of the 5th century as the Trojan War is to us.
The next room has another prayer niche, this one from the sixth century and recovered from the Bawit Monastery of Middle Egypt.
Notably, this prayer niche shows Christ seated on a fiery throne, surrounded by the four creatures of the Apocalypse. Many people are aware that the writers of the Gospels are often represented artistically as such: Mark is a lion, Luke is an ox, Matthew is a man, and John is an eagle. These associations come from the Book of Revelation, where these four creatures are described flanking the throne of God. In that version, theyíre described as winged and covered in eyes, so in this depiction you can see eyes scribbled all over them.
In an image that evokes the satirical papyrus from the Egyptian Museum, a papyrus shows three mice approaching a cat waving a flag and offering it a cup of wine. Why? That is unclear.
The museum has several old handwritten copies of the gospels, written in Coptic and Arabic.
Among the many types of devotional items in late antiquity and the medieval era were household goods carved from bone or ivory and bearing religious scenes. A tiny comb shows the raising of Lazarus, while a panel shows Christ appearing to the apostles at his resurrection.
An old tapestry shows the story of Adam and Eve: After they eat of the Tree of Knowledge, they become too ashamed to continue nude bodybuilding.
Are these supposed to be people? Animals? The more you look at them, the stranger they are.
The next exhibit contains a few pages from one of the most important finds in Biblical archaeology, the Nag Hammadi codices. These books, totaling over 1000 pages, date to the 3rd century and were discovered in the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi. The find dramatically increased our knowledge of Gnosticism by providing the first (and in some cases only) complete copies of various gnostic texts. The most famous gnostic work is the Gospel of Thomas; its first two pages are on display here.
One amusing exhibit shows potsherds with shitty Coptic doodles drawn on them by bored Egyptians:
In a weird case that makes it really hard to see or photograph, the museum has a complete Book of Psalms dating to the 4th or 5th century. It has an ankh bookmark.
These wooden childrenís toys date to the Byzantine era.
The last few rooms arenít as interesting, but there is a room of medieval icons. One shows St. Zacharias being throttled to death, and another has John the Baptist holding his own head.
A final item of interest is a large rug depicting religious scenes; they were apparently sold to pilgrims to Palestine, who rolled them up and took them home.
One part of the rug shows what looks to be the Last Judgment, with sinners found wanting thrown into the mouth of a giant monster.
That was a neat little museum. Having finished that, you start walking north. Itís a little too far to walk all the way back to downtown, but thereís a few cool things to see in this neighborhood before leaving.
First, thereís the Mosque of Amr.
Like most of Cairoís mosques, itís been rebuilt a few times, but the location is still the site of Cairoís first ever mosque, dating all the way back to 641, just one year after the capture of Babylon-in-Egypt.
As you go in, evening prayers are taking place.
This mosque seems to have a lot of poorer dudes just crashing in it.
Supposedly this mosque has a column with an eroded gash caused by people licking it in search of miraculous cures, but you canít find it.
Northwest of the mosque is a Coptic cemetery. It still seems to be in use, or at least the tombs seem recent and arenít horribly dilapidated.
Thereís another small quarter nearby, the Deir Abuíl-Sayfayn, that contains several more old Coptic churches. A sign in the church of St. Mecurius points you to the cell of St. Barsoum, and notes he is ďknow as the Naked he barely wore any clothes.Ē
A modern painting shows Barsoum posing with the snake he lived with; sadly clothing propagandists seem to have covered his body up, leaving only the snake as a metaphorical representation of his naked bodybuilding prowess.
St. Nofer the Anchorite had a 190000 beard, apparently.
Copts seem to really like president El-Sisi. This plaque is the second youíve seen with his name on it, celebrating the restoration of an old church.
Another block north is a cemetery holding the tombs of Commonwealth World War 2 soldiers, as well as other Protestants living in Egypt. The meticulous care given to keeping it clean sets it apart from pretty much every other place in Cairo.
The last interesting sight in the area is the remnant of Cairoís old aqueduct. A large water-wheel was used to raise water up to the top of the Aqueduct at the riverís edge, and the water then flowed over to the Citadel, allowing it to have easy water access without being near the river.
All right, time for some food. You havenít really eaten at a single notable Cairo spot, so letís change this. You catch a cab and head back to downtown, where you stop at the Café Riche.
The Café Riche is basically just a conventional café, but it has a long history. Nasser and other officers plotted the overthrow of the king here in the 50s, while the attempted assassin of Egyptís last Coptic prime minister waited here before striking his target.
Rather than getting a full meal, you just get a Turkish-style coffee with a rice milk dessert. Both are 180!
For actual dinner, you go to Fasahet Somaya, a family operation in the truest sense of the word.
Somaya appears to be some mom whose cooking was good enough that she started to simply make way more of it each night and then opened a restaurant to sell it to people. The restaurant is only open 5-8 each night, has only a few tables and just a couple options each night, but the food is excellent. So excellent you donít even remember to take any pictures of it.
Lastly, for dessert, you go to Cairoís super-popular El Abd pastry shop. This place is basically a dessert utopia, offering exceptional pastries, cakes, ice creams, cookies, and more, all at a remarkably low price point for a Westerner. Donít pig out too much!
As you return to your hotel, you pass by a bookshop that is displaying its English-language books. Apparently, even tourists and Egyptians love reading about Trump.
And with that, youíve finally wrapped up your three-day blitz through Cairo, and reached the halfway point of your trip! You head back to your hotel to sleep; tomorrow, youíre taking a morning flight to Luxor.
Date: September 25th, 2018 1:51 AM
So Coptic was basically written in Greek script? How Hellenized were the Copts? I know youíve probably answered this in previous posts.
Date: September 25th, 2018 2:25 PM
Interesting ty. Is the Coptic language completely dead or do they still speak it at all or have liturgic uses for it?
Date: September 25th, 2018 11:14 AM
bump 4 Black Jesus
Date: September 28th, 2018 1:48 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
You ready for day 4? Youíd better be. Your trip is only half over; this is no time for resting. You get up early, summon an Uber (itís cheaper than getting a street taxi), and head off to Cairoís airport. This is Egypt, so once again, security is excessive; you need to go through security TWICE, once at the entrance and a second time at the gate itself. Also, the airport has some odd design where the gate itself is closed until just a few minutes before boarding time, even though it has a bunch of seating and stuff. Additionally, there is an airport wide announcement for the start of boarding and last call for EVERY flight. Itís a bit annoying, though also interesting to hear the destinations (Khartoum and NíDjamena stand out).
This is a domestic Egyptian flight, so the stewardesses have headscarves and hand out Arabic newspapers:
Thereís also a pretty nice breakfast for a one-hour flight, but youíre still tired and you nap through it. Díoh!
A short hour-long flight later, youíre in Luxor. A sign decrees that you should be happy about this.
You quickly grab a cab from the airport into town. Thanks to Egyptís cheap currency and lower tourism since the revolution, hotels in Luxor are cheap as hell. For just $17 a night, youíre able to stay at the Winter Palace, one of the cityís nicest establishments.
Your balcony overlooks a large, well-maintained garden, which must use a frightful amount of the Nileís precious water.
That bed is seriously inviting after three days of high-intensity touring an very little sleep, but you refuse to succumb to temptation. Luxor has a LOT of stuff to see, and you need to maximize every moment here.
For those who only know Luxor as a Vegas hotel, a short introduction: Luxor is a much smaller city than Cairo, holding about 500,000 people. Luxor is an Anglicization of the Arab name, Al-Uqsor, meaning ďThe Palaces.Ē In ancient Egypt, though, Luxor was the site of Waset. The city was also known as Ta Pe, the name given to its greatest temple complex. The Ancient Greeks noticed that Ta Pe sounded very similar to a great city in their own country, which is why Waset is better-known today by another name: Thebes.
Thebes has a very ancient history, and was the capital of Egyptian dynasties as early as the First Intermediate Period around 2100 BC. However, its greatest glory came after a local dynasty drove out the Hyksos to end the Second Intermediate Period. After that, Thebes became the capital of the New Kingdom, the apex of pharaonic Egyptís glory. More than 100,000 people lived in ďHundred-Gated Thebes,Ē as the Greeks called it, and for hundreds of years it may have been the worldís largest city. Its local deity, Amun, became Amun-Ra, one of the chief gods of all Egypt.
Itís been more than 2,500 years since Thebes was an important city, but the remnants of its glory remain in its mighty temples and exquisite tombs, and thatís what youíre here to see.
Tourism in Thebes is dictated by the Nile. The city, its museums, and its two most impressive temples lie on the East Bank, while its necropolis and a ton of lesser temples are on the West Bank. Today, youíre prioritizing the West Bank. Your first order of business, then, is getting across the river. The bridge is several miles to the south, so the faster, cheaper, and cooler way to get across is by boat. Youíre walking toward the regular ferry that goes every half hour when you run into this guy:
This is Haggag. As you walk toward the ferry, he approaches you and asks if you need a driver. Youíre ready to ignore him, but then he offers to drive you around all day for 250 LE. ThatísÖactually a completely fair price, and he offered it without any haggling. What a guy!
To save a few minutes over the ferry (which it turns out just left), you and Haggag decide to cross in a private boat for 10 LE. For whatever reason, itís named Alaska 2.
As you cross, you get a great view of the Nile, as well as the picturesque Luxor Temple, which youíll be visiting later.
As you dock at the West Bank, some kids swimming in the river wave at the camera.
As soon as you arrive, you hop into Haggagís car (itís apparently rented, and he summoned it the moment you hired him) and head off to view the sites.
Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon. Theyíre a quick stop, right off the side of the road, but no less interesting for that.
Despite their name, these colossi donít portray anybody named Memnon, nor were they built by him. The colossi are supposed to portray Amenhotep III, father of Amarna period founder Akhenaten and grandfather of Tutankhamun. The Greeks, though, connected the statues with Memnon, an Ethiopian hero who fought in the Trojan War, and the mythical name stuck. In Amenhotepís day, the Colossi stood at the entrance to his vast mortuary temple, but that temple is almost totally lost, though excavation is ongoing.
Though an impressive site without any context, the Colossi stand out for how long theyíve been a historical curiosity. Around the time of the Roman conquest of Egypt, an earthquake hit the area and badly damaged the northern colossus (the right one in the pic). After that, the statue became famous for occasionally ďsingingĒ and producing sounds seemingly out of nowhere. This peculiarity made it famous across the Roman Empire, and the seemingly-miraculous ďVocal MemnonĒ was treated as an oracle, containing within it the voice of a god. Eventually though, the Vocal Memnon became so famous that the Romans tried to restore its appearance. This inadvertently caused the singing to cease, but to this day the once-identical colossi clearly look different, as the southern statue is still a single piece, while the northern one incorporates several Roman-era blocks.
The sides of the statues show reliefs of the pharaoh symbolically binding Upper and Lower Egypt, a symbolic expression of his authority.
The northern colossus has graffiti left by ancient Romans, who commented on whether theyíd heard the singing or not:
Wow, it took a lot longer to type all that than it did to check out the statues. And thatís a good thing, because you have a *lot* to see today.
As you drive up into the Theban Hills, you pass an abandoned village. As more and more tomb excavations took place here, the government eventually built the locals a new village nearby and ordered them to vacate their old one.
After a few minutes of driving, you arrive at the first of four major tomb complexes in Luxor: The Valley of the Queens.
This valley isnít actually restricted to queens, but there are some here, and the name contrasts it with the more famous Valley of the Kings. The name makes it sound ďlesser,Ē but in fact the Valley of the Queens may contain the single most beautiful surviving relic of ancient Egypt: The Tomb of Nefertari.
Luxor contains literally hundreds of tombs scattered across its west bank, ranging from mighty pharaohs to petty nobles. But two of them stand out for how well-preserved they are: The Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, and the Tomb of Nefertari, Ramses IIís favorite wife. Their pristine state, though, makes these tombs particularly vulnerable to the gradual decay caused by the breath and sweat of visitors, so both tombs are frequently closed. For the time being, theyíre open, but getting into either requires a ticket that costs a staggering 1000 LE. Even with the current generous exchange rate, thatís more than $50 to see each tomb. At that price rate, youíve decided to only see one of them. You asked Bossi two days ago which tomb she prefers, and she immediately answered with Nefertariís. So, when you arrive at the Valley of Queens, you fork over your 1000 LE, and get a pass for 15 minutes in the Tomb of Nefertari.
Sadly, there is a *very* strict ban on photographs in the Tomb, so you arenít able to take any while in there.
Psych! There is a total ban on photographs, but within a minute of getting in the guard starts haggling for a bribe. He initially wants another $30, with $15 for himself and another $15 for the doorman. You play hardball though, and aggressively scoff at his demand. After a few minutes of negotiation, you get your bribe down to a mere 100 LE, barely five dollars. Itís definitely worth it, because the 3300-year-old paintings in the tomb are mesmerizing. Many look like they were literally finished yesterday.
Right by the entrance to the tomb, Nefertari is shown playing the Egyptian board game of senet. She has no opponent; her solitary play represents the contest against Fate itself, which must be overcome to enter the afterlife.
Right by it, Nefertari is shown as a ba, a bird with a human head, representing the soul in the afterlife.
Nefertari offeres some stick-like objects to Ptah, who possesses his three symbols of the was (power/dominion), the ankh (life), and the djed pillar (stability). The stick-like objects represent linens; by offering these to Ptah she hopes to in turn have an ample supply in the afterlife.
The guardian over one doorway is a naked dood with a weirdly-shaped head:
At the entrance to Nefertariís sarcophagus chamber, one guardian has a stern look for intruders, while the other smiles for his mistressí spirit, should she be returning from elsewhere.
The winged sky goddess Nut stands guard over a door. This is aÖsubstantially more normal portrayal of her than weíll see later:
Nefertari offers a bunch of tasty food, perfumes, and the like to Hathor and another goddess.
In this image, sheís again offering to Hathor, but this time the other goddess is Serket, who can be identified because she has a scorpion on her head. If you look closely, Hathor and Serket have their nipples painted, indicating that their dresses are meant to expose their breasts:
Holy shit! This god has a giant fucking scarab beetle for a head:
This scarab-headed god is Khepri, god of the dawn. The Egyptians saw scarab beetles pushing around their round dung balls, and made a connection to the round ball of the sun, so they envisioned a great scarab pushing the sun to rise each morning. Khepri was rarely worshiped on his own and instead was usually seen as an aspect of Ra.
Not all gods have weird animals for heads. Some of them donít even have animals at all. This figure in the middle, for instance, is a god whose head is a djed pillar, the Egyptian symbol of stability and eternity.
Nefertari is escorted by Horus before Ra. Both Ra and Horus have falcon heads, but you can distinguish the two because Horus wears the double crown of the two Egypts (Horus was considered one of the first pharaohs), while Raís head is topped by the red disk of the sun contained within a cobra.
The queen appears before Thoth with what appears to be a badly-drawn frog and an Xbox 360.
Osiris, distinguished by his green skin (symbolizing his rebirth), is seated with Atum, god of the setting sun who, in one creation story, created other gods by jizzing them out, using his hand to embody the ďfemale principleĒ within himself.
Holy crap, that was awesome. After snapping photos of almost every square inch, though, itís time for you to head out. Youíre not even done with the Valley of the Queens yet, and then after that youíll be headed to the Valley of the Kings to see the tombs of Egyptís mightiest pharaohs.
Date: September 28th, 2018 8:07 PM
Date: September 30th, 2018 2:22 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
Well, Nefertariís tomb is going to be impossible to top, but the many other tombs youíll be seeing on this trip have plenty of their own merits, so letís keep moving. Pictures are going to be spotty at times: Every guard wants his cut of bribes, and some are more reasonable than others. Also, sometimes you share a larger tomb with other tourists, which makes it a lot easier to sneak photos on the sly.
Besides Nefertariís, there are a great many other tombs at the Valley of the Queens.
However, only a handful of relatively interesting ones are open to the general public. Your basic ticket allows you to enter three, and as it happens, only three besides Nefertari are actually open. Interestingly, despite this siteís name, two of the three tombs arenít for women.
The first stop is the Tomb of Queen Titi. We actually arenít sure just who this woman was, but the most popular guess is that she was a wife to Ramses III. Queen Titi is described as a royal daughter, wife, and mother, meaning she was the daughter of a pharaoh, married a pharaoh (possibly her own father!), and mother to a pharaoh. Fortunately, while ďbull of his motherĒ is a popular epithet for certain Egyptian gods, it doesnít seem that Egyptian pharaohs married their moms.
Titiís tomb has a feature weíre going to see a lot in Luxor: Paintings where the faces are scratched off. This damage dates to ancient times, and has three likely causes: New regimes trying to blot out history, enemies attempting to hurt oneís chances of a peaceful afterlife, and Christians (or perhaps Muslims) destroying artwork seen as idolatrous.
In one such defaced image, the queen is portrayed with the side-braid of hair the Egyptians used to mark youth.
Since Titi apparently grew up, married, and bore a son, and other parts of the tomb show her as an adult, itís not clear why she has these youthful images as well. It could be a reflection of a wish that she be restored to the full bloom of youth in the afterlife. Alternately, we could be entirely wrong in our beliefs about Titiís biography, and she may have died young, with the adulthood scenes being the aspirations ones.
Hathor, portrayed in full cow form rather than as a woman with horns, emerges from the mountains to receive tribute.
This creepy imp thing is unusually looking directly out at you:
Mummies were found stashed down in this hole:
After Titiís tomb is that of Amenherkhepshef, the eldest son of Ramses III who died as a teenager before he could inherit power. The guide wants too large a bribe for photos, so we have to illustrate this tomb with pics from online.
Since Amenherkhepshef never grew to adulthood, in most scenes he is accompanied by his father, who assists him in reaching the afterlife.
In fact, Ramses III seems to be real star, even getting a hug from Isis:
Itís proven impossible to find a photo online, but one bizarre feature of this tomb is a case displaying a mummified fetus, which was found in the tomb. Itís possible the fetus was a stillborn sibling or child of the prince.
The last tomb here is that of another dead prince, Khaemweset. He was also a son of Ramses III, and so the tomb once again heavily features him (though in this case, the son did at least outlive the father).
This tombís paintings have a high concentration of green skin for whatever reason:
The four sons of Horus, portrayed as canopic jars, are perched on a flower in front of Osiris:
Besides being dead, poor Khaemweset also has a particularly extreme case of the Egyptians drawing young people with weird elongated alien heads:
With that, youíve completed your first tomb complex in Luxor. To avoid getting too burned out on one type of structure, our next stop is one of the most impressive sites on the west bank, the Deir el-Bahri, or Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.
As we saw in Giza and Saqqara, it was customary for each pharaoh to build a special mortuary temple dedicated to himself near his tomb. Hatshepsut, Egyptís most successful female pharaoh, continued that trend. Hatshepsut was the wife of Thutmose II, but bore him only a single daughter before becoming barren. As a result, Thutmose favored a second wife, who bore him a son, Thutmose III.
Thutmose II died when the boy was young, though, and Hatshepsut soon established herself as regent, and then as a full pharaoh in her own right, who reigned well into Thutmoseís adulthood. She had this grand temple built to herself out in the desert, rather than on the floodplain where most such temples were built (and eventually destroyed by flooding or covered over with silt).
In more modern history, the temple is famous as the site of one of Egyptís deadliest tourist massacres. Islamic extremists seized the temple and massacred 62 tourists, including 36 Swiss and several Japanese newlywed couples on honeymoon. Fortunately, on this day tourists only have to worry about Egyptians scamming them, rather than murdering them.
As you approach the temple, you can see how despite its large size it is in turn utterly dwarfed by the cliffs around it. The location feels truly cinematic.
One of Hatshepsutís famous achievements was sending an expedition to the land of Punt (somewhere in the Horn of Africa). Trees they brought back were planted outside the temple, but all that remains today is this stump:
This temple once would have featured dozens of statues like this one, mostly lining the causeway up to it, but now only a handful remain:
The impressive temple you see now is the product of large-scale reconstruction carried out by the Polish-Egyptian Mission. To give you an idea, hereís what it looked like a century ago:
Near the reconstructed temple is a vast field of stones whose precise place in the original edifice remains uncertain:
Most of the reliefs are hopelessly faded, though a few have an astonishing amount of paint still on them given the 3500 years that have passed.
Sadly, one of the more faded and damaged parts is the birth colonnade, which tells the (alleged) miraculous story of Hatshepsutís birth. Amun-Ra comes to her mother, in the guise of Thutmose I, and impregnates her by sticking an ankh up her nose (heh). Then, the god Khnum fashions Hatshepsut and her ka (both portrayed as boys), and she is then born to the queen. This is all really hard to see, and even harder to capture in photography, but thankfully some people on the Internet of produced easier-to-see black and white images:
The heavy damage to this colonnade isnít just due to the passage of time. After taking power, Thutmose III defaced Hatshepsutís image and cartouche on many of her temples and monuments. Then, a few decades later, Akhenaten defaced the images of many Egyptian gods as part of his campaign to promote the monotheistic cult of Aten. The damage could be particularly extreme, with some images having every single detail totally erased from head to toe:
Itís unclear if Thutmose IIIís defacement of Hatshepsutís monuments was based on true animosity, as she died a natural death and he made no effort to overthrow her (even leading armies in her name). Itís possible his opinion changed, or he may simply have wanted to avoid setting a precedent of allowing wives and daughters to become full pharaohs.
On the other side of the templeís second floor is the Punt colonnade, which shows images of the great voyage to Punt. Famously, the King of Puntís wife is portrayed as grossly deformed, perhaps due to obesity, dwarfism, or some other disease. Other details include showing the people of Punt living in houses built on stilts, and images of plants and animals found only in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly, itís once again a tad hard to make out the details by photo:
Elsewhere on the second level is a small shrine to the goddess Hathor. Columns are topped with Hathor-heads:
Another relief shows a young Hatshepsut being suckled by Hathor in the form of a cow:
On the top level of the Temple, there are eight giant statues of Osiris bearing the features of Hatshepsut. Based on the way theyíre distributed along the top level, there may once have been many more.
These Osiris statues, and everything else about the top level, are the product of absolutely heroic restoration work, as this entire floor collapsed over time. After decades of work, researchers have pieced together a shrine to Amun, prayer niches that would have held votive statues for, and more:
The predictability of Egyptian art helps, of course. For example, from just a few fragments, researchers can reliably reconstruct the common image of Hapi (the androgynous god of the Nile) binding the two symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt together:
Along a non-descript wall of no clear importance, tour guides are asked not to explainÖsomething:
The top of the temple supplies a spectacular view of the fertile Nile valley:
After tramping around the temple for about an hour, itís time to move on. Believe it or now, your first day in Luxor isnít even half over! You still have two mighty temples to visit, as well as the premier tomb complex of all Egypt, the Valley of the Kings.
Date: September 30th, 2018 2:30 AM
OK Iím inspired to go back to Egypt and check out Luxor (only been to Cairo)
The ďkindly do not explain this sectionĒ bit is weird, any idea what that was?
Slightly made me think of Palmyra, which I was lucky enough to look around before ISIS mostly blew it up
Date: September 30th, 2018 2:43 AM
Why are tour guides banned from the tombs? So they donít annoy everybody else?
Date: September 30th, 2018 3:04 AM
Author: CharlesXII (CharlesXII)
I never asked, but a few guesses:
-As you say, a loud tour guide could annoy people in the cramped quarters of the tombs.
-Tour guides could extend how long large groups spend inside tombs, and could lead to greater congestion.
-Tour guides might hinder the ability of site guardians to negotiate for bribes.
-They may not literally be "banned," they just would have to pay admission like everybody else and in most cases that is not worthwhile for them.
Date: September 30th, 2018 3:09 AM
when you lay it out like that, I bet itís the bribes
Date: October 2nd, 2018 11:54 PM
While we wait for Charles to find this thread again, your boy BOBBY DIGITAL will take you on a deluxe tour of places in the United States that are named for places in Egypt.
Today's destination is Cairo. Cairo, Illinois that is.
The Ohio River and the Mississippi River are two of the largest and most prestigious rivers in America. You would think that at the point where the Ohio and the Mississippi meet, there would be an important town. And there used to be. Cairo, IL.
During the 19th century, Cairo was hot shit, an important river port. During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant made it his headquarters while he was invading south along the Mississippi River. As a bustling port town, Cairo attracted all sorts of people. White people and black people flocked there to find good jobs in reloading steamboats with coal or operating warehouses.
But then the railroad was invented and people stopped shipping things down the rivers. Newly unemployed, Cairo's diverse population decided to start fighting each other. After a high profile lynching in 1909, race relations in Cairo deteriorated and the city became notorious as a place where race riots frequently occurred. The city lost its economic importance, and today it is a mostly abandoned town of 2,000 people, where a few insane holdouts live among ruins.
This is the sad overpass that announces your entry into Cairo
This sign announces that you have entered the historic center
Here's main street Cairo
The beating heart of main street was once the Gem Theater, which now sits abandoned
Once a place of culture, it is now a place of decay
Here's an abandoned hospital
There are just a few operational businesses left in Cairo. One of them is Shemwell's BBQ
The menu seems to be mostly fried food, rather than BBQ
They claim to sell Cairo's best BBQ sauce, which seems plausible
Until surprisingly recently, Cairo was home to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. They still have an old federal courthouse, though important admirality law cases involving barges on the Mississippi River are no longer heard there
Wow, OK, that was depressing. But cheer up. We're headed to Memphis - Tennessee.
Date: October 3rd, 2018 7:17 AM
Date: October 3rd, 2018 7:59 PM
Date: October 7th, 2018 11:47 PM
99% chance they pronounce it Care-Oh
Date: October 8th, 2018 9:17 AM
they pronounce it KAY-RO in Illinois
Date: October 6th, 2018 9:38 PM
Date: October 7th, 2018 11:45 PM
Date: October 8th, 2018 9:32 AM
Today we're going to a city on a major river, with a huge pyramid. That's right, we're going to Memphis. Memphis...TENNESSEE
Memphis, TN is in the "Nile of North America", the Mississippi River, and its founders named it after the former capital of Ancient Egypt. In the 1990's, the people of Memphis decided to double down on these ties to Egypt and build a gigantic pyramid, which they intended to use as an NBA arena for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Problem is, the pyramid didn't measure up to NBA standards, and after a few years it was abandoned and Memphis had to build ANOTHER, more standard NBA arena, the oddly Roman-named FedEx Forum
So now Memphis had an abandoned, glass pyramid on its riverfront. What did they do with it? Why, sell it to Bass Pro Shops, of course!
This pyramid is now the largest Bass Pro Shops store in the world!
The enormous interior is not just a place where you can buy fishing poles and lures, but has giant aquariums and pools full of fish. And lots of fun and games for the kids as well.
There are restaurants, and even a hotel. You can stay in the Pyramid in one of these lodge rooms
You can also ride an elevator to the top and go outdoor on the observation deck. You get a great view of the De Soto Bridge that connects Memphis to Arkansas
Tomorrow, we will visit the most famous tomb in Memphis, that of the great Pharaoh Elvis.
Date: October 9th, 2018 1:44 AM
With Hatshepsut's Temple completed, it's time to head for Luxor's most famous site, the Valley of the Kings.
The mighty pyramids of the Old Kingdom had a major flaw: They were massive invitations for grave robbers, and as soon as the stability of Egypt flagged and they couldn't be protected by trustworthy guards, they were quickly looted. That was bad news, given the preservation of one's body and tomb goods were important for enjoying a successful afterlife.
As a result, the New Kingdom pharaohs of Thebes had a different approach. While their tombs were still elaborate, they built them close together while also keeping the entrances hidden, making them harder to loot. Most of them were unsuccessful in this, and almost every major royal tomb was looted completely by modern times. But not all: Tutankhamun's tomb was famously discovered completely intact here in the 1920s.
Today, the Valley of the Kings is still an active archeological dig, with more than 60 tombs found here. Several of the most famous ones are open to the public, though perhaps not for long: Human visitors and the moisture they bring are gradually destroying the tombs, so many historic preservationists want them closed down. One plan is to build an exact replica of the Valley of Kings a short distance away, so that people can experience them without degrading the real thing. A replica of King Tut's tomb has already been opened, though further copies may be waiting a while given Egypt's current instability and economic problems.
As you approach the Valley of the Kings, you pass by the Carter House, where Howard Carter lived while he was excavating King Tutankhamun's tomb. It's a museum in its own right now, but not one you have time to visit:
When you finally make it to the Valley, it's time to descend into some to-oh, SHIT! Before you can get in, you have to run a GAUNTLET of people hawking all manner of shit.
Egypt trinkets, books, water and sodas with a 5x price markup, postcards, if you can name it, some Egypt is aggressively trying to sell it to you. Remain firm, though, and refuse to even acknowledge their presence and eventually they give up.
After you get through, there's a small entry area, with a model of the valley and some basic explanatory info on hieroglyphs and mortuary art.
After exiting, you can walk to the tombs, or for one LE, you can ride on a little cart for about a third of a mile. The driver tries to sell you a map of the valley during the ride, which is quite the hustle since 1. The valley isn't THAT big, and 2. There's literally a sign with a map when you arrive:
The Valley of the Kings has dozens of tombs (not all of them kings), but most of them are not open. Instead, only the high-profile ones are open to the public, and even then they are on a rotation (Thutmoses III, for instance, is a well-regarded tomb, but is closed).
Sadly, you do not have the time to see every single tomb, so we'll have to prioritize. A basic ticket lets you see any three of the normal tombs. Seti I, Tutankhamun, and Ramses V+VI cost extra. Seti I is the best tomb, but like Nefertari he costs a staggering 1000 LE, so we'll sadly pass on that. King Tut's tomb is of course famous but otherwise not that impressive. So, we'll get a basic ticket and then splurge on the extra ticket for Ramses V/VI.
As you start wandering the valley, guards for various tombs will make pitches for them, knowing that if they lure you in they could potentially solicit bribes for photos (once again, all photography is banned, but this merely serves to facilitate bribery).
That said, the bribes the guards want are significant, so your photography in each tomb is more limited, and mostly limited to what you can sneak while a guard is looking after other visitors. To get by, we've supplemented these tombs with photos from online.
Anyway, we're 700 words into this post and it's FINALLY time to enter our first tomb, that of Ramses IV. This tomb has been a tourist attraction since antiquity, a fact demonstrated by Coptic Christian graffiti that decorates the entryway:
Another sign the tomb was open in ancient times is that a great many of the images in the tomb were defaced by icon-breakers of one faith or another.
The ceiling of the tomb has a cartoonishly elongated image of Nut, the sky goddess.
Up next is the Tomb of Ramses V/VI. It's a double tomb because Ramses V dug it and was buried in it, but then his uncle Ramses VI came in, usurped a lot of the art and symbols, expanded it, and had himself buried inside as well. Like Ramses IV, this tomb has been open since antiquity, and the Greeks even dubbed it the "Tomb of Memnon." The large pile of rubble from the digging of this tomb is one reason it took so long to find the nearby tomb of Tutankhamun.
We've seen plenty of falcon- and jackal-headed gods in Egypt, but the entryway of Ramses VI's tomb has a very odd one: Catfish-headed gods. Sadly, it's a bit hard to observe from this angle, and other photos online are nearly nonexistent:
We've seen a lot of sphinxes around Egypt, but notably this tomb has a double sphinx, like some kind of ancient Egyptian CatDog (does anyone remember that show?):
This tomb also has a guy rocking a boner. This art is pretty common in Egypt (you're gonna see a LOT of it in the next couple days), but this one stands out for looking a little more, ahem, natural compared to the other iterations.
Lots to unpack here. Birds with arms? Are the guys in blue supposed to be swimming? Drowning? Dead? Very mysterious stuff.
Plenty of strange snake imagery too:
Upside-down, headless black bodies in the entrance represent vanquished Nubians:
Actually, black dudes getting decapitated seems to be a theme in this tomb. One or both of these Ramses really had it in for those Nubians:
Here's a panorama of the burial chamber (be sure to check the ceiling, with Nut stretched to even more cartoony lengths than in Ramses IV's tomb). The giant stone sarcophagus is smashed in two, the apparent work of grave robbers thousands of years ago:
Outside the tomb of Merneptah, an Egyptian tour guide is lecturing in Japanese; Egyptian natives learn a staggering array of languages to accommodate tourists.
Sadly, the guardian of Merneptah's tomb wants a fat bribe AND he watches for photos like a hawk, so you don't manage any photos there. A shame!
The grandest tomb you'll see today is that of Ramses III. The entrance has graffiti from millennia of visitors, plus images of scarabs and offerings to Ra:
In one famous though badly-decayed image in a side room, a pair of harpists perform for the god Atum:
Some captives seem to be having a bad time, though they do at least still have their heads:
Speaking of heads, this tomb has more funky multi-headed serpents, and in more detail than Ramses VI had:
A section of the tomb showing excerpts from the Book of Gates portrays the four races of the world: Libyans, Nubians, Asians, and Egyptians.
This undecorated niche marks where the ancient diggers oops-penetrated a neighboring tomb. This caused the original builder, Sethnakht, to abandon the tomb, but Ramses later restarted and simply had the builders tunnel in a different direction.
After a good 90 minutes or so exploring the four tombs, you need to head out. The sun is setting quickly and you have one last site to visit today on the west bank: The picturesque ruins of the Ramesseum.
Date: October 9th, 2018 7:29 AM
Date: October 13th, 2018 3:19 AM
Our last stop on the west bank today is the Ramesseum. Despite the somewhat different name, it’s just the mortuary temple of Ramses II. It’s not even close to being Luxor’s biggest temple, but it’s one of the most interesting and its ruins make for one of the most picturesque sites in all Egypt.
As you approach the temple, you get your first really good look at Egyptian agriculture. Almost everywhere along the river that isn’t built up is instead devoted to agriculture. While 96 percent of Egypt is desert, the floodplain has some of the most fertile soil in the world, and much of it supports multiple crops a year.
The ancient Egyptian name for their country was Kemet, meaning “black land.” While some have argued this proves the ancient Egyptians were black Africans, the name almost certainly refers to the rich black soil of the floodplain, in contrast to Deshret, the Egyptian name for the desert (and the origin of that word). In Egypt, the contrast between desert and floodplain is stark and absolute; one can literally stand with one foot in the desert and one in the soil. Where the water of the Nile reaches is life. Where it does not, death.
The Ramesseum would be more intact, but in his hubris and desire to overawe the population Ramses built his temple in the floodplain, making it inevitable that the annual inundation of the Nile would gradually ruin his temple. It’s much less intact than the Medinet Habu out in the desert, which we’ll see two days from now. Nevertheless, what remains is impressive to look upon after 3200 years.
For comparison, here’s what it looked like 170 years ago.
It’s surprisingly similar, compared to the massive reconstruction at sites like Hatshepsut’s Temple.
Wait, what’s this?
Oh shit, it’s the toppled colossal statue of Ramses II:
The cartouche of Ramses II is inscribed deeply within the stone, to make it harder for some hackjob successor to come along and hijack it.
This colossal statue, so artfully collapsed along the edge of the temple, inspired Percy Shelley to write his famous poem “Ozymandias.” Ozymandias was the ancient Greek name for Ramses II; it derives from his regnal name Usermattre Setepenre.
You’ve almost certainly heard of the poem, but fuck it, let’s post it here:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert... near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Fortunately, a little more than “nothing” remains of the temple surrounding Ramses’ shattered colossus. For example, reliefs in the temple show scenes from the Battle of Kadesh, by far the most famous battle from the era before 1000 BC.
The pharaoh’s artists wanted it to look like Ramses fucking WRECKED the Hittites, but in fact the battle was probably something of a draw:
There’s also the immense Osiris-style statues at each column:
Near the center of the temple is the head of another fallen statue. There was a second statue here, more intact, but it was seized by an Italian treasure-hunter in the 1800s and taken to the British Museum.
On the wall of the portico, Ramses II kneels before the Theban triad of gods (Amun, Mut, and Khonsu) while Thoth records the whole thing on a palm frond. In the register above, you can see the priapic god Min receiving an offering as well.
The temple’s central hypostyle hall (hall of columns) is still large intact. It’s probably the most impressive one you’ve seen so far, but oh boy, it will not remain that way.
Another bit of priapic art is REALLY etched into the stone, almost like an incompetent person tried to deface it but instead made it indelible.
Another relief shows the assault of Egyptian troops on the Hittite city of Dapur. The details are hard to make out, but Wikipedia helpfully has a clearer recreation:
The treasure hunter Belzoni and his British patron, Henry Salt, have their names inscribed in a doorway of the temple. Archaeologists and Egypt enthusiasts used to be rather more cavalier about preserving the sites they visited:
Near the temple are the remains of many mud-brick magazines which held the workshops and servants’ quarters of the temple and its builders.
As you depart, you get a few last photos of the temple at a distance:
As you depart, you and Hagag stop by a small café nearby and get coffee. The owner’s grandfather helped with Carter’s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and occasionally posed with goods taken from the tomb. Hagag points to a photo of the man holding a photo of his younger self.
The sun is starting to set, and we’re finally done with our first day on west bank. But the day is NOT over. When you return to the east bank, you’ll be visiting one of the few major Egyptian sites that stays open after dark: Luxor Temple.
Date: October 14th, 2018 1:25 PM
The sun is setting, and it’s time to head back across the Nile. Rather ominously, the boat you travel in is the “ISIS 2.”
As you land back on the east bank, you get a sunset look at our final stop of the day: Luxor Temple.
In contrast to all the other temples we’ve been to so far, Luxor Temple isn’t a mortuary temple (built to receive offerings for a dead pharaoh), and it isn’t the cult temple of a particular god either. Instead, Luxor Temple is dedicated to the Ka of the Egyptian pharaoh, and his strength as a ruler. It’s believed that Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom were crowned here, either literally or ceremonially.
Luxor Temple notably lies very close to the Nile, smack dab in the middle of modern Luxor. In fact, in medieval times, locals built right over the temple, and it lay beneath a mound of dirt and rubble for centuries until it was finally excavated in the last 150 years. Today, it’s the iconic feature of the city center, and thanks to a bunch of floodlights, it’s open during the evening unlike anywhere else.
After a brief rest, you make the short stroll from the Winter Palace to the temple (it’s literally right next door). While your hotel is located at the south end, you have to walk all the way around to the north to get in. As you approach, the front pylon is lit up by the floodlights.
The standout feature of the front entrance is the temple’s massive obelisk, a monolith standing about 80 feet tall.
Obelisks may be the most famous element of Egyptian architecture after the pyramids, but astonishingly this is one of only 8 ancient obelisks present in the whole country. This isn’t because that many were built, but instead because the vast majority have been looted from the country, many of them centuries ago. Bossi pointed out two days ago that obelisks are by far the most-seen aspects of Egyptian culture, because of the many important cities they’ve ended up in. The Obelisk of Theodosius still stands in Istanbul 1600 years after Theodosius brought it there. Two more obelisks, dubbed “Cleopatra’s Needles” (but in fact 1400 years older than that), stand in London and in New York’s Central Park. Rome alone has more obelisks than Egypt, including the famous Lateran Obelisk of Vatican City. And then there’s the Luxor Obelisk in Paris, so named because it was once a twin to the one still standing right here in Luxor.
These baboons at the base of the obelisk once sported erect penises, but prudes (possibly the French) hacked them off long ago.
Running north from a temple is the lengthy avenue of sphinxes, a series of hundreds of sphinx statues that once ran all the way out to Karnak Temple, about two miles north. It’s way too dark to get a good shot of them, so here’s a daytime pic from somebody else:
The colossal statues fronting the pylon are, no surprise, of our Egyptian super-builder Ramses II. The base of the statues show the symbolic binding of Upper and Lower Egypt.
As you walk in, to your left you can see the elevated walls of the Abu Haggag Mosque. This mosque was built right on top of the walls of Luxor, and it showcases what this area was like prior to excavation. While the regular houses and shops were destroyed to allow for the temple’s reconstruction, demolishing a mosque is a very different matter, so it remains in place, built right into the temple.
The finely-carved columns of the inner hypostyle hall are designed to resemble papyrus buds. An Azn girl is posing for photos at the foot of one.
In the center of the temple are even larger columns with expanding lotus-flower capitals.
This small, hard-to-read altar was dedicated to the Emperor Constantine, who despite his promotion of Christianity hadn’t cracked down on the original paganism either.
This is yet another cartouche, used for writing out the name of a pharaoh. What’s notable about this one? The name is spells out is Alexander, who conquered Egypt in 332 BC and was proclaimed a son of Amun after visiting the Siwa Oasis.
Even after its conquest by the Greeks and later the Romans, the Egyptians continued to use traditional art forms to honor its rulers. We’ll see a lot more of that tomorrow.
Another interesting room in the temple is the Birth Room of Amenhotep III. Like the similar sequence of images at Hatshepsut’s Temple, this room tells the story of Amenhotep being born after a miraculous visitation from the god Amun. Amenhotep’s mother was of non-royal blood, which necessitated a story that was recycled for numerous other rulers (the Romans would use it too).
Amun, disguised as the pharaoh Thutmoses IV, is escorted to the queen’s chamber by Thoth, who generally tags along for these ventures but never gets to, uh, take part.
Amun impregnates Amenhotep’s mother by holding an ankh to her lips and touching her hand; in the words of the wall inscription, “his dew filled her body.”
The potter god Khnum shapes the image of two children. One is Amenhotep, and the other is his spiritual ka.
The visibly pregnant queen is cared for by the gods before giving birth to the future pharaoh.
In a courtyard of the temple, a statue shows Amenhotep and his wife, whom he probably hoped wasn’t having similar adventures with divine visitors.
And with that, you’re finally done with by-far the busiest day of sightseeing you’ve had so far. But the day still isn’t over. You haven’t eaten at all today, so it’s time for some dinner. First, you stop at a random shop and for about 60 cents get a big plate of balah el-sham, Egypt’s ubiquitous pastries soaked in a syrup to make them almost excessively sweet.
Your dinner destination, though, is Sofra, one of Luxor’s best restaurants. It’s the peak of August and Egyptian tourism hasn’t been doing so great, so this excellent restaurant is sadly nearly deserted.
For dinner you get a veal stew along with a variety of small plates, but since this is Egypt instead of the DC brunch scene, they’re called “mezzes” instead of tapas and they’re actually priced so you can get enough to be satisfied. To drink, you get Sofra’s signature fresh fruit juice.
As you walk out from dinner, one of Luxor’s super-irritating locals approaches and tries to get you to ride in his horse-drawn carriage back to your hotel. It’s not even a half-mile walk, but he offers to do it for only 15 LE, so hey, why not?
BIG MISTAKE. This guy immediately “volunteers” to take you on a mini-tour of the downtown which you didn’t ask for, which of course includes a stop by the bazaar. This guy totally knows a great shop where you can get a really good deal.
You manage to resist his ability to weaponize awkwardness, though, and demand that he take you to your hotel. When you arrive, you pay him the original 15-LE fee with no bonus. He starts to seethe, but hey, he was the one who made your trip take 20 minutes instead of 5. You scamper into your hotel before he can make a scene.
With that, you’re now 2/3 through your trip. Tomorrow, you’ll be going on your only extended day-trip, a journey by car down the Nile Valley to visit the shrines of Abydos and Dendera.
Date: October 15th, 2018 9:58 PM
Author: H.R. Puffendorf
I too was taken hostage and made to go to a shop that I did not want to go to. I think I bought a plastic sphinx figurine to get out of there
Date: October 16th, 2018 12:03 AM
You can actually see the sugar syrup dripping off those little diabetes bombs
The “let’s just drop in on this shop” routine is universal, I’ve had it pulled on me in Egypt but also other places like India and Thailand. It is SO freaking irritating when you’ve agreed a trip and a price, it’s my number one reason for using uber wherever possible in those places.
Date: October 18th, 2018 2:35 AM
It’s time for your big day trip! While there are a ton of things to see in Luxor itself, there are also four great sites outside of the city, two to the south (Edfu and Qom Ombo) and two to the north (Abydos and Dendera). Sadly, you only have time for one day trip, and the northern sites are generally considered superior, so that’s where you’ll be going. You get up very early, at about 6, since it’s a long drive up to Abydos and back, and you don’t just want to see the sites, you also want enough time to see a major museum tonight when you get back to Luxor.
But first, we’re going to loot the Winter Palace’s breakfast spread:
The restaurant area is sparse. Egyptian tourism has fallen on hard times.
After eating, you link up with your driver for the day, as well as your tour guide, Bassem. You start off on the drive to Abydos. As you depart, you can see some hot air balloons.
Early-morning ballooning is a popular tourist activity in Luxor, although in 2013 there was a major disaster that killed 19 people. When you mention this, Bassem becomes very defensive, noting that you can also die in a freak accident while crossing the street.
Abydos is supposed to be a drive of only about 2 and a half hours, getting there ends up taking you more than three and a half. The desert highway is apparently closed for security reasons, forcing you to take the slower road near the Nile. During the trip up and back, your car is stopped by the police at least 8 times. Even more bothersome than the police, though, are the speed bumps.
There are CONSTANT speed bumps on Egypt’s roads, and require that your car come to almost a complete stop to go over them safely. According to Bassem, these bumps are typically built into the road by locals, mostly as a safety measure, because people live right by the road, and because when left to their own devices Egyptians are maniacs. Bassem tells you a popular Egyptian joke: In Japan there is only a single speed bump in the whole country, in front of the Egyptian embassy.
During the drive up, you pass through lush farmland that contrasts strongly with the stark desert cliffs just a short distance away.
A notable sight as you drive is that a very large percentage of buildings seem (at least to your untrained eye) to be permanently unfinished, as if they never finished putting on the top floor. Bassem says that things in Egypt often tend to be half-done in this way.
Another interesting sight on the drive, which you sadly don’t get a photo of, is a sign celebrating the recent construction of a school…by the government of West Germany.
During the long drive up, you ask Bassem a bunch of questions about Egyptian culture and society. He has a lot to say. Among other things:
-Bassem doesn’t care much for president El-Sisi, describing him as uncharismatic and too willing to empower the police and military at the expense of everything else. He complains that El-Sisi recently appointed 18 new governors with a military or police background, and these governors are “very stupid.” He also says people are mad that El-Sisi recently allowed Saudi Arabia to claim some disputed Red Sea islands, which he believed cost the country its dignity. He thinks El-Sisi is popular with women though because he is a STRONG MAN.
-Despite his qualms, he greatly prefers El-Sisi to the Muslim Brotherhood, though he believes killing 5,000 of them (his number; most estimates are lower) in 2013 was unwise. “Muslim Brotherhood are very stupid people. They are more stupid than the president.”
-Bassem weighs on in Egyptian education and social stratification: “If you get high marks, you study medicine, pharmacology, or computer science. If you get low marks and know somebody, you go into the police or military, or become a judge. If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.” He complains that top posts in civilian life are filled with army retirees; the heads of the soccer and handball federations are both army men, for instance.
-Bassem says you can tell the places you are driving through are safe, because the police and soldiers are armed. “If a place isn’t safe, they don’t dare carry guns.” Police are in general badly trained, he says.
-Bassem is a native of a small town in the Luxor area. He argues that while southern Egypt is conservative, it is NOT radical. People are traditional but almost none follow violent interpretations of Islam. He says it’s different up north, in the major cities. Also, since towns are smaller and people rarely move, he says any radicals that do emerge are much easier to keep track of.
-He says tuk-tuks (small three-wheeled motorized rickshaws) took off in Egypt thanks to a legal loophole that let people drive them without a license, since laws only applied to two-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles.
-He complains a lot about corruption in Egypt. One example he complains about is a new law that required taxi cabs to carry fire extinguishers and first aid kits. This was billed as a safety measure, he says, but connected businessmen were tipped off about the regulation ahead of time, bought up all the supplies, and made a killing, since there was a very short time between the law being announced and being implemented.
-To become a guide, he had to get a degree in Egyptology and then pass a challenging test. He’s also had to get recertified a couple times. He complains that recent tour guide tests were postponed or canceled, allowing for new tour guides to be less qualified.
-The strangest language he’s heard of an Egyptian learning to maek it as a tour guide is Romanian.
After a VERY long drive, you finally arrive at Abydos.
The unfinished visitors’ center is empty and sad.
A close look at the façade reveals that the lower half is original, but the upper portion is a reconstruction.
Abydos doesn’t have the same fame as Giza, Thebes, or Aswan, but in ancient Egypt it was one of the country’s most important religious sites, and received pilgrims much like Rome, Jerusalem, or Mecca would today. The earliest pharaohs of Egypt, including the unifier Narmer, were buried in this city, and it later became a center for the worship of Osiris, whose body was supposedly restored here.
Sadly, the tombs of the early pharaohs are of interest only to archaeologists, while the Great Osiris Temple has been lost to time and modern construction as well. However, a large Temple of Seti I remains, and that’s what we’re here to see today. Bossi says it’s actually her favorite site in all of Egypt.
High up near the temple’s entrance, you can see the famous “helicopter hieroglyph,” which supposedly shows a helicopter, a UFO, and a submarine. This is a major piece of evidence for the ancient aliens crowd.
In fact, the odd hieroglyphs are a product of recycled stone. Ramses II, Seti I’s son, filled in some of the hieroglyphs with plaster to carve a slightly different message in the stone. The plaster eventually eroded away, leaving both the original message and Ramses’ rewrite in place, and creating odd shapes that today look like spaceships.
At least, that’s what THEY want you to believe.
A relief inside shows Amun-Ra receiving an offering of a smaller dude making an offering.
In another relief, Osiris receives an image of Maat, the cosmic order the pharaoh was supposed to bring to Egypt.
Relative to other temples, a lot of the reliefs here are really well-preserved, with remarkable painted detail surviving in some places, like on this fruit:
One of the most famous images in Abydos is this one, showing the ceremonial raising of the djed pillar, which represents stability, another kingly virtue the pharaoh brought to Egypt.
Horus is usually a falcon-headed god, but in this relief, he’s literally a falcon wearing a crown, sitting in a box.
The pharaoh is breast-fed by a goddess. Being king has its perks I guess.
This falcon in a box is the hieroglyph for the goddess Hathor.
It alludes to the name’s meaning in Egyptian, literally “house of Horus.” This name may refer to myths where she (rather than Isis) is Horus’s mother; it also refers to her dwelling in the sky; Horus was an Egyptian sky god among his many roles.
The temple’s interior contains seven shrines. One shows Seti I being deified in death, while six others are for Egyptian gods. The most interesting is probably the shrine dedicated to Osiris. In myth, Osiris was murdered by his jealous brother Set, and his body was cut up and scattered across Egypt. His wife Isis eventually recovered all the pieces of his body except for his penis, which was swallowed by a fish (Plutarch says the Egyptians had a taboo against eating fish for this reason). In order to revive Osiris, then, Isis had to reconstruct his penis with magic. A relief shows this climactic (heh) moment, with Osiris STIMMING himself back to life.
Another scene shows Isis, as a bird, descending on Osiris to take his seed. She becomes pregnant with Horus, who later grows up to overthrow the wicked Set. Oddly, Horus can be seen to the left, viewing his own conception, while Isis in human form stands to the right. Egyptian art is kooky like that.
In another room is the famous king list of Abydos. The list takes the form of a scene, where Seti I and his son Ramses are preparing an offering to their ancestors. Seti asks Ramses to name these ancestors; the “list” is Ramses reciting all these kings. Dozens of cartouches show the names of Egyptian rulers from Menes/Narmer up to the then-present.
The list is historically important, as some obscure pharaohs from the troubled 7th and 8th dynasties are named on this list and nowhere else.
The pharaoh Nebra of the 2nd dynasty has a cartouche that consists of the ka symbol plus three penises:
These four cartouches show the pyramid builders Senefru, Khufu, Djedefru, and Khafra.
The cartouche second from left is Amenhotep III, while the one in the middle is Horemheb. Akhanaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay would all go between them, but they have been deleted from history.
The Amarna pharaohs aren’t the only ones deemed illegitimate and left off the list. Hatshepsut and the foreign Hyksos pharaohs are missing as well. Despite covering about 1700 years of history, only 76 kings are listed on the king list.
Near the king list, the pharaoh and his son catch a bull, while a surprisingly natural-looking relief shows tons of birds taking flight.
Another relief shows the different crowns you can rock if you’re king of Egypt.
Outside the temple are the ruins of the Osireion, so named because it has been hypothesized that the structure, dug into the ground, is meant to serve as a “symbolic” pharaonic tomb for the god Osiris.
That was very neat! But your day trip is only half-over. After stopping for water, you head off back towards Luxor. After an hour, you’ll stop at the day’s second destination, the Ptolomaic shrine of Dendera.
Date: October 18th, 2018 2:45 AM
There are permanently and deliberately unfinished houses exactly like that (pillars for a top floor jutting out) all over southern Italy. There, it’s for tax reasons — you only start paying property tax on a finished house or something like that. So they plan and design them to remain “unfinished”.
Date: October 18th, 2018 6:33 AM
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
If you get low marks and don’t know somebody, you study law.
Date: October 19th, 2018 2:10 AM
After an hour of driving back in the direction of Luxor, you get to the other stop on your day trip, the temple of Hathor at Dendera.
It’s a testament to the longevity of Egyptian civilization that this temple, dating to the Ptolomaic era, is a thousand years younger than the Abydos temple, and could be 2500 years younger than the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Egypt is an old country.
In part because of its “youth,” the Dendera temple is one of the best-preserved antique structures in all Egypt. Unlike Abydos, Hatshepsut’s Temple, or a bunch of other places, Dendera never collapsed, so it still has its original roof, no reconstruction required.
Due to its later construction, the temple is also notable for its religious syncretism, and how it engages with Egypt’s foreign rulers.
For instance, near the temple (and sadly closed) is the Birth House of Augustus.
No, it’s not a building for literal childbirth. Instead, this building symbolically honors the nativity of the god Ihy, son of Hathor. In doing so, it also links Ihy to the current pharaohs of Egypt, i.e. the Roman emperors.
Although built by Augustus shortly after the Roman conquest, the reliefs of the building honor the emperor Trajan. In various reliefs, Trajan makes offerings to Hathor as she suckles her rather-too-old-for-this son. Note the super-complex cartouche Trajan needs because Egyptian hieroglyphs struggle to contain full Roman names.
In this finely-detailed relief, once again of Trajan offering to the gods, if you zoom in on Trajan’s outfit you can see that it depicts him smiting his enemies.
There are actually two birth houses at Dendera. The older one, the first known to exist in Egypt, was built by Nectanebo I, Egypt’s last great native pharaoh, who founded the 30th (!) dynasty and reigned in the early 300’s BC. A relief on the outer wall of that birth house shows the potter god Khnum fashioning Ihy into existence, with the help of the frog-headed goddess Heqet.
The goddess Hathor was regarded as a healing goddess, so much like the shrines to Asklepios in Greece, Dendera had a primitive sanitarium of sorts for the sick who came on pilgrimage.
Near this proto-hospital was a sacred pool to draw water from. Today, the pool has dried up and contains palm trees.
A Christian church was built on this site during late antiquity, and some of its remains are still visible as well.
A lot of random stonework found during the excavation of the site is lying around. Some notable items include a stone wheel and an image of the dwarf god Bes, a popular household protector god during the New Kingdom and later.
All right, it’s time to check out the big temple itself. The columns at the front of the building have Hathor-head capitals.
The painted reliefs inside would be in excellent condition, but the same people who built the church outside got SERIOUSLY gakked out on iconoclasm.
Fortunately, though, they wrought far less damage on the ceiling, which is the real attraction of Dendera. Since the roof never collapsed, it’s all fully intact, and most of the paint is still there, even.
At one end of the ceiling, the elongated Goddess Nut eats the sun:
She eats it, of course, so that it can travel through her body during the night, and in the morning she can give birth to the scarab beetle that represents the dawn.
Idle thought: An elongated woman giving birth to a giant beetle could be really horrifying if portrayed realistically, so we’re pretty lucky Egyptian art was simplified.
The ceiling mostly shows a procession of boats. A notable feature is that, if you look carefully, you can see that several of the boats carry the symbols of the traditional Babylonian zodiac. In the first image, you can see Taurus and possibly Aries. In the second, you can see (right to left) Scorpio, Sagittarius, and what seems to be Capricorn. In the third, you can see Leo on the far right and Libra on the far left. If they’re following the current Zodiac order (and they seem to be), something in between them is meant to represent Virgo.
Most of the construction at Dendera was carried out by various late Ptolomaic pharaohs. First-century BC Egypt was a politically turbulent place, and that turbulence is reflected in Dendera’s reliefs: A large percentage of the pharaonic cartouches are left blank, as the artisans avoided inscribing the names of pharaohs who might be overthrown and replaced by successors who would look poorly on those who honored a predecessor.
A shrine to Osiris on Dendera’s roof (which you’re allowed to access) contains the infamous Dendera zodiac, which shows an ancient map of the stars, circa 51 BC.
At least, it DID contain the zodiac. This one is actually a copy. The real one was looted by the French, and it’s now an important item at the Louvre.
The roof contains several intact sanctuaries. Many Egyptian temples had these rooftop sanctuaries, but of course almost all of them have been totally lost.
From the roof, you can see the remains of the mud-brick wall that surrounds the temple complex.
An interesting architectural feature is that there are two staircases to the roof. One ascends in a square shape, but the other is straight and at a low angle, taking up an entire side of the temple.
This may have had a ceremonial purpose; your guide suggests it may imitate birds that rise in a circular motion but descend in a straight one (does this actually happen? XO birdwatchers plz comment).
Some of the steps in the temple have a heavily eroded, “melted,” look, which zany ppl on the Internet take as evidence of an ancient nuclear war. Yep, that must be it.
The temple doesn’t just have a roof. It also has a cellar, which you access by opening a grate (pay the guard or have a helpful guide) and squeezing down a very cramped stairwell.
There’s not too much to see down here. It’s mostly just more reliefs, with one big exception: This bizarre image of Egyptians posing next to what looks like a giant light bulb.
This imagery doesn’t exist anywhere else in Egypt, and of course it’s a big hit with the ancient aliens/lost civilization types. The “lamestream” interpretation is that it’s a snake emerging from a lotus flower, representing fertility and the annual rebirth caused by the flooding Nile.
On the temple’s outer wall is a large relief of Cleopatra and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, one of the view surviving works of Egyptian art to feature either of them.
Another part of the outer wall shows the 22 different royal crowns that the pharaohs of Egypt could wear.
What a neat place! You’ll frankly admit that at the beginning you were more hyped for Abydos, but Dendera turned out to be just as cool, if not cooler.
With both of your day trip sites out of the way, you return to Luxor, arriving around 5 pm after running through several additional police checkpoints. Having spent most of the day in a car, you still have plenty of energy, which is good, because your day isn’t over. Tonight, you’ll be hitting the Luxor Museum.
Date: October 19th, 2018 8:38 AM
the Goddess Nut made me think of Kafka
Date: October 19th, 2018 4:15 PM
Now is probably as good a time as any for a short pause to talk about the touts, scammers, and hustlers who totally infest Egypt and prey on tourists. Such people are probably common in any poorer country with a lot of tourists, but Egypt is still particularly notable for them. For example, on TravelScams.org, Egypt has more scams listed on its page than any other country, except for the United States.
We've already mentioned the Papyrus Institute hustle the tour guides mentioned, which is mentioned in the link above. Here's some other notable trends and behaviors you've seen while in Egypt:
-People will say something to you in Arabic, then when you don't respond or act confused, they will express astonishment and say that you "look Egyptian" (you definitely don't) as a way to initiate conversation. Naturally, the conversation very quickly turns to getting you to go someplace or do something.
-In Luxor, the hustling is literally CONSTANT. You simply can't go outside, anywhere, without relentless harassment from people hawking taxis, tours, coach rides, felucca voyages, you name it. From experience, absolute silence is a better deterrent than a firm no in most cases.
-Whenever you're walking toward a popular tourist destination, even if it's very obvious what it is, locals will "helpfully" point to the front door, and act like they should get money for providing this service
-In airport bathrooms, instead of paper towel dispensers, there's a security officer who hands you pieces of toilet paper (yes, for drying your hands). The implication seems to be that you should pay them for this "service."
-There's a very specific hustle you encountered three times in Luxor. As you fend off the many people trying to give you a carriage ride, a person will approach and express sympathy over how annoying touts are. If you acknowledge them, they will say they work "in the hotel kitchen" and recognize you from when you checked in. They'll say they are on a break, and headed to the spice market to get spices for a significant other (you hear girlfriend, wife, and mother). They'll continue to walk with you, and start talking about how the bazaar they're going to is the REAL bazaar, the one Egyptians use, not the lame tourist bazaar most people visit. They'll also say that today is a SPECIAL DAY at the market where prices are MUCH LOWER because some government regulation that keeps prices high has been suspended. The obvious hustle is to get you to tag along to the market where you'll be hustled into buying overprice (or even fake) goods. But even if you resist, sometimes the tout will act like he should get money just for walking with you a long time. Bad!
-Luxor touts in particular play the sympathy card hard, openly bemoaning how bad business has been. The horsecart drivers will complain that their entire income has to go just to feed their horse.
-The only cases of outright begging, where a person simply asks for money straight-up, come from Muslim women wearing the niqab, which covers everything but their eyes. A niqab-wearing woman was also responsible for stealing your veggies in Cairo.
-If you dare to speak with locals while standing around at any location, it's common for them to invite you to a nearby building for coffee. Some may mean this in earnest, but it's a common opening to a hustle so you always have to decline.
Date: October 21st, 2018 1:02 AM
Around 5 pm you make it back to Luxor, tip your guide, and set back out on your own. One nice thing about Luxor relative to Cairo is that quite a few things are open later in the day. Yesterday you saw Luxor Temple, tonight you see the Luxor Museum. But before going there, you decide to stop for some food at the Luxor McDonalds, located right next to Luxor Temple. Just like the Sphinx KFC, the primo real estate of Luxor has been thoroughly conquered by global capitalism.
You didn’t really eat lunch, but you’ll be eating more later tonight, so instead of going nuts you just get an order of cheese fries with jalapeno peppers, an item that McDonalds does not serve in America but totally should.
Once again, the restaurant is several stories to provide an excellent view of Luxor Temple.
After eating, you set off for the Luxor Museum. As you walk there, you get a nicer look at the avenue of sphinxes that once stretched from Luxor Temple all the way up to Karnak.
You also pass Luxor’s hospital, whose outward appearance does not inspire confidence.
After a short walk, you reach the museum. In contrast to the 19th-century look of the Egyptian Museum, this one has a more slick modern design.
The differences don’t stop there. Considering the two museums cover the exact same subject matter, the Egyptian Museum and Luxor Museum are different in almost every way. The Egyptian Museum is vast, with an overwhelming collection that makes it easy to miss things and almost impossible to see everything unless one dedicates multiple days to the project. It’s also disorganized and a tad run-down, with incomplete and outdated exhibit labeling. In contrast, the Luxor Museum is clean and climate-controlled. The collection is far smaller and you can see literally everything in just a couple hours, but almost every item is interesting, and the exhibit labeling is superb.
As you walk in, the first item you see is a large statue portraying Tutankhamun as a sphinx.
This then leads to a hall dedicated to various large statues, of varying levels of intactness, dug up in the Luxor area.
This statue looks a tad feminine, but nope, it’s not Hatshepsut, it’s just Amenhotep III. It’s a bit bigger than it may look at first; the hat is for scale.
This sandstone statue of Thutmose III is particularly impressive, its graceful details almost unblemished after 3400 years.
The warm look of Thutmose contrasts sharply with this Middle Kingdom statue of Amenemhat III, who has the severe look typical of that era’s art.
There’s also an impressive head of the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Sesotris III.
This, um, heartwarming statue shows a youthful-looking Amenhotep III chilling with the crocodile-headed god Sobek.
Two of these fragments are from tombs, and another is from Karnak temple. They’re unremarkable except for one thing: All of them were returned to Egypt after being taken outside the country. Egypt has them on display to promote the return of other antiquities from abroad.
There’s an entire section of the museum dedicated to the military glories of the New Kingdom. This stela celebrates the 17th dynasty pharaoh Kamose’s victories over the Hyksos. But while it talks a big game, historians believe it was only his brother, Ahmose, who finally vanquished them 20 years later.
This stone tablet has nine different bows on it, representing those used by Egypt’s foreign enemies. This tablet would lie on the ground and the king would stand on the bows, symbolically trampling over the enemies of Egypt. The inscriptions flanking the bows read “All foreign lands lie under the feet of the lord of the two lands.”
This relief shows Amenhotep II engaging in archery practice. In the inscriptions, Amenhotep boats that he uses copper targets instead of wooden ones for target practices, but his mighty arrows still easily punch through.
Next to the relief is an actual Egyptian-style bow, recovered from a tomb.
This ceremonial axe, made of electrum, celebrates the victories of Ahmose and prays for his long life. It was found in the tomb of his mother.
The mother’s tomb also had these golden flies, used a Medal of Honor of sorts for brave soldiers. We say honors like this at the Egyptian Museum as well, but these flies are far larger.
The Luxor Museum has its own royal mummy, of an unknown Middle Kingdom pharaoh. The label notes that this mummy was “discovered” at a museum in Niagara Falls, as it languished in storage for years without anybody noticing its importance (this actually happens with a lot of historical artifacts).
Graffiti from a broken pottery (?) fragment shows some men engaged in good old wrasslin’.
This statue of Ramses II is contains both red and grey granite. They seem to have done their best to concentrate the red granite on his crown but weren’t too picky in the end.
Hack job restorationists badly damaged this statue back in the 70s. The Luxor museum boasts about fixing it to the best of their ability.
This prisoner is having a bad day.
This miniature boat rowed by miniature doods is one of many cool miniatures sets dug up from the graves of ancient Egyptian autists.
The exhibit design makes them really hard to photograph, but one area shows artistic outlines that were used by Egyptian craftsmen to plan out tombs, temples, and artwork. Art in ancient Egypt was not a creative outlet; it was a technical one, with craftsmen working in a manner similar to blacksmiths or carpenters.
The most recent items in the museum are these gold coins, dating to the Byzantine period and the early Islamic period. Some of these coins, minted by the caliph Abdel Malek, were the first Islamic coins to remove all images and include only Quranic verses.
This image of Queen Hatshepsut notably portrays her as a woman, not as a man, making offerings to Amun-Ra.
Its collection pales compared to the Egyptian Museum, but there are a few kooky Amarna-style statues in the Luxor Museum.
This wall was used in one of Akhenaten’s temples, and portrays him participating in the sed festival. The human figures have the weird look typical of the Amarna period. The wall was later broken up and used as filler for the ninth pylon at Karnak, where it was eventually rediscovered and reassembled by intrepid archaeologists.
That museum didn’t take too long to get through, but almost everything in it was interesting. Before heading out, you decide to swing by the bookstore. There’s definitely some odd items there.
This book of academic gobblygook argues for the importance of diversity, and offers EGYPT as a case study of successful co-existence between different groups. Also, something something democratic socialism.
Another book, The Stargate Conspiracy, argues that the Egyptian gods were aliens who will soon return to Earth.
In the end, you do get a book, a small one translating various stories discovered on ancient Egyptian papyri.
It’s time to end yet another long day with dinner. Tonight, you decide to eat at the rooftop restaurant of the Nefertiti hotel, the Al-Sahaby Lane Restaurant. The menu boasts about the restaurant’s commitment to environment sustainability.
You had that McDonald’s snack just a couple hours ago, so instead of getting a full meal, you get the spiced vanilla drink sahlab to drink, plus some feteera, a sort of large stuffed pastry with chocolate on top.
Yikes! You definitely pigged out more today than any other in Egypt. Be careful, you don’t want to become ANOTHER fatass American tourist.
But penance can come another day. You head back to your hotel to get to sleep. Tomorrow is your last full day in Egypt, and you have to make it count. You’ll be arising bright and early to see the grandeur of ancient Egypt’s greatest temple: Karnak.
Date: October 25th, 2018 7:15 AM
jalapeno fries needs to be a thing
Date: October 29th, 2018 12:09 AM
On your last full day in Egypt, you get up at the crack of dawn. You have to, because you once again have a lot to see, and you have to fit it all in by the early evening, when you need to leave town to get back to Cairo. Fortunately, while the sites in Luxor itself are open late, Karnak Temple is the opposite. It opens really early, at 6 am, so you’ll be starting your day there, then returning to the west bank in the afternoon to hit your final attractions in Luxor.
The temple is located about 2 miles north of your hotel, just as the city center gives way to countryside. “Karnak” is the Arabic name, derived from the word for “fortified village.” In ancient times, the heart of the temple was called Ipet-Isut, roughtly meaning “most perfect of places.” Construction at Karnak dates to the Middle Kingdom, and it was still in use even during Roman times, but it was during the New Kingdom that Karnak flourished as perhaps the greatest temple complex in the world. The temple is divided into three precincts, honoring the three gods of the Theban triad: Amun-Ra, his wife Mut, and their son Montu. Amun-Ra’s precinct is by far the largest and most impressive, and the only one open to visitors today.
The temple was built up over the course of more than a thousand years, and even today it remains one of the largest religious structures ever built, covering a space larger than Vatican City. During the reign of Ramses III, 65 villages and 81,000 workers were assigned for the temple’s use, yet ordinary people were mostly barred from entering the temple at all.
As you go through the small visitors center, you see a model of the temple as it may have looked 3000 years ago (although that temple was probably painted, and had way more random statues lying around.
Karnak multiple sound and light shows each day; a look at the schedule shows how popular Egypt remains with German tourists.
The first part of Karnak proper that you encounter is the remains of its ancient dock, where a statue of Amun boarded a boat to sail for Luxor Temple during the annual Optet festival.
The entrance to the First Pylon is flanked by sphinx statues, but instead of having human heads, they have ram heads, as the ram was associated with Amun.
The First Pylon at Karnak is often attributed to the Nubian and Ethiopian pharaohs who conquered Egypt in the 25th dynasty, though that attribution is uncertain. At 130 m wide and 43 meters tall, it’s the largest pylon in Egypt.
A ways inside the temple is a gate called the Bubastite Portal, so named because the pharaohs who built is reigned in the Nile Delta city of Bubastis. The most notable feature of this gate is the Shoshenk Relief.
The relief lists the military accomplishments of Shoshenk I. Pharaohs bragging about their military feats is pretty common, but the Shoshenk Relief is notable for its intersection with Biblical history. The Book of Kings describes an Egyptian pharaoh “Shishak” sacking Jerusalem in the 900s BC, in support of Israel’s secession from Judah under King Jeroboam. The Shoshenk Relief describes a military campaign into Palestine, with a long list of sacked cities from what would be the old Kingdom of Israel. As such, most historians belief the biblical “Shishak” is Shoshenk.
Some Asiatics on the relief beg for their lives.
At the center of Karnak is its most impressive site by far: The gargantuan hypostyle hall, containing 134 columns that rise as high as 80 feet. The largest columns are about 15 m around; it would take six people stretching out their arms to encircle a single one. The roof of the temple collapsed long ago, but the lotus-blossom columns remain to inspire awe.
At 54,000 square feet, the hypostyle hall alone is larger than many European cathedrals. A sign shows how the hall compares with the Notre Dame in Paris.
A step shows some bound prisoners, so that the pharaoh could trample on Egypt’s enemies when he walked on it.
Reliefs outside the Hypostyle Hall show the battles of Ramses II, including Kadesh yet again. The text of the peace treaty between the Egyptians and Hittites is inscribed on a wall.
Meanwhile, on the Hall’s north side are massive battle reliefs for Ramses’s father, Seti I.
Two obelisks rise over the center of Karnak.
The smaller of the two was built by Thutmose I. The larger was erected by Hatshepsut, and is the only standing one of the 4 obelisks she built here.
Today, it’s the largest obelisk still standing in Egypt, and the second-largest Egyptian obelisk in the world, after the Lateran Obelisk currently standing in St. Peter’s Square.
While Hatshepsut’s great obelisk has survived, some images of her in the temple were not so lucky. They were aggressively defaced by her successor Thutmose III.
Another one of Hatshepsut’s obelisks toppled long ago, and its tip is on display nearby.
Also on display is the famous giant scarab statue.
Both items are on display near the so-called Sacred Lake. The Lake, filled by an underground water source, was used for ritual purification purposes centuries ago, but it’s still full even today.
One of the later additions to Karnak was a shrine built in honor of Philip Arrhidaeus, the retarded brother of Alexander the Great. It simply shows Philip making offerings to the gods.
At first glance, this wall may look like a king list, with men’s heads jutting out above what seem to be cartouches.
In fact, though, this is Thutmose III’s Canaanite city list. It lists more than a hundred cities he captured during a campaign there; the faces represent the princes of those cities who were captured during his conquest.
Toward the back of the Precinct of Amun-Ra is another work of Thutmose, the so-called Festival Hall. It was likely used for various religious rituals. Its design seems intended to evoke a giant tent, with stone awnings and columns that resemble tent poles.
The Festival Hall was later repurposed as a Christian Church, so many of the columns have faded, shoddily-painted Christian saints on them.
On the north end of Karnak is the Open Air Museum. It’s basically a mix of unsorted blocks recovered at Karnak, plus some heavily-reconstructed chapels whose original location is unknown.
The first such chapel is the White Chapel of Senusret I.
This entire chapel was built way back in the Middle Kingdom, but then was broken down and used as filler for the Third Pylon. The pieces were eventually discovered there by excavators, who removed them and pieced them together in a heroic archaeological jigsaw puzzle. (These aren’t the only artifacts discovered as filler; lots of Akhenaten statues were found in the same way).
The reliefs inside the White Chapel are considered exceptionally high-quality given their age. They include numerous images of Senusret providing STIM SUPPORT to the god Min.
The other major reconstructed chapel is Hatshepsut’s Red Chapel, also reassembled from pieces found elsewhere.
Much like the Ramesseum, Karnak makes for a picturesque ruin and there are lots of great angles to view it as you wander around the temple.
Finally, after more than three hours, you’ve finished exploring Karnak. It would be a fitting capstone to this trip, but in fact, it’s not even noon yet, and you have a few more sights to hit. You return back to the Winter Palace, where you link up with Haggag from two days ago. You and him are headed back to the west bank to see the last great temple of the Luxor area: Ramses III’s mortuary temple, the Medinet Habu.
Date: October 29th, 2018 2:21 AM
I see what you did there
Date: October 29th, 2018 2:21 AM
Date: October 31st, 2018 3:42 AM
After a quick jaunt across the river and a stop by the ticket office, you and Haggag arrive at the Medinet Habu.
That’s the Arab name, of course. The Egyptians called this area Djanet, and the temple itself is the mortuary temple of Ramses III. It’s one of the best-preserved New Kingdom temples, and the largest in the Luxor area besides Karnak itself. The temple was surrounded by a massive enclosure wall, which allowed it to double as a fortress; it sheltered the Theban population during an invasion of Libyans in the 20th dynasty, and it later became a walled town in its own right, with Coptic peasants living in the shadow of Ramses III. Their houses were cleared out more than a century ago, in order to restore the temple to its antique state.
Before arriving at the main temple itself, you first pass through the temple’s asymmetric fortified gatehouse. https://imgur.com/a/dH7wSLq
This gate is known as the Migdol Gate, from the Hebrew word meaning “fortress,” because it strongly resembles the fortification styles of contemporary Asiatic fortresses. Ramses or his architects may have encountered gates like this while on campaign in the Levant. The area above the gate had a room for Ramses’ harem, decorated with reliefs of dancing girls. Sadly, it’s inaccessible to tourists.
Inside the Migdol Gate is a vast open area, with Ramses’ temple at the center.
Just inside the outer pylon are reliefs celebrating Ramses III’s (alleged) military triumphs. In one set of images, the pharaoh’s priests count the enemy dead by tallying their severed hands and penises.
In another relief, Ramses grasps thirty men at once by their hair, and prepares to smite them all, as pharaohs are wont to do.
Considering almost the whole temple is exposed to the elements, some areas have an astonishing amount of ancient paint remaining.
One lintel near the back of the temple shows Ramses and a parade of baboons worshipping Amun-Ra’s sacred barque.
Outside the temple is the sad piss puddle that is all that remains of the old Sacred Lake. Medinet Habu was the supposed birthplace of the 8 original Egyptian gods, so women would bath in this pool in the hopes that Isis would help them get pregnant.
For historians, the most famous part of the temple is a long relief on the outer wall of the main temple. It shows Ramses firing arrows into a mass of hostile ships.
This relief, the only depiction of a naval battle in ancient Egyptian art, is one of the most significant and hotly-debated in ancient historiography. The attackers in the relief have become known as the Sea People, due to their mode of attack and our otherwise near-complete lack of information about them.
The attack of the Sea Peoples on Egypt closely coincides with the famous Bronze Age Collapse. Over the span of a single lifetime, major cultures such as the Minoans, the Mycenaean Greeks, and the Hittites totally collapsed. Virtually every city in the Eastern Mediterranean was sacked or destroyed, society broke down, the population plunged, and literacy declined so much that the Greeks literally forgot Linear B and spent half a millennium in a dark age without written records.
Exactly what caused the Bronze Age collapse is perhaps the single biggest mystery in recorded history, and the Sea Peoples are right at the heart of that mystery. Did they directly cause the collapse, or was their marauding a consequence of a collapse that had already begun for other reasons? For that matter, who were they in the first place, and where did they come from? Nobody knows. Many suggest they originated from Greece or the Aegean Sea. Others suggest Anatolia, or lands as far off as Italy and Sardinia. Some have even suggested they were Trojans who turned to raiding after the destruction of their city in the Trojan War. Sadly, unless there’s a major new archaeological discovery, all we’re going to have is guesswork and a perpetually baffling relief.
Before leaving the temple, you bribe a site guardian to let you climb onto the temple’s roof.
Sadly, you can’t check go up to the front of the temple, where the best shots would be, because all the other guardians would see you, and the bribe cost would go up substantially. Still, you get a few photos from the higher vantage point. They aren’t that great to be honest, but much like with sex, the effect is enhanced by the forbidden nature of the act.
Wow, that site raced by! With Medinet Habu out of the way, your weeklong Egyptian tour has only one destination remaining: The scattered tombs of the Valley of the Nobles.
Date: October 31st, 2018 4:06 AM
Date: November 4th, 2018 1:04 PM
This is it: Your final stop of the trip. You sadly won’t be able to see EVERYTHING that Luxor has to offer: Seti I has his own mortuary temple, there’s a small mummification museum in Luxor, and the Carter House can be nice for those interested in the history of archaeology as a discipline. Still, for having only two and a half days in the area, you’ve done very well. Your last set of attractions are some of the lesser tombs on the west bank. We’ve already seen several pharaonic tombs, but kings and their families are far from the only people interred here. Many high officials created excellent tombs of their own, and even if they’re smaller and less ornate, they’re worth seeing, as they often employ imagery that’s missing from royal tombs.
There are literally hundreds of tombs scattered all over, but most aren’t open to the general public, and only a few stand out as particularly worthwhile. You buy tickets for specific sets of tombs, typically 2-3 that are close to each other.
Your first set of minor tombs is at the Deir El-Medina. This was the village of tomb workers back during the New Kingdom, when it was known as the “Place of Truth.” Tomb texts, papyri, and ostraca collected here are critical to our understanding of economics and daily life in ancient Egypt.
There’s a small temple to Hathor here, in surprisingly good shape considering it’s all mudbrick. It was later used as a Christian church.
The first actual tomb you can enter is that of Sennedjem, whose title was “Servant of the Place of Truth.” He likely had a senior role in the construction of the royal tombs in the area, and was able to create an excellent tomb for himself on the side.
Sennedjem’s tomb is a premier example of how noble tombs can differ from those of kings. His tomb shows scenes of everyday life, such planting and harvesting:
Of course, the typical tomb artwork exists as well, such as Anubis preparing Sennedjem’s sarcophagus.
The other notable tomb in the area is that of Inherkhau and his wife Wab. Inherkhau was a foreman during the reigns of Ramses III and IV, and his tomb is suitably large for that of a commoner.
DBG would love this tomb, as Inherkau is shown with his naked granddaughters prancing around him.
Ra, as a cat, slays Apep, the serpent of chaos:
A blind harpist entertains the dead couple:
Athletes kneeling for the anthem or doing black power salutes may be drawing inspiration from these anubites:
Next to this more-detailed-than-usual image of a scarab is a line from the Book of the Dead, “Formula to turn into any form one desires.”
For a small extra fee, you can also see the tomb of Pashedu, though it’s small and not too amazing, though the colors are well-preserved and there’s another scarab-headed dood plus a chill Horus.
After finishing with the Worker’s Village, it’s time to do the tombs that are actually classed as “Noble Tombs.” There are quite a few to choose from, but after a bit of research and some chatting with Haggag, you settle on three sets totaling 8 tombs.
The first set you visit is the so-called “Khokha” set, holding three tombs that can be seen quickly. The most interesting one by a good margin is the tomb of the scribe Neferrenpet. One scene in the tomb shows the assembly-line type process workers would use to create pottery and statues.
Another notable feature is that there is an entire wall niche with life-size rock-hewn statues of Neferrenpet’s family.
Neferrenpet enjoys a board game.
Nefferenpet and co. worship the solar disc, which is held up by hands jutting from a mountainside and from a djed pillar.
The next group of tombs are those of Nakht, Menna & Amenemopet. As you approach them, you spot the Ramesseum a short distance away. Constantly taxiing from site to site keeps you disoriented, but overall the Theban necropolis covers a remarkably small area.
Nakht’s tomb has more scenes of Egyptian life, including a portrayal of Luxor’s annual valley festival in honor of Amun-Ra.
Nakht hunts accompanied by tiny naked people, while other workers harvest grapes to make wine.
Another wall shows more agricultural work. By having it painted, Nakht hopefully won’t have to do it himself in the afterlife.
Four men mass-capture birds with a net:
The scribe Menna, also in this set, has even more daily life scenes. There’s a whole sequence showing the harvesting, threshing, and winnowing of grain.
A malefactor is beaten for some unknown infraction:
A boat scene shows a man reaching into the water, probably to get a drink.
The last pair of tombs are the best known in the Valley, those of Sennefer and Rekhmire.
Sennefer was mayor of Thebes and “Overseer of the Granaries and Fields, Gardens and Cattle of Amun” during the reign of Amenhotep II.
In terms of art, Sennefer's tomb is most famous for its undulating ceiling with images of grapes. It’s sometimes called the “tomb of the vineyards” for this reason:
There’s a lot of other nifty ceiling patterns, which have held up well over the millennia.
Wall paintings show additional scenes of Egyptian daily life: https://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/nobles/sennefer/photo/snnfr_cc_lc_sw_e01.jpg
You can’t read them yourself, but the hieroglyphs on the wall are actually the conversations being had by the workers. The man pushing an oxen urges him to work hard for the sake of the mayor, while an onlooker tells him to give the animal a break so it can drink water. Another man says, not flame, “How handsome the mayor is, the brave man of the king, whom the ruler loves".
Sennefer wears a fetching animal skin.
Servants present offerings of tiny statues and sandals. Of course.
The very last tomb is the largest one you’ll see today, that of Rekhmire. It’s more beat up than most, but still remarkably well-preserved considering there were people actually living in it when it was noticed by archaeologists in the 1800s. Rekhmire was a vizier for Thutmose III, and his tomb is historically notable for including texts describing exactly what a vizier does. Among other things, “It is he who monitors the drinking supply every 10 days.”
There’s a lot of other stuff, though. Thutmose III was Egypt’s great conquering pharaoh, and one wall shows people from Punt, Nubia, and Palestine bringing tribute to the king. Note the giraffe and elephant tusk:
Scenes throughout the tomb show all kinds of labors the vizier would oversee, from baking to beekeeping to the filling of warehouses. One of the better-preserved scenes shows metalworking:
Rekhmire is the only noble whose tomb really feels Pharaonic in scale, thanks to a large central hall that ascends about 20 feet up.
Rekhmire’s wife and her girlfriends enjoy a sweet party:
Sennefer and Rekhmire’s tombs were cool enough to justify bribing the guard for photos, but as you prepare to leave Rekhmire’s tomb, a dispute arises. The guard charged you “15” to take photos, but now as you prepare to leave he says he really was demanding “50.” You don’t have enough in small bills to meet that demand, instead just having several 200-pound notes that you’ll use to pay Haggag, buy food, etc. You try to argue, but then the guardian starts making noises about reporting you to the police for your illegal photography. Yikes! You toss him 40 pounds (all the small bills you have left), he seems mollified, and you book it back to Haggag’s cab before he can change his mind.
Welp, you maed it. You’ve seen all the tourist attractions you hoped to see. But the trip isn't QUITE over: You still have to get out of Egypt.
Date: November 4th, 2018 3:04 PM
Tomb of Sennedjem is LIT AS FUCK, that may be the coolest painted thing I’ve seen in this whole thread
Dudes harvesting the grapes in Nakht’s tomb are doing the “pharaoh smiting Asiatics” pose
Sennefer kind of looks like luis
Date: November 10th, 2018 5:52 PM
This is it. After seven days of traveling and a whopping two months of photo curation, it’s finally time to head back to the States. You could fly from Luxor to Cairo, but to save money and try something different, you’re instead going to take a train. But first you stop at a west bank restaurant that boasts of its ice cubes made from filtered water.
After your meal, you cross the Nile one last time. As you walk to the landing, you pass some chill guys riding on camels.
Once you get back across, you fetch your bags from the Winter Palace, and then it’s just a short walk to the train station. This is definitely not how most tourists travel. While the station is packed and deafening, you’re probably the only tourist there, and there isn’t even English signage. Also, when people need to get to the other side of the tracks, a significant number of them literally just hop down on the tracks and get up on the other side. Very kooky.
President El-Sisi is not making the trains run on time; your special overnight sleeper car is about an hour late. But your private car is otherwise clean and pleasant.
The meal isn’t atrocious either.
After a quiet overnight ride of about ten hours, you arrive at the train station in Giza. From there, it’s a short subway ride back into downtown Cairo. As you leave the subway station, you observe Cairenes pathological hatred of staircases. They’re willing to line up and wait to take the escalator instead, which they all remain stationary on.
You have about 6 hours before your flight, but that doesn’t mean you’re going touring again. It’s a Sunday morning, bub, and this is a Charles Digital thread. We’re going to church.
Saint Joseph’s church is shockingly large given Egypt’s tiny Catholic community; it was built in the early 20th century to serve the city’s large European community. That community isn’t so large today, and it’s less religious, but the church endures. The service you attend has only about 20 people, and most attendees appear Middle Eastern rather than European. The service is in Arabic.
The statue outside honors St. Francis, who accompanied the Fifth Crusade to Egypt and attempted to convert the sultan. Scenes on the pedestal show the meeting between the two.
The interior is thoroughly European. You aren’t sure what religious scenes are shown in the paintings at the top, though in one of them the pharaoh is petting a doggydood.
Outside after the service, the fattest person you’ve seen in Egypt is using a broom to sweep away a dead cat. This must be that fabled vibrant authenticity that exists in the Third World.
And with that dead cat, your time in Egypt comes to a close. You stop by the El Abd pastry shop again for some more treats, and then you grab an Uber back to the airport to catch your flight. This time, instead of going through Munich, you go through Germany’s hub of global capitalism, Frankfurt. You’re only there overnight, but the trains do run the whole time, so why not head into town to see what little you can?
Frankfurt is one of the only cities in Europe with a U.S.-style skyline of tall downtown office buildings.
But despite all the glitz, Frankfurt is also an ancient city. The great writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt more than 250 years ago, and the house he was born in still stands as a museum today.
Just to the east is the old town square, containing the city’s 600-year-old city hall, the Römer. It’s heavily reconstructed, as it was mostly destroyed during World War 2.
Further east than that is the city’s cathedral, where the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned for centuries. Despite its name, it’s not actually a cathedral as it is not the see of a bishop. It’s rather hard to see in the dark, and it appears to be undergoing restoration.
Also near the center of the city is the Paulskirche, a United Protestant (formerly Lutheran) church that was the meeting hall for the Frankfurt Parliament during the 1848 Revolutions.
The parliament offered an imperial crown to Frederich William IV of Prussia, but he refused it on the grounds that he would not accept a “crown from the gutter.” Like the city hall, Paulskirche was destroyed in World War 2 and heavily rebuilt, so the interior is not even the same as the one the parliament met in. It’s also no longer used as a church, as the congregation was relocated so the city could use the building for civic purposes instead.
Nearby Paulskirche is the headquarters of the European Central Bank, which administers monetary policy for the Eurozone.
Right by the ECB is the building of the Frankfurt Opera. European XO users are unable to move out of Frankfurt back to their childhood homes in Schleswig-Holstein because it would mean giving this up.
The much prettier Alte Oper (Old Opera) is nearby. The first performance of Carmina Burana was held here.
The last thing to see in Frankfurt is a stark reminder of modern European decadence. Directly across from the central train station is a massive Red Light District.
The area covers several city blocks, and is nothing but brothels, strip clubs, gambling halls, and similarly sordid businesses. The area is also lenient on drugs, so people can be seen using hard drugs in the middle of the street. Even street prostitution is tolerated, so while you are walking back to the station you get approached by an Eastern European-looking woman who asks if you want “drinks.” Besides the immoral prurient possibilities, that’s also setting up a common scam where tourists end up paying hundreds of Euros for high-end drinks. Alcohol is poison, kids.
Instead, you get back to the airport, hop on your flight, and 8 hours later, you’re finally back in America. 180!
Date: November 11th, 2018 5:38 PM
Date: November 10th, 2018 8:03 PM
so where to next?
Date: November 11th, 2018 4:16 PM
Author: bowlcut autist
Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb
November 11, 201812:32 PM ET
Men carry mummified cats from a tomb at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt on Saturday.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
The more archaeologists continue to explore the tombs of ancient Egypt, the more evidence mounts that ancient Egyptians admired cats — and loved mummifying them.
Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.
The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.
The Ministry of Antiquities was clear about its goals in announcing the discoveries: attracting visitors back to Egypt's heritage sites, as the country has experienced a significant drop in tourists since the 2011 mass protests that overthrew dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak.
The ministry tweeted photos of the findings. Pictures of the cat statues took front and center — with the ancient felines looking proud and cool, like an upscale, 4,500-year-old version of what a cat fancier today might try to commission.
The mummified cats themselves ... well, those images are more unsettling, though they offer incontrovertible evidence that mummification is highly effective.
While ancient Egyptians saw cats as divine, they didn't exactly worship them, Antonietta Catanzariti, curator of the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery exhibit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, told NPR last year.
"What they did is to observe their behavior," she said, and create gods and goddesses in their image — much as they did with other animals, including dogs, crocodiles, snakes and bulls.
And while cat mummies are fascinating, Catanzariti said they were also pretty common in ancient Egypt, where cats were bred for the purpose. "In the 1890s, people from England went to Egypt and they collected all these mummies. One cargo was 180,000 of them."
Perhaps that's why the antiquities ministry made a bigger deal about something else they discovered in the tomb: mummified scarab beetles. Two large specimens were found wrapped in linen, apparently in very good condition. They were inside sarcophagi decorated with drawings of scarabs.
"The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare," Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told outlets including Reuters.
"A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before."
Date: January 29th, 2019 2:39 PM
OP, what would be a problem, if any, w just getting a cheap hotel in Cairo and doing tours of the city and little day trips for a week.
How would you proceed if you were gonna do that?
Date: January 29th, 2019 5:36 PM
BTW this pic of yours is goddamn amazing. The human condition, huh