The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Tuesday, January 11

Egypt: Part II

Today is museum day. We are off to the the Egyptian Museum which is just across the street from our hostel. It was built at the turn of the 19th century and some have called it the "Warehouse of Antiquity" since it crams a lot of artifacts into its two floors without the more modern presentations.

I am eager to see for myself. After a day of surveying the Pyramids, I want to see what the Pharaohs took into the afterlife.

Fran and I queue-up in, not one but two, security lines. I am told later that Egypt has a number of make-work redundancies to keep people employed. We are thoroughly scanned and bags are properly searched.

Cameras are not allowed inside and must be checked. It's interesting to see the big tours companies filling baskets with their clients' cameras - thousands of dollars of digital hardware placed on a shelf with a coat-check token as collateral.

Internet photos from open sources

Inside a grand hall greets me. Colossal statues of Pharaohs beckon me onward. Smaller sculptures and bas-reliefs are displayed along the way. I am introduced to my first hieroglyphics close up.

Thanks to my niece Jenny's Christmas gift, I take out my new sketch pad and pencils and begin to draw what was chiseled into stone 4000 or more years ago.

I learn that ancient Egyptians were more pictorial in their thinking. They did not see the world in abstractions. My sketches show birds and snakes and implements of everyday life. Their writing tells stories in pictures. I become totally absorbed. What a grand way to visit a museum - sketch it!

Of course no visit to the Egyptian Museum would be complete without a visit to King Tut. Tucked in the back on the second floor with no signs announcing the way is his room.

King Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun." Here is a hieroglyphic rendering...
Hiero Ca1.svg
Hiero Ca2.svg

He lived during the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt and only reigned for 10 years - 1333 BC to 1323 BC. He took the throne at age 9 and was dead by his 19th year. There's been a lot of speculation about his early death. Some say murder while others point to malaria, infections and various birth defects due to inbreeding that was commonly practiced among royalty.

King Tut has become widely popular since his tomb is one of the few that was not looted in antiquity. When Howard Carter, the famous archeologist, unearthed it in 1922, the gold face mask became an instant symbol of the Pyramids although he actually was buried a millennium after the Pyramids were built and in the Valley of the Kings about 450 miles away near Luxor.

I am captivated by this sarcophagus. It's an impressive piece of artistic craftsmanship. Every centimeter of the gold overlay is inscribed with a small delicate design. I just kept wondering how someone could inscribe the gold with such beautiful precision and I wondered what happened when a mistake was made?

Tutankhamum Scarab

I become bolder in my observations and try sketching profiles of statutes. As I am working, a guard comes by and says "nice" in English. He stands watching me. I smile with a little self-consciousness.

Just then, a young fellow stops and introduces himself. His name is Omar. He's an art teacher and artist himself. Today, he has a few students at the Museum sketching.

We enter into a wide ranging discussion of art and music and our various cultures. Besides being an artist, he also is a heavy metal rocker. He explains his kind of music is underground in Egypt. We both like Reggae because of its rhythm and social justice themes. I tell him about Zydeco from the Cajuns of New Orleans. We exchange emails and vow to stay in touch. And we do!!

He is the first Egyptian I have met who is not trying to sell me something. In fact he gives me one of his pencils as a token of friendship. Art is wonderful. It brings cultures together.

I feel like I crammed a lot into my 7 hours at the Museum. My mind is now a warehouse of images brimming over with ideas for art projects.

I retrieve my camera and look around outside. I take a few of my own photos before heading back across the street to the hostel. Omar has given me a suggestion for a cafe. Fran and I will give it a try tonight and compare notes about our day at the Museum.

1 comment:

  1. I think your trip to Cairo was better planned to experience the wonders of the city. The one day I spent there was not enough and I felt constantly rushed. Well I guess that means I will have to go back and visit it again some day :)