Today morning we reached the famous Egyptian Museum with our guide Ms. Marwah.
The Egyptian Museum has over 120, 000 pharoanic artifacts and has been operational since 1902.
Our first stop was before the Narmer Palette – this palette is from 3200 BC commemorating the unification of upper and lower egypt by Narmer (a.k.a Menes). Narmer is the founder of the pharoanic civilization that lasted nearly 3000 years with 30 dynasties. The Narmer Palette is so well preserved that it is hard to believe that it is 5200 years old.
The next stop was in front of a replica of the Rosetta Stone ( we had seen the original in the British Museum in London). Jean Francois Champollion, 23 year old French genius, in 1822, cracked this stone which had the same inscription in 3 versions – Hieroglyphic, Demotic (a commoner’s version of Hieroglyphic) and Greek. After nearly 1800 years, hierpoglyphics could be understood which literally threw the floodgates of Egyptology open. This decipherment of the Hieroglyphics is an epochal moment in the history of mankind. I for one, wait for this same moment to come for our Indus Valley script. I hope it will happen in my lifetime, that is my fervent dream.
Then we see a small statue of Khufu made of ivory – ironically this is the only artifact found of Khufu, the man who buillt the biggest pyramid of all time at Giza which we covered earlier.
Then we saw Zoser’s original statue – we saw a replica of this in the cellar near the Zoser pyramid in Saqqara. This is the one we had to see through a pair of holes.
Then we saw the crown jewels of the Egyptian Museum – the Tutankhamun collection. A few halls full of artefacts from Tut’s tomb which we covered in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
There are 4 rectangular box-shaped shrines with gold gilded. Each shrine is fitted inside the other like a Russian doll and inside the innermost one were the anthropoid coffins. The outside of the gilded shrines have the book of the dead carved on them.
We also saw the death mask made of solid gold, lots of jewellery and other paraphernalia like furniture, throne, beds. There is even a foldable bed for his expeditions. On the inside back of the royal throne we see a painting of King Tut with his wife Anexshunamun. Anexshunamun later married the high priest Ay after Tut’s death and Ay ascended the throne as the first high priest to become a pharoah.
Priya Raju was wondering that if King Tut who died at the age of 19 had so much gold and treasures buried how much would a king like Rameses II’s tomb have since he died at age 92. Unfortunately, the tomb robbers would have melted all the artifacts and taken the gold without realizing that the artefacts if intact would have netted 100-1000 times the value of the gold in them. Not to speak of all the knowledge of Egyptian customs that was lost How sad.
We saw 365 Ushabtis (we covered this in the mummification process) of King Tut. It is the only tomb where all the 365 Ushabtis were found – they had one for each day of the year.
Tut’s entrails were placed in 4 mini coffins made of gold and then placed inside the 4 canopic jars. The heads of the canopic jars had the heads of King Tut and not the traditional ones I covered in the mummification process.
Then we saw the massive statue of Amenhotep III and his wife Tiy. We then covered the Animal Mummies room – there were 4 kinds of animal mummies – pet mummies of cats, dogs etc, animal god mummies like crocodile, baboon etc, votive mummies and then victual mummies as food for the afterlife. There were some fake mummies also on display. The mummies were placed in a container shaped like the respective animal but nothing inside except some animal entrails. Perhaps, that animal was out of stock as noted in the museum display!
That completed the Egyptian Museum (one could spend weeks here and still not see all the artefacts).
We drove to the Al Azhar mosque a 1000 year old mosque. We went inside the mosque and saw the open courtyard with pillared corridors reminding us of pharoanic temples. I even noticed a papyrus motif on some of the pillars. Then we went inside the huge covered pillared hall, where people were offering their prayers.
Then we made a small donation to the mosque and were lucky to meet the Imam (a.ka Sheikh) – the Imam of this mosque is the highest priest in the Egyptian Islamic order.
After this we went to the nearby Khan al Khaleeli market – loosely translated as Market of the Khaleeli Lane. In olden days, this market was the spice market and with a Spice market in Venice it controlled the entire spice trade (there are shops selling spices here still). It is to break the control of this market on the spice trade that Columbus, Vasco De Gama and others set out to find a direct route to India resulting in the discovery of the New World and as they say the
rest is history.
Today’s Khan al Khaleeli is a tourist trap selling souvenirs. We bought a few souvenirs and then had a cup of Turkish Coffee at the famed El Fishawy coffee house. Egyptian Nobel laureate for Literature Naguib Mahfouz, is known to frequent this place and Priya Raju was determined to have coffee here. So we did it.
That ended our magical tour of Egypt. When we reached our hotel back it was around 5PM. We had an early dinner and hit the bed early.
My sincere thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my moblogs. Special thanks for the interesting questions and comments.
We leave for India tomorrow morning and reach Chennai early morning on Wednesday.