Monday, October 18, 2004

Day 5 – October 12th Egyptian Museum, Citadel, and Bazaar

We are quickly loosing track of time. We think we missed Turkey Monday. I hope everyone had some extra pumpkin pie for David and me.

We got up early and met our group for breakfast at the hotel. We met our tour guide for the day after breakfast. His name is Sal and he is an Egyptologist. He earned his PhD in Egyptology – mummification after 10 years of school. He did his M.Sc. in Germany and his PhD in California. He has been a tour guide for 12 years.

He is an excellent tour guide. He told us so much about Cairo and artifacts at the museum. He is also an excellent story teller. The tour in the museum was 3 hours long. He explained the significance of several small exhibits in the entrance of the museum. Like the jewelry of the first Queen of Egypt. He also showed us perfume bottles that still has perfume in them after 5 thousand years.

Sal also showed us a head from the statue of the first queen of Egypt (Queen Hatshepsut). She was the only child of a King of Egypt but could not become queen because she was a woman. So she moved to South Egypt and became a queen by proving her strength and loyalty to her people. The true story was that she had fallen in love with her older tutor and became pregnant so she had to leave Northern Egypt to have her child. She eventually returned to N. Egypt to become Queen. Her son wanted to become King so he had her killed and removed all her statues from Egypt. The fragment that Sal showed us was one of the few archeologists were able to find.

Then he took us to see a couple of very interesting Mummies. Apparently there will be a National Geographic Special about these two mummies on Dec 23rd this year on the Discovery channel. One of the mummy’s names was Ptolemaic Ekhmim. He was a tax collector and was very wealthy but he was mummified in the worst way. His mummy shrank over the centuries so that it no longer fits its box. It was wrapped in the poorest of linens and his neck was broken. Apparently no one liked him while he was alive including his wife who ordered a very cheap burial for her husband. She on the other hand spent all his money on her burial. She is nicked named the “sleeping lady”. Normally it takes approximately 40 days to mummify a body. She was mummified over twice that amount of time. Her skin apparently looks as real as the day she died. She also had solid gold organs to replace the ones that were removed during mummification. The significance of her husband’s mummy was that through tests scientists were able to determine that he had leukemia for over 40 years. He died at the age of 88. Apparently he had the antibody for leukemia. Anyways, Sal said that this mummy is the key to curing cancer. So we plan watch the show near Christmas to learn more about this.

From the husband and wife mummy, Sal took us to see the King Tutamkahamun exhibit. He told us that King Tutamkahamun became king at the age of 9. Since no one wanted to listen to a child, the priests took over the reign of the king. He was given lots of money to change the religion of Egypt. This caused a great amount of controversy. King Tutamkahamun also fell in love with a young girl whose parents did not support this new religion, so he could not marry her. When he was 17 he wrote a law to change the religion of Egypt, which really upset the priests so in the end they murdered him by hitting him on the back of the head in the middle of the night. The Egyptologists learned about all this by reading the confession of the priests on the walls of the tomb. Since the priests confessed to this murder, they were going to go to heaven anyways. SO the priests quickly mummified King Tutamkahamun in a matter of hours. They also did not trust the guards to look after his tomb so they did it themselves for hundreds of years, mainly because they did not want their secret to be told. SO this is one reason why all his treasures were not found until 1921.

After the King Tutamkahamun exhibit we had 45 minutes on our own. David and I went back to a room where we saw a tomb that was on exhibit. Then I wanted to go back to the husband and wife mummies to get more information.

From the museum, we ate lunch at a tourist restaurant near the pyramids at Giza. The food initially was excellent. Most meals begin with an appetizer of hummus, fresh bread, salad that looks like salsa, and deep fried eggplant. The meal was not that good. David had an Egyptian meal that consisted of tomato sauce, rice and egg. I had lamb on rice, but there was very little lamb and more unidentifiable meat.

After lunch we went to the Citadel. The Citadel is old Cairo. Inside the Citadel is a beautiful mosque created by Mohammed Ali who was a leader of Egypt. He wanted to create a place where all religious people could celebrate. From the outside it looks very dirty. It was cleaned for the millennium but now the 7 cm thick silver domes are covered with brown dirt. Like everything else in Cairo, the domes are covered in dust and you can not tell that they are made of Silver. We went into a huge court yard where made of Alabaster stone. The mosque has beautiful copper windows – one for each tribe in Egypt. Each window has a lily and an eye for protection. When you enter the court yard you see a very large impressive decorative fountain. Also in the court yard is a clock that the French gave the Egyptians in exchange for the Obelisque that we saw while in Paris, France. We think the French did much better than the Egyptians since the beautiful ornamental clock has never worked.

Inside the mosque there are gigantic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The domes are decorated in mostly dark greens. When we entered the mosque we were asked to remove our shoes and not to let the soles of our shoes to touch the carpets in the mosque. We also saw the tomb of Mohammed Ali, the only person ever to be buried in a mosque.

After sitting in the mosque for a few minutes, we ventured outside for a wonderful panoramic view of Cairo.

From the Citadel we went to the Khan El Khlili bazaar. The bazaar is very loud and very busy. It consists of a maze of streets and side alley ways with very small shops. You quickly realize that most of the shops sell the same items. The challenge is to determine which shop to haggle in for the best price.

Haggling in Egypt is fun but a challenge. Once you find the item you would like to purchase and you are sure that it is authentic you say to the store keep “how much?” Then the hardest part (for me) is keeping quiet. The store keep will say a price, then you have to put down the item and say no while walking away. They then chase you and say “how much?” Then you ask again “how much?” and they normally lower their original price. From this point you have a starting price to work with. You can then say half this price and work from there. David and I have not really purchased many items yet, just a few items. We are mostly looking and practicing our haggling skills so that when we go to Luxor – hopefully we will get a fair price for what we would like to buy.

Met the tour leader for dinner. She took us to a terrible restaurant near our hotel. It’s obvious that the restaurant owners were taking advantage of the tour guides in brining us there. The food was horrible and the service was worse. They only brought us our micro waved heated food after I became testy with the waiter. They also did not bring us anything to drink unless we waved them down. We are going planning to complain to Sandra soon about this. We got home late from the restaurant to pack. We leave for Aswan tomorrow night after spending a day to see the King’s Pyramids at Giza.

David and Veronica


Blogger Miguel Endara said...

Hello! I just read your blog and I am relieved to have found someone who also talks about Sal and his wonderful story tellings. The most fascinating part of my entire two week trip in Egypt was how the husband of Hatshepsut died at the age of 88. He told us that National Geographic had agreed to interview him and talk about the possibility of developing an antibody to leukemia, similar to the one the mummy had for nearly 44 years before he died. It was incredible. If you have any other information about Sal and what he is up to now, please let me know. I would love to learn more about this. Thank you so much and I hope you had a great time in Egypt!

Miguel Endara

July 20, 2008 at 10:53 AM  

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