Egypt

Looking Back: Travels of 2013

This year has been filled with travels. Other than my home in Rome I went to, Kosovo,Macedonia,  Florence, Corfu, Cairo, Pompeii/Naples, Torino, and then back to the states twice! It was quite an adventurous year, and I am so glad I have been able to share all these travels with every one of you! As the year is coming down I thought it would be fun to share a couple of my favorites from the past year.

Favorite Photo: It is not one of my bests necessarily, but I love this photo all the same, something about it just feels right. I have included it before but I thought I would share for this post.Image

Favorite Place I visited: It is a close tie between Torino and Cairo. I loved Cairo but I really wish I could have seen more in the daylight and had a bit more touristic freedom, rather than acting as a guest to a local. It was good for some things, but limited my desire to adventure at random. Torino I had full freedom and it was very enjoyable, however I was only there for a weekend so it might have been different had I stayed. These two are just so different it really is hard to compare!

Favorite Meal: I will have to say Kosovo for this one. We got dinner at Tiffany’s for 30 euros, which was split between three of us and included an amazing salad which had beets, 4 main course dishes which was shared among the table, as well as other side dishes and drinks. It was mainly veal, with very different sauces. Everything was so fresh and the restaurant had an open kitchen so you were able to see the food being prepared. The whole thing was incredibly filling and just so different from anything I have ever and before it was wonderful.

Favorite Drink: Bicerin in Torino of course! Nothing could compare, this is pure ecstasy in a glass, one of them and the day becomes 50 shades brighter. Don’t be the person who points out how many

espresso, then chocolate, then heavy frothed c...

espresso, then chocolate, then heavy frothed cream… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

calories are in the chocolate and whipped cream… no one likes that person.

Best memory of the year: This actually has nothing to do with travelling, but it was coming home for my friend’s wedding, I was able to see all my friends from high school and have a fantastic weekend. That was absolutely the highlight of my year.

The Egyptian Collection in Torino

Some pieces of the Immortali exhibit

Some pieces of the Immortali exhibit

The painted dancer

The painted dancer

One of the Book of the Dead collection

One of the Book of the Dead collection

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One of the the first "mummies" from pre dynastic Egypt.

One of the the first “mummies” from pre dynastic Egypt.

Pieces from the pre-dynastic collection.

Pieces from the pre-dynastic collection.

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The Temple of Elleysia

The Temple of Elleysia

The Egyptian Museum of Torino is presently undergoing reconstruction, to make a larger exhibition space for their extensive collection. At the time to show as much of the collection as possible there is a special exhibition titled Immortali, as well as the stable collections of the pre dynastic artifacts, the tomb of Kha and the statue room. The Immortali exhibition will be on display from 2013 until the new museum space opening in 2015.

Upon arrival to the museum the entrance uses mirrors, and angled architecture to appear as if the visitor is inside a pyramid. There are signs as well as very kind ticket takers to direct visitors on the itineraries path. The new itinerary for the museum’s renovation begins with Immortali exhibit.This is located in the basement, the path then takes the visitor through the mummy storage space, where a few mummies are visible through windows, then upstairs to the Predynastic and Kha collections, and finally across the courtyard to the statue room and temple of Elleysia.

There are plenty of brochures in multiple languages for information on both the Immortali exhibit and the regular collections of the museum. However if any individual forgets to grab these at the entrance, information is everywhere throughout the museum, as well as more places to grab these brochures.

The first information sheet, being that for Immortali discusses the plans for the future museum and what its layout will be.The plan is for the museum to confirm the famous quote by JF Champollion “The road to Memphis and Thebes passe through Turin.”.

The aims of the Immortali exhibit are to share the artifacts of the cult of the afterlife. The ideas around the afterlife changed throughout periods in Ancient Egypt, this exhibit shows how it was respected and how it differed through the ages. THe exhibit presents artifacts and great pieces of art which take the visitor through a ” vast chronological path” which includes the New, Middle and Old Kingdom as well as the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

Each piece was chosen to show uniqueness of style or material showing a high degree of knowledge and skill as well as ambition of the nobles to tell of their own greatness.

The exhibition most definitely meets its intended aims. It is set up with different display cases and statue center pieces in chronological order. Each case has a large written plaque with in depth but easily read and understandable information about what that particular case shows. For example one case may describe how religion changed during the Middle Kingdom, then how it can be seen through the use of different gods, in different displays.  Another is how funerary practices changed in Roman and Ptolemaic Egypt, with tombs and funerary items to show this.

Each artifact is included with a small card explaining what it depicts, when it came from, when and where it was found, and how it is unique or different from other items of this type.

Though the artifacts seen are similar to those found in most other Egyptian collections from museums around the world, with a few marvelous exceptions such as that of a painted dancer a weaving display, and books of the dead; the Museo Egizio  presents them in such a way that a visitor  even with prior knowledge still walks away with a load of new information. The museum is a much better source even than most books suitible for non academics.

This exhibit is so well presented with such short yet helpful information, provided in both Italian and English (with the possibility of a French guide) that everyone can walk away with a better understanding of Ancient Egypt.

Tours are offered in many languages, and though Immortali has no special events of displays for children the museum has a whole provides children’s events. The most crowd-pleasing being that of a Halloween event.

The Museum was founded in 1824 under Savoy King Carlo Felice, from the collection of Bernardino Drovetti, Napoleons French Consul to Egypt. This original collection housed 5268 items. When Ernesto Schiapperelli was head of the museum, another 25000 objects were added, either through excavation or through auction.  The exhibit of the Tomb of Kha was provided to the museum upon it’s excavation in 1906, it included another 504 items. The Temple of Ellesiya was rescued with the help of the museum from the rising waters of Lake Nasser in 1965. In 1966 Egypt gave the temple to the country of Italy who then put it in the care of the museum.

The Museo Egizio prides themselves on their massive collection ranging over 4000 years. As well as the fact the make this collection and the ancient civilization accessible to everyone. One of their main aims is to present the entire range of Ancient Egyptian history in a clear and interesting way to all.

The Egyptian Museum of Torino succesfully achieves and even goes further than its aims. The museum is fun for those of all ages and levels of Egyptology knowledge *even those with none!). It provides thoughtful information which is easily read and understood. Providing visitors with much on  Ancient Egyptian life throughout the dynasties.

The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 8:30am to 7:30pm. If you are in the area it is a must-see. The collection is fascinating and I can promise you will leave with a new interest in Egyptology and at least one artifact resonating with you.

If you are further away I do recommend a trip to Torino to visit not only this museum, but the many other attractions in the city. It might even be best to save a trip until 2015 when the newly renovated museum will be revealed.

 

June 30th, and Modern Cairo

Before I go much into this, let me just say I am all for change in Egypt and agree their leaders have not done much to help the people.

That being said, here is what I noticed about Modern Cairo, there are very many fast food restaurants, and a lot of american food around . In fact at times, in certain neighborhoods, except for the Arabic signs, speech and level of poverty, one could easily think they were in a western city. Though there isn’t that much wrong with this, I just found it funny that many would complain about American and Western Powers, but lived very similar.

My biggest observation, is though much of the city is developed, in terms of architecture, shopping, malls, restaurants, car dealerships, etc. It’s basic needs, such as military, government, police, traffic, road construction, trash maintenance, power and water are either basically non-existent, or are put together in a way they don’t work, and people are unhappy with them.  Not saying that every country should have perfect functioning institutions or democracy, a world of western style countries would be boring. Take Italy for example the reason I adore it so much is though everything is set up, nothing quite functions perfectly, store hours are random, buses run when they want, cleaning happens, but there is still some aspect of dirty city, it is western based, but with it’s own twist.  But Egypt should at least have completed some of these necessary aspects to it’s country before it developed in other areas.

Now onto the Government, something that a mass of Egyptians have never been happy with, and what they are trying to change again today. While their leaders have often taken their own needs before those of the people, and citizens are often not allowed the freedom of speech. It is easy to see why the people constantly want the President out, however, what plan do they really have? Presidents can not be constantly thrown out if there is no solid plan to fix things. And for every President that is thrown out, there is still a group of people who did support them and will be unhappy when they are thrown out. There is no winning. Egypt has truly been unhappy with their government, and constantly in some form of revolutionary state, since way back when Alexander the Great set up Greek generals to be in charge of the country, though this unhappiness has grown with time, it has always been present at some level.

The Egyptian people are a strong, and passionate group, I do believe they can change anything they hope to. They have the power to change their country for the better. Only they need to focus, on what they want changed, rather then who they want out at the time.

I believe maybe, finally this will be a new start to Egypt, as long as they stay focused.

Visits in Cairo

Finally after two weeks I am back in Rome, missing Cairo already, but enjoying the calm traffic and cleanliness.

Cairo was quite an expierence, there was a lot to process and the city never stopped moving. I was unfortunately not able to go out to Alexandria, but visited the Pyramids, Memphis and Sakkara and Old Cairo.

Though I was very excited about the Pyramids, I will admit much like the Collosseum, unless you are super into the history, you can just drive around the outside of the grounds, see all three pyramids and the Sphinx without having to pay.

ImageMemphis and Sakkara are much cheaper and very interesting. Both are small areas, best to hire a driver because they are far out of the city. Memphis includes most artifacts, including a large statue, of Ramses II. Sakkara includes the step Pyramid, older than the Great Pyramid and inside some of the sanctuaries surrounding this pyramid is the priests original script on the walls.

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Apologies for the sideways photo, but WordPress will not allow me to rotate it!

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What was sad to see, is that most of the ancient cities were built over before they were known about, and now cannot be investigated, this is very unfortunate because it leaves a large gap in the knowledge of the ancient area of Cairo. There is some digging going on beside Memphis but it appeared as most had been stopped since Post-Revolution.

As far as Ancient Egypt, that was about all there was,along with the museum.  In Heliopolis, the neighborhood I was staying it, there was once a site of a large temple to Ra, all that remains is a single obelisk placed in the center of a large road.

The Museum is located beside Tahrir Square, right next to the old Parliament building, It is definitely worth a visit. There is so much to see, but the Museum is kept more like a storehouse than a museum, there is very little information on the artifacts. The only very exhibit like sections were that of King Tut’s funerary items and Mask (which was absolutely gorgeous), the jewelry, and a small room for Akhenaten, which included funerary items of his wives, and very large statues of him and his family.

There is also a small room for animal mummies which was very interesting, though the human royal mummies are in a separate exhibit. This Royal Mummies room cost more to enter than the museum itself (at least if you enter the museum with student discounts, as I did). Though of course mummies are always intriguing, this room was not that big a deal, just about 12 royals laid out.

Moving into the Middle Ages, there was much more to see, mainly in the area surrounding the Citadel, known as Old Cairo, this is also the area which includes “Coptic Cairo”. Here there is the market Khan el Khalili, the “Hanging Church”, The Citadel, and the church which Mary and Joseph stayed on their trip through Cairo. These are only a few places I personally visited, but there are many more churches and mosques.

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All these places were well worth the visit, and costed nothing but the drive there.  Prices at Khan el Khalili definitely depended on tourist vs local. Having an Egyptian with me I was able to get pretty decent prices for most presents I bought. They have fantastic glassware, clothing and spices.

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The Citadel was built by Salah al Din,  as protection from the Crusaders, the mosque inside the walls, which follows the same architecture as the Blue Mosque in Turkey, was built later under Muhammed Ali. Inside the walls of the fort was where the Mamluks  were slaughtered by the ruler Muhammed Ali, so that they would not rise to power above him. He is also buried within the Mosque.

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Ceiling within the Hanging Church

The Hanging or Suspended Church is built on top the foundations to a tower, so the foundation is lifted off the ground and is only covering a small section under the church. The decoration inside is very beautiful, with Coptic style paintings, ebony and ivory decorations and handmade stained glass windows.

Though the area has many churches, the rest of “Old Cairo” includes many small mosques, and is a dirtier, more chaotic section of Cairo. I loved seeing the very local cafes and small winding streets, however my boyfriend told me to put away the camera and stay close, so it is not the best place for tourists.

That’s it for visited places, later I will post another piece on the modern city and my experiences.

Cairo

Cairo

View from the back of the Citadel, looking over the entire city, on a clear day the Pyramids can be seen. What is seen in this photo is a mosque in Old Cairo, it functions also as a University teaching the Islamic Pillars of Faith.