City

London, The First Day: Covenant Garden

It may be a little late, but if you didn’t know, last week I went to London. I never planned on going, I have never really wanted to. But I went for my thesis (which will be on the marketing and finances of the British Museum), and found out I actually really liked it! Love is too strong a word for someone who was raised by a politically active, Sinn Fein, Irish American mother, so lets stick with really like.

Covnant Garden Food

Althoughit was cold, I managed quite a bit of exploring, my favorite spot being Covenant Garden by far. I found I loved being in a city that functioned, unlike Rome, but of course after 3 days I did miss my old city.

London Telephone Booth Vespa in London Corner Double Decker Bus in London Golden Eagle overlooking London Eye

The first day was spent learning to understand the tube (why can’t you all just call it the metro, like everyone else) and finding Shake Shack, as our goal with trip was to try all the food we can never get in Italy. The only thing that was disappointing was the 6 pounds for a small burger… go ahead and put that into a conversion, it will make you cry.

Shake Shack then turned into all the amazing food in Covenant Garden, and a walk over to Big Ben, and an attempt at Westminster Abbey.

Big Ben London Big Ben and London Eye Westminster Abbey, London

I was most excited to see Westminster Abbey, as I find it hard to visit any country without going into any church, and well this is the church of London. Unfortunately it costs 20 pounds to see the inside. Yep, 20 pounds… I will convert that for you 30.80 USD, per person, for a church. For a country that gives access to free culture through museums, apparently churches didn’t make that deal. I may be a bit spoiled though, being in Rome, where all churches (and water) is free. The fact that I didn’t get to see this church was probably my biggest regret of the trip, but I am a student and was not about to hand that money over. The outside though is absolutely stunning.

Note on photos: I decided only to bring my 35mm lens and was so happy with the results, I shot entirely in Manual for the first trip ever and I have never been prouder of my photos!

Italian Christmas Traditions

Italian Christmas Traditions

Since there hasn’t been much to tell you about this semester, I figured I would tell you a bit about Italian Christmas. I haven’t been able to spend a full Christmas here, but hopefully next year!

Even though Rome is the site of the Vatican, there is surprisingly little in the way of Christmas decoration and events, or at least less than one would presume. Nativity’s are set up in every church, with a large one at the Spanish Steps. Christmas trees are decorated by large companies such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi. There is even one in Milan decorated completely with dildos…. Lights are put up, but not as excessive as America, there are a few decorations but I would expect more. It could be that I am not staying with a very Italian family, or it could really be they aren’t as excited as the rest of the world.

Food: At this time, oranges and clementines are the number one fruit. I have heard Oranges used to be a christmas present because they were so rare. Apparently this has stuck on in Italy. But there are no smells of cinnamon, gingerbread, apple or pine. In fact real Christmas trees are rare and expensive. They don’t really bake Christmas cookies, but there is the traditional Italian Christmas Cake: Pannetone. I finally bought one of these, I was worried it would be dry and boring like all other Italian attempts at a cake, but it turned out to be very good! All it is really is a large muffin, in look and taste, you can get fruit or chocolate ones. Of course there is also lots and lots of chocolate, mainly with nuts. Candied nuts and figs are also big at this time, at least in the grocery stores….yet I never see anyone eat them.

Traditions: Now, let me explain why there is a witch as this photo, rather than reindeer or Santa Claus etc. Well, Italians have two Christmas Characters, Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and Befana, the witch who brings presents.

Befana comes on the Feast of the Epiphany, being the Night of January 5th. She comes and fills children’s stockings with sweets and presents, unless they have been bad, then coal and sticks. She also sweeps the house as she visits, sweeping away the problems of the past year. Sticking with the Italian mindset, rather than leaving milk and cookies, families leave wine and small food, sometimes figs and dates.

Befana was the old lady who sheltered the Magi on their way to visit Jesus, she declined to go with them, then later changed her mind and tried to find him, as she never could , she continues to search for Baby Jesus leaving gifts for all the children she encounters.
Her name really just comes from the Italian accent on the word Epifania.

And of course she is also connected to Pre Christian beliefs, she is connected to the Festival of Strenia and Iannus, as at the beginning of each new year, Romans gave presents to one another.

Babbo Natale used to be simply the character of christmas, however due to large commercialization, he is beginning to be the one bringing presents, rather than Befana.

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.

 

A second snapshot of Torino

Throughout the arch covered walkways of the cities there were many little vendors, most of which were used and antique books.

Throughout the arch covered walkways of the city there were many little vendors, most of which were used and antique books.

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Statue found outside Gran Madre di Dio

Statue found outside Gran Madre di Dio

View from Gran Madre di Dio.

View from Gran Madre di Dio.

Taking a break before the Molle.

Taking a break before the Molle.

An autumn walk along the River Po.

An autumn walk along the River Po.

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.