Friday, February 13, 2009

A Morning in the Museum

Lots of hieroglyphics and art on today's adventures, particularly at the Egyptian National Museum. Which makes sense -- all the beautiful objects were either looted from the pyramids and other sites or were moved to museums. The museum opens at 9am to the public, but our tour group got in at 7am. We tour artifacts from all of Egypt's history, but the big event is King Tut. The boy king is famous not for his achievements as king (slim), but because his is the only complete, unlooted tomb ever discovered and preserved. And all one can say is Wow! For starters, imagine yourself opening the tomb to find a giant gold box, the size of the tomb. You open the box and find ... a slightly smaller gold box. Open that and find ... another gold box. Open that and find ... a fourth gold box. When you open that final room-size box, you then find lots of treasures and the famous golden coffin in King Tut's image. Open that and find ... a slightly smaller golden coffin. Open that ... and another golden coffin. Open that ... and find his mummy and head mask. The items from King Tut's tomb take up multiple rooms in the museum, leaving one obvious question: If the Egyptians did all this for a minor boy king, what must the tomb of a great king -- e.g.,, Ramses II, have looked like?

We finish King Tut at 9am, just in time to see the chaos of the official museum opening. A sea of humans enters the ground floor, and a few intrepid souls sprint up the stairs to find the boy king. Good strategy. Most of the mob crowds around the exhibits near the entrance, so the sprinters can get a few minutes of calm up on the second floor.

We wander the museum on our own and luck upon the perfect exhibit for us: animal mummies. These run the gamut from scarab beetles to Nile crocodiles. Cows, cats, and falcons appear to have been popular, but we particularly like the mummified cobra and crocodiles.

We then head down to Memphis to see the statues of Ramses the II. Then on down to Sakkara to see Zoser's step pyramid, which our guide describes as the first free-standing stone building in history. Sakkara is at the edge of the Sahara. It is striking to see the vast expanse of barren sand stretching out from the nearby groves of date palms.

Tomorrow we are off to Abu Simbel and then Aswan to start our Nile cruise. Too bad this requires a 1:45am wake-up call!

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