Archive | March, 2012

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

8 Mar

It took 2 hours to get from the airport to the hotel on Thursday night and about 20 minutes to get into central Cairo on Friday morning – Cairo does rush hour on a spectacular scale but Friday, fortunately, is a quiet day!

The museum is in Tahrir Square which is an address that’s become pretty well known over the past year. You can see the fire damaged building which housed Mubarak’s offices (I was told the fire was started by Mubarak’s supporters to hide all traces of wrongs done) but the area is perfectly pleasant and very quiet. The quietness was a constant in all the tourist areas; I was told that Cairo normally had 50 million tourists a year but last year there were only about 1 million.

Going into the museum you see an amazing collection of ancient monuments, sculptures etc – many are over 4000 years old. Lots of the exhibits are labelled in English and Arabic but having a guide is useful because there is so much stuff in the museum that it’s hard to make sense of it all. Of course, some of the most spectacular exhibits are those from the tomb of Tutankhamen. I’ve seen pictures of the massive gold coffin but to get up close to it is just fantastic. I learned a new word – a canopic jar is the container used to store the lungs, liver and other organs removed from the body before mummification (the heart is left in the body). These were kept because the Egyptians believed that ¬†they would be needed in the after life and in the case of Tutankhamen they were well protected.

I also learned that it wasn’t just people who got mummified – all sorts of animals were also preserved including some quite amazing crocodiles and even scarab beetles. This seems a bit weird but the Egyptians believed that the sun was pushed across the sky by a scarab so it’s actually a pretty important animal.

Also found in many tombs were clay servants – these models were apparently buried with the kings etc to provide services in the afterlife. One servant was buried for each day of the year so the tombs could get quite crowded!

Museum

 

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Arriving in Cairo

8 Mar

This time last week I was just arriving at Cairo airport. First impressions were good – it’s a clean, modern looking airport and the immigration process was straight forward. Once I’d got into the main arrivals hall I felt at home immediately – the cab drivers who pestered me could easily have been at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire! I found the stand for my pre-booked cab and had to wait a few minutes and was entertained by another driver telling me poor jokes (think “fork handles” type jokes) Eventually we left the airport and headed into town, quickly picking up the ring road.

The ring road is a good main road with 4 lanes. The fun thing about Cairo traffic is that the white lines on the road are just there for decoration – they don’t actually indicate where you should drive and as the traffic gets busier it simply moves closer together to give 5 lanes of traffic. Vehicles don’t stay in lane, however, but move wildly across the road, dashing into any gap. Add to this the fun that happens when a mini-bus stops to pick up or set down passengers and it’s quite an exciting business. More chaos was introduced when a mini-bus had broken down and was being pushed (at some speed!) along the motorway.

Eventually the driver made it to the hotel (http://cataract-hotels.com/pyramid/) and I could relax!

The swimming pool area and a view of the pyramids from the roof terrace.