We’ve just found this great quiz about ancient Egypt. Test your knowledge and find out just how much you know, or think you know, about the Pharaohs.
You can find more portraits in an album on our Facebook page
Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portraits on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.
Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara and Antinoopolis, hence the common name. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted Cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period on time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.
They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BCE or the early 1st century CE onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.
The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.
Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality.
About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.
The majority images show a formal portrait of a single figure, facing and looking toward the viewer, from an angle that is usually slightly turned from full face. The figures are presented as busts against a monochrome background which in some instances is decorated. The individuals are both male and female and range in age from childhood to old age.
The majority of preserved mummy portraits were painted on boards or panels, made from different imported hardwoods, including oak, lime, sycamore, cedar, cypress, fig, and citrus. The wood was cut into thin rectangular panels and made smooth. The finished panels were set into layers of wrapping that enclosed the body, and were surrounded by bands of cloth giving the effect of a window-like opening through which the face of the deceased could be seen. Portraits were sometimes painted directly onto the canvas or rags of the mummy wrapping (cartonnage painting).
The wooden surface was sometimes primed for painting with a layer of plaster. In some cases the primed layer reveals a preparatory drawing. Two painting techniques were employed: encaustic (wax) painting and egg-based tempera. The encaustic images are striking because of the contrast between vivid and rich colours, and comparatively large brush-strokes, producing an “Impressionistic” effect. The tempera paintings have a finer gradation of tones and chalkier colours, giving a more restrained appearance. In some cases, gold leaf was used to depict jewellery and wreaths. There also are examples of hybrid techniques or of variations from the main techniques.
The Fayum portraits reveal a wide range of painterly expertise, and skill in presenting a lifelike appearance. The naturalism of the portraits is often revealed in knowledge of anatomic structure and in skilled modelling of the form by the use of light and shade, which gives an appearance of three-dimensionality to most of the figures. The graded flesh tones are enhanced with shadows and highlights indicative of directional lighting.
People of Fayoum
Under Greco-Roman rule, Egypt hosted several Greek settlements, mostly concentrated in Alexandria, but also in a few other cities, where Greek settlers lived alongside some seven to ten million native Egyptians. Faiyum’s earliest Greek inhabitants were soldier-veterans and cleruchs (elite military officials) who were settled by the Ptolemaic kings on reclaimed lands. Native Egyptians also came to settle in Faiyum from all over the country, notably the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Oxyrhynchus and Memphis, to undertake the labor involved in the land reclamation process, as attested by personal names, local cults and recovered papyri. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the population of Faiyum was Greek during the Ptolemaic period, with the rest being native Egyptians. By the Roman period, much of the “Greek” population of Faiyum was made-up of either Hellenized Egyptians or people of mixed Egyptian-Greek origins.
While commonly believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, the Faiyum portraits instead reflect the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city. According to Walker, the early Ptolemaic Greek colonists married local women and adopted Egyptian religious beliefs, and by Roman times, their descendants were viewed as Egyptians by the Roman rulers, despite their own self-perception of being Greek. The dental morphology of the Roman-period Faiyum mummies was also compared with that of earlier Egyptian populations, and was found to be “much more closely akin” to that of ancient Egyptians than to Greeks or other European populations.
The patrons of the portraits apparently belonged to the affluent upper class of military personnel, civil servants and religious dignitaries. Not everyone could afford a mummy portrait; many mummies were found without one. Flinders Petrie states that only one or two per cent of the mummies he excavated were embellished with portraits. The rates for mummy portraits do not survive, but it can be assumed that the material caused higher costs than the labour, since in antiquity, painters were appreciated as craftsmen rather than as artists. The situation from the “Tomb of Aline” is interesting in this regard. It contained four mummies: those of Aline, of two children and of her husband. Unlike his wife and children, the latter was not equipped with a portrait but with a gilt three-dimensional mask. Perhaps plaster masks were preferred if they could be afforded.
It is not clear whether those depicted are of Egyptian, Greek or Roman origin, nor whether the portraits were commonly used by all ethnicities. The name of some of those portrayed are known from inscriptions, they are of Egyptian, Greek and Roman origin. Hairstyles and clothing are always influenced by Roman fashion. Women and children are often depicted wearing valuable ornaments and fine garments, men often wearing specific and elaborate outfits. Greek inscriptions of names are relatively common, sometimes they include professions. It is not known whether such inscriptions always reflect reality, or whether they may state ideal conditions or aspirations rather than true conditions. One single inscription is known to definitely indicate the deceased’s profession (a shipowner) correctly.The mummy of a woman named Hermione also included the term grammatike (γραμματική). For a long time, it was assumed that this indicated that she was a teacher by profession (for this reason, Flinders Petrie donated the portrait to Girton College, Cambridge, the first residential college for women in Britain), but today, it is assumed that the term indicates her level of education. Some portraits of men show sword-belts or even pommels, suggesting that they were members of the Roman military.
We stumbled across this strange silent B&W film, which is somewhat Orientalist, for the 1920′s traveler going to Egypt. The information is not completely accurate but the images are interesting, and it’s lovely to see Egypt as it was in that time. We hope you enjoy it.
Sham el-Nessim (Egyptian Arabic: شم النسيم) is an Egyptian national holiday marking the beginning of spring. It always falls on the day after the Eastern Christian Easter (following the custom of the largest Christian denomination in the country, the Coptic Orthodox Church). Despite the Christian-related date, the holiday is celebrated by Egyptians regardless of religion.
The name of the holiday is derived from the Egyptian name of the Harvest Season, known as Shemu, which means a day of creation. According to annals written by Plutarch during the 1st century AD, the Ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day.
After the Christianization of Egypt, the festival became associated with the other Christian spring festival, Easter. Over time, Shemu morphed into its current form and its current date, and by the time of the Islamic conquest of Egypt, the holiday was settled on Easter Monday. The Islamic calendar being lunar and thus unfixed relative to the solar year, the date of Sham el-Nessim remained on the Christian-linked date even after most Egyptians had become Muslims. As Egypt became Arabized, the term Shemu found a rough phono-semantic match in Sham el-Nessim, or “Smelling/Taking In of the Zephyrs,” which fairly accurately represents the way in which Egyptians celebrate the holiday.
In his book, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Edward William Lane wrote in 1834:
A custom termed ‘Shemm en-Nessem’ (or the Smelling of the Zephyr) is observed on the first day of the Khamaseen. Early in the morning of this day, many persons, especially women, break an onion, and smell it; and in the course of the forenoon many of the citizens of Cairo ride or walk a little way into the country, or go in boats, generally northward, to take the air, or, as they term it, smell the air, which on that day they believe to have a wonderfully beneficial effect. The greater number dine in the country or on the river. This year they were treated with a violent hot wind, accompanied by clouds of dust, instead of the neseem; but considerable numbers, notwithstanding, went out to ‘smell’ it.
The modern Sham ennisim is celebrated by both Christians and Muslims, so it is considered a national festival, rather than a religious one. The main features of the festival are:
People spend all day out picnicking in any space of green, public gardens, on the Nile, or at the zoo.
Traditional food eaten on this day consists mainly of Feseekh (a salted Grey Mullet), lettuce, scallions or green onions, tirmis or Lupini Beans, and colored boiled eggs.
As the Eastern Orthodox approaches Egyptians of all denominations are colouring eggs, buying or making Feseekh (salted fish) and preparing for the Sham el Nassim celebrations on Easter Monday. The Coptic language used in rituals is actually derived from Ancient Egyptian, so here’s a beautiful hymn from the Coptic Church called Epouro that we would like to share for the occasion.
The Ancient Egyptians, who did sometimes depict butterflies in their art and on their jewelry, did not seem to have given them any mythical or religious significance. The species of butterfly most prominent in these renderings is Danaus chrysippus, a relative of the Monarch Butterfly.
This video shows all the species of Butterfly found in the beautiful country of Egypt. You might want to keep your eyes open for all these different types when you visit. These gorgeous free flying flowers can brighten up anyone’s day and we hope that this video will do that for you.
Here is the list of butterfly types in the video:
Crimson Tip… Colotis danae
African Babul Blue… Azanus jesous
African Babul Blue… Azanus jesous (closed
Blue-spotted Arab… Colotis phisadia
Greenish Black-tip… Elphinstonia charlonia
Egyptian White… Euchloe aegyptiaca
Desert White… Pontia glauconome (closed
Long-tailed Blue… Lampides boeticus (closed
Lesser Fiery Copper… Lycaena thersamon
Black-striped Hairtail… Anthene amarah
Small White… Pieris rapae
Zebra Blue… Leptotes pirithous
Crimson Tip… Colotis danae
Blue-spotted Arab… Colotis phisadia
Golden Arab… Colotis chrysonome
Saharan Swallowtail… Papilio saharae
Small Copper… Lycaena phlaeas
Large Salmon Arab… Colotis fausta
Green-striped White… Euchloe belemia
Green-striped White… Euchloe belemia
Clouded Yellow… Colias croceus
Pomegranate Playboy… Deudorix livia
Bath White… Pontia daplidice
Lesser Fiery Copper… Lycaena thersamon
Arab Leopard… Apharitis myrmecophila
Bath White… Pontia daplidice
Black-striped Hairtail… Anthene amarah
Brown-veined White… Belenois aurota
Scarce Green-striped White… Euchloe falloui
Sooty Orange Tip… Zegris eupheme
Large White… Pieris brassicae
Brown-veined White… Belenois aurota (closed
Zebra Blue… Leptotes pirithous
Small Copper… Lycaena phlaeas
Clouded Yellow… Colias croceus
Loew’s Blue… Agrodiaetus loewii
Desert Orange Tip… Colotis liagore
Green-striped White… Euchloe belemia
African Grass Jewel… Chilades eleusis
Grass Jewel… Chilades trochylus
Long-tailed Blue… Lampides boeticus
Desert Babul Blue… Azanus ubaldus
Desert Orange Tip… Colotis liagore
Grave’s Zephyr Blue… Plebejus philbyi
Yellow Splendour… Colotis protomedia
What a stunning video! It takes you through some of Egypt, sharing some of the flavour of these fascinating places. Enjoy and hopefully you’ll be experiencing all of this firsthand.
Source: Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority February Newsletter
The Avenue of Sphinxes
An important event will take place in Luxor in March of this year with the official inauguration of the Avenue of Sphinxes. The Avenue which connects Luxor and Karnak temple, is one of the most important archaeological and religious routes in Luxor, and where the historical and religious festival - Opet Festival took place in ancient times. It marked the annual voyage of God Amun Ra, transferred from Karnak temple on a sacred boat to Luxor temple, where he visits his wife Goddess Mut.
The restoration project started nearly five years ago, It was built by King Nectanebo, who ruled Egypt during the 30th dynasty between 380-362 B.C. and replaced an older path, which dated back to the 18th dynasty – New Kingdom. The avenue measures around 2,700 meters long and 76 meters wide, and is lined with a large number of statues in the shape of sphinxes, (the body of a lion, and in that case, King Nectanebo’s features).
The project was preceded by a series of excavation work, during which workshops of clay pots, wine factories, a huge water cistern and several reliefs were unearthed. One of the reliefs bears the cartouche of Queen Cleopatra VII (51-30 BC). It was believed that Queen Cleopatra visited this Avenue during her Nile trip with Mark Anthony and implemented restoration work that was marked with her cartouche. Remains of Queen Hatshepsut’s chapels, which were reused by King Nectanebo I in the construction of sphinxes, have also been found. Queen Hatshepsut has recorded on her red chapel in Karnak temple that she built six chapels dedicated to the worship of God Amun Ra on this Avenue, denoting a mere religious importance to the Avenue.
The excavation and restoration work is a purely Egyptian initiative- a collaboration between the former Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and Luxor Government to revive the Avenue.
The SCA allocated a large amount of money to remove all encroachments around the area to make way for a complete view of the Avenue and compensate those who own houses and shops along the route, as well as for the excavations and restoration works.
In total, excavators unearthed more than 650 sphinxes out of the original 1350. The most preserved and nearly ready for the inauguration is the section behind the Luxor Heritage Center, or south of the road that leads to the airport, which has a little over 600 meters of the total Avenue. A descending ramp from the main road makes way down to the Avenue, where tourists can enjoy a leisurely walk back in history. Moreover, approximately another 200 meters of the total Avenue is currently complete and is located right in front of the Luxor temple. The remaining three sections are visible from the road level, but visitors cannot gain access to all of it yet, pending removal of any obstacles.
While visitors are at the Avenue of the Sphinxes, they will be able to also visit the Khonsu Temple. It is positioned at the southwest corner of the confines of the Karnak temple complex in Luxor and is dedicated to the moon God Khonsu, who was the son of Amun and Mut, and together they form a triad, which is a group of three worshipped in Karnak. The earliest construction of the temple dated to the reign of King Ramses III – 20th dynasty, New Kingdom, and was followed by other kings. On the walls of the temple are also the pictures of other different kings all the way up to the Ptolemaic area.
The temple is currently undergoing a restoration phase, (one of the initiatives of the American Research Center in Egypt), and will hopefully be opened during the month of March as well. Nevertheless, at the moment visitors can still gain easy access to the temple, wonder its halls and marvel at the colorful decorations after the restoration, and compare them with others that have not been restored yet.
The temple’s entrance façade or the so called pylon, is preceded by an avenue of sphinxes, which dates back to the reign of King Amenhotep III – New Kindgom, and is connected to the main Avenue of the Sphinxes. The Pylon is in the form of two towers, measuring around 32 meters in length, 18 meters in height and around 10 meters in width. On its façade are four grooves, the purpose of which is to house flags. The scenes on the façade are mainly offering scenes to the triad of Thebes – Amun, Mut and Khonsu presented by Panedjem of the 21st dynasty. The pylon escorts visitors to the temple’s precincts including a peristyle court, housing a number columns. The court makes way to a hypostyle hall with another series of columns. The temple ends with the sanctuary, which usually housed a statue for the chief God of the temple carried on a sacred boat. The sanctuary is surrounded by side halls and visitors could come across a stairway leading to the temple’s roof. The scenes on the different walls of the temples are mainly religious ones, showing different Kings idolizing and making offerings to the chief God of the temple, and other Gods and Goddesses as well.
Source: Ahram Online
Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 1 Feb 2012
Egypt’s first museum devoted exclusively to crocodiles was inaugurated on Tuesday by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim
Within the context of a plan by the Ministry of State for Antiquities to build museums at the country’s most significant archaeological sites, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim this week officially inaugurated Egypt’s first ever crocodile museum.
The museum is located on the doorstep of the Ptolemaic Kom Ombo temple on the banks of the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.
The museum displays 22 mummified crocodiles of various sizes out of forty to have been unearthed in Aswan. The crocodiles are arrayed on a sand hill inside a large glass showcase, allowing visitors to see how crocodiles passed their days in ancient Egypt.
A collection of crocodile coffins and wooden sarcophagi, along with crocodile foetuses and eggs, are also on display, in addition to stelae and statues depicting the crocodile-god Sobek, bearing a human body and the head of a crocodile. Replicas of Sobek’s original tombs and niches are also on display.
During the opening ceremony, Ibrahim said that most of the museum’s c
ollection had been stored in Kom Ombo except for two stelae and a statue of Sobek borrowed from the Luxor Museum. The most significant artefacts currently on display, he said, were the gold and ivory teeth and eyes that had been inserted into the dead crocodiles following mummification.
Abdel Hamid Maarouf, head of the ministry’s ancient Egypt department, noted that the crocodile museum was the third museum to be inaugurated in Egypt recently, after the Imhotep Museum at the Saqqara Necropolis and the Meneptah Museum on Luxor’s west bank.
Mohamed El-Biali, head of Aswan antiquities, explained that Sobek had been worshiped in ancient Upper Egypt, especially in Kom Ombo, where a great temple was built in his honour. Following a crocodile’s death, Maarouf explained, it was treated like a god, mummified and buried like a pharaoh, replete with funerary items.
A memorial plaque at the new museum, like the one at the newly-opened Suez National Museum, does not include the names of any ministers or officials, merely a dedication to the “revolution’s martyrs.”
Source: National Geographic News
For most of the year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel is shrouded in darkness.
On two days, traditionally the anniversary of the birthday and coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight pierces the gloom, illuminating statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.
On February 22, a day celebrating the king’s birthday and again on October 22, a day celebrating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of king Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the Theban god of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows all year).
The spectacle—which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history—draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.
Temple of a God-King
Ramses, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 BC (about 50 years after the death of Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut) made a name for himself by battling the Hittites and the Syrians, Egypt’s enemies to the north.
To celebrate his victories, Ramses erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements. He completed the hypostyle hall at Karnak (Thebes), and completed the funerary temple of his father, Seti I, at Luxor on the West Bank of the Nile.
The main temple at Abu Simbel, which Ramses ordered built near the border of Nubia and Upper Egypt, was dedicated to two sun gods, Amen-Re and Re-Horakhte. Standing 100 feet (33 meters) tall, the temple was carved into an already-standing sandstone mountain on the banks of the Nile.
Four colossal statues of Ramses, each 66 feet (22 meters) high, guard the entrance to the temple. Rising to the pharaoh’s knees are smaller statues of family members: his mother; favorite wife, Nefertari; and son, Prince Amonherkhepshef.
Inside the temple, three connected halls extend 185 feet (56 meters) into the mountain. Images of the king’s life and many achievements adorn the walls. A second temple at Abu Simbel is dedicated to Nefartari, who appears to have been Ramses’ favorite wife.
“Abu Simbel was one of, if not the largest, rock-cut temples in Egypt,” says Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, “The rock was sacred because the Egyptians believed the deity was living inside the mountain.”
Rock-cut temples may have been especially significant in ancient Egypt because the bulge in the otherwise flat land may have signified the location where the gods emerged from the Earth, says Williams.
The Abu Simbel temples do not sit in their original location. Egypt’s growing need for electricity prompted the controversial construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.The dam created Lake Nasser, and rising waters flooded a number of important archaeological sites along the banks of the Nile and displaced thousands of people who lived in the area.
The rising waters threatened the temples at Abu Simbel. Members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) orchestrated a massive construction project that moved the temple back 690 feet to its present site.
Piece by piece, craftsmen cut the temple, and the nearby temple of Nefertari into massive blocks of sandstone up to thirty tons. Both temples were carefully reassembled on a new steel and cement “mountain,” safe from the water’s edge.
The only result of the move is that the days of illumination have shifted by one—the illumination used to occur on February and October 21.
Festival of the Sun
That the days of illumination correspond to actual days in the life of Ramses is highly unlikely, says Leo Depuydt, an egyptologist at Brown University.
“The Egyptian calendar was based on 365 days and while it was precise, the solar calendar is minutely different from year to year,” says Depuydt, who adds that it is also difficult to know the precise date of the birth or coronation of Ramses II.
“Regardless of the alignment, if the temple faces East, the sun is going to shine in it twice a year,” says Depuydt, who adds that “excitement is the key here—people are going to come to see the sun in the temple. But science is a different matter.”
Excerpt from here (Golden Skate)
Pechalat and Bourzat defend European ice dance title
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France danced to gold, taking their second consecutive European title at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia claimed the silver medal like last year, while Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia clinched the bronze.
Tension was high in the ice dance competition. The favorites, Pechalat and Bourzat, had lost to Bobrova and Soloviev in the short dance, and the teams from fourth through seventh were separated by less than one point. Anything seemed possible at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, and there was a lot of movement in the standings.
The French had announced that they weren’t willing to give up and went out with determination. Their Egyptian free dance, entitled “The Pharaoh and His Mummy”, was full of energy, highlighted by beautiful lifts and fast paced step sequences. Their ending was emotional with a long hug.
Pechalat, 28, and Bourzat, 31, picked up a level four for the lifts and the spin, while the circular steps and twizzles were a level three. The diagonal steps merited a level two. The Grand Prix Final bronze medalists were ranked first in the free dance with 99.29 points, and overtook the overnight leaders with a total of 164.18 points.
“We’re pretty happy at this moment,” Bourzat said. “After the hard beginning with the short dance, we just had to go on the ice and fight. We were the reigning European champions and there is no way we would let go of this. We trained to get more relaxed on the ice and we went out with anger and determination.”
“It is easier to attack than to defend,” added Pechalat. “It was very important for us to win. Also we were thinking of Worlds where we want to take a medal.”
Here is a video we found of the performance, the music at the end is none other than the wonderfully Egyptian Oum Kalthoum.
Who hasn’t dreamt of going to Egypt?
We were recently in Seattle talking with the executives of Expedia.com and while all of them are well travelled and have been all over the world. When we told them they were going to Egypt next, they talked of how it was either their favourite destination or for those who hadn’t been there, their dream destination.
Everyone fantasizes about this ancient land.
We loved Egypt
It is filled with iconic landmarks and remarkable landscapes. It has a rich history and strong culture and it boasts world class diving, incredible beaches and exciting nightlife.
Egypt has it all.
In honour of our current trip to Cairo where we are speaking to the tourism industry about working with Travel Bloggers, we thought that we would revisit our favourite sites in Egypt. We spent a few weeks there before and during our cycling race from the top of Africa to the bottom of the continent and we are so excited to be going back to see more!
Pyramids of Giza
We hired a camel, a horse and a guide to take us to see the pyramids. Weaving through the back streets of Cairo on our trusted steeds, we entered what seemed like a shady opening to the grounds. Are we going to get anywhere near them? Well actually yes!
We road our camels through the desert right up to the massive structures. Our guide urged us to walk up the steps and we weren’t sure if we were allowed or not, but we graciously accepted.
After touring around the 3 main temples, they took us to a high dune overlooking the complex. Yes, we were being scammed and taken to the cleaners by the nice old man that kept layering us in robes and head dresses, but even though it cost us a bit of cash, we couldn’t put a price on securing this photo.
We arranged a $15 a day tour to the White Desert through the Dahab Guesthouse in downtown Cairo. It ended up being an incredible trip. We were told, if there is one thing you should do in Cairo, it is see the White Desert. We listened and it didn’t disappoint.
Giant White structures jutted out of the desert landscape creating incredible formations. Brought on by erosion, these chalky mounds create the illusion of massive mushrooms, eagles and turkeys and even one that looks like a camel.
Experiencing a true Bedouin experience, we camped out under the stars. With just 3 walls made of blankets to blog the cold desert wind, we slept under thick sleeping bags and blankets grateful for the warm tea that our guides made us after our delicious Bedouin meal.
Located on Lake Nassar we caught a glimpse of this monument from our ferry to the Sudan. The staff of the ferry told us to make sure we were out early in the morning to witness this wonder as we passed by.
Originally located on The Nile, Abu Simbel needed to be moved when the Egyptians created the Nile Dam project. It would have been engulfed by water never to be seen again until the government came to its rescue taking it apart piece by piece and rebuilding it high on the banks of the lake.
Built as a monument for Ramses the IV, this would definitely be enough to deter invaders from entering his kingdom.
Nile River Cruise
When in Cairo, you must book a dinner cruise on the Nile. It is here that you can sample Egyptian entertainment such as belly dancing and the Whirling Dervishes. Pass along the cityscape while you enjoy authentic Egyptian cuisine and imagine what legendary heroes and villains floated along these waters over the centuries.
Valley of the Kings
We were all fascinated with King Tut as children and it is here that you can visit his tomb. It is here that you can visit every King of the Pharoahs tombs. Ramses, I-V and everyone else in between were laid to rest here in extravagant tombs filled with riches and jewels.
You won’t see the treasures in these tombs today, but you will see the paintings and heigroglyphics drawn on the walls of these massive chambers that are as big as a house.
The tombs are impressive but the valley itself is even more incredible. I can see why the ancient Egyptians chose this as the resting place of their most important leaders.
Temple of Hatshepsut
This impressive temple is dedicated to the female King Hatshepsut . Leader for 27 years, she has a monument to rival even the greatest of kings. Built between 1490-1460BC.
It is impossible to imagine that the Nile reached the grounds of this temple complex and that the area surrounding it was lush and green. Today the desert is dry, but the temple is no less impressive.
Felucca Ride in Luxor
So your Egypt holidays are going great. You’ve done a Nile dinner cruise in Cairo, now its time to feel the wind in your hair on a sail boat in Luxor. We simply walked down to the river to find ourselves a boat for the afternoon. We walked along until we found a captain we felt comfortable with and negotiated a deal for him to take us out for a few hours.
Sailing along the fabled Nile, I wondered exactly what bank Moses was left on? I don’t know a lot about the bible, but I do know that he was sent floating down the Nile somewhere!
The sun was shining as we lazily drifted pass the cityscape. Camels and goats walked along the river banks and the day was silent as we fulfilled yet another one of our dreams.
Checking off the Bucket List
When visiting Egypt, you will check of many of those items on your bucket list. For us it was Sleep in the Desert, Sail on the Nile, See the Pyramids and Visit King Tuts tomb. We did it all and what do you do when you’ve accomplished something?
Add to it of course.
We now have a new bucket list that is ever evolving.
This time in Egypt, we’ll actually make it inside the Egyptian museum and take a tour to Alexandria. Stay tuned for more coming from Egypt.
This video is an advertisement by a UK tour operator, but it really shows you the sights of Luxor and the surrounding Nile Valley in an informative way. You can also find out about the different activities on the Nile and around Luxor as well as the different types of Nile Cruises available to tourists. Perhaps you’ll get inspired and find yourself booking a trip!
This morning the air felt much cooler as we had our morning coffee on the roof terrace and I noticed the haze that has been around since we arrived in Luxor seems to have finally cleared. Sam and I decided to drive over to the West Bank again.
Once more crossing the bridge and turning right along the pretty tree-lined road towards the Gezira cross-roads, I noticed again the activity involved with the sugar cane harvest. Trucks, tractors and donkey carts trundled along the road piled high with canes. One interesting development I’ve noticed this year is the arrival of a new type of vehicle in the form of a motorcycle with a pick-up back, like a motorised donkey cart but much faster. I guess this progress is inevitable and I wondered how long it will take before we no longer see donkeys on the roads. Is this a good or a bad omen for the donkeys who will become redundant?
We stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon, the statues of Amenhotep III at the entrance to his Kom el-Hettan temple, because the sun was lighting them perfectly in the late morning. After mid-day the front of the statues are in shadow. A long screen has been erected in front of the excavation area so there was no chance of seeing any work in progress. We had a glimpse from the road of the statue of the king that has been re-erected in the temple area with its replica head. Knowing that visitors are quickly turned away, there was no point in stopping.
Sam drove along Monument Road again slowly so that we could see what has been going on excavation-wise. How lazy is that? But we were on our way to the Carter house, where the famous discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb had lived and worked.
I had expressed an interest in seeing the recently re-opened ‘Castle Carter’ last week. I remember from my first excursions onto the West Bank years ago, several people told me that ‘Castle Carter’ was the domed building on the hill at the entrance to the road to the King’s Valley. I was even once taken inside part of this building, which was also a dig house. Later however, I learned that Carter’s house was at the foot of this hill and surrounded by overgrown trees that went a good way to hide it. The larger and more prominent house on the hill is in fact Stoppelaere House, built to a plan of Hasan Fathy in the 1950s as both a guest house for the Department of Antiquities and the headquarters and apartment of Dr. Alexander Stoppelaere who was the chief restorer of the Department at that time.
The real ‘Castle Carter’ was in fact Howard Carter’s second home on the West Bank, his first being near Medinet Habu. The one we visited today has been beautifully restored and we, the only visitors, were welcomed free of charge and shown around by a guide. A fantastic job has been done on the restoration of the house. It is an Egyptian traditional mudbrick house with a dome in the centre to keep it cool. Each room is furnished with lovely period pieces from the time when Carter lived there and even though I knew they were not original to the house they felt like they belonged there. It certainly captured my imagination. There are many copies of photographs and reproductions of some of Carter’s original handwritten notes and his drawings to add extra interest and the present Lady Carnarvon has done a beautiful job of designing posters and history boards with photographs of the two famous men.
Howard Carter built this house shortly after beginning his association with his benefactor Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle in England, in 1910. He lived in Luxor for many years and it was his base while excavating in the Valley of the Kings and searching for Tutankhamun’s tomb. Carter’s story after his 1922 great discovery is well known and his last years are rather sad, but it was lovely to see the life this house must have had while he lived there.
The most interesting part for me was the darkroom, now lit with the traditional red light and looking like Carter or his photographer Burton might step out at any moment. The walls were hung with black and white photographs and there is even a huge wooden plate camera on display. The restored house is surrounded by a newly-planted garden that will be very pretty when the plants grow and there are shady rest areas where visitors will be able to get refreshments. Outside there is a wonderful view of Thoth Hill, and with my long lens I was able to take a picture of the temple on it’s peak. I’ve never yet managed the two-hour trek to the top.
After leaving ‘Castle Carter’ Sam and I decided that Deir el-Bahri, where we were headed next, would still be too busy with the morning rush, so we went into the Ramesseum rest house for a drink to while away an hour or so. We finally arrived at Hatshepsut’s Temple around 2.00pm when most of the visitors had gone. Deir el-Bahri has also changed since my last visit and now has a big new visitor’s centre. We were told we were not allowed to walk up to the temple but had to go on the little taf-taf train. It’s becoming like Disneyland here. We bought our tickets (30 LE plus 2 LE for the taf-taf) and off we went.
I visited each terrace in turn taking photographs of the walls. because many of the reliefs have been newly cleaned since I was last here. The right-hand second terrace is looking especially good and the shallow relief depicting the divine birth of Hatshepsut now shows up well. The Chapel of Anubis has also had a face-lift and the painted walls are now bright and colourful. I love to visit the little Chapel of Hathor with its lovely Hathor-headed columns and today with my zoom lens I got some good pictures of the adjacent Middle Kingdom Mentuhotep Temple from there. I also got some pictures of the old Metropolitan dig-house, a magnificent huge building to the south of the temple that for many years has been used by the Polish Mission working at Deir el-Bahri.
We left Deir el-Bahri when the temple closed at 5.00pm, making our way through the bazaar that is now the only exit. Sam had to park on the road because the enormous car park is now for coaches and taxis only. We drove back into Luxor in the crazy evening traffic, trying to work out why drivers mostly ignore the red traffic lights.
Egypt has always held a fascination for me. I have travelled all over the Middle East, and to parts of Africa, but for some reason had never made it to Egypt.
So when we were deciding where to go for a family holiday, it seemed an obvious choice.
Discover Egypt organised the trip for us and were efficient and helpful, particularly as at the last minute we had to split up, two of us flying to Luxor and the other two flying straight to the Red Sea.
Everything was re-organised with the minimum of hassle and I caught my first glimpse of the Nile with my youngest daughter Domenica when we arrived at the Maritim Jolie Ville Luxor Island hotel.
The hotel is in a superb position, on the shore of the Nile, with a beautiful infinity pool looking over the river. A new reception area was being completed and I hope that the next bit of updating will be to the rooms, which are pretty basic.
We had breakfast on the terrace before the heat of the day, watching life on the river, including vast boats passing serenely in front of us. From there we drove across the desert to El Gouna, on the Red Sea, where we stayed in the Movenpick Resort and Spa.
This is a vast complex with several restaurants, swimming pools and beaches. It is overwhelming until you have worked out where everything is.
Then it is like being a part of the computer game The Sims, a virtual world where the player is in control of the people and the buildings – you make it exactly as you would want it.
In Movenpick everything interconnects and works like clockwork and the rooms are comfortable and well-thought-out. The food was exceptionally good, particularly the buffet lunch and at the fish restaurant.
The Movenpick is one of a series of hotels built around the lagoons of El Gouna, an artificial construction on a vast scale.
It is a hugely ambitious project and we spent a morning going through the lagoons in a boat to get a sense of its size.
Satellite masts are hidden in fake palm trees and everything is pristine and spanking new, which reinforces that computer-game feeling.
That evening I went with my eldest daughter Savannah to a Bedouin dinner in a strip of desert outside the main compound.
There were camel rides, an ostrich to look at and food served while we sat cross-legged on cushions in the sand.
The Moon was full and it was a lovely, if somewhat touristy, night, complete with whirling dervishes and plaintive Arab music.
Water sports are a theme in El Gouna so I persuaded my husband Dominic and Savannah
to have a go at parasailing. We were driven to the Old Marina, which is an isolated spit of sand with a hut and an incongruously placed sofa on the beach.
Just seeing Dominic and Savannah’s faces as they were strapped into their double harness on the parachute before they had even taken off made the whole trip worthwhile.
Savannah has a certificate from her school on the kitchen wall at home for the dubious accolade of ‘probably attending the least number of PE lessons in her year group’.
And Dominic hates all ‘unnecessary’ movement. To see the two of them suspended high above us, attempting – as they told me later – to have a normal conversation to disguise their fear, was a sight to behold.
When they were reeled in they had a ceremonial dunking in the sea. I asked Dominic what it had been like and he replied that he would like a ‘gin and catatonic, please’.
One night we went to dinner by the harbour in El Gouna. It was a balmy night and the harbour was busy – one had a sense of being in some recently constructed Mediterranean port.
In a few years, when everything has mellowed, it will be a very different, vibrant place. As it stands, its very newness is somewhat disconcerting.
Savannah and I spent a morning snorkelling along the reef, seeing all manner of brightly coloured fishes, and then we set off across the desert plains to return to Luxor for our last two days.
Dominic and I got up at dawn, were driven to the Nile, crossed over in the dark, and emerged on the west bank to a surreal landscape of billowing hot-air balloons.
We clambered into a corner compartment of the basket of a huge balloon, and – very slowly – we rose majestically above the Nile to watch the sunrise.
It was stunningly beautiful, eerily quiet and one of those dawns and sunrises that one will never forget. There were muted colours and stirrings of life and then the sudden explosion of light shattering across the desert landscape and shafting on to the temples.
We landed abruptly in the middle of a smallholding, with ancient, inscrutable men in traditional robes rushing forward to help us alight. From there we went to the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, built on three terraced levels.
She was one of the rare female pharaohs, and in order to legitimise her position, she depicted herself wearing a pharaoh’s kilt and a beard. This temple is an extraordinary monument to the first known reigning queen.
The advantage of going to the temple so early in the morning is that it was completely empty. By the time we got to the Valley of the Kings the crowds had appeared, and that, coupled with the intense heat, makes the viewing conditions of the tombs very difficult.
You feel as if you are on a conveyor belt and, just as you are beginning to understand a particular piece of wall painting, you are pushed forward. I would recommend going out of season if you are serious about Egyptology.
The scale of the tombs and the extraordinary sophistication and elaborate detail overwhelmed me. All this was achieved at a time when in Britain we were rushing around in loincloths and living in caves.
The following morning I went to the temple of Karnak, with an informative and charming guide, and from there went to the temple of Luxor.
There is work going on to uncover the sphinx road that connects the two, so in various places in the hustle of Luxor you come across destroyed buildings, and, emerging from the rubble, sphinxes that have somehow survived unscathed throughout the centuries.
The temple of Luxor has traces of so many different civilisations, from the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Christians and the Muslims. The original temple was completely buried for hundreds of years and was re-discovered when a mosque was built on top of it.
The mosque is now an integral part of the site. We spent a last afternoon visiting the Winter Palace Hotel, which used to be the Winter Palace of King Farouk. I had a family interest in visiting this, as my grandfather had been King Farouk’s lawyer, and wrote his abdication speech.
It is now a very grand Sofitel, and requires a king’s ransom to stay there. From there, we took a boat meandering down the Nile back to the hotel to watch the sunset from the water. On one bank of the river, nothing appears to have changed since biblical times.
You see children playing in the water, women swaying through the fields as they carry their shopping home on their heads, and donkeys carrying their loads.
Yet, on the other bank is all the bustle of modern-day Luxor. It was a perfect end to the trip – a contrast between the ancient and the modern, with a glorious sunset to end it all.
Located near the site of the ancient library of Alexandria, this modern version is an eleven-story, cylindrical-shaped building that houses more than eight million books.
It’s worth going early in the morning when no one else is around (before the tour buses arrive). With no one around, it can be a great experience. There are guards up above and also at the bottom of…
This sprawling property was the summer home of controversial King Farouk who assumed power at the age of 16 in 1936.
Royal gardens of King Faruk. The king was the last Egyptian monarch.
More than 1800 archaeological pieces are exhibited chronologically from one floor to the next: the basement is devoted to Prehistoric and Pharonic times; first floor to the Graeco-Roman period; second floor to the Coptic and Islamic era that highlights artifacts raised during recent underwater excavations.
- “Well worth a visit” Oct 23, 2011
- “I enjoyed it but I can’t say that I’d recommend…” Oct 21, 2011
- “Great Museum” Sep 12, 2011
Built in the 2nd century AD, this Roman amphitheater has 13 semicircular tiers made of white and gray marble.
- “Great Little Museum” Jan 20, 2011
These desert building are all that remains of the monasic Christians that fled Roman persecution in the 4th century.
- “A serenity haven in the Egyptian desert” May 4, 2011
- “Superbe monastère de Marriout.” Apr 14, 2008
We’ve searched through lots of tutorials and found an easy to do, yet impressive, Cleopatra inspired make-up and look tutorial for your Halloween costume. Being Cleopatra for a night is always fun and you never know… you might land yourself a Marc Anthony! Pair with a plain flowing dress and sandals for a simple and glamorous costume.
Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities is working with a robotics team to explore two air shafts in the Great Pyramid. The tiny passages have twice been explored by robots, but both times exploration was halted by obstacles inside the pyramid. This third mission, more advanced than the last two, aims to penetrate further into the pyramid to discover the purpose of the mysterious shafts.
Mystery still surrounds where two unexplored air shafts originating from the ancient Queen’s Chamber lead to and a tiny robot that can shift in size to fit through holes less than an inch in diameter may provide the solution.
“We hope to discover whether the shafts were for the king’s soul to meet with Osiris or whether they are hiding something,” says Dr Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
“The whole thing impresses me. Sending a robot into the Great Pyramid to try to resolve a mystery, the answer to which has been hidden for a long time is very exciting.”
Posted on Antiquity Lives
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Egypt‘s Supreme Council of Antiquities announced today the discovery of a new statue of Amenhotep III from one of the pharaoh’s temples in Luxor.
Archaeologists unearthed the upper part of the statue, which is made of limestone and was part of a double statue of Amenhotep III and the god Amun. It once stood at one of the temple’s entrances.
Kom el-Hittan, where the statue was discovered, was the largest temple on Luxor’s west bank.
Dr. Zahi Hawass noted that Amenhotep III is well-known for his statues depicting him seated beside various deities. Two other double statues have been found at the same complex. Dr. Sabri Abdel Aziz said a similar statue, featuring Amenhotep III with Re-Horakhty, was previously discovered nearby.
Archaeologists believe a cache for Amenhotep III’s statuary may have been buried at Kom el-Hittan.
The new find is 130 cm tall and 90 cm wide. Excavation efforts at the temple complex are now focused on unearthing the rest of the statue.
The discovery was made during a routine excavation that also unearthed a statue of the god Thoth depicted as a monkey.
By Dr Joyce Tyldesley
Last updated 2011-02-17
There has long been a fascination in Britain with the world of ancient Egypt. What is it about this mysterious civilisation that so catches the imagination?
1. A popular subject
All ancient civilisations have contributed in some way to the development of modern society.
2. Rich legacy
Some of these myths passed from Egypt to Rome, and have had a direct effect on the development of modern religious belief.
This wealth of objects, of course, creates a highly biased collection of artefacts.
4.Pyramids and mathematics
They hold the key to understanding the structure of Egyptian society.
5. Beneath the bandages
…full of horrific stories of unwanted mummies being burned as torches…
6. Egyptology today
The study of Egyptian art, of genealogy or hieroglyphs, is above all, however, the greatest of fun.