I just got back from a trip to Egypt, with a group of friends from the American School. The itinerary started in Cairo, with trips to the Egyptian Museum and Giza, along with Memphis and Saqqara. We then flew to Luxor—seeing the temples at Luxor and Carnak, then crossing the river to see the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s Temple, and the statues of Memnon. We then cruised down the Nile, with further stops at Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan, which included seeing the High Dam, the Unfinished Obelisk in the red granite quarries (with me pictured there on the left), the Botanical Gardens, and Philae Temple. Finally, we few down for a quick trip to Abu Simbel, where there is the famous Temple of Rameses II.
While on the trip, a few of us read Elizabeth Peters’ novel, The Curse of the Pharaohs, a mystery set in the early twentieth century at an excavation by British archaeologists. It offered a very meta-experience, especially as one was seeing the same monuments the characters were interacting with themselves. One quip was particularly good, particularly about a dead excavator (Sir Henry) and one of the main protagonists’ (Emerson) opinions on him: “Instead of making a rude remark about Sir Henry’s inadequacies as an Egyptologist, Emerson saw no reason why anything, up to and including death, should excuse a man from poor scholarship.” Needless to say, we also had a plethora of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile moments during the whole trip. The whole trip was interesting—in juxtaposition to my time, especially now, in Greece. The monumentality and sheer impact of the structures—by interacting with them in person—illustrates the magnitude of the Egyptian civilization, such as with the photo of me at the Temple of Horus at Edfu on the right. My interest is now piqued about Roman Egypt, particularly in terms of the built environment: how often did the Romans simply employ an indigenous architectural vocabulary, in lieu of using their own tried and true forms? At Philae, a Hellenistic site on probably a more ancient precursors, included the well-known ‘Kiosk of Trajan’ (often depicted in nineteenth century art works and here on the left), but also a temple built by Augustus, which was constructed in the traditional tetrastyle manner—but using local granite. One of my favorite things to look out for was naturally post-Antique graffiti, such as one that added stultus est (‘is stupid’) underneath someone’s name, carved previously, at Philae Temple. Of course, it should be noted that Dendara has two facing Roman era fountains immediately before the first pylon there (though we did not have the opportunity to see it this trip. Here’s to future adventures in Egypt!