Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 4 Lazy day (Top 10 obscure sites)

Day of reading while lying in the sun. Loot by Sharon Waxman is the story of the European appropriation of objects from ancient civilisations, a much more complex affair than one would imagine, loaded with political nuance. The Great Belzoni by Stanley Mayes is a more detailed account of a major player, whose ‘loot’ can be found in the statue hall of the British Museum. Egyptian Pharaohs by Martin Howard is a straight chronological account Pharaoh by Pharaoh.

This story is matched by the modern clash of East and West, as Egypt’s monuments succumb to a tsunami of tourism. The numbers and pace of development are frightening but not matched by the care of the monuments by the government. The monuments and tombs, an irreplaceable resource, is being worked to death and falling apart due to breath, sweat and the physical wear and tear. The guardians earn only 400 E£ per month and supplement their income by allowing illegal photography and access to places beyond the barriers. The Russians, we were told, were the worst, regularly ignoring the prohibition on photography, touching the walls and even climbing over the railings (we witnessed this in the Valley of the Kings). Then there’s the modern day looting and smuggling.

Modern Egypt is in many ways disconnected with Ancient Egypt. Islamic education tends to dismiss everything before the 7th century AD and the polytheistic beliefs of Ancient Egypt are an anathema to modern Islamic thought. The contrast is stark when one sees women in burkas or headdresses visit tombs where nakedness among ancient men and women is commonplace. If anything, this position may be getting more common, as young people adopt a more hard-line Islamic identity.

Hawass spends a great deal of his time fruitfully educating Egyptians about the heritage but perhaps too much time fighting for the repatriation of 18th and 19th century objects, rather than preserving what Egypt already has.

Top 10 obscure sites

Moalla

El Kab

Tod temple

Tiy’s Harbour

Mons Claudianus

Mons Porphyrus

Darian Temple at Kharga

Necropolis at Kharga

Desert rock paintings

Not for the feint hearted as many require long trips across and into deserts, but all wonderful and worthwhile.

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