This Week’s Update – Egypt

This week, Pat Remler, our upcoming speaker on Feb 3 writes a guest blog post for AIA Houston. She writes about the current state of travel in Egypt.

Bob Brier and I led a tour to Egypt in November 2014, our first in almost two years. We were pleased to see how calm everything is after the political unrest of the last few years and how welcome and safe our group felt at every site.

Although there has been unrest in Egypt since the revolution, the government  encourages visitors to come Egypt. Now is a great time to go, because there are so few tourists and you can move easily from site to site. We visited more temples, tombs, and markets than ever before because there were no lines and no waiting.

Herodotus said it 2,500 years ago: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile” – and what a gift it is – a narrow strip of cultivatable land teased from barren expanse of desert that is home of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. The Nile, from the Sudan to the Mediterranean, was the life-blood of this remarkable culture that flourished for over 3,000 years. Today, one can still see the stark contrast between the fertile, green strip of cultivated land along the Nile and the vast desert stretching out for miles on either side.

A recent note from one of travelers illustrates the current state of tourism in Egypt: The entire trip was far beyond our expectations. We expected the best…so whatever you call better than the best describes our trip. This was the most enjoyable trip that we have ever made. We enjoy learning new things and every day on the Majesty of Egypt was full of wonderful new and exciting experiences and many things to be learned. Peter and Alberta Chulick.

Pat Remler and Bob Brier at Deir el-Bahri
Pat Remler and Bob Brier at Deir el-Bahri

Pat will be speaking on Feb 3, 2015 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Her talk will focus on cultural and trade contacts between Queen Hatshepsut and the kingdom of Punt. Hatshepsut was particularly proud of the profitable trade that she established with Punt. So much so, that she included elaborate descriptions of her trade missions on the walls of her mortuary temple at Deir el Bahri. Because of these descriptions, we know about the land of Punt and we know the names of the rulers who greeted Hatshepsut’s expedition. We also have a very interesting, very humane description of one of its rulers, one that runs counter to the Egyptian artistic conventions of the day which tended to depict the human body in an idealized way. In this ‘portrait’ on view at the Cairo Museum, one can see that the Queen of Punt is suffering from a malady that researchers have now termed “Queen of Punt syndrome.” She must have made quite an impression on the Egyptian ambassadors for them to depict her in such a realistic manner.

Queen Aty and King Parakhu
Queen Aty and King Parakhu

Today, the location of Punt is uncertain. However, through a multi-faceted approach to archaeology that includes palynology and DNA, scholars are coming nearer to pinpointing the kingdom that Hatshepsut and her ambassadors knew. Hear more about this lost land and the unfolding story of its discovery.

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