This week was kinda a slow one, with a bunch of people getting sick and a pretty nice lack of homework. I myself managed to dodge the bug that was going around, but still took advantage of the light workload to sleep in when possible and spent almost two full days this week in my pjs. We had some interesting activities during the week, starting on Sunday with a movie night in the boys’ apartment. The movie for the night was The Yacoubian Building, based on a book that describes life in Cairo through a series of interrelated stories. I had read the book in a class last year, so I was excited to see the film adaption. I would highly suggest watching it to anyone who would like to learn a little more about Egypt, even though it does paint a fairly pessimistic picture of the city.
On Wednesday evening my program hosted a meeting with Al Jazeera English reporter Sherine Tadros, who I have to admit, I knew nothing about prior to the meeting. As I learned in the meeting, she is Al Jazeera’s main reporter in Cairo, and has covered an amazing amount of stories all over the Middle East. She had a bunch of crazy stories about reporting during the Revolution and was so impressive that I could see why some of the people in my program were geeking out about meeting her. Listening to her speak definitely made me realize how little I am aware of when it comes to global news; maybe I should do more than just read the live blog on Egypt…
The next thing on the agenda was an Egyptian cooking lesson in the girls’ apartment, which meant that we stuffed the tiny kitchen with way more people than there was room for and all frantically attempted to assist Yasmina, our awesome professor. I’m not exactly positive what we made, but the main dish involved lots of fried eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, ground beef, and salt, along with a side of mashed potatoes mixed with egg, and rice pudding with yummy raisins, which I can’t help but call arroz con leche . The dinner was delicious, but most people predictably found excuses to disappear right after the meal was finished, so it fell to four of us (who understand that sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and clean shit up) to do all the dishes and organize everything. However, this also means that we decided who got to take the leftovers, including a big pot of rice pudding, and the girls got a chance to purge all the food that had been sitting in the fridge for weeks. Because we had been such good cleaners and it was the weekend, we decided we deserved some fun and took a trip to the liquor store to facilitate a dance party, Egypt style!
The gang right before digging in.
The big news this week is that while my family and some of the friends that I have known for almost my entire life are skiing at Wisp Ski Resort in Maryland this weekend, a trip that I haven’t missed for like 15 years, I went to go see more pyramids! The trip today was to Saqqara and Dashur, home to some of the first attempts at building on a monumental scale, along with some pretty cool tombs. There was almost no direction in which to look without seeing a pyramid, and there were walls everywhere covered with hieroglyphics and scenes, some of which I could start to understand, thanks to my Art and Hieroglyphics class. Here are some of the highlights of the trip; be prepared to have a bunch of Egyptology facts thrown at you:
This is the step pyramid of King Djoser, constructed in the 27th century BC and designed by the architect Imhotep, whose name has become famous because of his bad-assery in The Mummy. This was one of the first attempts at building a tomb on a monumental scale, and was constructed by taking the traditional mastaba, the stone structure over a tomb, and stacking several of them on top of each other, creating a pyramid shape.
This picture may or may have not have been taken illegally, but in my defense, our professors told us that we were allowed to take pictures as long as we didn’t use flash. Anyways, this was taken inside of one of the tombs we entered, which required navigating some steep stairs and low doorways. This scene shows Anubis, the jackal headed god of embalming, preparing the body of the deceased, with assistance from some protector goddesses.
This is the face of the god Osiris, from the outside of the tomb of Horemheb, one of the successors to the famous King Tut. Osiris is the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld, as well of a god of fertility, hence the green skin. He is pretty much all over the place in any kind of decoration and is pretty easy to identify by his feathered crown and mummiform body. He is central to a lot of the main myths regarding kingship and the afterlife in ancient Egypt. Before leaving Saqqara, we got to go inside a small pyramid via a very low-ceilinged ramp that led to the heart. Even though the pyramid pretty much just looked like a hill of sand, the inside was covered with the script of the pyramid texts; spells that would protect the deceased. Unfortunately no cameras allowed, but it was super dark in there anyways.
Our next stop on the trip was the Red Pyramid at Dashur, which was the third, final, and most successful pyramid of king Sneferu, who was the father of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid. At its construction, this was the tallest structure in the world and from a distance you can see the red color of the stones. We were allowed to climb up these slightly treacherous steps to get to the entrance shaft, a 200 foot passage with a 4 foot ceiling that sloped down at a 27 degree angle; needless to say it was pretty interesting going down.
Once inside, we were confronted by a very dark hallway that was filled with pretty rank smelling air. The inside of this tomb was bare, but we did get to see these high vaulted chambers. I think some people had some problems with the heat and air, but I thought it was a pretty cool experience.
This is me heading back up the tiny exit passage, a few minutes after a fun moment when all of the lights went out as we were standing in the center of a millenniums-old tomb… Not really sure why it happened, but some people did start to freak out a little bit. The lights came back on after just a little bit, which was a little lame, cause I personally would have liked to try to find my way out using just the light of my cell phone.
Last stop was the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu’s first attempt at a pyramid, which as you can see, didn’t go so well. They started with too sharp an angle and had some support problems midway through and had to change to a less steep angle. Either that or I squished down the top of the pyramid when I went to see it, choose what you want to believe.
So now since I have come to Egypt, I have climbed a bunch of minarets, gone down inside a few pyramids, taken boat rides on the Nile and the Mediterranean, and a bunch of other crazy things. Next week we are going camping in the dessert, so I should have plenty of new stories when I get back!