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Showing posts with the label Egypt

Memphis and Saqqara

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The cities of Memphis and Saqqara were the last stops on our trip to Egypt. We didn't really spend much time at either site, so I'm combing the two into one entry. Memphis: There wasn't much to see in Memphis other than a small sphinx statue and a gigantic (fallen) statue of Ramses II. I think the only reason we actually went to Memphis was the fact that it was the capital city of Egypt when Abraham and Sarah made their trip down south. This is where Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah to the Pharaoh. Interesting story, not a very interesting place these days, though. Ironically, there are no huge pyramids in Memphis, Egypt, unlike Memphis, Tennessee, which has that obnoxious Pyramid right on the Mississippi River. Saqqara: The main feature in Saqqara was the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Zoser, which was the first burial pyramid ever built. To quote my friend Jon, "It's not a full blooded pyramid. It's just a step-pyramid..."

Egyptian Archaelogical Museum

We were told before we went in that if you were to spend one minute at each display in the Archaeological museum, it would take you nine months to get through it all, and I believe it. This huge building is packed with statues, pottery, jewelry, etc. from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. For time's sake, I will only tell about three main highlights for me. First, we had an opportunity to enter the royal mummy room. It was incredible to stare into the face of Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut. Their bodies have been preserved so well that most of the mummies still have hair, teeth, fingernails, etc. One thing I noticed was that most of the Pharaohs on display died in their early to mid 40s, yet Ramses II lived to the grand age of 65 (granted, he suffered from numerous health problems). I couldn't help but wonder what these rulers would think if they knew that their mummified bodies were now on display thousands of years after they died for hundreds of thousands of foreine…

Old City Cairo

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The Old City part of Cairo, also known as Heliopolis or On, has been around from the time of Joseph and is built on the main road connecting Egypt with Palestine. This is the place where many Jews would have fled in the Babylonian conquest, and logically this is the part of Egypt where Joseph and Mary would have come to flee the wrath of King Herod. Two of the places we visited in the Old City were the Jewish Synagogue and the Abu Serga Church. The synagogue in the Old City is where the Geniza documents were discovered. They were the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Abu Serga Church is the oldest (or second oldest) Coptic church in Egypt, and according to the Coptic tradition is built directly over the place where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived for a couple years when they fled to Egypt. It is very possible, but I have never been one to put much stock in the place. It was still cool, though, because this is the first place we have vis…

The Alabaster Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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This is one of the more impressive "modern" structures I saw in Egypt, dating back to 1815. This mosque was built in honor of Muhammad Ali and is constructed entirely out of alabaster, hence the name... The design is based off the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, except way smaller. It's actually built inside an ancient citadel built by Salahadin in 1187 on the only road leading from Canaan to Egypt. The mosque is no longer used as a place of worship or prayer, its main function is a monument, actually, to Muhammad Ali (not the boxer), a man who liberated Egypt from the oppressive Ottoman Empire and was crowned King of Egypt in 1840. His tomb is inside the mosque and thousands of Musilms make a pilgrimage to this mosque in Cairo to pay homage to one of the greatest Islamic leaders ever. There is also a monument to Muhammad Ali in Kavala, Greece, in honor of the help he and his army provided to Greece against the Ottoman Empire.

Temple of Luxor

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This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. During the time of Moses, Luxor was the capital city of Egypt, and subsequently the Temple of Luxor was both the religious and educational center of Southern Egypt where Moses grew up and received his education. We know for a fact that if the story of Moses is accurately recorded in Exodus (as most believe it is) then this Moses spent the first 40 years of his life in and around this Temple, both worshipping and receiving a top-quality Egyptian education. We visited the temple during at night when it was illuminated, and the yellow lights playing off the statues and columns with the clear night sky overhead was beautiful. In front of the temple are two gigantic statues of, who else?, Ramses II, followed by more gigantic statues of Ramses II and others inside the main courtyard area. All Egyptian temples are laid out in the same basic format: large front gates (called pylons) followed by an open courtyard where commoners would come a…

Temple of Karnak

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When ancient Egyptian authors talk about "The Temple", they are most likely making a reference to the Temple at Karnak, which is the largest temple complex in the world. This temple complex, dedicated to "Amen" (the head creator god) was built over the span of 2,ooo years by multiple Pharaohs and covers 102 acres (not including the large garden areas). That's 26 times the size of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It has 6 gigantic gates, each one built by a different Pharoah. The last gate was built by Pharaoh Niku, the ruler who killed King Josiah in a battle against Israel. In front of the temple is a long "Ram Avenue" built by Ramses II which stretches all the way to the Luxor Temple complex, about a mile and a half away. Inside the temple are 134 gigantic columns, many of which are well over 60 feet tall (the number of columns in a temple represents the number of priests serving in it). Also inside the Temple are (or were) 6 giant obelisks (think W…

Valley of the Workers

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On the other side of the mountains from the Valley of the Kings lies the Valley of the Workers which is the best preserved working-class village in all of Egypt. Down in the valley are the ruins of about 73 houses and some other structures, even one of the earliest paved roads in the world. This village dates back to ca. 1450BC or earlier and gives us the earliest clues as to what life was like for the working class citizens of Egypt. Up on the hill beside the village is a series of tombs which the workers prepared for themselves. We were able to enter 2 of the better preserved tombs which both had frescoes painted on the walls which are much more well-preserved than any paintings in ancient Egypt. With as much fame as the Pharaohs receive because of their massive building projects, the workers who actually built those structures also built some impressive, smaller structures, like smaller pyramids on top of some tombs, paved roads, and vaulted ceilings dating back to at least 1450…

Valley of the Kings

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The Valley of the Kings is really the most visited site in all of Egypt, surpassing even the Great Pyramids in tourism. I find it interesting that the two most visited sites in the country have to deal with death and human efforts to preserve whatever they could. The days of the Pyramids had long since passed by the time the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were dug. The Pharaohs of the Pyramid era (Old Kingdom, before the time of Abraham) were believed to be the full manifestation of the gods on earth, so their tombs were much more elaborate, much more magnificent, and much more a target for grave robbers. By the time the Middle Kingdom rolled around, the Pharaohs only considered themselves as half-gods, or demi-gods, yet it is clear from reliefs and tomb paintings that the Pharaohs held a lower position to the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The Valley of the Kings contains 64 known graves of Pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom period, and interestingly enough, the first ruler to be b…

Of Boats and Falcons

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Edfu Temple: I doubt you have ever heard of this temple before, yet it is one of the best-preserved of the ancient world's temple. The temple is dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus, who is the god of protection and healing. According to Egyptian mythology, Horus battled with Set, the evil brother of Osiris, (the name for "Satan" was derived from "Set"). During this epic grudge match, Set gouged out one of Horus' eyes, and since then (for some reason), the "Eye of Horus" has been a symbol of protection and healing. Displaying the Eye was believed to safegaurd against evil spirits and the like. This temple is also home to one of the best-preserved statues of Horus in falcon form. One of the most intriguing things about this temple is that archaeologists discovered the remains of an ancient Egyptian ark. There are also reliefs on the wall depicting the priests of Horus carrying the Ark in the same manner as the Levitical Priests were commanded:…

Tic-toc, Tic-toc, Hook's afraid of a Big Bad Croc

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Mummified Crocodile Ancient Egyptian Calendar Kom-Ombo Temple: Our next stop was up the Nile a way. We arrived at the Kom-Ombo Temple complex as the sun was going down (about 5pm or so). Egyptian temples are beautiful at night when they are all lit up. Kom-Ombo Temple is a temple dedicated to the god Sobek (crocodile-headed god) who is one of the gods of the Nile. The Egyptias believed that by worshiping Sobek he would grant them protection from crocodiles in the River. Interestingly enough, over 300 mumified crocodiles were found next to this temple. A few of them were on display, and they didn't look too happy about it. A couple other interesting things about this temple - it was also used as a hospital in ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have discovered numerous medical utensils in the temple, as well as reliefs and inscriptions depicting medicinal processes. In several reliefs, there are depictions of the gods pouring out "life" onto the Pharaoh. Also, this temple i…

Ramses II (AKA Ramses the Narcissist)

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Abu Simbel: The next morning we woke up extremely early to catch a bus at 4:30am for a trip all the way down Lake Nasser to see the huge temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel. It is a very impressive Temple complex. This is the famous temple that has four gigantic statues of Ramses II sitting in front. To the right of the temple is the temple Ramses II built for his wife, Nefertari, his most beloved of the three wives. Inside the Temple of Ramses II, there are several side corridors in which are reliefs depicting Ramses himself worshiping nearly all of the 800+ gods of the Egyptian pantheon. To each one, he is bowing down and offering some sort of sacrifice, whether fruit, bread, animals, or something that resembled a chemistry set. He obviously wanted to make a statement about how religious he was. Abu Simbel was another huge temple that had to be moved to higher ground due to the creation of Lake Nasser. Note on Egyptian Temples: All Egyptian style temples follow the same basic pattern. The h…

Camel-riding and Croc-handling in Nubia

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Nubia: After seeing the Temple of Philae, we checked in to our cruise boat, ate lunch, and rested for a little while. The Nile River and the land surrounding it is beautiful. That afternoon, we took a boat out to a place right off the Nile called Nubia, which is technically part of Egypt, but Nubians are a different ethnicity and have a different heritage. We hit the shore, climbed out onto the sand, and mounted our camels. Mine was named "Rambo." We rode the camels for about 20 minutes across the Nubian desert along the Nile as the sun was setting. Absolutely incredible. After about 20 minutes we came to a small village where the people in charge of the camels live. One family opened their house to us and offered us soft drinks and tea. They had a table set up with all sorts of Nubian crafts, jewlery, etc. There was a woman who gave henna tatoos. The most ridiculous thing about it was the fact that Nubians have a custom of keeping baby crocodiles as pets. They only keep them …

Chick-flick Temple

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We just got back this evening from our trip to Southern Greece, called the Peloponnese. It was an amazing trip, and hopefully I will get caught up through the Egypt trip and the Peloponnese before we fly to Israel next Sunday. So here we go, back to Egypt... Temple of Philae: After a long trip South by way of scary night train, we arrived in the city of Aswan, which is located on the North side of the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Nasser. The first temple we visited was the Temple of Philae (or "Love" in Eng.). It is named thus because the reliefs on the walls depict the love story between the goddess Isis and her lover Osiris. It's a pretty gruesome story: Set is the evil brother of Osiris, and he decides to kill Osiris and cut him up into tiny little pieces. This devastates Isis, who recovers all of Osiris' body parts except for a certain, uh, "private" part. She reaches the simple solution for this problem by forging a new "member"…

Great Pyramids of Giza, Batman!

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Giza: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Egypt? Pyramids, anyone? Yeah, I've been there, done that. And it was amazing. You can't really tell from the pictures, but these massive structures are just on the edge of the city Giza, home to roughly 4 million people. The largest of the pyramids, the one behind the Sphinx in the picture, contains enough blocks to build a 10x1 ft. wall around the entire country of France. These pyramids are too gigantic for words to sufficiently describe. I could just imagine in the days before cars and pollution these man-made mountains would be able to be seen for miles around. Their enormity can't be entirely grasped until you are standing at the bottom look up, left, and right. Some interesting I found out about the pyramids: -They were built by hired workers, not slaves; yet it is still believed by some that they were, in fact, built by aliens. -They were constructed before the Egyptians even invented the w…

Alexandria - Home of the Ultramodern, Fireproof Library

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This fortress is built over the foundation of the ancient lighthouse. Th New Library of Alexandria Alexandria was the first city we visited after flying into Cairo. The city was built along the coastline of the Mediterranean by the Greeks and named after, who else?, Alexander the Great. It was not technically part of "Egypt" when it was built because "Egypt" as a nation only consisted of "Black Soil Around the River Nile" as our tour guide, Osman, emphasized quite a bit. Alexandria was once home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World - the Lighthouse of Alexandria. It's not there anymore. It fell down a long time ago and a fortress was built over its foundation. We also got to see (but didn't go in) the new library. If you remember your world history, Alexandria was also home to the largest library in antiquity until some moron burned it down in some sort of protest- destroying much of the world's compiled knowledge up to that point…

Faith building in the land of Egypt

It's incredible how much can happen in 8 days. The land of Egypt is so rich, so saturated with history and stories that it would be nearly impossible to take it all in, even with decades of study. Our tour guide, Osman, (who is one of the best men I have ever met) is by far also one of the best tour guides in all of Egypt. He is professional Egyptologist, tour guide, hieroglyphics teacher, and Biblical historian. Not only did he take us around to all the famous sites, but at each one he did his best to tie in all the geography, temples, etc. to the stories in the Bible. I never realized just how much Egypt had to do with the development of Judaism and ultimately Christianity. I would like to start my summary of our trip by recording some of the things I learned that my Sunday school teachers never knew: - The pyramids were seen by Abraham, Joseph (and his entire family), Moses, and Jesus - There is technically more than one Temple. When Judea was overrun and many Jews taken cap…