Friday, January 2, 2009

nice to be back

Well, dear friends, it has been a while. It is great to be back and, of course, I have something upstairs cooking. Several somethings, really. We'll just start with one. I was interested to see an article compliments of Yahoo! Travel that paralleled many of the things I saw in Egypt. If you search in my archive, you will see that there is a post on Egypt covering some of these issues already, so I will try not to repeat myself. Let's start with what our comrades at Yahoo! said:

"Of all the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one is still standing: the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Granted, its pinnacle was lopped off, and the polished white limestone that once faced its sloping sides was scavenged ages ago. But there it is in the Egyptian desert, the largest in a trio of stupendous royal tombs, with a quirky monument called the Sphinx alongside. It's quite a sight to see — if only you could see it.

"Today, aggressive throngs of souvenir vendors, tour touts, and taxi drivers crowd the entrance to the Pyramids of Giza. Though camel rides and horseback tours are now banned from the monument area, visitors still clamber unchecked over the ancient landmarks. The haphazard sprawl and pollution of Cairo comes right to the edge of the archaeological zone, yet Egyptian officials seem unconcerned about protecting the site.

"It's difficult now to get that iconic long-distance view of the three pyramids looming in the desert; you can't really see them until you're too close. Oriented precisely to the points of the compass, they were built for three Pharaohs of the 4th Dynasty (about 27th c. B.C.) — the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the slightly smaller Second Pyramid of Chephren, and the much smaller red-granite Third Pyramid of Mycerinus — and designed to imitate the rays of the sun shining down from its zenith. Most tourists expect a visit to the famed pyramids to be a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, not a tawdry letdown. It's the only Ancient Wonder we have left — what a pity it's come to this."

AMEN! What a pity. I, for one, did not see any enforcement of this supposed ban on camel and horse rides in the area- there were camels all over! A friend of mine was even asked by a vendor there how many camels he would be willing to accept in exchange for me (as a slave? wife? who knows...), but that is another story.

Because of the one remaining side of the pyramids, I believe the to West, that is still a large stretch of sand where everyone takes their photos, few people realize that they are actually situated right in downtown Cairo. There is a park across the street where I always saw tons of people gathered doing drugs, urinating, etc. Not exactly upper crust real estate. The Pyramids are, unfortunately, not even the start of the disregard of ancient wonders that are not cared for. The Cairo Museum which houses many priceless things in textbooks that have expanded the minds of historians and taken the lives of archaeologists to discover, was a depressing sight. Artifacts literally thousands of years old were disheveled in little glass cases in disarray all over. There was very little organization and things were just all out in the open in the sweltering heat- yeah, no air conditioning! How well can the memory and history of these things be preserved when they are forgotten about on a shelf, crammed in with other similar artifacts with pencil-written descriptions in each case and no climate control? It was almost offensive to me how poorly the artifacts were treated. The only AC, thank goodness, was for Tut's treasures and a room of mummies. Needless to say, I spent most of my time there where the forced air better masked to scent of perspiration and mildew. I would have gladly payed more money at each sight to better enable the Egyptian government to better maintain their history. And although I'm not usually a huge fan of conquest and colonization, I can honestly say that the items taken by foreigners that are now housed in the British Museum or in Berlin probably have a much better chance of preservation.