"Hey! Guys! No touching the ancient inscriptions!"

On the 20th, I took a field trip with my Egyptology class to Dahshur, Memphis, and Saqqara to play in the pyramids. Of course, spending half of my weekend on a class trip was not ideal for me, but I suppose if you have to, spending Saturday spelunking in pyramids dating back thousands of years before Christ isn't terrible. First, we visited the Red [or Northern] Pyramid at Dahshur. We rode an hour into the palm tree forests, through rural villages, and finally out into the desert to one of the lesser visited pyramids, which was blissfully almost tourist-free. Looming in the smog, one could just decipher the famous Bent Pyramid on the horizon. We hiked about a third of the way up the Red Pyramid, built by King Sneferu. Standing at the entrance and already panting, I cursed my cigarettes and chugged water. It would only get worse.
Upon entering the pyramid, one begins a gradual descent through a passage roughly three feet high and three feet wide, at a 40 degree angle. This causes one to crouch in a terribly uncomfortably position and shimmy down a ladder-like ramp into the hot, dank dark for hundreds of feet. I was not prepared for the heat. It has nearly 100 degrees outside in the desert, but for some reason I expected the tomb to be chilly. Instead, it was hot and humid and I was pouring sweat. The smell that greets you as you step out of the passage into the corbelled receiving room is terrible: something like rubbing alcohol and mothballs; it is certainly not a stretch to believe that a dead body lay here and decomposed for thousands of years. In addition, as one might expect, it was difficult to breathe. Beyond the smell and the humidity, the shaft we had just come down was the only source of air, and my breathing was labored. Panicking slightly, I made my way to the tomb, but there was not much to see; much of it had been torn apart my earlier explorers who were sure there was more to the tomb than what met the eye..but they were wrong, and sadly, desecrated the ancient tomb for no reason.
I never imagined the scorching desert heat would be a welcome sensation, but after emerging from the heat of the pyramid, it was a relief. My legs were already on fire from the descent and corresponding climb back to the world of the living. Grateful for rudimentary air conditioning, I boarded the bus for Memphis. Honestly, Memphis, once the capital of ancient Egypt, was not very interesting. We toured a statuary garden and then headed to Saqqara. There we toured a museum, where I had my first run-in with a mummy [I know, I know, I've been in Egypt since August and just now saw my first's a shame]. Afterwards, we toured the Step Pyramid complex. Built for King Djoser, it was the world's first pyramid, and though not a "true" pyramid, was also the first man-made structure constructed completely of stone. Finally, we continued to a small, collapsed pyramid, which we entered. This was not as taxing as the Red Pyramid. The descent was shorter and the passage larger, and there is believed to be another air source lying undiscovered somewhere within the tomb, so it is cooler and easier to breathe. The draw to this otherwise unremarkable, and even pitiful looking, pyramid, is the hieroglyphs which are still beautifully intact on the walls and ceilings of the tombs. It is literally awe-inspiring to look at something long-dead hands etched into solid stone to act as a resurrection machine for a king. Stars dot the ceilings, etched there to recreate the night sky to which the king would ascend to become an "imperishable star" and also to denote royalty.
Finally, we entered the mastaba of Mereuka, filled with beautiful carvings depicting every aspect of life, and beautiful Nile scenes, where hippos and crocodiles battled and men fished and sailed. In some places, the original paint used by the ancients was still visible. The urge to touch something so old and enduring was almost overwhelming, but I controlled myself. Others didn't, and our teacher was not thrilled.
"Hey! Guys! No touching the ancient inscriptions!"

Sweaty, smelly, and covered in dust older than Christ [...literally], I got off the bus in Tahrir Square, where Becky and Megan were waiting on me to go to Khan al-Khalili, our favorite market, and also the site of a terrorist attack last year. We had a special errand to run. You see, we have a ghost. His name is Gus, and he comes to visit every other day or so. He knocks things down, breaks things, pulls my posters off of the wall, and hangs out with Becky when I'm not around. No, I'm not kidding. So there I am, disgusting and all Lara Croft:Tomb Raider-ed out, in Khan al-Khalili shopping for the biggest evil eye I can find to keep the ghost out of our room. Really> This is my life.

Only in Egypt. Oh, Masr.

0 "bhebek"s: