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Monday, March 1, 2010

Dr. Hawass and the Archeology Museum


Inside of a plastic bag in my pocket is a bronze statuette of a camel. I bought it from a man whose face has now begun to fade away into the annals of my memory.
We started out the day with a lecture from Dr. Hawass. He was very outspoken and energetic. He was animated in both face and character. Zahi Hawass is Indiana Jones.

The archeology museum was packed. Its hard to catch everything. I looked at a wooden sculpture. It was a man sitting down. The eyes were piercing. Trying to fathom that something in front of oneself was made more than 4000 years ago is almost impossible. I thought of the people of that time. Today the world is, in some ways, getting smaller and smaller. Technology brings us together and we see some issues as global issues. We think about the world and our place in the chaos of the social structures which we, ourselves, have constructed.
In ancient Egypt, I wondered what people thought about. How did they see themselves in the world? Were they conscious of who they were in relation to other cultures? Religion defined their social structures and identities. Everything had a purpose. Everything was placed in the right position in order to further the pursuit of religion and spirituality.
We then went to the recently renovated Dar el-Kotob‎ (National Library and Archives). We were met with great hospitality. The man who spoke to us did not speak english so he was translated. I got guava juice which was served to us from a silver platter. It was interesting. The facilities are very modern and I bought four postcards from a younger man who stood behind a desk.
In the Khan el Khalili Bazaar the sun set pretty fast. As we walked the streets got narrower and narrower. I was called a cheeky boy while I was looking at head scarves. I quickly left after this comment was made.
In the bazaar there was a shop with lanterns. The lanterns held lights. Light is a very powerful thing. The sun symbolizes creation and permanence. It is permanently rising and setting, trapped in this cycle. Through these lanterns humans have found a way to harness this power. We have found a way to create our own permanence. This is the human struggle. It is represented by every light that has ever been lit. Every ray of artificial light which has battled with the harsh, cold, permanence of night, of nature, of the cosmos.
Today we don't share a belief in a sun god or a god of night or of water or earth. But we do share the belief of those golden arches shining brilliantly across all 7 continents. We believe in a much more artificial deity. One which we have fabricated. We believe, above all, in ourselves.

Our morning lecture with Mr. Hawass was absolutely fantastic! He is an extremely passionate man with a vision for archeology like I have never seen before. Listening to him explain ancient history was great. However, the aspects of his lecture that most interested me were hearing the findings he and his team have made, and understanding how each new artifact can completely alter our understanding of history. It was great fun to walk through the Cairo Museum and notice several pieces of information printed for the public next to artifacts, information that he has recently proven to be incorrect. Mr. Hawass' discoveries have not been released to the public yet though, so we cannot discuss it with you!

Our trip to the museum was unforgettable. The broken down feeling of the building made the artifacts seem like every day objects; the simple glass and wood boxes holding priceless ancient treasures made them seem more real. We spent three times longer in the museum than most tour groups do, and I could have spent at least another four hours inside. Learning what King Tutankhamen's name looks like in heiroglyphs and hearing Dr. Hawass speak about his archeological digs, I have become engrossed once again with Egyptology.

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