Paying my respects – Cairo

18th May 2006

We got off the train and were met by Tamir, who to my shock and delight placed my Indiana Jones hat on my head when he saw me, a feat which I thought was truly amazing. We were then taken back to the Movenpick Pyramids hotel to freshen up and recuperate for our trip to the Cairo Museum.

At 8:30am we met back up with Tamir who was asleep in the lobby of the hotel, which Mum and I thought was very cute. He then took us to the Sheraton, and we picked up Shireena and went to the Cairo Museum. We reached the museum and at once I was shocked by the immense crowds. It was a big pinkish coloured building, surrounded by large wrought iron gates, which you had to pass through to get into the museum grounds. We left our cameras in the van and went through security at the gates, cameras were not allowed in the museum and if you are caught with one the authorities take it off you. Once inside the museum grounds I noticed that objects of interest were everywhere and the grounds were very green, which looked very odd in the middle of the bustling dirty city of Cairo.

We entered the museum and Shireena at once started to show us around, again I wished she was not there as the things she showed us were not what I wanted to see and were not things that I would have picked even just to show tourists, never mind their historical value. I could have shown Mum and Dad around this place with my eyes closed and done a better job.

I went into the treasure room of Tutankhamen, which was understandably more secure than the rest of the museum. I walked in and saw all the jewellery they found on his mummy and jewellery that he actually wore. I was especially fascinated by his golden finger and toe covers, made to the detail of the smallest marks of the young king’s fingernails. I walked around the room and beheld the solid gold coffin carved with spells and incantations and finally I came to the golden mask and looked into the young king’s eyes, and they looked back at me. I even managed to look underneath the mask and see the weakness in the cheek, the exact same spot where Lord Carnarvon the financer of the dig that found Tutankhamen had received a fatal mosquito bite that had gotten infected and killed him.

Anubis - Cairo Museum
Anubis in the Cairo Museum

It seemed ironic to me that a man who had only ruled for such a short time and had no major military victories and had not built anything of any consequence or taken Egypt through a golden age, is a more popular name that Ramses II. Ramses II who carved his name on almost every building that was standing during his lifetime and even usurping the works of others, Ramses who battled all the way to Kadesh and secured the borders of Egypt deep into Nubia and Ramses who had lived to a massive 91 years and at that age an age extremely few ancient Egyptians would have reached truly must have seemed like a true god on Earth.

After the Tutankhamen rooms Shireena took us to the Royal Mummy room. It cost an extra 70 Egyptian pounds to go in and Mum and Dad would not pay it, but this was one thing I was not about to miss, a chance to look upon the faces and to pay my respects to the men and women who had made Egypt so great and at the sight of whose monuments, I had almost been brought to my knees and certainly moved to tears more than once.

Shireena said that she and my parents would wait outside for me, something for which I was eternally grateful, I did not want her there giving me miss information on this experience and I really did just want to see this sight for myself.

I entered the room, or should I say the tomb and immediately noticed the air of dignity and respect in the air. The room was dark and laid out just like an Egyptian Royal tomb. There were pictures on the wall and great pillars through the room. The mummies looked very well presented and were wrapped with only their faces, hands and feet showing. The first mummy in the room was Seqenenre Tao II a man who died in battle trying to liberate his country from the “vile” Hyksos invaders. The mummy as can be imagined was horribly contorted and the axe wound in his forehead could clearly be seen. Despite the fact that cameras were not allowed, some highly disrespectful tourist was taking photos of the great king who had clearly already suffered so much, with a mobile phone. I couldn’t help but think, this is a man who started a revolution in the 17th Dynasty that when it was finished by his son Ahmose, freed Egypt from their Hyksos overlords, thus bringing Egypt to the New Kingdom and the greatest glory the country had ever seen, show some respect.

Tutankhamen - Cairo Museum
Gold sarcophagus of Tutankhamen

When I exited the mummy room, Dad and I walked through the main foyer of the second floor and I pointed out the only other intact royal burial ever found, that of Yuya and Thuya, the parents of the wife of Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye. I saw their golden masks and looked into their eyes, I also saw the coffin of Ahmose mislabelled as the coffin of Ramses I, I read the hieroglyphs on the front of the wooden coffin, and I knew I was not mistaken, and finally before Dad returned to the gardens of the museum, we marvelled at the eight foot high coffin of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari wife of Ahmose. I felt a truly great site to end his visit with. I said I would hang around for a little while and browsed around for a bit longer. Finally, I thought, that’s it I’ll have to go meet up with the others now and rushed through the museum. On my way out I spotted something I had missed, the Narmer palette. This is perhaps the most significant piece in Egyptian History, it is a slate palette that tells of the unification of the two lands of Egypt for the first time by King Narmer. I made myself late looking at it, but I never would have forgiven myself if I had not gotten to see it. I couldn’t believe that I had not thought to look for it and that Shireena had not bothered to show it to us, but then again that had been her whole attitude from start to finish, show the bare minimum with no enthusiasm.

We were then taken back to the hotel where we had lunch and did some relaxing. I wanted to go out and my parents insisted on coming with me, we headed outside the hotel and as we looked down the road, we could again see the great pyramids of Giza. We got a few meters down the road and got sick of people pestering us for taxi rides and other things and soon returned to the safety of the hotel. I can’t help but think now that I wish I had persevered, but I had never been on my own in another country and anyway hindsight is useless. We went back in and had dinner and then returned to our room. Just as we were getting ready for bed, I heard the familiar sound of Egyptian music. I walked outside the room to see what was going on and a parade of people were marching around beating drums and dancing, which I decided to join in on, what a perfect way to end this part of the journey. I later found out it was someone’s wedding.

I went to bed, but unfortunately the hotel had put me in the same room as Mum and Dad this time, they snore, very loudly. It was the most horrendous night of my life; I did everything from screaming at them to shut up to trying to sleep with the pillow over my ears. I have to get an international flight tomorrow I thought, I have to do something. So, I moved my bedding outside to the porch seat and covered myself over. I got a little rest, but got eaten alive by African mosquitoes, which are unlike Australian mosquitoes. Australian mosquitoes bite you and it itches for a few minutes and goes away, African mosquitoes keep you scratching for days.

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