Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 47: Cairo Museum & Farewell to Egypt

Our trip to the Aswan airport was once again preceded by an early morning wake-up call.  This time, EgyptAir took us to Cairo.  For the most part, the morning and flight were uneventful (probably a good thing).  Upon arrival in Cairo we went straight to Egypt's most well known museum, the National Archeological Museum.  The facility houses the majority of Egypt's famous finds, some as old as 50 centuries.  We only had a few hours so the guided portion of the tour hit the major highlight, the King Tutankhamun exhibit.  We visited the tomb in Luxor so it was cool to actually see the stuff that belonged there (yes, we paid to see a mostly empty tomb).  Tutankhamun is the only tomb discovered in recent history (1922) so it is really the only example of actual contents of a Pharaonic tomb.  The actual body was contained in a beautiful pure gold coffin surrounded by 2 others, a sarcophagus, and 4 other outer "shells" (all plated in gold).  The layers intended to protect the body along with giant statues of Tutankhamun in the actual burial room.  Also found were countless gold treasures (including mini-coffins for his organs and, yep you guessed it, a lock of his grandmother's hair), lots of food and wine, chariots, weapons, and some really beautiful and intricately decorated gold and silver thrones.  Other than the Tut exhibit, the museum has a number of sarcophaguses, examples of Ancient Egyptian art, and actual mummies. 

The visit was short but well worth it.  It's amazing how well all of this is preserved after over 3000 years.  Apparently there are even more items in the basement of the museum that have yet to be catalogued and displayed.  The museum itself isn't in the greatest condition.  Like many public facilities (although not airports for some reason), the general condition of the building is poor and, without air conditioning, I can't imagine the lack of climate and humidity control is good for the exhibits.  This is probably the reason why a lot of the other amazing Egypt finds are displayed at other museums around the world.  After departing the museum we drove over the to the Giza region to grab some lunch before the journey back to Alexandria.  The 2.5 hour bus ride was a bit tedious but necessary and upon arrival at the ship my parents had the opportunity to come onboard and see the ship in a little more detail.  I think they got a great feel for the "shipboard community" after dinner with my friends and meeting with a few of the faculty I've gotten to know well.  We had a good tour and eventually the time came to say goodbyes as we go on to continue separate adventures.

This port went incredibly fast.  We traveled at lightening speed to see Egypt and I'm happy to report it was an amazing experience.  This place has so much rich history; it's really interesting and profound to see that aspect against the backdrop of a nation with so many political and social problems.  It's very dirty and there's a lot of poverty here.  Everywhere you look there's an armed guard or member of the "Tourist Police" with a semi-automatic weapon.  The significant division in the distribution of wealth is very apparent as you drive or walk through any part of the country.  Our visit to Egypt was an incredible experience, both captivating and powerful.  I'm so glad my parents were here to enjoy it with me.  To be perfectly honest the true highlight of this port was having the opportunity to share this time with them.  As the ship departs tonight, my mom and dad will continue their adventure to the Sinai region.  I'm sure they'll have a great time and I can't wait to swap adventure stories in now less than 20 days.  That's all for now, I must bid farewell to the land of the most ancient ancient civilization.

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