Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Background

Who hasn't wanted to see the great wonders of ancient Egypt? Herodotus (~490 to ~430 BC) wrote with great admiration of the great sights he saw in Egypt. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built by the 4th dynasty Pharaoh Khufu, drew tourists from all corners of the ancient world. It was already about 2000 years old when Herodotus visited Egypt! It is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World to survive to our time.


Modern interest in ancient Egypt began in the early 19th century when Napoleon invaded Egypt, bringing with him more than 400 scientists. It was one of his soldiers who in 1799 discovered the world famous Rosetta Stone which enabled Jean-Fran├žois Champollion to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Egyptians employed hieroglyphic writing from earlier than 3000 BC, and invented papyrus (the origin of the word paper) for many kinds of recordkeeping. Fortunately, a wealth of papyri have survived in the very dry conditions of Egypt, in addition to inscriptions painted and carved on monuments and tombs. This is in contrast to the more perishable media of other early writing civilizations - so there is a lot Egyptian material to study. Scholars can interpret perhaps 90% of hieroglyphic writing, so there are still plenty of new things to discover.

As the interpretation of the ancient texts opened the window on this ancient civilization, interest in Egypt's past surged, especially in Europe and America. Gradually the science of Egyptology evolved, and tombs, temples and other monuments were excavated from centuries of sand, documented and studied. There are still exciting new finds being made today.


Millions of tourists each year journey to see the ancient wonders, making tourism Egypt's third most important industry, accounting for more than 10% of its income annually.


We had studied about Egypt, and had taken a 48-lecture course on ancient Egypt. We arranged a custom tour with the help of Samir Abass, an Egyptologist and owner of RealEgypt.net. We found RealEgypt through online research six months in advance, using Google, sorting the possibilities, then by referring to Tripadvisor, considering reviews of others, then by entering an online dialog with Samir. He asked great questions, and through some back and forth, we agreed on an itinerary that suited our preferences and interests. We were able to go far beyond the usual package tour, including three days in little visited "Middle Egypt", between Cairo and Luxor, and an expedition to the Valley of the Whales. RealEgypt surpassed our expectations in every way, as did Egypt itself.


So with some study and a heavy reliance on expect guidance, we are ready to depart Jan. 14 for Cairo.

1 comment:

  1. Eloise this is wonderful and brilliant and so rich..I am in love with your elevator...please keep writing these ...so full of texture, and feeling and sense of place, again that thing of being in the place you have seen since 2nd grade geography...the place for me was in Paris when I came out of the Garde de Nord and saw the art nouveau gate railings...alive from a hundred art books, and getting to the top of the stair and seeing the che chestnut trees and the small white scudding clouds, and the cafes with checkered table clothes leaning on the cobble stoned streets...it was straight out of a Madeline book...!!! please continue your wonderful blog!!

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