Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cairo, Day 2

Morning came really, really early today, but it was worth it to see the pyramids and sphinx at Giza. These are massive structures that demonstrate incredible skill in engineering.

After leaving Giza we went to Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and met with Dr. Dina Shehata. Dr. Shehata discussed with us some of the pressing issues today in Egyptian culture and politics, from the recent elections to Muslim-Copt relations to Egypt’s relationships with Israel and the United States. She is extremely knowledgeable and it was a very informative and enlightening discussion.

We had lunch at a restaurant on the Nile. No further comment on this restaurant.

After lunch we went to the Egyptian Museum. The museum holds a massive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts such as statues and figurines, elaborately decorated coffins and sarcophagi, pharonic masks, tools, and weapons. There were a few portrait paintings that were ca. first century. There were quite a few artistic works on papyri and a few literary papyri written in Greek, Coptic, hieroglyphics, Arabic, and a script that looked like hieratic or demotic (I can’t tell the difference by looking). I suspect that they have many more papyri that were not on display. Many of the pieces had no label or explanation, however, which made them more difficult to appreciate. The museum itself is in a state of significant disrepair. One gets the impression that there is a considerable amount of deferred maintenance.

A note on driving in Cairo: don’t do it. It amazes me how every few feet people seem to walk out in front of our bus with no apparent regard for the oncoming vehicle. Lanes are sometimes painted on the streets but as far as I can tell no one uses them. Cars and mopeds weave here and there missing one another by inches.

Tomorrow’s another big day, so it’s time to get some sleep.

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