Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season's Greetings from Luxor!

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad! Kullu sana wintu taibeen!

Whatever your language have a joyous, peaceful and wonderful holiday!

Love, Marie

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beautiful Darkness! Blessed Light!

May your celebration of this season of holidays draw deep from the abundant joy, fierce hopes, and enduring traditions of all of our ancestors...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Discoveries at Karnak Temple

I wondered why Steven Stanek from National Geographic was seen last week in the CH library in the company of my boss, Dr. Raymond Johnson. This article (click on the title) explains everything.

Here's a portion of the interview with Dr. Johnson:

W. Raymond Johnson, an Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago who has visited the site, said the discovery shows the expertise of ancient Egyptian builders.

"Being good engineers and practical, [ancient Egyptians knew] that to build something so big so close to the Nile, you have to have reinforcement in front of it. … It stopped any erosion of the Nile River bank."

The find sheds new light on the ancient city of Thebes, of which Karnak was the religious center, he added.

"We've assumed the ancient landscape in Thebes is relatively unchanged, and we have to completely reevaluate that now," Johnson said.

"It really gives us pause when we make certain assumptions and then find out they are completely wrong."

That's my boss!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Zombies in Upper Egypt!!

Our friend Renée Friedman at Hierakonpolis has struck again! She has a wickedly developed sense of the absurd, and this article is a case in point (click on the title of this post).

Here is Renée talking to the group from Chicago House about the restoration of the mudbricks of the Fort at Hierakonpolis.

A view of the Fort...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In Memoriam - Washoe (1965-2007)

I was saddened to read of the death of Washoe, the chimpanzee who learned to use American Sign Language under the tutelage of cognitive researchers R. Allen and Beatrix T. Gardner. This occured while I was in college and I was fascinated by the whole experiment due to its linguistic and philosophical implications. I even wrote a paper for my "Philosophy of Man" course. I felt a real psychic link with her and with Koko the kitten-loving gorilla who learned more than 1,000 sign language words during research at Stanford University. Rest in peace, sweet Washoe...and may you find Heaven to be a place where you can tickle and be tickled to your heart's content...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

ICanHasCheezburger Factory Strikes Again!

For those among us who are guardians of the people's right to look at anything they damn well please on the Internet! (Click on the title to see what I'm talking about...)

In LOL-Kitteh Speak...Miz Otizz her sez "K, weyz 2 go!!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Face to Face with the Boy King

Click on the title to read about a first-time likeness of the face of Tutankhamun created by archaeologists. The likeness will go on display with his mummy later this year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A "Fruit"ful Discovery in Tut's Tomb

This colossal statue of King Tutankhamun (at 17 ft. 4 in., the tallest ancient Egyptian statue in the Western Hemisphere, and weighing in at approximately 12,000 pounds) can be found at the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago. I took this photo during my Egyptology tour of Chicago in early August. The statue was discovered near Medinet Habu (west bank at Luxor--ancient Thebes) in the Temple of Aye and Horemheb in 1930.

Below are two photos showing, somewhat poorly I'm afraid, the placard attached to the statue. (If you click on either of them you will open an enlarged view which, of course, is much easier to read.) It's a fascinating story!

The story of the recent discovery of eight baskets of doum fruits (from the doum palm) in Tut's tomb is available by clicking the title of this post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nefertiti Staying Put?

Further "Tales of Zahi Against the World"! Germany has decided not to allow the famous bust of Nefertiti to return to Egypt for a three-month exhibition--and now Zahi wants the bust back for good. (Click on the title of this post to read the full article.) Below is a shot of a copy of the original bust costumed for Christmas. This replica sits on top of the piano in the tea room at Chicago House.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tut-Tut-Tut-ing Along...

This is moi in front of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I was lucky enough to be invited to view the tomb on a special pass issued to the young daughter of my friend Lisa Giddy in the Spring of 2005. Chloe was allowed to bring 5 people along with her. The truly wonderful part of the experience was that we were the only people in the tomb! Amazing!!

Click the title of this post to read an article about the latest Tut discovery.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

X(ray) Marks the Spot...

An interesting NYTimes article about using a CAT scan to find out more about a 2000-year-old mummy. Not that such a procedure is uncommon, but that it's a collaboration between a museum and a hospital is a bit unusual.

This photo (l.), which I took at the Field Museum in Chicago (Aug. 5, 2007), shows how some amulets would be placed on a mummy. Below is a mummy which is displayed in the mastaba-tomb of Unis-ankh, also in the Field Museum.

More to come from my Egyptology tour of Chicago with Glyphdoctors' Nicole Hansen...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Toe" the Line?

Click on the title for the latest info on ancient Egyptian prosthetics! Sorry, but I don't seem to have any photos of mummy toes to illustrate this post ;-{

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Daddy Dearest?

Click the title of this post to see the latest from Zahi (via National Geographic) about the mystery mummy in KV55.

[This not-very-sharp photo of a bust of Akhenaten is one I took in the Egyptian Rooms at the Louvre Museum in May 2005.]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco)

A Day in the City
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

Well, I'm chuffed! This photo has been selected for inclusion in the entry about the Legion of Honor in the Schmap San Francisco Guide (online) 3rd edition.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mummy Dearest...Revisited

Click the title of this post to see an "opinion" about the latest Zahi extravaganza!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hatshepsut's Mummy Found?

Head Shot
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

This is a photo I took at Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el Bahri. Check out the latest buzz about her mummy by clicking on the title of this post.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A (soon-to-be) Published Photograph!

This photo of the Travertines at Pamukkale, Turkey will appear in "Bluelist 2008"! I've just signed an agreement with Lonely Planet Publications--and they're going to pay me for its use!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Settling In

I'm back in California testing my newly acquired sheesha (shisha) or water-pipe or hookah or narghile packed with inaugural mint tobacco! I've usually smoked the ubiquitous apple sheesha (can refer either to the water-pipe or the tobacco) but I've branched out...

Now for a nice cup of helba tea (aka fenugreek, often served in Egyptian cafés as a companion to the sheesha)...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Moi et Champollion

Moi et Champollion
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

I'm on my way back to California via Paris. We spent the day yesterday in Père Lachaise Cemetery, and I made a point of paying hommage to "decoder" Champollion (you know–the Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphs...). I think it's also great that he was a municipal librarian. Only the best and the brightest!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Late Afternoon at Luxor Temple

I never tire of taking a tour of Luxor Temple under the tutelage of the Mudhir (my boss, Dr. Johnson). I always learn something new and notice more details each time. Yesterday, I was able to attach myself to a late afternoon tour for members of an Oriental Institute group. It was an amazingly different experience, as I had never explored the temple at this time of day before.

There were several school groups at LT as you can see from this photo. These young girls in their white headscarves flitted about as if they were butterflies--never settling anywhere for very long! The young men "sauntering" about were much more brash and obtrusive. As usual, there were several groups of tourists from various countries, each led by their multilingual Egyptian guide (the linguistic skills of these guides never fail to amaze me, at the same time that the misinformation that is often shared appals me!).

One of the delights of my late afternoon visit was to be able to see the Abu el-Haggag Mosque in sunlight! This almost surreal juxtaposition of the ancient (1550 BC) and the merely old (ca. 969 AD) in the same space is fascinating. This original entrance to the mosque has three arches covered with marble and faience. Inside the mosque, there is a niche of simple design that is free of ornaments. There is also a small grave in which Yousef Ibn Abdel-Raheem, known as Abu Al-Haggag, was buried. On the top of the mosque, there is also a row of balconies that were built with baked bricks as it was restored in AD 1914 by Khedive Abbas Helmy the Second.

I really like this view of the minaret of the mosque framed by the papyrus-bundle columns of the peristyle court*. These columns are part of a triple shrine originally built by Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty) and later rebuilt by Ramesses II (19th Dynasty). The three shines belong to Mut, Amun, and Khonsu. The building was the southernmost of the bark shrines** used in processions between Karnak and Luxor temples and played an important role in the ceremony.
The slim minaret is located at the top of the northeast side of Luxor temple. Its height is about 14.15 meters or 46.41 feet and it was constructed on the thresholds above the four granite pillars in the temple, which form an invisible base.

*A court enclosed by columns
**A type of small temple in the shape of a Nile boat, with the prows and sterns decorated with the aegis of a god. The cabin contained the cult image of the deity.

We are now in the Colonnade of Amenhotep III, one of the most impressive spaces in any Egyptian monument. It has 14 massive columns with open papyrus capitals that once supported a roof 68 feet above the ground. The scenes in the Colonnade are the best sources available for study of the Opet Festival, one of the most important religious rituals in the New Kingdom. Five scenes on the west wall depict the procession from Karnak to Luxor and initial ceremonies in Luxor Temple. The five on the east wall show further festivities at Luxor and the return procession to Karnak.

There are approximately 50,000 decorated blocks in our blockyard at Luxor Temple. This is one I had not seen until yesterday. It is an intriguing depiction of a lunar cat! Actually the head of the cat is on the left, accompanied by the falcon god Horus above and just below him is his left eye, the Wadjet or Oudjat (meaning "healthy" or "whole"). In an ancient myth, about a battle between Horus and Seth (a storm god as well as the murderer of his brother Osiris), Horus' left eye (the moon) was torn out. The myth relates to the waxing and waning of the moon during which the moon appears to have been torn out of the sky before being restored once every lunar month. (Other myths suggest that it was Horus' right eye (the sun) which was torn out and thus the myth refers to a solar eclipse in which the sun is momentarily blotted from the sky.) The "eye" was also personified as the goddess Bastet and Bastet is a lunar goddess. Just another reminder of the saying: "Once cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this!"

My primary reason for wanting to visit the temple was to see the newly cleaned Roman wall paintings in the Chamber of the Divine King. The chamber had served as a bark shrine but was converted to a chapel for the Roman imperial cult. Scenes of Amenhotep III and Amun were plastered over and painted with scenes of Roman officials. [NB: There is a long-held belief which still surfaces on many websites about Ancient Egypt and is promulgated by many of the Egyptian guides that this room served as a Christian church and that the scenes were actually renderings of the Last Supper! In fact, it was on this spot that early Christians were made to forcibly declare their allegiance to the Roman god-emperor.] Just last year the Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project under the auspices of the American Research Center in Egypt launched a major effort to clean and conserve these unique paintings with the assistance of a group of Italian conservators. The first stage was completed earlier this season, and I had not yet seen the results without scaffolding in front. The paintings are remarkably beautiful, as you can see in this photo.

As a perfect ending to a perfect visit to Luxor Temple, and as the sun sank slowly in the west, we headed for a much-anticipated gin-and-tonic on a dahabeeyah named the "Kingfisher" docked on the Nile....Life is good!

هس ا لسلا هة إ

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dwindling Mummy Population!

Egyptian Conservationists Fight To Protect Dwindling Mummy Population

The Onion

Egyptian Conservationists Fight To Protect Dwindling Mummy Population

CAIRO—The number of undead Egyptian princes roaming the desert has diminished from 12,000 in 1970 to just 300 today.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sofia 2006

I wasn't in Luxor very long before I had an opportunity to travel to Sofia, Bulgaria for a library conference. Despite the fact that the conference was very intense, I was able to get out and about, both in and around Sofia and Plovdiv. This photomosaic represents some of the highlights of the trip. Viewing left to right and top to bottom they are:
1. Vitosha in the Morning, 2. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, 3. Alexander Nevski Cathedral (Detail), 4. St. Nikolai Russian Church (Detail), 5. Sofia Street Market: Icons, 6. Rainbow Door (Sofia), 7. Sofia Fountain, 8. St. Nikolai Russian Church (Detail), 9. Georgi Dimitrov Genchev, 10. Look Up!, 11. Lion of Bulgaria, 12. Luxor in Sofia, 13. Alafrangite Restaurant, 14. Archaeological Museum (Sofia), 15. Bachkovo Monastery, 16. Sofia Detail: Lion

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sophie and the Bastets

Sophie and the Bastets
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

Sophie is one of the three tiny kitties who came to live with us at CH (they were born in Cairo) last season. As you can see, he (yes, Sophie's a boy!) is no longer tiny! But he is truly a sweetheart of a cat :-} One morning I was snapping photos of him in the backlight of one of my bedroom windows when he assumed this pose. It's been a very popular photo among the cat lovers on Flickr!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shopping Continued...

I mentioned the crowd in the tailor's shop in my last post and here's a picture I took from the doorway. Most shops in Luxor are "holes in the wall" like this one. No sense in paying rent for more space than you really need! The same day we went to the tailor's we also went to pick up yogurt and milk for CH. The Labanita brand seems to be competing with Vache Qui Rit/Laughing Cow in their marketing:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Scenes on a Luxor Street

Scenes on a Luxor Street
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

Shopping in Luxor is always an adventure. The day these photos were taken we were bringing fabric which one of us had purchased in Cairo to be made into curtains for her rooms at CH. As I waited outside for the confab to finish up (there were three people from CH--our driver, one of our artists and the person wanting the curtains--jammed into the tiny shop, in addition to the tailor! And they were joined by two Egyptian women who needed some work done, but were more than happy to observe the "hawagas" in action while waiting!!) I took these photos of some of the buildings across the street. There's an interesting mix of architectural styles in Luxor as you can see. Unfortunately for those of us who value examples of Egypt's more modern history, there is a concerted effort underway to tear down much of the lovely 18th and 19th century city and replace it with generic Egyptian 21st century construction.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ramadan Sunset

Ramadan Sunset
Originally uploaded by Gibna Kebira.

Better late than never, right? This is one of the first photos I took in Egypt this season, from the roof of CH. Because it moves back 10 or 11 days every year, next season Ramadan will have ended by the time we arrive.