Thursday, February 16, 2012

Time Flies...

I've been trying to recall some specific experiences since I came to Egypt. To tell the truth, the past 6 months have been kind of a blur. I can hardly believe I've lived in Egypt for half a year to the day tomorrow. But I want to take it back to some of my earliest experiences and impressions, so I'll try to focus on some main events.

Let me tell you about my first trip to Cairo. I have many pictures from this trip. It was a long but interesting drive from Abu Eid (a small farm village just outside Diarb Negm) to Cairo. We (Sayed, his sister Hasna, and I) went through the capital city of Al Sharqiyah governorate known as Zagazig, and continued on our way through to Cairo. We met up with their cousin, Summer and her husband, Mohamed, and toddler daughter Shahd at the entrance to the Egyptian Museum. There we had a quick lunch outside and then Sayed and I took a cab to go and do some paperwork toward legalizing our marriage. After that, we returned and went inside the Museum and I'll tell ya, my heart was beating a mile a minute because I had dreamed of these things since I was a child and here I was, able to actually touch them! I will download pictures from this time soon. At the moment my computer has an annoying virus and I can't access my photo albums.

Anyway, As I walked through, I looked at ancient pottery, statues, jewelry, even sarcophagi with ancient chiseled hieroglyphics. We went to see the Akhenaten (A.K.A. Amenhotep IV) display and I was explaining things to my Egyptian born and raised companions that they didn't even know. Go figure, I know more about the ancient history of their country than they do. lol. I told them how Akhenaten was actually proven by DNA testing to be the father of King Tutankhamen. Nefertiti, a famous Queen of Egypt was his wife and he was the first Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh to banish the concept of worshiping multiple Gods and adopting the sun God, Ra, as the one and only God. They didn't know this but in a way, Akhenaten was one of the earliest examples of monotheism, and the essence of monotheism is Islam. I don't know if I could say that Akhenaten was a Muslim, I think that's not quite right, because his understanding of even the one God he believed in was that he was associated with the sun, and of course Allah, is associated with everything in existence. But it leads one to think that if the Ancient people of Egypt could have seen his vision of one God and were willing to embrace it and continue it into the further Ancient dynasties, there may just have been a chance that they could have come to the understanding of Allah.

After all, later on in Egyptian history, Joseph (Yusuf), the dream interpreter, came to spread his message of the Abrahamic religion and after that, Moses (Musa) came into the understanding that he was not in fact an Egyptian Prince, but was in fact a Jew and one among the many thousands of Pharaoh Ramses slaves by birth. And he too came after God revealed the truth to him, and tried to spread the word of the Abrahamic religion. And even after that, it's believed that after the resurrection of Jesus (Isa), (Though I'm not sure this is strictly true, just one of many rumors, especially since this particular woman is only spoken of in the Bible and not in the Quran) that Mary Magdalene, one of the closest people to Jesus, then went on to Egypt afterwords and was reported to have arrived by boat with a girl named Sarah who in some legends was known as "Sarah the Egyptian". Really, that makes one think. Egyptian history is filled with religious history and controversy. And it almost seems as if the destiny kept trying for ages to bring Egypt to the understanding of Islam, even before Muhammad (pbuh) was ever born.

Anyway, I've gone onto a totally different subject back there, let me get back on track. Our next stop was the King Tut display where I was so glad to find was air conditioned because it was extremely hot in most of the rest of the huge museum. And I just sort of walked in, rubbed my eyes and dropped my jaw. I was standing in the room with the massive, golden, Matryoshka-ish sarcophagi and the inner-most golden, breathtaking death mask of the young Pharaoh. His artifacts from the tomb were displayed behind glass and I stood in awe and looked at every delicate detail and wondered at the immaculate condition these some 3000 year old beauties were in. And it was sort of like being in a dream. I looked at these things in pictures on the internet and in books I bought and tv shows like National Geographic..etc. And it was like stepping into the pages and scenes. I had circled around the room several times just sort of trying to make my mind take in the situation in full. After that, we left the room reluctantly and stepped back into the heat of the museum and went on to decide our next stop.

Finally, we came to the decision to visit the Mummy Rooms. And I can't describe the feeling of this. I went in and saw THE Ramses II. One of THE most famous Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs of all time. I knew him before I even looked at the little label that said his name. The long thin neck, the round skull covered by a thin layer of supremely preserved skin and hair, and the hooked nose that was a key sign for all the line of his family. There he was, laid out in a glass, his wrappings still bound around most of his body, his brittle, fragile fingers exposed. It took me a while to catch my breath. This man ruled over all of Egypt. This man lived and died as one more famous, celebrated, and remembered than nearly anyone on earth. He was the past of Egypt, and he was the reminder to all in the present and future. Even if one should become larger than life, one will still have to face death. He lived, even in this Ancient time where technology and medicines were not as they are today, to be the great age of 92. Most people even today with all the medical knowledge we have, don't live to be this old. Which goes to show that Ramses had a great will to live. Among him were several of his descendants and some of the other famous Royal mummies.

I remember feeling sad and wondered if the thousands and thousands of people who came to see these people in their preserved state ever really appreciated them. If people just looked on and never really understood that these WERE living, breathing human beings who lived and worked and ruled and eventually died. I remember there was a woman mummified and I don't know why but looking at her made me feel profoundly sad. Something about her spoke to me of loneliness. Her eyes were a painted mask and her body was entirely covered in wrappings but the face that was painted there seemed to say, "I wish I didn't die alone." Maybe that's crazy, for all I know she died within the arms of her loved ones peacefully. But I just got a vibe from her and I couldn't explain why if I tried. I remembered in a show that Dr. Zahi Hawass talked about a mummy of a woman who died a painful and excruciating death. She was found in her mummified form with her mouth in a silent, twisted, eternal scream. Morbid I guess, to speak of it but these were the lives of men and women, and their stories were preserved in their bodies, in their tombs, and scrolls and they are stories much worth the telling.

This post is already quite long so I will continue it with a Part 2.. and hope you come on back to read it. Salam for now!

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