Friday, March 09, 2007

A Journey Through Egypt - Cairo Museum

Sunday 25th February 2007

Yeah!!! Our bags are here!! It almost felt like meeting a long lost friend when spouse dragged in the suitcases early this morning! All that “inshallah” did pay off – god has brought our luggage back to us in 24hrs!

Yesterday was tough – all of us were in bad mood –smelly clothes, unwashed underwear – it was gross! How can one relax and enjoy a vacation like that!? Sometime around 6am we went for breakfast. It was a lavish spread complete with some authentic middle-eastern/Egyptian favorites – we ate like famished travelers and crashed soon after that only to be woken up at noon for the day’s excursion. We met up with Manal Helmy our English speaking Egyptologist – a smart woman with blonde hair and French-Arab accent all decked out in designer garb. Being around her made me feel even smellier!!

Our destination was the Cairo Museum. A fabulous specimen of 19th century colonial architecture, the museum houses some of the world’s most priceless treasures. It was heavily guarded and we had to go through a series of metal detectors and scanners to enter the building. Apparently it takes more than three days to explore all of its 120,000 exhibits; but we were on the fast track. Manal took us on a “Best of Cairo Museum” tour. That included among other fabulous exhibits, the King Tut collection.

Last December I managed to catch the Tut-ankh-amun exhibition at the Fields Museum in Chicago. The 100 objects on display were on loan from Cairo Museum touring the US to raise funds for the new museum in Cairo. The Fields Museum exhibit was lavishly mounted, with an audio-guide voiced by Omar Shariff – it was very informative! I guess I’m so used to the western style of museums with their information plaques and audio-guides etc., that Cairo Museum, in spite of its fabulous wealth of priceless artifacts was a big let down. It felt like walking through a massive warehouse of antiquities! It was crammed to the brim with ancient articles which had little or no information or explanation! It must be an Egyptologist’s dream come true – but for a layman like me, it was frustrating. I needed more information! Manal tried her level best to guide us through the two hour tour, but I left the building thirsting for more knowledge!

Along with King Tut’s treasures, we were also privy to the Mummies room. Sonny boy did quite well for a while, but the female mummies with their inlaid eyes and matted wigs kind of freaked him out a bit! Can’t blame the poor child…it was a creepy sight! I was reminded of an ancient horror movie of black and white genre where a mummy comes alive late at night and attacks the archeologist!

The late afternoon went in search for a suitable mall to buy some clothes. The mall attached to the hotel was useless – full of pricey winter clothes (it is winter here after all!). Across the street the department store of Four Seasons was no better – it was all about Gucci and Prada and Fendi and Ferragamo! Finally we ended up in Liberation Square (pretty close to the museum). A non-descript store selling conservative clothes for Arab women caught my attention. A little search and a little bargaining later I had an outfit. The sales lady insisted on tugging at the neckline of my t-shirt to conceal any skin show! What touched me was her sincerity - in my world this is something only my mom or my sister or a very conservative girlfriend would have done…not a complete stranger! Barring the sour guy at the immigration counter, so far my encounter with the Egyptian people has been nothing but pleasant!


Arunima said...

I need to develop the fascination for museums.

Shreemoyee said...

Visiting egypt has been my childhood dream too, I have been gifted all kinds of books about egypt from friends who know of my fascination for the history of the place. I am really glad you could go.

Grey Shades said...

Ever heard of keeping a spare set of clothes in the cabing luggage? :P Sounds like a great place to vacation :)

Nautilus said...

@Arunima: Can someone actually develop a fascination for museums?! I thought either you have it or you don't!! Keep trying might come to you some day :-)

@Shreemoyee: Thanks. It indeed is a fascinating country.

@Grey: Have you ever travelled with a 5 year old? Probably not! After packing his entertainment stuff (to last for two days atleast) and three changes of his clothing, there's no space for anything else! :-(