Traveling Through the Deserts of Egypt is a book of excerpts from the works of writers from Herodotus to modern times. The authors are the founding members of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE) and between them have written a number of books and essays on travel writing. As one would expect with a publication from the American University in Cairo Press (AUC), the production values are excellent.
Rising 300m above the desert floor, and covering an area the size of Switzerland, the Gilf Kebir is one of the most arid and inhospitable places in the Sahara. Located in the Egyptian desert, near the Libyan border a 100km north of Sudan, it shares a latitude with Abu Simbel. For over 100,000 years the Gilf Kebir was home to generations of hunters, followed by two thousand years of use by nomadic herders. It was only re-discovered in 1926, and since then it has been the subject of numerous expeditions for exploration, archaeological and geological investigation and, more recently, tourism. Very remote and arid it remained an almost pristine landscape until recent decades, perfect for field research. Even NASA researchers have studied the Gilf Kebir to evaluate conditions that might prevail on Mars.
The Oases is one in an excellent range of pocket guides to various parts and periods of Egypt. They are all characterized by beautiful photographs, excellent maps, site plans and illustrations and informative text that guides the traveler through the temporal, geographical and cultural space under discussion.
One of the many fabulous items in the jewellery collection from the tomb of Tutankhamen is a breast ornament. A highly decorative piece in the form of a winged scarab, dating to around 1330 BCE, it is currently on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (JE 61884; Burton Photo No. P1133; Carter No. 267d). Adorned with silver, semi-precious stones and glass paste, all set into gold, the eye-catching centrepiece is a semi-translucent green scarab. Remarkable for its beauty, the pectoral has the added interest of scientific and archaeological mysteries that have yet to be completely unraveled.
The early explorers of Egypt, often associated with ideas of adventure, discovery and buried treasure, fascinate many people interested in the earliest days of Egyptology. No name elicits a stronger, and often negative reaction from scholars than that of Giovanni Belzoni, who explored Egypt in the early 1800s. Belzoni has often been depicted as a villain, an irresponsible treasure hunter who destroyed valuable antiquities as he blazed through Egypt in a search for gold. It is this image of Belzoni that forms many people’s preconceptions.
By Garry Beuk
Edition - July, 2011
Brian Alm’s excellent introductory article on ancient Egyptian religion in Edition 1 of Egyptological, the first in a series of five articles on the topic, includes a section on duality. I have often pondered the extent to which the Egyptians segregated religious belief, which potentially formed an explanatory but idealized model of life, from everyday pragmatism. Duality is a good case in point.