Cairo and Wonders of the Ancient World

There’s a new Grand Egyptian Museum being built in Cairo that’s supposed to open in 2021. It will be wonderful to have the worlds largest collection of Egyptology moved from the cramped old building in Tahir square. The bigger space will allow artifacts held in dusty storage to finally see the light of day. Here are some highlights:

The first pharaoh to unite upper and lower Egypt was Menes (3,000 B.C) and he was a master at political spin and fake news. This carved stone is very important because it sells his story. On the one side he wears the crown of the south. On the other he wears the crown of the north. The captives with their heads cut off and placed between their legs is a mighty incentive to keep lips zipped. This is the first time there’s a united crown that looks like a bucket and a champagne bottle with a cobra on it. the gods at this time were animals and birds and predates hieroglyphics.

The positions of the stone carved royalty tell a story. Left leg forward means the pharaoh was alive at that time. Legs together means the leader is eternal=dead. All together there were 30 dynasties and seven of them were led by women including the great Nefertiti ( the most beautiful and dearly loved by Akhenaten) and ending with Cleopatra. Statues show children in miniature or behind their parents. Pharaohs and royalty did find eternity by carving effigies that we can see today. Imagine entering a dark tomb with a torch and seeing their eyes glow from crushed malachite and gem stones painted around the eyes!

The mummy room is a must, even though it costs extra. Bring cash. These are the most important rulers in Egypt, including Ramses 11 (the great). He took the throne in his teens and ruled until his death in his nineties.

There’s an extensive collection from the murdered Tutankhamun’s tomb. I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been to find three nested gold burial boxes and the many treasures in his intact tomb. King Tut’s mummy isn’t here though. You’ll see him later in the Valley of the Kings.

The Pyramids at Giza

In my last post I told you about the naughty boy Khufu. He is the one who built these monuments over 4,500 years ago. At 780′ by 480′ tall it was the largest man-made edifice for over 4,000 years. There are so many mysteries about the largest pyramids in Egypt. They are perfectly aligned with the compass points. How did they hand cut 2 1/2 million stones with simple metal tools? Work only occurred during the rainy season when the immense blocks could be moved by barges from the quarry. Because of the weight, only one stone was on each boat. Let’s look at the math. It would take 20 years to build if a stone was placed every 4 minutes and workers were on site. Impossible?

Khufu’s funeral boat

Khufu’s reconstructed funeral boat (43 meters or 141′) is in a building across from the pyramids. It was sailed once in the funeral procession and then taken apart for him to use in the afterlife.

There are more monuments than the great pyramid. The smallest of the three pyramids was for Khufu’s grandson and his mother, Hetepheres. There are other royal tombs surrounding the pyramids. It’s now believed that the water worn Sphinx is much older from a time when Egypt was more wet.

Old Cairo

Hanging Church inside a Babylonian fortress and Ben Ezra Synagogue (Oldest temple in Cairo)

Babylonian Fortress

The Babylonian Fortress was built during the 6th century BC some say by the Roman’s while others believe it was constructed by King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon after he captured Egypt. It sat on the border between Lower and Middle Egypt on the Nile.

Inside the fortress is a Greek Orthodox church (St. George) and the Hanging Church built on top of the southern gatehouse of the fortress. From the outside it appears to be hanging in mid-air. The main altar and the sanctuary are made of ebony and inlaid with ivory. The timber ceiling is beautiful and was made to look like the interior of Noah’s ark.

There is an older church below this one where the baby Jesus slept in a cradle and Mary hid. I’m not sure how this time line worked since it would have been a Roman garrison back then. Regardless, It’s a serene and much earlier Christian church in Egypt.

Ben Ezra is also near the fortress and it’s still a Jewish Temple so pictures cannot be taken inside. It is believed that this is where the Pharaoh’s daughter found baby Moses in the reed basket.