Tuesday, March 19, 2019

AWOL - The Ancient World Online: Deir el-Medina Database

On 03/19/2019 06:04 AM, Charles Jones wrote:
Deir el-Medina Database [First posted in AWOL 2 Jyly 2012, updated 18 March 2019]

Deir el-Medina Database
Deir el-Medina is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian village situated on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor, the site of ancient Thebes. The village was inhabited by workmen who were responsible for the construction and decoration of the royal tombs from the New Kingdom. The exploration of Deir el-Medina has yielded a huge quantity of artefacts and texts written on ostraca or papyri, which offer a unique view into the daily life of an ancient Egyptian community. 

The Deir el-Medina Database is meant to be an intermediate presentation of the ongoing research project A Survey of the New Kingdom Non-literary Texts from Deir el-Medina of Leiden University. The database is a search tool enabling the user to retrieve the documents relevant to his/her research activities from the corpus of non-literary texts from Deir el-Medina.
4506 records
updated June 2018

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Sixth Delta Survey Workshop | Egypt Exploration Society

This April the Sixth Delta Survey Workshop will be held in Mansoura. The DSW began as part of the Delta Survey Project of the Egypt Exploration Society funded by the British Academy and organised by Dr Jeffery Spencer and Dr Patricia Spencer. Each workshop has benefitted from the exchange of archaeological information between colleagues working all over the Nile Delta, from the chance to meet old and new friends and to support each other in our endeavours to record, research and disseminate our archaeological and historical work in the northern provinces of Egypt.

Throughout the existence of the Delta Survey Project we respect and acknowledge the partnership, advice and support of the Ministry of Antiquities, the Minister Dr Khaled el-Enany the Secretary of the Permanent Committee Dr Mostafa el Waziri and those who directly operate the Foreign Missions Department, currently under the auspices of Dr Nashwa Gabr. In addition Dr Hisham el Leithy and Dr Aiman Ashmawy have been continuous supporters of the Delta Survey.

This year we are pleased and honoured to have the support of Mansoura University to host the workshop, through Professor Dr Ashraf Abdel Baset the President of Mansoura University, Professor Ashraf Suweilman the Vice-president of Postgraduate Studies and Foreign Affairs, Professor Reda Sayed Ahmed, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Maha el Seguini and Professor Mohamed el Kenawy, the former President of the University.

The organising committee for the Workshop comprises: Dr Cédric Gobeil and Essam Nagy at the EES, Dr Ayman Wahby, Professor Randa Baligh and Dr Nehad Kamel el Din in the Mansoura University, Dr Joanne Rowland and Dr Penelope Wilson.

Preliminary Programme

Send enquiries to 

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3rd Sudan Studies Postgraduate Conference | Egypt Exploration Society

This conference has been running for three years and aims to highlight the increasing research focus on Sudan worldwide. In particular, we hope to encourage collaboration and networking for postgraduate and early career researchers moving into the field. The conference features 17 speakers and 2 keynotes, as well as poster presentations. Lunch will be provided and there will be a wine reception at the end.

View map




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The Cultural and Artistic Renaissance of Cairo and Egypt

Can Egypt Convince the World That It Is Starting Over?

The world's oldest civilization faces challenges from the past, present, and future. But an ambitious new cultural agenda has it ready for the here and now.

In the middle of Cairo's sprawl lies the City of the Dead, a dense, two-mile-long grid of tombs and mausoleums that dates back to the conquest of Egypt in AD 642 by Arab Muslims, when their commander, Amr Ibn al-As, established his family's graveyard at the foot of the Mokkatam Hills. As it grew, al-Qarafa ("the cemetery") acquired a population of the living, who transformed old funerary structures to suit their needs in the here and now. Today it is home to some 500,000 people, the poorest of the poor. I lived in Cairo as a child for two years and have traveled there repeatedly since; going to the City of the Dead never seemed like a good idea.

But on the afternoon of my arrival last October in the city, which is now home to 20 million people, Mounir Neamatalla, a well-connected man about town, founder of the investment and consulting firm Environmental Quality International (EQI) and champion of his country's many aspects, calls to give me a heads-up: "There's an event in the City of the Dead tonight that you might want to see." He didn't say much more. "You don't want to go there," the driver who picks me up at the airport insists, hearing of my plans. "You go there only if you're visiting a dead body, burying a dead body, or buying hashish."

The magnificent but tatty Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square remains open during its restoration. It is especially magical at night (late hours are on Sundays and Thursdays).

I'm doing none of the above. I'm in Cairo because, after eight years of political turmoil here, there is a new wave of cultural development, one that may herald a fresh chapter for Egypt and, along the way, update the classic itinerary embraced by so many visitors to the country. Two new museums, long in the planning but delayed since the 2011 revolution by lapses in funding and lack of political will, are finally getting ready to open: the Grand Egyptian Museum, the showstopper near the pyramids of Giza; and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, in the Fustat district of Old Cairo.

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At the same time, the city's most storied cultural institution, the pink Beaux-Arts Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square, downtown, is getting a long-overdue restoration; since 1902 the museum has been synonymous with Egyptian antiquities, but it has occasionally been something of a laughingstock because of its inability to properly take care of them.

And then there's the rest of downtown Cairo. Once dubbed "Paris on the Nile," it started falling into disrepair in the 1950s, but it is now being slowly revitalized, building by gorgeous building. Many were commissioned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the Europeanizing, modernizing Khedive dynasty, a period that is still referred to by Egypt's cosmopolitan elite as the country's Renaissance, its "glory years."

We arrive late at the City of the Dead because I refuse to forgo my first-night-in-Egypt tradition—a sunset felucca sail on the Nile—and because we get stuck in one of Cairo's spectacular traffic jams. ("There's someone dead and a funeral," our driver informs us as we draw near, not clarifying things one bit.)

The event turns out to be a bustling celebration of the restoration of one of the cemetery's most beautiful funerary complexes: the mosque and mausoleum built in 1474 by Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay, of the Mamluk dynasty. Hip Cairenes mingle with expats and a few City of the Dead locals in a small, theatrically illuminated square. There's an outdoor modern dance performance and a riveting talk in one of the mausoleum's reception halls about historic restoration. (Conducted in this instance by the Cairo-based Polish architectural firm Archinos, under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and with European Union funding.)

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A Cairo Who's Who

Neighborhood artisans have set up stands to showcase their wares and benefit from the influx of visitors. Several chauffeured black cars idle on the periphery. I don't spot a police or security presence—those guys are usually visibly packing beneath their suits—but I don't mind. A full moon floats above the elegant minaret of Qaitbay's mosque (the sultan is reputed to have been a sophisticated patron of architecture), and I sense the onset of that mysterious euphoria that generally befalls me in Egypt: the at-oneness of the past, present, and future.

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"This area is like Bedford-­Stuyvesant in Brooklyn back in the day," says Neamatalla, who spent time in the 1980s in New York, studying at Columbia University. "I wanted you to get a sense, even here, of Egypt's potential."

The State of Affairs

The stability that might actualize that potential is still somewhat delicate in Egypt, whose recent history has been, to say the least, eventful: the revolution that marked the end of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year regime (2011), the ascension to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the election of the Islamist Mohamed Morsi (2012), a popular anti-Islamist uprising supported by a military coup (2013), and the election to the presidency of field marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (2014).

Also, in Egypt stability can hardly be confused with democracy. Last May, Sisi won his second presidential "election" with 97 percent of the vote. ("He's settled in like a god, a pharaoh," quips Wageeh Wahba, a columnist for the liberal-leaning news­paper Al-Masry Al-Youm, which translates as The Egyptian Today.) And it does not mean the end of the terrorist threat. Sisi promised to secure Egypt from the aggressions of political Islam (Islam not as religion but as the political exploitation of religion). Despite the roadside bomb incident near the pyramids of Giza last December, he has by now largely confined Isis and other radical groups to the North Sinai, near the border with Gaza, and the Western Desert, toward Libya, which are both now no-go zones for tourism. (They are also far from where most Egyptians live.) And he has done so with unabashedly autocratic tactics.

In the cities, you might not be able to recognize the ­security details (as I probably didn't in the City of the Dead), but they are omnipresent. During a walking tour of the renovated buildings of downtown, I try to take a photo of the restored Sha'ar Hashamayim (Gate of Heaven) synagogue, on Adly Street, built in 1905—and am instantly surrounded. "No pictures, madame. For security."

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We will take you as close as possible to an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. You will feel, more or less, as if you're attending Tutankhamen's funerary procession.

Yet things feel sufficiently under control that tourism, which is critical to Egypt's strapped economy, is rebounding. The five-star hotels are full. I could barely get a perch for drinks one evening at my favorite hangout, the garden café at the Marriott on Zamalek Island; the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton on Tahrir Square, where I also stayed, was abuzz. The plateau of the Giza pyramids was not full when I visited, but neither was it empty. And boats on the Nile are doing business once again; half of them are back—up from zero in 2014.

"My ministry is getting money it never got before," Khaled el-Anany, Egypt's dynamic, fast-talking minister of antiquities, tells me when I ask about the renewed fervor that is also apparent on the archaeological front, which is yielding new discoveries at an unprecedented rate. "We are working everywhere. There's a big political push from the president, who has decided that preserving our heritage is a priority. We know that our antiquities are our soft power, the best message Egypt can send the world."

"We are on the cusp of a re-renaissance," says Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, the head of the private art consultancy Art d'Egypte. "There is so much more to this country than what is portrayed. Once you are on the ground, you see past the dust and the chaos. People who live here don't want to leave; people who visit want to come back. This is not a regular country."

Egyptomania is a term coined in the 19th century to describe the mental state of the first wave of 19th-century European and American travelers agog at Egypt's ancient treasures. It is impossible not to be affected by seeing up close, in situ, the sublime creative impulses of the world's longest-lived ancient civilization. But it's more than that, I'm reminded as I make my rounds. There's the fundamental graciousness of many Egyptians, as if they are the inheritors of civilization in more ways than one, and even the sights and sounds of ­everyday life here can be powerfully affecting.

The nearby pyramid of Khufu.
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A memory I've carried since I was 12 is of a galabia-clad vendor making his way early one morning down our empty street on Zamalek alongside his donkey and cart, calling out something in singsong; the sun had just risen, the pyramids of Giza were visible in the far distance—as they then were from certain perches in central Cairo—and everything was suffused with a pale yellow light. My parents and I were leaving Cairo for America that day—my father, an architect, had been in Egypt redesigning the Nile riverfront in Aswan, under the auspices of the Ford Foundation—and I had just stepped out onto our terrace for a final look. I remember, too, the bittersweetness of that.

Over dinner one day this time around, I press Zahi Hawass, Egypt's most famous living archaeologist (he once served as the country's minister of antiquities and has appeared in dozens of documentaries about its treasures), to account for the hold Egypt can have on a person. "It's magic," he says. "It's like when you love someone. You never have an answer as to why."

King Tut's New Home

The world's largest archaeological museum, GEM will display the complete Tutankhamen for the first time. When it opens, says one government minister, "we're going to have the biggest party ever."
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"We are building a new monument," says Tarek Tawfik, director general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, known as GEM. When finished, it will be the largest archaeological museum in the world, displaying Egyptian artifacts from eras ranging from the pre-dynastic (before 3100 BC) through the Greco-Roman (up to AD 395), and the most spectacularly sited: just 1.2 miles from the Giza pyramids and designed to harmonize in beautiful and complex ways with them. (The project's price tag is $1.1 billion, $750 million of it in loans from Japan. The opening date is in 2020—inshallah.)

GEM's star attraction will be that worldwide object of obsession, the boy-king Tutankhamen—all of the 5,400 artifacts Howard Carter discovered in his tomb (which has just reopened after a 10-year restoration) in 1922. And it won't just be a matter of numbers and masterpieces. "Our aim," Tawfik says, "is to reveal the man behind the golden mask." The curators' goal is to take visitors back to the Egyptian court of 3,500 years ago. "Because his is the only tomb from which we have the clothes, the jewelry, the footwear, the knickknacks of a king, we will be able to evoke his lifestyle, take you as close as possible to an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. You will feel, more or less, as if you're attending Tutankhamen's funerary procession."

A 35-foot-tall statue of Ramses II—the 13th-century BC pharaoh who secured Egypt's borders and greatly extended its influence—has already been installed in GEM's soaring entrance atrium. Otherwise the galleries are still empty, and I'm getting a taste of what's to come in the laboratories of the Conservation Center, where for five years already at least 44,000 artifacts have arrived, transferred from the old Egyptian Museum and sites all over the country, to be readied for modern museological display.

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Ramses II, the powerful New Kingdom pharaoh, presides over the entrance to Giza's Grand Egyptian Museum, opening in 2020.
In the wood lab, on the day I visit, Tutankhamen's six gold chariots and three funerary beds await their turn. In the heavy artifacts lab, equipped with cranes able to lift 20 tons, the goddess Sekhmet, protector of pharaohs in time of war, sits enigmatically, and her gender- and species-bending aura (she is always represented as a female figure with the head of a male lion) is especially powerful in this no-nonsense modern setting. I ask one of the conservators if any one piece in his lab has an especially interesting story. "They all do," he says, smiling and throwing up his hands. "This is Egypt."

On a pillow, among the objects on the long white tables in the organics lab, lies a beautiful golden female figurine, her arms and face burned off. "She was in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir in 2011," Dr. Iman Halaby, head of the lab, tells me, referring to the revolution eight years ago that precipitated at one point a rampage through the museum's galleries. "Part of the revolution was about destroying artifacts, destroying this other, ancient history of Egypt, so that religious history could be the only one. We will not enhance, just stabilize her. The damage will become part of her history."

GEM is more than a museum. With a research library, a children's museum, a conference center that can accommodate 1,000 people, an outdoor reception space for 20,000, and, nearby, the new Sphinx International Airport, built for charter planes and private jets (think weekends in Cairo), it is a cultural institution with global ambitions. "We are creating," Tawfik says, "the world's window on Egypt and a forum where different cultures can easily meet."

The Royal Mummies and More

"I was in Paris on a sabbatical year as a visiting professor when the Muslim Brotherhood were in power," Khaled el-Anany tells me. "I could see we were becoming a religious country. I am Muslim, but that is not Egyptian civilization. Egypt, for me, is Old Cairo. In one square kilometer you have the Coptic Hanging Church, you have the Ben Ezra synagogue, and you have the first mosque in Africa."

And now, right nearby, is the NMEC, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, second in the triumvirate of Cairo's new generation of museum wonders. Its sand-colored pavilions and stepped plaza, below the Mokkatam Hills, overlook blue Ain al-Sira, the city's last natural lake, and beyond it the imposing medieval citadel of Salah al-Din—aka Saladin, Egypt's ethnically Kurdish 12th-century ruler, who led the Muslim campaign against the Crusaders.

Muhammed Ali mosque                  on a very hazy day
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali inside the Saldin Citadel in Cairo.
Ester MeermanUKTV

The citadel remained the seat of Egypt's government until the 1860s. The galleries here, too, await the displays, but there's a temporary, one-gallery exhibition, "Egyptian Crafts Through the Ages," organized to give a taste of what's to come. The Royal Mummies will eventually be transported here from the Egyptian Museum and become NMEC's main draw, the way Tut will be for GEM. But just as riveting, if slightly more wonky, is the museum's larger purpose: to highlight the technologies of Egyptian civilization—how through the ages Egyptians wrote, wove, worked in wood, made jewelry, built homes, and more. (For at least an hour I go down some rabbit holes: the genius in the construction of Egyptian chariot wheels, the impossibly chic linen dresses worn even by ordinary tradespeople in ancient times.)

"We want to restore the Egyptian identity," says Mahrous Elsanadidy, NMEC's chief curator. "To tell our citizens and others what Egypt means." Burnishing Brand Egypt—and in the process pointing out its multicultural and inclusive history—seems key not just to the economy but to countering the blandishments of borderless Islamic fundamentalism.

A Relic Renewed

"It's why I love the old Egyptian Museum," says Ghaffar. "There's an energy there. It's like a third dimension." I'm talking to her about whether inanimate matter can have memory, whether stone, shaped by human hands thousands of years ago, can have spirit. The thought is peculiar, I'll admit, but it seems less so in Egypt. At the old Egyptian Museum, "you feel like you're living a thousand lives."

Which may have to do with the sheer number of objects jammed into its neoclassical columned galleries and overflowing storage facilities—some 170,000 of them. It's not the museum's fault; it has been the recipient, since it opened in 1902, of an unending stream of archaeological discoveries. As Hawass points out to me, "Only 30 percent of what's there has been discovered. Remember that modern Egypt was built atop ancient Egypt." I walk to the museum one evening—it's two minutes across Tahrir Square from the Ritz-Carlton—to see the progress of the restoration work, which is being done from the inside out while some of the treasures are being distributed in stages to GEM and eventually NMEC.

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"Our idea," Neamatalla explains (the concept is the brainchild of his company, EQI, which specializes also in cultural preservation and is co-funding the project along with the European Union), "is to transform this 117-year-old antique into a 'museum of museums.' The only structure in the world reminiscent of what museums used to be. We are using the original drawings of the architect Marcel Dourgnon. By the time GEM opens, this will be another masterpiece of Egypt."

There's an energy in the old museum. It's like a third dimension. You feel like you're living a thousand lives.

I see the results in some of the second floor galleries: cream and pale green walls, subtle Greek key motifs, crimson baseboards, burnished wood and glass display cases. An affecting but dusty attic of a place is being turned into a gleaming period boutique that will display, according to Sabah Abdel Razek, its general director, "the 5,000 iconic masterpieces of Egyptian history."

She steps back and paints the big picture. "When all the museums are finished, we will keep this one open every night, to give people who visited the pyramids and GEM in the morning time to come here afterward. There are plans for subways to connect all three, as well as the Coptic Museum, the Islamic Museum, the Textile Museum, and the Manial Palace. Perhaps helicopters, too, for VIPs."

Here is a vision of Cairo transformed into another sort of mecca—the world's premier art-historical destination.

Cairo Dinner Parties

"Go to a few cocktail parties and dinners and soon you will meet everyone," say Laila and Ekram Nakhla, Cairo's jewelers to the stars, when I drop by their shop, Nakhla, (historically inspired designs in 21K gold). "Cairo is small that way." I'm invited, and of course I go.

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The Nile is exceptionally beautiful at night, the city's grittiness obscured by the darkness, the lights of bridges reflected in the calm black water. On terraces with views of the river, conversations among Cairo's cultural elite switch seamlessly among Arabic, English, and French. Past and present merge for me again: I remember this as a feature of my parents' parties, which were frequented by fluently multilingual Egyptians and expats.

A few people at the soirees I go to I have known since childhood. "Your father and mother used to come here a lot, you know," says Lea Boutros-Ghali, Cairo's clever, cultured grande dame, showing me around her art-filled apartment. She is the widow of the former secretary-general of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, whose legacy is highly appreciated here.

Over multiple courses and flowing wine, the topics range far and wide, from the mosaic of people to whom Egypt has been home ("Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, Europeans of all stripes. Figuratively, we didn't resist anyone, and the culture was the richer for it") to press censorship today and the future of Jerusalem. From New Age kooks looking for evidence that Egyptians did not build the pyramids to Mohammad bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi ("a battle of two evils, the crazy prince and the arriviste Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer"). From belly dancing to the country's superb mangoes and the possible influence of Egyptian culture on ancient Greek civilization (a heated debate). At the end of one evening there is much speculation about what exactly the oracle in the temple of Amun in Siwa Oasis said to Alexander the Great when he went to consult it in, oh, 332 BC.

The Nile is exceptionally beautiful at night, the city's grittiness obscured by the darkness, the lights of bridges reflected in the calm black water.

And, of course, as is the case at every Egyptian table, there is talk about Sisi, the military man the Western press condemns for his strongman moves but who, in this statist country, has put his weight behind not just security and economic reforms but also cultural revival. For this crowd, academics, historians, entrepreneurs, and supporters of the arts, that may be enough for right now. Ghaffar is bracing on the topic: "From a cultural perspective, I think the army actually saved Egypt. What the Brothers were doing is not Egyptian. They wanted to change our culture. Imagine—the oldest civilization in the world." Lea Boutros-Ghali is categorical: "I'm a Sisi-awi. I voted for him twice. Because four years is not enough to do the job. After that, we can evolve."

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The New Egypt

On one of my last evenings in Cairo, I start to see the outlines of an evolution at the opening party for "Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms," an exhibition of contemporary Egyptian art staged by Ghaffar. It is held at Manial Palace Museum and Gardens, the magnificent former residence on Rhoda Island, completed in 1937, of Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik, a onetime heir to Egypt's throne. The prince, a European-educated painter and inveterate traveler and collector, built five distinctively styled buildings here, integrating European Art Nouveau and Rococo with traditional Islamic styles (Ottoman, Moorish, and Persian), and filled them with his extensive collections of art, furniture, clothing, objets d'art, tapestries—even butter­flies.

Cairo, Manial                  Palace, Moucharabia, Egypt
An exterior of the Manial Palace Museum
Gerard SIOENGetty Images

It is against this backdrop of cross-cultural bricolage, which heralded Egypt's first, early-20th-century renaissance (a period of prosperity, calm, and modernization), that Ghaffar showcases 28 Egyptian conceptual artists. The works are installed throughout the property, in dramatically spotlighted gardens and pavilions, among which 700 invited guests amble on their way to speeches and dinner at long tables set up on a lawn. Here is a black polymer statue of a woman in a body-hugging dress reminiscent of what ancient Egyptians wore, provocatively called Opening Up, by Sarkis Tossoonian. Sixty dusty and neglected women's shoe molds sit in neat rows on green fabric at the entrance to the palace mosque (Waiting for Admission, by Huda Lufti). There is a multimedia installation in an ornate Khedive-era bed from which tumble tousled white sheets, riverlike, illuminated by changing light—Happy Ending or No Happy Ending, by Nadine H.

The guest list, which includes grandees from politics, journalism, business, and art, is strikingly cosmopolitan. To be sure, Cairo society, international art dealers, collectors, and academics from Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East are here. But so are the Belgian, French, and Swiss ambassadors and a representative from the U.S. embassy, as well as the CEOs of BMW and Duravit, in addition to the head of UNESCO in Egypt and the director of the British Council. And, of course, the government is out in full force, represented by an impressive bevy of ministers: exterior, planning, communications and information technology, social solidarity, and antiquities, among others.

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Looking out over the assembled, Samih Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire businessman whose Sawiris Foundation helped fund the exhibition, tells me, "I don't see many occasions to spend money more wisely than promoting the modern Egypt, an Egypt that makes us proud and that you guys don't know. Ten years ago you could not even talk about having an event for young artists in a place like this." (Save-the-dates are out already for this year's exhibition, which kicks off on October 26 and will be staged on Old Cairo's fabled Moez Street.)

Khaled el-Anany, the minister of antiquities, offers brief opening remarks that pithily contextualize for me the cultural moment in Egypt: "Art is indispensable to our lives—whether we be Muslim, Jew, Christian, etcetera. Here, contemporary art and exquisite historic settings are engaged in an exquisite dialogue." Often referred to as the cradle of civilization, Egypt today—Mediterranean, Arab, and African—fuses antiquity and modernity in one grand vision, and celebrants of its culture insist that it be imagined, once again, as nothing less than the crossroads of the world.

Should You Go?


There is currently no State Department travel warning for Egypt, except for the Sinai and the Western Desert. (There is an advisory urging caution.) I have always found Egyptians to be welcoming, gracious, and happy to see Americans.

For the best experience, book your trip through a travel specialist who has deep on-the-ground contacts. Jim Berkeley of Destinations & Adventures International (JIM@DAITRAVEL.COM; 800-659-4599), with whom I have traveled to Egypt three times, has invariably excellent guides and will work with you to customize the best itinerary. You'll be picked up at airports, assisted with cars and drivers, and coddled as much as you desire.

In Cairo, where your trip will start, Berkeley will get you between the paws of the sphinx—worth every penny. My sentimental favorite among the city's hotels is the Marriott on Zamalek Island, largely for its great café in the back garden, frequented at all times of day by tourists and locals alike, as well as the Nile Ritz-Carlton, on Tahrir Square, just steps from the Egyptian Museum. Beyond Cairo—especially if it's your first visit—the musts are Luxor (stay at the Winter Palace or Al Moudira) and Aswan (stay at the Sofitel Old Cataract, one of the world's most superbly sited hotels—so taken with it was the Aga Khan that he chose to be buried directly across from it).

Book Now Cairo Marriott Hotel, Zamelek Island
Book Now The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

If you have the time, take a Nile cruise on the Luxor-Aswan segment of your trip. Especially in demand now are the dahabiyas, small, private vessels used by 19th-century travelers to Egypt. Only six to 10 cabins each, they can dock where larger ships cannot. Whichever type of vessel you choose, you will see passing slowly before your eyes a truly eternal Egypt.

This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Town & Country. Subscribe Now

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When bad actors twist history, historians take to Twitter. That’s a good thing. - The Washington Post

Note that the author here may have twisted history a bit himself with respect to Hatshepsut. See the next-to-last reader's comment included in this posting. Glenn

When bad actors twist history, historians take to Twitter. That's a good thing.

Engaging with the public isn't pedantry; it's showing the receipts.

A statue of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt. Her successor, Thutmose III, tried to erase her from history. (iStock/iStock)
Waitman Wade Beorn is a Holocaust and genocide studies historian and lecturer at the University of Virginia. He is the author of "Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus" and "The Holocaust in Eastern Europe: At the Epicenter of the Final Solution."
History can be a weapon or a shield. Almost since the first historians, politicians for good and ill have tried to manipulate the past to support their agendas in the present. The first Roman emperor, Octavian Augustus Caesar, appealed to a sanitized version of history to cloak his dictatorship as a republic — a tactic also adopted by Mussolini. In ancient Egypt, Thutmose III hated the pharaoh Hatshepsut so much that he literally attempted to erase her from history by destroying her images and cartouches. More recently, the Southern myth of the "Lost Cause" distorted historical fact to try to rehabilitate a war fought for the right to own others and to justify continued racism. And then there's Donald Trump. He is, as Eric Alterman put it in the New Yorker, the "king not only of lies but also of ahistorical assertions."
Historians have been complicit in these misuses of history, but more often they have held the line against simplistic politicization. The Internet age makes this challenging. The abuse of history for present aims is dangerously ubiquitous, and false and manipulated versions of the past can spread easily. It was inevitable that the abuse would migrate to Twitter, a free-for-all of digital lawlessness. Historians have not stood idly by, however. Their Twitter threads have emerged as a response, with scholars countering abuses in multiple series of linked tweets that provide the actual history, context, sources and often additional reading. The phenomenon has grown visible enough that there's even been a backlash, most recently expressed in an opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a literature professor who dismisses public engagement by historians as "pedantic." It is not. It is a valuable public good, a way to "show the receipts" in something close to real time.
Kevin Kruse, a Princeton history professor, has become the face of the phenomenon through his repeated takedowns of conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, a prolific author with no apparent historical training who writes political hit pieces justified by bad history. But Kruse has company. Other historians have also taken to social media and other digital outlets to share their knowledge and expertise to a larger audience in a much more timely way than traditional academic publishing allows. The classics scholar Sarah Bond, for example, frequently points out the intentional misuse of ancient history; in an article in Hyperallergic, she noted its use as a foundation for white supremacy. She highlighted the very real implications of false views of ancient history as white, writing that it "provides further ammunition for white supremacists today, including groups like Identity Europa, who use classical statuary as a symbol of white male superiority." As for D'Souza, in a recent book, "The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left," he argues that Hitler learned how to commit genocide from Democratic policies in the United States. As a Holocaust historian, I felt obligated to engage with this ridiculous and ahistorical weaponization of bad history, and did so in a Twitter thread.
Abuse can take the form of organized campaigns of disinformation, or it can be prominent people like D'Souza peddling historical nonsense — and people like President Trump, who claimed recently that the Soviet-Afghan war was about preventing terrorists from entering the Soviet Union. "We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President," the Wall Street Journal unequivocally declared.
Online media sites like Twitter allow scholars to reach thousands of people they may never have reached in an accessible way. Academic engagement on Twitter has been called "shallow scholarship," but precisely the opposite is true; the very medium requires concision, structure and clarity. We are forced to address historical abuses directly, simply and publicly — not always our strong suit — but the form does not simplify the content or the message, only its delivery. Our history threads are time-consuming to write and research, but they string together multiple tweets in a narrative form that includes references and is easily digestible.
By dismantling bad history, brick by brick, historians online are modeling for readers the kind of critical interaction with sources we so desperately need. We confront black and white polemic with nuance, complexity and historical context while documenting our interpretations: We provide scholarly and primary sources for interested readers to follow. In a world of both alleged and real fake news, the ascendance of the publicly engaged scholar benefits the public arena. Few Twitter historians seek fame or self-aggrandizement — and we are certainly not "clinging to shreds of authority," as Sam Fallon wrote in his Chronicle article. Legitimate scholars acting in good faith are authorities and experts. Sharing that knowledge with the world does not make them condescending. Why would historians, so often accused of existing aloof from society, buried in esoterica, be condemned for reaching out to the public while avoiding unintelligible jargon?
The criticism persists, however. Last year, a historian argued (on Twitter) that engaging with people like D'Souza served no purpose other than to promote their work. In the Journal, Peggy Noonan linked scholars to what she saw as a social media "full of swarming political and ideological mobs." She singled out literary scholars for denouncing books, calling them "tormentors" who were "excited by it and prowl for more prey." Journalism professor and political theorist Corey Robin decried what he called the "historovox": a "complex" of scholars and journalists. This historovox results only in "pseudo-academic" and "superficial commentary," he wrote. And Fallon, in his Chronicle article, labeled long-form Twitter threads as "data dumps" and "fact grubbing," dismissing as "literalist" the factual contextualization of history while burying the reader under a formidable avalanche of postmodernist jargon.
Historians are not seeking to shame purveyors of false history. While the backlash may cause those individuals and their hardcore supporters to cling more fervently to their beliefs, that is, to my mind, beside the point. Though the phenomenon of "dunking on Dinesh" can be entertaining, we are not so naive as to imagine that we will change the minds of racists, dilettantes and grifters. In my sparring with Polish far-right nationalists, for example, I have no illusions that they will have an epiphany and see the proverbial light. Instead, I and others write to reach the interested onlooker and to provide a counternarrative to dangerous uses of history that flood the Internet. Comments from readers of these threads suggest that we are doing just that.
Responding to a thread, one user wrote, "I'm learning all kinds of interesting history, put in context, by university professors and other historians who actually know what they're tweeting about. How refreshing on Twitter!" A social worker commented, "I find the history threads on here endlessly helpful in understanding my clients historical and societal trauma, teaching my students/supervisees context for client issues, & resource for fighting current policies." Some people reading the tweets are learning history they would not have encountered ordinarily from experts whose work they may have never been exposed to. Another Twitter user wrote, "I always learn something and more importantly appreciate historians that set the record straight." This makes them informed and more hopefully critical of the messaging they may be receiving elsewhere. One user noted that "I am learning more from these Twitter threads than I have since college. Many thanks."
Of course, these comments are anecdotal and don't prove that historians' threads are changing the world, but they are representative of the responses.
When right-wing conservatives or Polish nationalists repeat old anti-Semitic tropes, it is important to rebut them with scholarly authority — in public. When D'Souza smears the Democratic Party by claiming it inspired Nazis and has always been the party of racists, it is critical that a historian speak truth to (social media) power. When the president of the United States deploys an ignorance of medieval history in support of his wall on the southern border, it is vital that a medieval historian point out that the "actual European Middle Ages simply did not work the way Trump apparently thinks they did … medieval walls had more to do with reassuring those who lived inside them than with dividing self from other."
History reverberates in our present. And there are always those who would mobilize simplistic, biased or simply false versions of history to support real harm being done in the present. When history is wielded as a weapon particularly by white supremacists and right-wing nationalists, who better to stand on the battlements then those historians best prepared to fight back?

Shorter version of this article -- when right-wingers misuse history, historians should rebut them. When left-wingers misuse history... crickets. Historians themselves often do awful history -- see Nancy Maclean's Democracy in Chains. But that book was favorably reviewed by NPR and others, and not widely rebutted by other historians. As usual it's accountability for thee but not for me.

You are missing an Hillary mention in your word salad. And Benghaaaazi.

What example of left-wingers misusing history did the author choose to overlook?

I learn so many things from subscribing to science, space, culture, history, environmental and anthropology/archaeology magazines. Actually, I could spend all my day reading. But I like retweeting a lot of these articles out to the world hoping to catch the eye of someone who needs to know that there are so many smart positive people and groups out there doing really cool stuff.

An excellent opinion piece by Waitman Wade Beorn, with a single caveat offered here on the reign of Hatshepsut, in the spirit of his column. There is now scholarly consensus that, since the proscription of Hatshepsut's memory did not begin until 20 years after her death, the motive was not one of personal hatred. The pattern of damage to her monuments supports a more nuanced assessment, since her queenly images were never attacked, only those representing her (anomalously) as a male pharaoh. The motive behind her posthumous "persecution" remains a source of active debate, but see the various contributions in, conveniently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit catalogue Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh, ed. Catharine H. Roehrig (New York, 2005).

A fine column that demonstrates the strengths that historians bring to public exchange: a carefully nurtured sense of context; an impressively pursued depth of research; and a persuasively argued point of view. I learned much from Waitman Wade Beorn's piece. I followed every lead, broadened my sense of contemporary intellectual exchange, and renewed my confidence in the enormous value of historians' and intellectuals' engagement in public discourse. All of these strengths and gains are evident in historians' participation in Twitter.

--   Sent from my Linux system.