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Over the years, citizens have been using the temple as a quarry to bring the rocks needed in their daily life activities
The Ministry of Antiquities confirmed that they have returned an ancient rock belonging to Behbeit El Hagar temple, after it was found being used in markets located in El Mahalla El Kubra to cut meat.
According to a post on the ministry's Facebook page, the stone was found in a local market, while Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that it was being used at a butcher's stand to cut meat, and was attached to the ground with cement.
The stone was discovered at the butcher's stand by an archaeologist by coincidence. It was immediately removed after it was confirmed that it had come from the temple. "The rock was transferred to Behbeit El Hagar temple until investigations into the incident can be completed. That assures it remains safe and in good condition," said Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Division at the Ministry of Antiquities.
Studies show that the rock goes back to the Ptolemaic dynasty, during which the temple was built out of granite.
"There are no signs of any inscriptions on the stone," said Ehab Zaher, the general manager of Behbeit El Hagar's antiquities.
Zaher explained that, over the years, citizens have been using the temple as a quarry to bring the rocks needed for use in their work and daily activities, or to build their homes or walls, and that's most likely how the stone ended up in the local market.
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Follow a select group of individuals determined to bring Egypt back from the brink: to discover more of the country's history, keep its heritage safe and persuade tourists to visit the country again.
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Dust off the time machine and travel back to the fourth century BC; spend your vacation wandering around the magnificent Philae temple complex and Elephantine island which holds the third dynasty Nilometer and the Temple of Khnum.
Wake up every day to the most beautiful Nile views; take a picnic to the Aswan Botanical Gardens.
At night go shopping in the city’s old market for delicious peanuts, doum—a local fruit with a hard crust and soft and chewy interior that can be eaten fresh or boiled, made into a delicious tea or served over ice. You can find dried hibiscus and many other spices, lovely cotton t shirts, traditional dresses and colourful hand-knitted hats.
If you have two more days to spare, take a boat to Nubia and travel back further in time to the land of gold. Nubia is even more peaceful and quiet than Aswan. Here, you can take a boat and explore beautiful unspoiled regions of Nile, take in the magnificent views and go for a swim.
Sofitel Legend Old catacract:
LTI Pyramisa Isis Island Aswan
Nubia: Anakato Nubian houses
Just as Aswan is relaxing — a place for Nile gazing, breathing clean dry air and enjoying the warm breeze — Luxor is energizing, meant for walking and discovering great monuments everywhere in the city.
You will need all your energy and excitement here. Luxor is on the site of ancient Thebes, the pharaoh's capital at the height of their power during the 16-11th centuries BC. This is a real treat for young and old explorers. Get ready to walk through the grand Luxor Temple and the legendary Karnak Temple; the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens on the river banks.
Hilton Luxor resort and spa
Jolie Ville Hotel and spa, kings island
Sofitel winter palace
www.sofitel.com › Destinations › Egypt › Luxor
3 Abu Simbel
This outstanding archeological area contains such monuments as the Great Temple at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae which were saved from the rising waters of the Nile thanks to a UNESCO campaign that worked from 1950 to 1980 to relocate the sites to safer ground.
The Abu Simbel temple complex was originally cut into a solid rock cliff in Southern Egypt, located at the second cataract of the Nile river. Two temples that comprise the site are the Great Temple and the Small Temple, erected during the reign of Ramses II to celebrate his victory over the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE.
A monumental complex engraved in the mountain 320 km south of Aswan, the façade includes 4 giant statues of Ramses II on his throne; the walls of the Great Temple depict scenes from the battle and Egypt's glorious victory.
The second temple is dedicated to Nefertari, Ramses' favourite wife.
The temples were built facing east so that twice a year, on 21 October and 21 February, the sun would shine directly into the sanctuary of the great Temple to illuminate the statues of Ramses and Amun.
The sound and light show
A visit to Abu Simbel is incomplete without attending the sound and light show—the enchantment of which captivated me as a child. The show brings the temple back to life through projections of light on the temples and a recitation of the history of the temples through tales of King Ramses, Queen Nefertari and the great days of our ancestors.
You can skip the hotels, spend your days exploring and your nights on one of the many Nile cruises waiting to take you from Aswan to Luxor or vice versa.
Taking a cruise on the Nile is a time-honoured way to explore Egypt. For centuries, travelers have sailed stretches of the world’s longest river, finding the unexpected sights of river life every bit as thrilling as the tombs and temples on the schedule.
There are so many Nile cruise ships and companies to choose from but here are some of our favourites:
4 Saint Catherine
What could be better than starting your new year with a challenge? Head to Sinai to climb Egypt’s highest mountain: Mount Catherine which stands at 2,645 meters above sea level. If you make it up there you are in for spectacular views and a rare moment of reverence.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tip: Watch the sunrise on top of the mountain. This means you will climb at night so dress warmly, pack a blanket; it’s freezing on the summit
Spend a couple of nights at one of the eco-lodges in the mountain, or hike the less challenging Mount Moussa. Take a day to explore Saint Catherine's Monastery and the nearby town in South Sinai.
5 Ras Mohammed
If you want to spend this vacation in a serene place, if you want to dance to the sounds of sea waves and the light of millions of stars then this protectorate in Sinai between Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh is the answer you're seeking.
For more on camping in Ras Mohammed visit: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/246633.aspx
6 Sharm El-Sheikh
Stunning beaches, diverse marine life and stretches of coral reef make Sharm El Sheikh a magnet for divers, eco-tourists, or simply those who appreciate beauty and want to unwind.
Here you can lounge on the beaches, work on your tan and enjoy the temperate water of the Red Sea— and yes you can swim in December. The days are warm and the nights are brisk.
For those seeking a party at night, check Le Pacha bar, Budha bar, Hard Rock Café, Monty's bar, the Half Crown and many more. They all have new year’s parties and many hotel restaurants put on a special Christmas dinner.
The Red Sea paradise of El-Gouna lies on the coast, around 500 kilometres south of Cairo. Just 20 kilometres north of Hurghada; the resort was developed in the 1990s by Egyptian business tycoon Samih Sawiris through Orascom Hotels and Development.
El-Gouna specialises in watersports, including scuba-diving, windsurfing, kite-surfing, waterskiing, parasailing and snorkeling.
There are two main beaches: Zeytuna Beach, located on its own island, and Mangroovy Beach. A network of canals dotted with pretty stone bridges allows many houses to have their own strip of beach, even hundreds of metres inland. In fact, the scenic island is so picturesque it has been dubbed “the Egyptian Riviera.”
There are three centralised areas in El-Gouna, housing shops, bars and restaurants: Downtown, Tamr Henna Square and Abu Tig Marina.
You can choose your accommodation from one of El-Gouna's 18 hotels with nearly 3,000 rooms rated from three to five stars. Price ranges from EGP 500 to EGP 1500 per night, depending on location and holiday season.
If you're after some luxury this vacation, the five-star Movenpick and Sheraton Miramor both have their own private beaches and swimming pools, while the Steigenberger Hotel offers several swimming pools and lagoons.
For something a bit more wallet-friendly, take a look at the smaller three-star hotels in the heart of the resort's downtown area. You can get around in tuk-tuks manned by friendly drivers, or even by speedboat.
You can also choose to stay in the most attractive area, the marina, which hosts El-Gouna's luxury yachts. Here you'll find access to the open beach; you can buy a ticket for EGP 100 and enjoy an umbrella, a sunbed and swim as much as you like. There's a restaurant, bar and café on the beach and at night the marina sometimes hosts live music.
El Gouna also has public beaches like Element where you can sip bedouin tea and coffee and enjoy nature, in an unspoiled natural setting.
You can enjoy a boat trip to one of the most beautiful islands in Egypt: Mahmya Island. There are two daily trips from the port in Hurghada, one leaving at 8:30 am and the other at 10 am. Boats return at sunset. If you're lucky, you can spot schools of dolphins playing in the water on your way to this lovely spot.
A day-trip to Mahmya costs EGP 250, and children under 6 travel for free. That price includes the boat ride both ways, snorkeling equipment, life jackets, sun beds and umbrellas.
Once on the island you can enjoy the crystal clear water, which is shallow enough for both adults and youngsters to swim and snorkel safely. There are also restaurants, cafes and bars and even a fish tank spa on the beach, which combine to make for an unforgettable day.
For Mahmya booking day trips call 002 01001119792.
Overall El-Gouna is a real treat for friends, families and couples.
The resort can be reached by bus, car, or by flying directly to Hurghada airport.
Hotels and vacation rentals could be booked through the friendly website of http://www.elgouna.com
Other attractions and activities around town include a small aquarium which the little ones will love, a go-kart track, paintball arena, tennis courts, stables and a football stadium.
There are a few things that you can only do in Siwa, like spending an exciting day on desert safari or taking a dip in cold and hot water springs, both found in the middle of the desert and surrounded by palm trees. Safaris end in style, watching the sun set in the desert while drinking strong Siwan tea with lemon grass or cinnamon.
You can feel the weightlessness and freedom of swimming in salt lakes—from which salt is also extracted—or bring home crystals of salt, said to absorb negative energy when kept in the home.
A dip in one of the 200 or more natural sulphur springs including Fatnas or Cleopatra Springs is traditional, and tasting the local dates is not to be missed.
At the end of the day you can watch the sun set over one of the crystal clear lakes and feed the fish. Believe it or not, fish like dates as well!
More on Siwa here: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/246616.aspx
And here… http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/245576.aspx
9 White or Western Desert
The white Desert is the most popular desert destination in Egypt. The unearthly wind-carved rock formations shaped in the form of giant mushrooms and pebbles is stunning. Farafra Oasis is a 300 kilometre drive from Bahriya protectorate. You can do both Farafra and Bahariya and enjoy an unforgettable journey into the infinite whiteness.
If you don't feel like camping under the stars, you can spend your nights here: http://www.badawiya.com/farafra.htm
10 Fayoum Tunis village
If you want a simple, relaxing vacation with stunning views of Lake Qarun and the countryside, this is your destination.
The small village is mostly inhabited by artists and writers. You walk through the village and all you can see are small art galleries and pottery workshops, with the loveliest array of serving plates, dishes, cups, mirrors and more on display, each piece finely drawn and crafted by hand.
The air is clean and the atmosphere very quiet, serene and just relaxing. Beyond the pottery you see green fields, farm animals and the beautiful lake.
At night the sky is clear, hundreds of stars light your way and bats fly from tree to tree.
More on Tunis village here: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/248540.aspx
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Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston boasts the most comprehensive collection of Nubian jewelry and adornments outside of Khartoum. In “Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia,” showing through January 8, visitors can examine these exquisite works up close.
Many of the 95 pieces displayed in “Gold and the Gods” depict objects of worship. One gold and enamel bracelet, circa 250-100 B.C., depicts Hathor, the goddess of love. Wearing a piece like this was thought to bring the benefits of romantic love into your life. Think of it as the B.C. equivalent of a positive horoscope.
The history of Nubia, a neighbor of Egypt in what is present-day Sudan, can be traced from 2000 B.C. onward in successive cultural iterations. Over two millennia, the region developed a specific set of aesthetics and became known for fine craftsmanship. As with many cultures, jewelry was a way to express the opulence and status of the upper class. But Nubians also believed that jewelry could ensure resurrection, repel evil spirits and procure the protection of the gods.
The MFA’s impressive collection stems from a joint excavation of Kurshite royal cemeteries carried out with Harvard University between 1913 and 1932. Prior to this research, little was known about the civilization. Many of the exhibited pieces are made of gold, a sacred substance associated in both Egypt and Nubia with the powerful sun god, Amen-Re. Scholars suggest that the name Nubia derives from the Egyptian word ‘nbw,’ meaning gold.
The works are remarkably contemporary in style, proving that fashion is not only cyclical, it’s several thousand years repeated. An ornate, gilt crown of flowers sits displayed among the religious pieces. Flower crowns remain wildly popular on the modern-day music festival circuit, though the $12 Forever21 creations are decidedly less elegant and artistic than the Nubian versions.
It’s astounding to see minute details carved into rings and bracelets with rudimentary tools. “Winged Isis Pectoral” measures only a few inches yet depicts individual feathers on the wingspan of the Nubian goddess Isis. In addition to gold jewelry, Nubian craftsmen were known for their excellence in glassmaking, a new art form at the time. In order to create glass beads for apparel, the maker s applied drops of molten glass onto the body of a heat-softened glass bead and then pressed the drop into the matrix. Each bead took hours to make.
While we’re inundated with information about Egypt, “Gold and the Gods” offers a unique window into a lesser-known culture. Beyond the aesthetics of the upper class, the items on display illustrate the religion, craftsmanship and social hierarchy of a mysterious, ancient social order.
Egypt's Copts are under attack.
Little could dampen the enthusiasm of 13-year-old Tony Atef as he wore his soccer outfit and headed to Egypt’s most successful club, Al Ahly, to partake in the team’s junior soccer tryouts. After Tony scored two goals, a coach approached him, asking for his name to record among those accepted. But his dream of making the team died quickly, when the coach noticed the small tattoo of a cross on his wrist. Tony was quickly sent home. There would be no place for a Coptic Christian on an Egyptian soccer team.
Tony’s case soon went viral, after his brother took to social media to decry bigotry and discrimination. Embarrassed, the club invited Tony for another tryout, but it was too late. Similar stories soon emerged of other Coptic kids being rejected by other soccer teams. A newspaper pointed out that there wasn’t a single Copt among the league’s top 540 players. In fact, there had been only five Copts among the league’s players in the last few decades, and some of them spoke out about the discrimination they faced.
During Mass this past Sunday, an Islamic State suicide bomber made his way inside St. Peter and St. Paul’s Coptic Church in Cairo and detonated his bomb, leaving 25 people, mostly women, dead. The bombing, the deadliest since the 2010 New Year’s Eve bombing of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, drew swift condemnations from governments around the world. But as much as such attacks remind the world of the plight of Copts, it is their daily encounter with discrimination and persecution that poses the greatest threat to their future.
Apart from Coptic women not wearing the veil and the cross most Copts proudly tattoo on their wrists, there are few differences in the physical appearances of Copts and Muslims in Egypt. Nor have the two communities lived in separate cities or regions, as is common in other Middle Eastern countries where the survival of ethnic and religious minorities has been deeply intertwined with geography.
The word Copt is derived from Aigyptios, the Greek word for Egypt. From the moment St. Mark the Evangelist spread the gospel in Egypt, the Church of Alexandria became a pillar of Christianity in the Late Antiquity period, with its fathers shaping the tenets of the faith and its deserts giving birth to monasticism. Separated from the rest of Christianity after a theological dispute over the nature of Christ in the Council of Chalcedon 451, the Coptic Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches that includes the Armenian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Syriac Churches.
For centuries, Copts and Muslims lived side by side, with relations between them often fraught with discrimination and persecution, interspersed with periods of coexistence and assimilation. This would lead Lord Cromer, the British ruler of Egypt from 1883 to 1907, who had a very low opinion of Copts, to say: “For the purposes of broad generalization, the only difference between the Copt and the Muslim is that the former is an Egyptian who worships in a Christian Church, whilst the latter is an Egyptian who worships in a Mohammedan Mosque.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being a Copt was never a simple matter of attending different places of worship, but rather a salient feature shaping their lives. A Copt was a Dhimmi—the Islamic term used to refer to Christians and Jews, which means “protected person”—a tolerated second-class citizen, constantly reminded of his inferiority, and expected to behave. Even at the height of Egypt’s experiment with liberalism from 1923 to 1952, a Copt could never escape his Coptic identity, nor, paradoxically, bring it to the public square. Under Egypt’s military rulers the Copts’ plight only worsened.
Despite proclamations of equality by the state, a Copt has never been an equal Egyptian citizen in the eyes of the law. Egyptian laws are, in fact, designed to remind him of his second-class nature. For him, building a church remains a herculean task. He must follow Islamic inheritance laws, and cannot adopt children. Egypt’s blasphemy laws almost exclusively target him. Legally, he is not barred from being appointed to any position. But functionally, this is the reality. The exclusion of Copts from important government positions is pervasive: The current government has only one Coptic minister, and not a single Copt serves as a governor, university president, or university dean. An unofficial one percent quota for Copts is maintained in the military, police, judiciary, and foreign service, while no single Copt is allowed in the state security or intelligence services. Even his history is not immune to discrimination, with Coptic history and the contributions of Copts to Egypt through the centuries excluded from the country’s textbooks.
But the state’s discrimination, the Islamists’ incitement and violent attacks, and the state’s failure to protect them, along with its practice of forcing them into reconciliation sessions after every attack instead of applying the law and punishing the aggressor, are not what make the lives of Copts unbearable. Rather, it’s the bigotry they encounter from many of their fellow citizens. Copts necessarily know much about Islam through the education system, media, and their neighbors. The same cannot be said of most Egyptian Muslims and their knowledge of the Copts. The exclusion of Copts and their identity from the public square has made them alien creatures onto which wild fantasies are projected.
In a column last March, a Coptic journalist recounted being asked by a coworker where her future husband would spend their wedding night, given that a Christian woman is required to sleep with a priest on her wedding night, according to what she knew of the Copts. The question apparently had its roots in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart, which depicts English lords having the right of the first night. The column unleashed a wave of confessions—comments posted beneath the column and on social media—by Muslim readers admitting to this and other misconceptions they held about their fellow citizens: Coptic priests wear black because they are saddened that Islam rules Egypt. On New Year’s Eve, churches turn out their lights so that men and women can kiss. The late Pope Shenouda, the leader of the Copt Church from 1971 to 2012, conceived of a plan to reconquer Egypt for Christianity by arranging for Coptic doctors to perform abortions on Muslim women. These are not merely bigoted beliefs held by some, but pathologies with profound ramifications. No Copt has been allowed to become an OBGYN professor in any of Egypt’s universities. As Michael Wahid Hanna warned in a recent column, “a society that views and treats a segment of its population as less than fully equal is also [a] society that produces violence and terrorism against it.
What does the future hold for Egypt’s Copts? Could a community that has endured for 2,000 years actually become extinct? Throughout the Middle East, the answer seems to be yes. Geography, long the ally of ethnic and religious minorities in the region, offers little protection in the face of modern weapons and totalitarian organizations. The Islamic State’s reign of horrors has not only sought to annihilate these communities, but the very physical evidence of their historical presence.
But if modernity has been unkind to these minorities, it has also offered them an alternative: emigration. More than a million Copts now live in the West, where their ancient church is flourishing. Today, there are over 600 Coptic churches around the world. In 1971, there were two Coptic churches in the United States; today, there are 235. The Coptic Church is a growing phenomenon in Sub-Saharan Africa, where its African roots and lack of colonial baggage has allowed it to attract over half a million Africans.
Decline and survival, decay and endurance, have been the twin faces of Coptic Christianity under the rule of Islam. Today these two go hand in hand, separated only by geography. Despite the persecution millions of Copts face, there is no place in the West for eight million more. But the better educated, the ones who speak English and possess the skills to succeed beyond Egypt, will leave. Their poorer brethren left behind will stay. Egypt’s Copts will continue to decline. But in the lands of emigration they are writing a new chapter of revival.
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Ancient Egypt has astounded the world for years in the sheer spectacle and ingenuity of their masonry in the pyramids and their concealed tombs. Though plenty of research and exploration has gone into the structures, intrigue is kept alive by the secrets still retained within their walls. This scientific and historical curiosity is now matched with a sensitivity to preserve the world’s the artefacts, and non-invasive 3D technologies offer the perfect method to study a scene whilst leaving it intact.
3D scanning sarcophagi
Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, is exhibiting 6 sarcophagi alongside three-dimensional images of their contents. The CT scans show the embalmed skeletons inside a sarcophagus and offers more accurate information about the deceased’s gender, age and medical condition at the time of death.
The Australian Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) group partnered with The British Museum in London to get access to the mummies – an institution renowned for its collection of Egyptian artefacts including the Rosetta Stone (which has been held by the museum since 1802) and sculptures of Ramesses II. In their esteemed position, the British Museum has also cultivated a comprehensive collection 3D scanned mummies and other objects.
Egyptologist Melanie Pitkin curated the exhibit for the MAAS, and explains scanning methods as follows:
Part of the process was using a dual energy standing x-ray that rotates around and slices through the body. This is then put through rendering software, which stitches all the data together.
3D printing mummies
Taking it one step further, many other institutions have also 3D printed replica objects based on 3D scan data. The University of Melbourne in Australia has a mummified head as part of its collection, and printed a skull that was used to reimagine the face of an Egyptian woman.
Gif image shows the Egyptian skull 3D printed and planted with contour sensors in order to reimagine the woman’s features. Clip via: The University of Melbourne on Youtube
The bust of Nefertiti held by the Neues Museum in Berlin has also been famously recreated.
And the ear from the bust has been tested as the scaffold for a 3D bioprint.
Projects of such cultural premise aren’t often without their share of controversy, as it illuminates questions about ownership. Nefertiti’s 3D printed bust was returned to Egypt from Germany by artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles as a statement about cultural appropriation, and though it isn’t the real thing it does still bring people closer to the facts about the illusive Egyptian Queen. An ability to handle 3D printed replicas of artefacts is also invaluable to historical knowledge, and facilitates access to those who would typically be unable to see such things.
On the face of it, replication can often be seen as devaluing an object. But in this instance the knowledge gained from such a process, as in building your own combustion engine or an old car, is evidence of imitation’s worth.
Featured image shows an Egyptian sarcophagus and its 3D x-ray. Photo by: Ryan Hernandez, via Powerhouse Museum on Facebook
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The federal government has hundreds of agents working like Indiana Jones to find and return stolen relics.
In early December, several ancient artifacts were returned to Egypt by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a special repatriation ceremony attended by the country’s foreign minister.
Among the items was a 3,000-year-old mummified hand discovered at the Los Angeles airport and being passed off as a sci-fi movie prop. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents from ICE also seized a child’s sarcophagus from a garage in Brooklyn, New York. At the repatriation, agents also returned a panel from a woman’s sarcophagus and a linen mummy shroud.
Ray Villanueva oversees the Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Program at ICE. A team of 400 agents around the world investigates the theft and trafficking of the items. Sometimes artifacts are found in the hands of oblivious collectors and museums. Sometimes, they’re in the hands of tomb raiders.
“There’s individuals going to jail. They know they were stolen in Egypt,” said Villanueva about people who smuggle looted artifacts into the U.S. “They’re bringing that through the black market to be sold in auctions.”
Since 2007, ICE has returned almost 8,000 items to more than 30 countries.
"It's not like it was 20 or 30 years ago when there was nobody watching at all about the trade in antiquities,” said National Geographic archaeologist Fred Hiebert. “Today, we're sending the message around that people are watching."
Hiebert helps train HSI agents how to identify and handle relics and ancient art. He has taught them how to sort the artifacts, how to photograph them correctly and how to describe them.
The agents' work leads not only to finding long-lost antiquities. In the recent Egyptian case, it led to smugglers, money launderers and buyers, as well as two criminal convictions.
But it’s not always about prosecution, Villanueva said. Sometimes it’s about returning priceless works to their home countries to reinforce diplomatic relationships and to give the public the opportunity to enjoy a glimpse into a shared past or foreign culture.
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