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Monday, March 21, 2016

Coastweek - Cairo Bazaar; Egypt Zoo Mummmies; "Mummies of the World" at Bowers Museum

CAIRO Egypt Xinhua) -- Tourists walking at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar marketplace in Cairo, Egypt. Tourism in Egypt has received a heavy blow after a Russian airplane crashed over North Sinai last October and this has left Khan el-Khalili market, one of the most famous and oldest bazaars in the region, almost isolated. The number of tourists in the formerly crowded market has dropped, impacting merchants and their once thriving businesses. XINHUA PHOTO - AHMED GOMAA

Egypt famous 'Cairo Bazaar' now suffers from decreasing tourists

by Ahmed Shafiq CAIRO Egypt (Xinhua) -- The narrow alleyways in the centuries-old Khan el-Khalili bazaar marketplace in Egypt’s Old Cairo looked unusually empty except for a few foreign tourists and local vendors.

"This scene is bizarre for us," said Hassan Sadeq, owner of an antique shop at the market.

"I have been working here 25 years and I have never witnessed such worse days."

Tourism in this Middle Eastern country has received a heavy blow after a Russian airplane crashed over North Sinai last October.

The crash has led some countries, including Britain and Russia, to suspend their flights to Egypt, adding more recession to the already poor tourism sector, which has always been a major source of the country’s national income and foreign currency reserves.

All this has left Khan el-Khalili market, one of the most famous and oldest bazaars in the region, almost isolated.

The market, which dates back to 1382 A.D., is located in the heart of Cairo’s old Islamic district and is considered one of the most important tourist attractions in the most populous Arab country.

The number of tourists in the formerly crowded market has dropped, impacting merchants and their once thriving businesses.

"It is a tourism season in Cairo, but political and security conditions have caused a sharp drop in the number of tourists," Sadeq said as he cleaned a fake golden mask of a Pharaonic queen with a white piece of cloth.

"Now we barely manage to cover the business cost," he added.

"We want the business to recover."

The 42-year-old man recalled the busy days when the bazaar was once Cairo’s number one attraction for tourists and locals.

"Visiting Egypt is not complete without visiting the Khan el-Khalili," he said.

"It is such a great destination for tourists for its historical value as well as the cheap prices of everything."

And Sadeq’s words about the bazaar are extremely true.

The market has everything a tourist might need, from antiques to home-made perfume and even spices of all varieties.

Walking deeper into the bazaar trough its tiny alleys, the glitter of gold, hand-made glass artifacts, carpets and belly-dance costumes can effortlessly be noticed in every corner, adding beauty to the charming ancient market.

Although it has been modernized, the market still maintains its ancient Islamic character with tens of old structures, architectures and hotels dotting the commercial district.

Moreover, there are several coffeehouses, restaurants and street food vendors distributed throughout the market to serve tourists.

But for business owners, the beauty and value of the place are meaningless without a constant flow of tourists.

"I think of shutting down my cafe if things will go on like this," said Abdul Rauf Hussein, owner of Zahraa coffee house.

The man who has been in the business at the bazaar for decades said local Egyptians cannot replace foreign tourists because they just do not like to spend money at the market.

"Many Egyptian visitors come here meet foreigners, which can barely be spotted here," he said with a helpless smile.

"That is why I might quit the market and open somewhere else.

"I have no idea when tourism will revive," he added.

Egypt zoo museum features mummified animals through centuries

CAIRO Egypt (Xinhua) -- At one of the sides of the Giza Zoo in Egypt, the Zoological Museum appears as a medium-sized short white building.

The front does not suggest the inside large main hall with a dome-like ceiling, the side showrooms and the other two floors that contain mummified animals from the modern age back to the time of Egyptian pharaohs.

In the middle of the main hall of the renewed museum, eyes are caught by large skeletons of a giant whale, a hippo, a rhino and several other mammals including a giraffe, a baboon, a flamingo, a deer, a waterbuck, a polar bear and an elephant, besides some mummified reptiles and birds.

Being the first and largest in the Middle East, the Zoological Museum in Giza Zoo can work for both educational and entertainment purposes, as it contains about 1,352 mummified birds, 555 mummified mammals, 259 mummified reptiles, 115 skulls, 49 stuffed heads and 35 skeletons.

"The museum contains mummified animals dating back from 50 years to 7,000 years," said Mohamed Ramadan, the guide of the museum, noting the animals from other countries were gifts from abroad that died later and were mummified in Egypt.

"This female monkey was recently mummified after it committed suicide following the death of her little baby," Ramadan said while pointing to the mummies of a monkey carrying her baby in one of the side showrooms on the ground floor.

The skeletons in the museum have been gathered for more than 100 years and the museum contains mummified species that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, which made it a useful reference for the students and researchers of zoology, science, veterinary, medicine and agriculture.

On the second floor, where the reptile section is displayed, a showroom features a mummified six-meter long Nile crocodile, known as "Sobek", which dates back to the time of ancient Egyptians who worshipped it in some cities as "the god of water, jungles and swamps".

"Mummified crocodiles and their eggs were found in Egyptian tombs," read the tag framed near Sobek’s face in the display room.

The reptile section shows different kinds of Egyptian and Asian snakes including the skeleton of a 6.8-meter long Malayan reticulated python from Sumatra that was granted alive to Egypt as a gift on March 3, 1928 and died in the country a day later.

The Zoological Museum was established in the Giza Zoo in 1906 and was transferred to the current building in 1914.

It was closed and reopened several times until it was recently renewed and opened for visitors by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab in August 2015.

The main ground hall can be seen from each of the other two floors of the museum that also contains a scientific hall and a conference hall.

"The museum is wonderful in sign, as it gives visitors a clear path through the entire three-floor museum from beginning to end," said an architect Osama Rashad.

The young man added that he was impressed by the "key plan" that tells visitors about the different species contained in the museum including wild animals, water animals, birds, reptiles and others.

"The attractive thing about the open display in the main ground hall is that it takes a double-volume space with a clear vision to visitors and the space is sufficient for large displayed objects," Rashad said, praising the simplicity of the museum design.

The third floor of the museum, still with a view of the ground hall, has a variety of mummified birds including falcons, eagles, hawks, pigeons, owls and harriers.

"It is breathtaking and very well-organized. We really spent a very good time here," said Khaled, who was resting with his wife and little baby at the front park of the museum after taking a tour inside.

Mohamed Nabawi, the gatekeeper, said that the museum is constantly maintained after its recent renewal and some visitors come to the zoo only to visit the unique museum and leave.

"At weekends, the Zoological Museum is always crowded with visitors," the guard said while checking the tickets of some teens.

'Mummies of the World' comes to Southern California

LOS ANGELES United States (Xinhua) -- The world’s renowned mummy show "Mummies of the World" has been unveiled at Bowers Museum in California.

The exhibition portrays both natural and intentional mummification, including ancient mummies dating back to as far as 4,500 years.

The exhibition is the largest of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled.

It features a group of fascinating mummies and artifacts of world-renowned museums, organizations and collections from Europe, South America and Ancient Egypt.

"This is the largest exhibition of mummies in the world, with over 40 mummies from 12 countries.

People will see mummies from different countries such as Hungary, the United Kingdom and South African countries," said Anne Shih, chairwoman of Bowers Museum.

"Mummies of the World" is a fascinating mix of old and new, which bridges the gap between past and present. Inside every mummy is a story waiting to be told.

Through modern science and technology, their secrets are now revealed.

One of the newest mummies was made in 1994 in Maryland. Ronn Wade, director of State Anatomy Board of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was one of the professors who made the mummy.

"What we have here is a replication of Egyptian mummification.

"It’s the first attempt at Egyptian type of mummification in about 1,800 years.

"What we did is we have someone died and donated the body for medical study.

"And much of what we do deal with the preservation of human remains, so what we want to do is to replicate the same process the Egyptian use to produce their mummies," said Wade.

Mummies have quite different stories.

"We found mummies in China where they were buried in the ground.

"They weren’t embalmed necessarily.

"But the environment was right that the body didn’t decay necessarily and naturally preserved itself.

"So you know it depends upon what the situation is, Wade told Xinhua.

"Egypt is hot and dry and aired. And there’s less bacteria that can grow.

"There’s no moisture.

"But in a situation like in China, where the body was clothed, the earth and the environment are correct enough, the bacteria won’t proliferate either," Wade explained.

A set of three Hungary family mummies are one of the specialties of the exhibition.

They were found in 1994 in the Dominican Church of Vác in Hungary.

Scientists later found they were dad, mom and child of a Hungary family who suffered from tuberculosis before died in 18th century.

"They are natural preservation. So these bodies were not meant to actually be preserved like the Egyptian mummies.

"These were just laid because they were deceased.

"In a funeral, laid them down and they (were) preserved just by chance.

"So what’s unique about these is that the disease they had is also preserved.

"Then we can study and learn more about it," said James Schanandore, associate lecturer at University of Wisconsin.

Through modern science and technology, engaging interactives and multimedia exhibits, the exhibition reveals how the scientific studies of mummies provides a window into the lives of ancient people from different region of the world.

It offers unprecedented insights into cultures and civilizations in the past.

"’Mummies of the World’ is an incredible glimpse into the fascinating mummification process that occurs in nature and the history of science, anatomy and medicine.

"This stunning collection has so much to teach us about people and cultures that once thrived.

"The Bowers is honored to bring such an exciting, unique and educational experience to Orange County for the first time," said Peter Keller, president of Bowers Museum.

The three-month exhibition will also have on display Egyptian animal mummies including a falcon, a fish, a dog and a baby crocodile, many of which were deliberately preserved to accompany royals for eternity.

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