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Monday, April 30, 2018

What the oldest peace treaty in the world teaches us | EurekAlert! Science News
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What the oldest peace treaty in the world teaches us

Today's peace symbols go back to antiquity -- according to archaeologists, peace images were widespread, especially during wars, despite glorification of war - Oldest peace treaty attests to long negotiations instead of triumphant victory -- Bronze-color

Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics"


IMAGE: This is the oldest-preserved peace treaty between Ramesses II and ?attušili III, c. 1259 B.C. view more 

Credit: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Olaf M. Teßmer

According to archaeologists, the world's oldest peace treaty disproves the widespread notion that in antiquity, peace was not brought about by negotiations, but always by humiliating those who had lost. "More than 3,200 years ago, Egyptians and Hittites ensured each other mutual support in the treaty; neither of them triumphed. This must have been preceded by much negotiating, as is evidenced by extensive correspondence between the rulers", say Director Prof. Dr Achim Lichtenberger and Curator Dr Helge Nieswandt of the University of Münster's Archaeological Museum. "Although the 'victorious peace' dominates over the 'peace of reconciliation' in peace images of antiquity, our research shows that the latter also existed." From 28 April, the museum will present a copy of the oldest contract (fig. 1) from the Berlin Pergamon Museum in the exhibition project "Frieden. Von der Antike bis heute" (Peace. From Antiquity to the Present Day). Another copy can be seen in the United Nations Building in New York.

The researchers of the museum and of the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics" also do away with other clichés. A large number of peace images were created not in times of peace, but in times of war, such as the Roman goddess of peace Pax showing on countless coins. "Despite the glorification of war in antiquity, which undoubtedly existed and alienates us: images of the ideal of peace were particularly widespread during wars," says Nieswandt. He will present the "inflation of peace" on coins (fig. 2) on 23 May at the Cluster of Excellence's conference "PEACE. Theories, Images and Strategies from Antiquity to the Present Day", which is part of the exhibition project.

In the exhibition with the subtitle "Eirene - Pax. Frieden in der Antike" (Peace in Antiquity), the museum will also, for the first time, present a bronze-coloured copy of the famous goddess of peace "Eirene" by sculptor Cephisodotus (fig. 3). It symbolises that with peace comes prosperity. "Despite the glorification of war, people from antiquity always knew that it is not war but peace that leads to wealth," says Lichtenberger. This ideal is also illustrated by many of the other 160 antique exhibits such as the messenger staff, the handshake and ears of grain (fig. 4). "They show how strongly our Western peace symbols of today are rooted in ancient Greek and Roman images and how they have repeated themselves over centuries. Accordingly, the ancient illustrations are often familiar to us."Bronze-coloured goddess of peace and doves in animal idyll

According to Lichtenberger, even the most famous symbol of peace today, the dove, originates from antiquity. The derivation is not linear, however: "While in antiquity, the dove itself did not signify peace, it was closely associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It also appeared in animal idylls in which the peaceful coexistence of animals represented peace. The dove could thus be adapted as a symbol of peace by Christians." An allegory of peace in the tradition of antiquity from 1659 by Flemish painter Theodoor van Thulden, depicting horn of plenty and caduceus, also shows how far the ancient symbols extend into later centuries. "According to ancient ideas, the caduceus granted its bearer diplomatic immunity," says Nieswandt. "The fact that the goddess Pax holds it on numerous ancient coin depictions underlines once more the importance that negotiated peace had for antiquity as well". (fig. 5)

Regarding the numerous coin depictions of the goddess of peace "Pax" (fig. 2), Helge Nieswandt explains that she was often, particularly in times of war, shown on coins, the first mass medium of mankind, because rulers thus offered an ideal in reply to reality. The researcher will show this in his conference lecture on 23 May using an example of Roman antiquity: "When the order of the Roman Empire fell apart in the 3rd century AD, and when mostly short-lived soldier emperors took turns, there was an 'inflation of peace' on coins." Researchers see this as one example of many for the fact that people in all centuries expressed and depicted a longing for peace, but were not able to secure it in the long run. This guiding principle characterises the exhibition "Peace. From Antiquity to the Present Day".

About the bronze copy of Cephisodotus' Eirene, the scholar explains that it is a statue whose Greek original from the 4th century BC has not survived, but whose popularity and appearance are attested to by numerous Roman copies. Goddess of peace Eirene holds the infant Plutus, the personification of wealth, in her arms. The Archaeological Museum has commissioned a restorer with the bronze-coloured copy of this 2.05-metre and thus larger-than-life representation and will for the first time present it to the public at the opening of the exhibition on 28 April. "According to our investigations, the bronze, which is shining like gold, is only one possibility of several coloured versions, but in any case it is more plausible than the white of the plaster. The Münster reconstruction is to be understood as an incentive to see the statue differently than before. (sca/vvm)


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No, this so-called "warrior woman" isn't evidence of an alien civilisation on Mars

Your word for the day is "pareidolia." Here are two more: "fruit loops."  Glenn

main article image

No, This So-Called "Warrior Woman" Isn't Evidence of an Alien Civilisation on Mars

Use your brains, people.

30 APR 2018

Another picture of a rock on Mars is being given the alien civilisation treatment. According to a video shared to YouTube, the unusual formation is the head of a statue of a warrior woman, similar to statues from ancient Egypt.

There's only one problem: the reason it looks a bit like a head is due to a mental trick called pareidolia.

Joe White, of the ArtAlienTV - MARS ZOO Youtube channel, posted the video earlier this month. (We're not going to link to it - if you want to see it, you can find it on your own.)

"I found what seems to be a small feminine looking statue head on Mars in Gale Crater in this recent Curiosity Rover image from NASA. Only a few inches in size or less," White wrote in the video description.

"It resembles a carved depiction of a female warrior wearing a helmet similar to some found on Earth from the middle ages. It has a possible emblem on the forehead and some very interesting facial features that look almost Egyptian in artistic style."

Several times over the last few years, rock formations on the Red Planet have excited the internet with the possibility of a civilisation on Mars - notably including the Mars Bigfoot, the Mars cannonball, the Mars spoon (yes you read that correctly) and the Mars "Assyrian god" (we're not making any of these up).

Without exception, these are always debunked as pareidolia. This is a quirk of psychology in which the human mind searches for meaning in meaningless data; generally seeing faces where there actually aren't any, such as in power points, or a pattern of tiles.

The most famous case on Mars is a 1976 picture that was famously dubbed the Face on Mars - what looked like an ancient monument depicting a human face.

But as our technology improved, higher resolution imaging showed what that "monument" really was - a natural mesa, with no face carved into it at all. At low resolutions, the "face" was just a trick of shadows.

White claims "This is one of hundreds of similar artefacts that I have found on Mars in recent years," but rocks that look like faces don't necessarily mean anything.

Have a look around on Earth, and you'll see plenty of random rock formations and other geographic features that look like faces.

In addition, last year a NASA Mars project scientist was forced, before a US congress hearing, to deny that there was any evidence of a civilisation on Mars. Which he did.

"You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago," Republican Dana Rohrabacher said. "Is it possible that there was a civilisation on Mars thousands of years ago?"

Kenneth Farley, of NASA's Mars 2020 mission, replied that there is "no evidence that I'm aware of" of a lost Mars civilisation, and that such a civilisation is "extremely unlikely".

We're going to side with the scientists on this one.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Photos: Air sports festival, Egypt's creative approach to flourish tourism - Egypt Independent

Photos: Air sports festival, Egypt's creative approach to flourish tourism

In the first event of its kind, around 65 skydivers and paramotor pilots from at least 20 countries flew over the Giza Pyramids on Saturday 

as part of the Egypt Air Games 2018, organized by Sky Sports EG Company, in cooperation with the Egyptian Air Sports Federation. The event took place during April 25-29.

Participants from Egypt, USA, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Poland, Holland, Cyprus, Croatia, Norway, Mexico, Oman, Bahrain, United Kingdom were seen flying over the ancient monuments as the festival aims to promote Egypt's ailing tourism industry, and "put Egypt on the world's map for air sports championships and festivals."

"It is a great feeling to see people flying and landing just like a plane. I just wish I could try it," Hamada Ahmed, an event photographer told Chinese agency Xinhua during the festival.

It sounds crazy to do such an adventure and jump from an altitude of 8,000 feet, but I guess I will try it," he said.

Additionally, the event also witnessed the largest flag flown by a paramotor in an attempt to break a new record for Guinness World Record. It was attended by Mohamed Kamal El-Daly, Governor of Giza, and Chairman of the Egyptian Parachuting Union.

"Such a sport is not popular in Egypt, nor in Arab countries. By holding this event, we aim to promote air sports among our youth," El-Daly said.

Al-Daly praised the artistic and physical potential of the participants of the festival, be it Egyptians or foreigner, pointing out that the festival is a great promotion for Egyptian tourism and the iconic Giza Pyramids.

"This is totally different from all my previous jumps. It is really exceptional to fly above the pyramids," skydiver Ahmed Alawy from Oman told Xinhua.

"Air games in Arab countries aren't very popular, adding that such events would help Arab athletes learn from the experiences of their western counterparts," Xinhua reports.

"The good organization and the location could make this event one of the best all over the world," he added.

According to Alawy, who participated in many air games events in several countries, Saturday's event was well organized and "can be a good starter for larger annual festivals."

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Cairo: A Type of Love Story | The New Yorker

Cairo: A Type of Love Story

Raising a family during a revolution.

Natasha was the first of our daughters to get bitten by a rodent. It probably happened while she was sleeping, but she was too small to communicate anything. As with Ariel, her identical-twin sister, Natasha's early vocabulary was mostly English, but the girls used Egyptian Arabic for certain things—colors, animals, basic sustenance. Aish for bread, maya for water. If I twirled one of them around, she would laugh and shriek, "Tani!": "Again!" And then her sister would pick up the refrain, because anything that was done to one twin had to be repeated with the other. Tani, tani, tani. They weren't yet two years old.

I noticed the mark while changing Natasha. To the right of her navel, there were two pairs of ugly red puncture holes: incisors. Perhaps the animal had been nosing around the top of her diaper. If Natasha had cried out, neither I nor my wife, Leslie, heard.

We had moved to Cairo in October, 2011, during the first year of the Arab Spring. We lived in Zamalek, a neighborhood on a long, thin island in the Nile River. Zamalek has traditionally been home to middle- and upper-class Cairenes, and we rented an apartment on the ground floor of an old building that, like many structures on our street, was beautiful but fading. Out in front of the Art Deco façade, the bars of a wrought-iron fence were shaped like spiderwebs.

The spiderweb motif was repeated throughout the building. Little black webs decorated our front door, and the balconies and porches had webbed railings. The elevator was accessed through iron spiderweb gates. Behind the gates, rising and falling in the darkness of an open shaft, was the old-fashioned elevator box, made of heavy carved wood, like some Byzantine sarcophagus. The gaps in the webbed gates were as large as a person's head, and it was possible to reach through and touch the elevator as it drifted past. Not long after we moved in, a child on an upper floor got his leg caught in the elevator, and the limb was broken so badly that he was evacuated to Europe for treatment.

Safety had never been a high priority in old Cairo neighborhoods, but things were especially lax during the revolution. Electricity blackouts were common, and every now and then we had a day without running water. A pile of garbage next to the building attracted mice and rats. Below the windows of my daughters' room, I had seen weasels scurrying into a hole in the building's foundation.

At a medical clinic, a pediatrician examined the marks on Natasha's stomach. "Insect," she said.

I was incredulous. "That's an insect bite?"

"Maybe it was a flea," she said.

I sent a photograph to a family friend at a dermatology clinic in the United States. The response made me nostalgic for the American ability to apply cheerful language to any situation:

Hi! We discussed in case conference today—all agreed . . . bite as fang by snake/rodent—hope this helps. Hope both are doing well. Hugs, Susie.

Leslie and I took a cab to the west bank of the Nile, where a vaccination center called Vacsera sold us a rabies vaccine. Then we found a new pediatrician. I also bought about a dozen glue traps.

At night, I set traps beneath the cribs. Sometimes I awoke to the sound of the twins' voices: "Daddy, mouse! Daddy, mouse!" Once, something rattled in their toy kitchen, so I opened the tiny refrigerator door, and a mouse popped out. How the hell had it got in there? None of the mice I trapped seemed big enough to have made the bite marks, but they kept coming—tani, tani, tani. I drowned them one by one in a bucket of water.

When it was Ariel's turn to get bitten, the mark appeared on her back instead of on her stomach. Otherwise, it was identical to Natasha's: four incisors. We took another cab to Vacsera.

I was finished with traps. Leslie and I visited an expat who was giving away a male and a female cat. The choice was easy: the male was bigger, with a fierce expression, and he stalked lithely around the furniture. On his forehead, tiger stripes formed the shape of an "M"—a mark of the breed that's known as the Egyptian Mau.

We named him Morsi. Egypt had just held its first-ever democratic Presidential election, which had been won by Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not long after Morsi the cat arrived, he bit Leslie's arm hard enough to leave his own set of puncture wounds. Tani—back to Vacsera. After a year in Cairo, I was the only member of the family who hadn't received rabies shots.

Leslie and I met in Beijing, where we worked as journalists. We came from very different backgrounds: she was born in New York, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, whereas I had grown up in mid-Missouri. But some similar restlessness had motivated both of us to go abroad, first to Europe and then to Asia. By the time we left China together, in 2007, we had lived almost our entire adult lives overseas.

We made a plan: we would move to rural Colorado, as a break from urban life, and we hoped to have a child. Then we would go to live in the Middle East. We liked the idea of writing about another country with a deep history and a rich language, and we wanted this to be our first experience as a family.

All of it was abstract—the kid, the country. Maybe we'd go to Egypt, maybe Syria. Maybe a boy, maybe a girl. What difference did it make? An editor in New York warned me that Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak had ruled for almost thirty years, might seem too sluggish after China. "Nothing changes in Cairo," he said. But I liked the sound of that. I looked forward to studying Arabic in a country where nothing happened.

The first disruption to our plan occurred when one kid turned into two. In May, 2010, Ariel and Natasha were born prematurely, and we wanted to give them twelve months to grow before moving. The schedule didn't matter—a year in a newborn's life is a rush compared with never-changing Cairo. But, when protests broke out on Tahrir Square, our girls were eight months old, and they were exactly eighteen days older when Mubarak was overthrown.

We delayed and reconsidered, but finally we decided to go. We applied for life insurance, and the company carried out a medical screening but then rejected us on account of "extensive travel." We visited a lawyer and wrote up wills. We moved out of our rental house; we put our possessions in storage; we gave away our car. We didn't ship a thing—whatever we took on the plane was whatever we would have.

The day before we left, we got married. Leslie and I had never bothered with formalities; neither of us had any desire to organize a wedding. But we read somewhere that if a couple has different surnames the Egyptian authorities could make it difficult to acquire joint-residence visas. We left the babies with a sitter and drove to the Ouray County Courthouse. As the deputy county clerk started the ceremony, Leslie asked when the department that handled traffic violations would close.

"Four o'clock," the clerk said.

Leslie looked at her watch. "Can you hold on a minute?"

She ran upstairs to pay one last speeding ticket. The marriage license noted that we "did join in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony" at 4:08:44 P.M. I shoved the license into our luggage. The next day, along with our seventeen-month-old twins, we boarded the plane. Neither Leslie nor I had ever been to Egypt.

After Morsi arrived, the mice vanished. He ate the heads of a couple, leaving the bodies behind, and others stopped showing up. The coat markings of Egyptian Maus resemble those of cats that are portrayed on the walls of ancient tombs, and even the name is old: in pharaonic times, mau meant "cat." Maus are agile, and they are characterized by a flap of skin that extends from the flank to the hind leg, which allows for greater extension. These house cats have been clocked at speeds of up to thirty miles per hour.

The toddlers, like the mice, learned to give Morsi a wide berth. He had no patience for their chattering and tail-pulling, and he scratched each of them hard enough to draw blood. This was handled efficiently: one attack on Ariel, one attack on Natasha. Leslie and I thought about having Morsi declawed, but it would have put him at a disadvantage against the neighborhood's rodents and stray cats.

It was impossible to keep him inside. He was strong enough to open screen windows and doors, and he hid around the apartment's entrance, waiting for an opportunity to dart out. Often I'd hear cat screams within minutes of his escape. We had a small garden, where strays liked to gather, but Morsi refused to tolerate them. Many times, I saw him drive some scraggly animal out through a gap in the spiderweb fence.

Sayyid, the neighborhood garbageman, warned me that somebody might grab Morsi. "He's a beautiful cat," Sayyid said. "Qot beladi." People often used this phrase—"a cat of the country"—when they saw Morsi and his stripes. Egyptians are believed to have been the first cat breeders in history, and they loved the animals so much that they forbade their export more than thirty-seven centuries ago. They used to call Phoenicians "cat thieves," because the seafarers snatched them for their ships.

In our building, an elderly woman on the fourth floor was the self-appointed cat carer, and she put out bowls of food for the animals. She always greeted me with a smile when I took the girls out for walks in their double stroller. Egyptians are even crazier about small children than they are about cats, and we attracted attention in Zamalek. Certain faces stood out: a one-eyed doorman, a tea deliveryman with a broken nose, a shopkeeper who liked talking to the twins in Arabic.

When the girls got bigger, they started throwing tantrums if their outfits didn't match. Leslie and I didn't want to dress them alike, but we were so overwhelmed by the adjustment to Egypt that we quickly caved. We bought everything in pairs, and when the girls sat side by side in their stroller, wearing matching clothes, it felt like a kind of show.

Foreigners sometimes asked if I had seen "those other Zamalek twins." They were legendary: elderly Egyptian brothers who walked together around the island. They always dressed identically: nice jackets, button-front shirts. A couple of times, I tried to strike up a conversation, but the men ignored me. They never so much as glanced at the girls. Whenever we crossed paths—old twins, young twins; twins on foot, twins on wheels—I wondered how my kids were going to turn out after this odd childhood on the Nile.

Something about Zamalek's geography, and its old-money residents, seemed to draw out an Egyptian flair for eccentricity. The island is situated in the heart of the city, but the river creates a powerful sense of separation. Even on days of major demonstrations, it was easy to forget that Tahrir was only a mile and a half away. I often saw Zamalek residents watching the revolution on television, as if the images had been beamed in from some distant land.

Most people had no interest in getting involved. Sayyid told me cautionary tales about certain figures, like the one-eyed doorman. During a demonstration, the doorman walked to a street near Tahrir, where he decided to watch from an overpass. That was a mistake: when Egyptian police disperse crowds, they often fire their shotguns into the air. The doorman got hit with bird shot and lost his eye, and that was the last time he went to a protest.

"Your Brotherhood cat is doing a terrible job as President," Sayyid often said. The local veterinarian was a Coptic Christian, like approximately ten per cent of the country's population, and he feigned anger the first time Leslie brought Morsi in. "I hate this name," the vet said, grabbing the cat. Morsi fought fiercely whenever the Copt clipped his claws.

Soon the twins started differentiating between "the good Morsi" and "the bad Morsi." They picked this up from their nanny, Atiyat, who was also a Copt. Atiyat's opinion was hardly surprising: years before, Morsi had declared that neither a woman nor a Christian should be allowed to lead Egypt, and the country was a mess under his government. Half a year into his Presidency, at the beginning of 2013, we received a notice from the girls' nursery school:

Due to the heavy smell of tear gas in Zamalek at the moment. We think it is safer for the children not to come to school today. . . . We are terribly sorry for the very short notice, but it is strictly out of our hands.

I started stashing large amounts of cash around the apartment. If things got violent, I had plans for an emergency departure: what we would pack, how we would get to the airport. By now, the protests were almost constant, and we lost electricity several times a day. The government announced a policy of dimming the lights in the airport; there were hardly any tourists. Whenever I returned from a trip, I touched down in the Morsi-era twilight zone: darkened hallways, frozen escalators. It is strictly out of our hands.

One morning, I went to renew our visas at Mogamma, the government building beside Tahrir. I chose a day when there weren't any protests, but the area still reeked of tear gas; by now, it seemed as if the flagstones had become so soaked with the stuff that they sweated it out in the heat. I handed our applications to an official.

"Where is your marriage license?" he said.

This was what mattered at such a time? Even more absurd was how pleased I felt: I was so happy that we had got married! I returned to Zamalek and retrieved the Ouray County license. The official seemed just as pleased as me; the visas were processed without a hitch.

When the coup finally came, in July, 2013, none of my planning mattered. General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, issued a statement that gave Morsi forty-eight hours to respond to the demands of protesters. Morsi had a reputation for stubbornness, and it seemed impossible that he would negotiate.

On the day that everybody knew would be the last of the Morsi Presidency, Atiyat arrived with her fingernails painted in the colors of the Egyptian flag. She took out some red, black, and yellow crayons, and she instructed the twins in the production of little flags. Should my three-year-olds be celebrating a military coup in advance? But I was too distracted to think about it; soon I would have to leave to cover the day's events.

Leslie and I ran through scenarios: What if it's impossible to make it home tonight, or if the cell-phone system goes down? What if things get violent? We decided that, in the event of gunfire, the safest place in the apartment was the interior hallway. That was the plan: shut the doors, stay close to the floor.

There was always a plan. Old plans had a way of becoming irrelevant, but new plans were easy to make, and Leslie and I often had other versions of this conversation. Once, the nursery school cancelled class because the police found a terrorist dummy bomb a block away. Another time, an ISIS-affiliated group kidnapped a foreigner on the outskirts of Cairo and beheaded him.

Before moving to Egypt, I had imagined that we would establish clear protocols: if x happens, then we will respond by doing y. This was how embassies operated; during the summer of the coup, the American Embassy in Cairo evacuated all nonessential personnel. But once we were living in the city, without a connection to any institution, I realized that we were more likely to respond as Cairenes did, with flexibility and rationalization. People talked about the events calmly, and they maintained a sense of distance—it is strictly out of our hands. They told jokes. They focussed on the little things they could control. Even a newcomer learned to normalize almost any situation. It was a dummy bomb, not a real bomb. The kidnapped foreigner was an oil worker, not a journalist. It happened only once. If it happens again, then we'll worry.

And the difficulties of everyday life kept people occupied. Things went wrong all the time, and usually it had nothing to do with politics. Our Arabic teacher died suddenly, because of poor medical care. The shopkeeper who chatted with the girls was shot and killed near his home, reportedly after trying to mediate some dispute. One day not long after the coup, the elderly cat carer on the fourth floor put out some food. She called to a cat on the landing below, but the animal didn't come. So she poked her head through a gap in the spiderweb gate, in order to look down through the elevator shaft. Above her, on one of the upper levels, the Byzantine box was motionless.

At that moment, on the ground floor, somebody pushed the call button.

Afterward, the police interrogated the doorman, and he either quit or was fired. As far as I could tell, he hadn't been at fault, but he made for an easy scapegoat. The landlady also had wire screens installed behind the spiderweb gates. On the fourth floor, the family of the elderly woman played recorded Quranic chants for months, to put her soul at peace. Leslie and I told Atiyat and our other sitters never to allow the twins to go on the landing unattended. During this time of violent headlines, one of the things that scared me most was the elevator outside my front door.

One winter, Morsi left and didn't come back. The morning after he disappeared, five ugly strays were lounging in the sun on our balcony. I wondered if Morsi had finally lost a fight, and I tossed water at the strays until they left. But still he didn't return. I remembered Sayyid's warning about somebody grabbing the cat.

The girls were upset. By now, they were big enough so that Morsi tolerated their presence; occasionally, he even showed affection. In the evenings, I walked the streets, saying, "Morsi! Morsi! Morsi!" People looked at me strangely. I was becoming another Zamalek eccentric, the foreigner who wandered the island at night, calling out for the deposed President.

Around this time, Leslie and I realized that we should stop discussing politics in front of the girls. During one of our trips to see family in the U.S., an uncle asked Ariel about her pet. "There is another Morsi who is a man, not a cat," Ariel said. "He was the President."

The uncle asked where Morsi was now.

"He is in prison."


"He sent some people to kill some other people," Ariel said, matter-of-factly. "There's another President now. I don't know if he is bad or good. But his name is Sisi."

Morsi, Sisi: I had a theory that it's a bad sign when Egyptian leaders sound like pets. After the great age of pyramid-building ended, in the twenty-fifth century B.C., the pharaohs who followed had names that seem "babyish" to our ears, as the Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson noted. During this period of declining authority, many kings could have been cats: Pepi, Teti, Nebi, Izi, Ini, Iti. Ibi built an itty-bitty pyramid, only sixty feet tall, but he didn't even put the stone casing on top. Pepi II ran the country into the ground. When an expedition to the south reported the discovery of a Pygmy, this ineffective pharaoh responded as if he had glimpsed something shiny: "My Majesty wants to see this Pygmy more than the tribute of the Sinai and Punt!"

Someday, I thought, historians would view our current age as another example of bad-cat politics, crude and fable-like. Once upon a time, Morsi was in power, then Sisi drove him out like a stray in the garden. Then more than a thousand protesters were massacred in a brutal crackdown. Then Morsi was placed inside a cage in a courtroom, where he was tried for murder and treason. Could anybody blame a child for confusing these political figures with animals?

On the fifth day after Morsi's disappearance, I heard him mewing weakly. From our garden, I looked up and realized that he was stranded on an upper balcony. He had climbed there on the limb of a tree.

Leslie went up to the apartment. The woman who lived there refused to open the door, and she stood silently on the other side while Leslie introduced herself. Then the woman finally spoke. She threatened to call the police.

"She doesn't like to see people," the doorman told me. He said that the woman was probably afraid of the cat. He made an Egyptian gesture, tapping his head, rolling his eyes, and whistling: crazy.

The landlady also had no interest in dealing with the recluse. "Let's talk about this tomorrow," she said. For an hour, Leslie and I engaged in intense negotiations with the landlady, her daughter, and two doormen; finally, the six of us gathered outside the recluse's apartment. It was after 9 P.M. The woman opened the door partway.

She pointed at me. "You can come inside," she said. Then she pointed at Leslie and glared: "But not you!"

The place was cleaner than I expected. The woman was nice-looking, and she wore an elaborate dressing gown that made me think of Miss Havisham. I opened the balcony door and Morsi streaked across the apartment and leaped into Leslie's arms. I thanked the woman, but she ignored me. She was still staring fiercely at Leslie. She slammed the door.

"Do you have any idea what that was all about?" I asked.

"No," Leslie said.

At home, Morsi slept for most of three days. Sometimes he went to the sink and sucked on the faucet. The reclusive woman hired some workers to chop down every tree branch that was remotely close to her balcony. For good measure, they left the debris strewn around our garden.

We bought a new Honda sedan. In eastern Cairo, we scheduled a meeting with an agent at the insurance company Allianz, but at the last minute he called to say that he couldn't make it, because he had just totalled his vehicle. Another agent stepped in. While handling our application, she mentioned that she herself no longer qualified for auto insurance from Allianz, because she had had multiple accidents every year for three consecutive years. She handed us a glossy brochure that read "Our own data shows that six out of every ten cars purchased in Egypt will either be crashed, damaged, or stolen."

I paid for the auto insurance. They had a much better sales strategy than the life-insurance people in Colorado.

We took road trips to the Red Sea, to the Mediterranean, to Upper Egypt. The first time we visited ancient sites in Upper Egypt, in the south, the girls were transformed. They became obsessed with Akhenaten and Nefertiti, the king and queen who ruled during the fourteenth century B.C. The connection had something to do with the names—one "A," one "N"—but it was also the twinned iconography. Akhenaten and Nefertiti ruled with unusually equal status, and they were often portrayed together.

Such pairings run throughout ancient Egyptian art, theology, and politics: Osiris and Isis, Horus and Seth, king and queen, male and female, Upper and Lower, life and death. Antony and Cleopatra (and their twin offspring). Ray Johnson, an Egyptologist who directs the University of Chicago's research center in Luxor, told me that he believed the original inspiration was the divided landscape: the lush Nile valley next to barren desert. Whatever the source, it touches something deep in the human imagination, and after the twins' first visit to ancient sites they suddenly insisted on different outfits. Ariel, as Akhenaten, wore pants; Natasha wore dresses. We never worried about matching outfits again; the Eighteenth Dynasty had convinced the girls in a way that we never could have.

The long drives were as relaxing as anything I did in Egypt. Outside Cairo, politics disappeared; most places had experienced little or no violence during the Arab Spring. The tourist sites were largely abandoned. One year, we drove all the way to Abu Simbel, near the border of Sudan, and for the final stretch the police required us to join an armed convoy. But after ten minutes the escort sped off, at more than a hundred miles an hour. Probably the officers had become bored; there wasn't any real risk in these remote places.

For nearly three hours, we drove through desert solitude. To the east, I saw bright pools of blue, which I assumed were inlets of Lake Nasser. But then I realized that the pools were mirages—I had never seen natural illusions that looked so real. Some of them had rocks poking up from the center, like islands in a lake.

When we arrived at Abu Simbel, we were the only visitors. The girls ran to the massive statues of Ramses the Great, and they played in the darkened halls of the temple. They were now five, and I had photographed them at ancient sites across the country. In almost every photograph, they were alone. I knew that someday these images would also feel mirage-like—twins in Abydos, twins in Esna, twins in the Valley of the Kings. Two tiny spots of pink on a plain, gazing up at the Colossi of Memnon.

As part of the ancient Egyptians' twinned world view, there were two words for time: neheh and djet. Scholars told me that modern people probably can't fully grasp these concepts. We're accustomed to linear time, with one event leading to another: a revolution, then a coup. The accumulation of these events, and the actions of the people who matter, is what makes history.

But ancient Egyptians never wrote history in the way that we would define it. Events—kheperut—were suspect, because they interrupted natural order. Instead, Egyptians lived in neheh, the time of cycles. Neheh is associated with the sun, the seasons, and the annual flooding of the Nile. It repeats; it recurs; it renews. Djet, on the other hand, is time without motion. When a pharaoh dies, he passes into djet, which is the time of the gods, the temples, and the pyramids. Mummification is a human response to djet, and so is art. Something in djet time is finished but not past; it exists forever in the present.

The years I spent in Egypt felt like the longest of my life. Outside in the city, governments came and went; inside the apartment, my children became unrecognizable from the toddlers we had brought to Cairo. As they grew, I realized that small children must come closest to living the time of the ancients. Things are repeated, in the manner of neheh: games, words, bedtime routines. Tani, tani, tani. And then there's djet, the eternal present. My daughters had no concept of our life before Egypt, and they had no sense that it would ever end. They never questioned whether we belonged there. I often felt the stress of wanting to protect them, but their sense of normalcy was also reassuring. In Natasha's first-grade journals, blackouts were simply part of neheh:

December 15, 2015—I was reading a book in night time when the electricity turned off.

December 20, 2015—I went to the pyramids and we went inside. It was dark.

December 27, 2015—I was done with breakfast when the lights went away.

The twins often told people that they were Egyptian. They had the body language of little Cairenes: for an emphatic "no," they said "la'a," with a brisk shake of the head and a wave of the hand. Like virtually all Egyptians, they feared cold, rain, and silence. They talked constantly; it was impossible for the weather to be too hot for them. Once, a friend visited from Germany, and he thought it was hilarious that these Chinese-Americans kept saying, "We love Cairo!" But, for them, Egypt was um al-duniya, the mother of the world.

During our last year, we went to Jerusalem, where we toured underground sections of the Western Wall. At the site of some ancient cisterns, the guide asked the girls, "Where does water come from?"

"The Nile," Natasha said. The guide tried to nudge them toward the right answer, but they just stared blankly. According to Toby Wilkinson, in the entire corpus of ancient Egyptian literature the word "cloud" appears twice.

We left Cairo in the summer of 2016. We had lived there for half a decade, and now, in an election year, it seemed right to return to the U.S. After Morsi and Sisi, I looked forward to living in a country where the President behaved responsibly.

For the last month, the girls cried virtually every day. They cried about saying goodbye to Atiyat, to their school, to their bedroom. They worried about their cat staying behind. As far as they were concerned, leaving Egypt was the worst thing that Leslie and I had ever done to them.

Back in Ridgway, Colorado, we rented a double-wide trailer high in the mountains, surrounded by a forest of cedar. As the evenings grew cooler, field mice streamed into the double-wide. I started buying glue traps.

That fall, the second-grade class at Ridgway Elementary was given a writing assignment in which each student was asked to imagine a new name. Ariel wrote, "I wish my name was Ackananen because it is an old pharose name and it reminds me of Egypt." At an event for parents, a father with a rural accent asked me where we had moved from. He laughed at my answer. "You know, my kid told me there are two Egyptian girls in his class," he said. "I just figured he was lying."

Morsi was extradited from the Republic of Egypt at two-twenty in the morning on November 13, 2016, aboard Lufthansa Flight 581. Prior to transport, he was injected with three milligrams of diazepam and placed in a cat carrier. The veterinarian estimated that he would be unconscious for ten hours. The product description for the cat carrier included the words "sturdy construction."

After we left Egypt as a family, our flight connected in the United Kingdom, which has strict rules about animals being transported through its airports. So Morsi boarded with a friend in Cairo until Leslie returned for research. Periodically, the friend sent updates. The first read, "I've also found he is a bit of an escape artist, and so I have been making modifications to my apartment." Then: "He can open my windows and balcony doors even with the addition of screens with sliding locks." Finally: "He's had feline company from vaccinated adult cats on and off, but I should warn you that he doesn't seem to like it. Morsi is quite aggressive toward other cats."

After the sedative was administered, Leslie caught a cab. Morsi woke up before they reached the Cairo airport. There was no problem going through security, but now he was making noise.

The flight departed on time. Leslie placed the carrier beneath her seat and fell asleep. At approximately three o'clock in the morning, she was jolted awake by the sound of people yelling, "Get that cat! Somebody grab that cat!" It's unclear how many other passengers were also awakened. But the ones who were conscious saw a small Chinese woman chasing a large Egyptian cat while shouting the name of a Muslim Brother who had been in prison for more than three years.

She caught him near the bathrooms. A German flight attendant was angry in the way that only German flight attendants can be angry. "What if somebody is allergic to cats?" she said repeatedly. But Leslie was more concerned about the carrier. Morsi had completely obliterated the thing.

She sat down with the squirming cat on her lap. After this flight, she was scheduled for a layover of seven hours and thirty minutes, followed by a flight of ten hours and twenty minutes, a layover of six hours and thirty minutes, a flight of an hour and five minutes, and a ride in a van.

The man in the next seat liked cats. He held Morsi for a while. Later he e-mailed to request Morsi photographs to show his kids.

In Frankfurt Airport, Leslie walked around holding the cat until she found a shop that sold a hard-shell carrier. For the final flight, it was necessary to buy a soft container. All told, it took three cat carriers to get Morsi from Cairo to Ridgway.

On Morsi's first day as a Colorado trailer cat, he curled up with the girls on the couch. Soon headless mice started to appear. The first time it snowed, I threw open the door and told Morsi to run as far as he wanted into the forest. He crept up to the powder, sniffed it, and went back to the couch. ♦

This article appears in the print edition of the May 7, 2018, issue, with the headline "Morsi the Cat."Peter Hessler joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2000.
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Royal celebration hall from Ramses II era discovered - Egypt Today
A royal celebrations hall dating back to the Ramses era was        discovered at Matareya district – Ministry of Antiquities Official        Facebook Page. A royal celebrations hall dating back to the Ramses era was discovered at Matareya district – Ministry of Antiquities Official Facebook Page.

Royal celebration hall from Ramses II era discovered

Mon, Apr. 30, 2018

CAIRO – 30 April 2018: An ancient royal celebration hall dating back to the era of Ramses II was discovered at Matareya district, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Saturday.

The Royal Celebration Hall was revealed during excavation work performed by the Ain Shams University archaeological mission headed by Mamdouh al-Damati.

"The Hall was unearthed below the soft-brick buildings and commercial residential areas that date back to the third transition period, particularly the 22nd and 23rd dynasties' eras," Damati recounted. The discovered hall has a rectangular floor of 2.9 m × 1.9 m, consisting of limestone tiles, rising 80 cm from the ground.

The discovered hall, which was used to hold royal celebrations such as the Jubilee feast, is considered the first of its kind in the New Kingdom era.

Damati explained that this discovery reveals that such celebrations took place in the Re Temple at this specific area. He added that the hall was discovered inside the palace used to host royal celebrations.


Damati elaborated that the mission members also unearthed a group of brick walls of a multi-story building, pointing out that it shows the three phases of construction dating back to the era of King Ramses II.

The discovered items include the main building, a layer of the third transition era and the late era, as well as the royal celebration hall.

The archaeological mission discovered a number of valuable artifacts, such as five stone blocks carved from the reign of King Ramses II, a painting of the high priests of the Sun Prince Nept Ma Raa, in addition to some pottery figures dating back to the 27th Dynasty, one of which was a small dog-shaped statue.

Damati recounted that a human amulet with a human head for a person named Thi from the Roman era is considered one of the most important pieces discovered.

"The lower part of a statue for a priest from the Ramses era was also unearthed during the digging work. It is made of alabaster, rising 20 centimeters off the ground, on a base of red porphyry stone," Damati described in a press statement issued by the Ministry of Antiquities on Saturday.

It is worth mentioning that two important exceptional discoveries occurred on Sunday, April 22: the discovery of a marble head of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Aswan and an Osirian temple in Luxor.


The head is of Emperor Aurelius with wavy hair and beard. The Roman emperor's head was described as rare, because in general, statues of Roman rulers are extremely scarce. The head is now located at the archaeological store; it will be subjected to restoration work and maintenance in the coming period. An Egyptian mission is currently working in Aswan to reduce the subterranean water level at Kom Ombo Temple, where the Marcus Aurelius head was discovered.

The Osirian temple was discovered at the southern side of Karnak Temples' tenth pylon. The temple contains architectural elements of a late-period shrine dedicated to the god Osiris-Ptah-Neb.

The temple, which was found in a good state, consists of an entrance, foundation remains, columns, inner walls and ruins of a third hall located at the eastern side. The Osirian temple also houses paving stones from the shrine floor, along with other extension structures built during ancient times.

The shrine is not located on the eastern or northern side of the Amun-Re temple according to ancient Egyptian belief, which makes this discovery a highly important one. The shrine was discovered on the southern side, indicating the accuracy of the Osirian belief at that time.

Also discovered were a collection of clay pots, remains of statues and a winged frame relief decorated with offering tables bearing a sheep and goose. The relief holds the names of the kings Taharka and Tanut Amun. These two highly important discoveries were made by the Egyptian archaeological missions in Upper Egypt.

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Egyptian Police Foil 8 Islamic Relics Smuggling Run to Lebanon | Al Bawaba

Egyptian Police Foil 8 Islamic Relics Smuggling Run to Lebanon

Published April 29th, 2018 - 17:00 GMT via

Visitors at the Islamic              Art Museum in downtown Cairo. (Khaled Desouki / AFP Photo)
Visitors at the Islamic Art Museum in downtown Cairo. (Khaled Desouki / AFP Photo)

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities received eight ancient Islamic artefacts that have been confiscated at Badr harbor last October.

The pieces, which were confiscated during a smuggling attempt to Lebanon, have been put on display in the Islamic Art museum in Bab Al-Khalq, Cairo, according to Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page.

Head of Central Administration of Archaeological Units in Ports Ahmed Al- Rawy said that the confiscated pieces include six ceramic artefacts that date back to to the nineteenth century, including a vase, a tea set and two metal punnets on which King Farouk's crest engraved.

Head of Antiquities department in Customs Mamdouh Abu Nar announced that he has formed a specialized committee tasked with receiving the pieces and placing them in the Islamic Art Museum till investigations are concluded.

Smuggling antiquities from Egypt has been a problem for a long time. In December 2017, Parliament's Culture and Media Committee approved a bill  intensifying the penalty for smuggling antiquities to life imprisonment and a fine up to LE 10 million ($560,100).

Egypt has retrieved smuggled antiquities from many countries. In March 2018, Egypt received a coffin lid from Kuwait after it was discovered inside of a sofa at Kuwait Airways cargo terminal. However, the problem of smuggling antiquities began much earlier in history. In April 2018, Egypt received remnants of a mummy that has been smuggled to the US in 1927.

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No one hurt, no artefacts damaged in scaffolding fire outside Grand Egyptian Museum: Ministry - Ancient Egypt - Heritage - Ahram Online,-no-artefacts-damaged-in-scaffolding-f.aspx

No one hurt, no artefacts damaged in scaffolding fire outside Grand Egyptian Museum: Ministry

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 29 Apr 2018
Ministry of Antquities and Army Engineering Authority top officials examine GED after fire (Photo: Ahram Online)
No one was harmed and no artefacts were damaged in the fire that engulfed part of the scaffolding outside the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau earlier on Sunday, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities told Ahram Online.

One hour after the fire broke out, the museum's fire station, with aid from Civilian Security fire trucks, succeeded in extinguishing the flames, Waziri said.

The Minister of Antiquities, the Governor of Cairo and the Head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority have visited the site to inspect the scene.

An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the blaze.

The GEM is currently under construction, with scaffolding positioned outside several buildings.

The museum is being built to house antiquities from ancient Egypt, including many items currently held at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

A partial opening is planned for later this year.

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Scotland Yard joins global crackdown on looted pharaonic antiquities | The Art Newspaper

Scotland Yard joins global crackdown on looted pharaonic antiquities

The initiative, which involves governments and the art world, will set up a public database of objects

Egyptian museum staff with a sarcophagus repatriated by the Israeli government in 2016 after discovering it had been looted MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

Scotland Yard is working with the British Museum and the governments of Egypt and Sudan to tackle the looting of pharaonic antiquities. The plan is to create a publicly available database of 80,000 objects that have been identified as having passed through the trade or have been in private collections since 1970, the year of the Unesco convention on cultural property. The scheme is being funded with a £1m grant from the British government's Cultural Protection Fund, administered by the British Council.

Although the presence of antiquities on the database will not mean that they are either clean or tainted, it will assist enforcement officers and police in tracking down provenance. The database will also include some objects that are known to have gone missing from Egypt or Sudan but still remain untraced. However, the fuller records of losses held by the antiquities authorities in Egypt and Sudan are treated as confidential; the two governments only release details selectively.

The project is being overseen by Neal Spencer, the British Museum's keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, who has seen "a serious increase in the illicit trade in pharaonic antiquities in recent years". He says the new database should "help flag up objects where there are issues". It will also be possible to identify suspicious patterns: "One might notice an increase in funerary material of the 25th dynasty from a particular site, and enforcement agencies would be very interested in that."

While Scotland Yard—the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police—is not directly involved in creating the database, it is giving advice and is one of the three key partners, along with Egypt's ministry of antiquities and Sudan's National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums.

At present, the available documentation is widely dispersed and not readily accessible or searchable. Many of the most important objects have passed through auction houses but their catalogues are only available online from the late 1990s. No libraries in Cairo or Khartoum have comprehensive collections of earlier paper catalogues. The major auctioneers—Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams—have agreed to provide data for the initiative. Antiquities dealers are also being approached to supply catalogues and possibly unpublished inventory material. Exhibition catalogues recording objects in private hands will be used as well.

The first tranche of data is due to go online at the end of this year, with the remainder expected to follow in 2019. Very minor objects, such as a single scarab or bead, will not be included. Eventually it is hoped to expand the database to include pre-1970 information.

Marcel Marée, the British Museum curator running the project, stresses that they "will not be proactively chasing criminals, which is the role of law enforcement agencies, but we will make the market more transparent".

The scheme will also help train Egyptian and Sudanese antiquities staff to deal with the international market and track down illicitly exported items. A dozen trainees are due to come to the British Museum, with the first group arriving in July. If the project proves a success, it could be used as a model for other parts of the world suffering from looting.

The "circulating artefacts" database, as it is known, will be searchable on the web without charge. Although its primary purpose is to help law enforcement, it should also prove to be an invaluable resource for scholars.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 1 May 2018
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