Annie at the Sphinx

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Days at sea, lecture on Egypt

May 19-20 Days at Sea
Linda and I dutifully went to the fitness center to work out both days. The first day we went to tea at the buffet but there were no cucumber sandwiches and scones, only sad sandwiches and bad pastry. I did like the meringue cookies. The next day we went to the “classic tea” in the Argo lounge. They had many long leaf teas available and made the tea bags to order. Delicious. The cookies and cakes were a bit better but the sandwiches the same yukky ones. There was a violin and piano duet that played delightfully.
We noticed a natty petite French fellow at dinner one night when he was wearing a pinkish red outfit. The next evening he wore a polo shirt with rainbows. He was hereafter referred to as “Rainbow.” The nightly entertainment was “Traditional and Modern Rhythm & Styles with singer Ian Fraser” and “Luc. . . in a Bubble Showcase,” The former was okay with lots of costumes but the stagehands overdid it with the smoke machine and the colored lights. The bubble guy would have been good for 10 minutes at a children’s party.
We also attended a lecture on Egypt given by the resident pundit, Matteo Martinelli. His English was difficult to understand. This is the gist of it:
Egypt was divided into three areas: Upper Egypt, the farmable land south of Cairo, the Delta which was Lower Egypt; and the desert between Cairo and Aswan. The Libyan Desert is west of the Nile, the Arabic Desert is east of the Nile, and the Sinai Peninsula was the Ancient or Asian Desert.
Kemet was the name of the ancient Egyptian civilization. The lecturer kept saying, “Egypt is a gift of the Nile.” The Nile was the reason for people being there. Steps measured the height of the Nile. The higher the water, the higher the taxes since the yield of the crops would be greater. 5500-3300 B.C. was the pre-dynastic period. The dead were buried in the fetal position in their homes. In 3300 B.C. Egypt was unified. Narmer ruled 3185-3125 B.C. The tablet of Narmer shows artwork in which he wore the white crown of Upper Egypt, the red crown of Lower Egypt, and put them together as one crown.
One symbol of the kings was the buffalo, which killed many people, thus representing cruel and oppressive power. Other symbols were the lion and the falcon. Dynasties followed without violence. If there was no male heir, a relative would marry the king’s daughter. The viziers were the prime ministers to the kings. They had many scribes and derived their power from being able to raise and document taxes. In the pictures of ancient Egypt, you can tell gender by skin color. Men were red and women were pale.
The first pyramid, the largest brick building, was built by Djoser in Saqqara necropolis, northwest of Memphis. It was a step pyramid of decreasing squares, 203 feet high and built in the 27th century B.C. designed by his vizier Imhotop. Imhotep was considered a superman: a prime minister, a doctor, a poet, an architect and builder, and a priest. He was a commoner who was regarded as the god of healing and building.
There was further experimentation with building pyramids. Huni, who ruled 2637-2613, built many small granite step pyramids. He made a 57 degree tilt. Some of them collapsed so they learned by trial and error.
Cheops Khufu, who ruled from 2589-2566, built the great pyramid at Giza. Until the Eifel tower was built, the pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world. Large pyramids were built for kings, with smaller ones for queens. There are 90 different kinds of pyramids.
The sphinx was carved out of rock and the face was modeled after the pharaoh Khafra who had it built during his rule (who ruled 2520-2494 B.C.) It has the body of a lion and the head of a man. It is 65 feet high, 20 feet wide, and 241 feet long.
The lecture prepared us for our tour of Egypt. We’re very excited about Egypt but saw in the International News that is published onboard that is was 106 degrees yesterday in Cairo. I finished my book, Everything under the Sun, a book set in 1923. It’s about a Spanish woman who lives in France who has to go to China to settle her husband’s business affairs. It had lots of adventure, great characters, and was set in Shanghai and Xi’an, places I’ve been.

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