When I visited Luxor last summer I arranged to have a hot air balloon tour of the city. As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world's greatest open-air museum”, since the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city on the east bank of the Nile. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Hot air balloons are a special treat, required to happen in the early morning since they depend on hot air to rise. Because these experiences begin in darkness followed by twilight and the early dawn, it is as if the city is revealed like the raising of a curtain in the theater, revealing its charms in a quiet succession of rose and gold. When available, balloon adventures are the perfect introduction to a new locale.
The Corniche is a waterfront promenade in Alexandria Egypt, running along the Eastern Harbor. It is one of the major corridors for traffic in Alexandria. The western end starts by the Citadel of Qaitbay, built in place of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It runs for over ten miles and ends by the Montaza Palace. Downtown Alexandria's wide waterfront road is as much a symbol of the city as any of its monuments. It's here that you get a real feel for the era of cosmopolitan elegance and decadence that marked this city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of the architecture from this era still stands along the Corniche, though these days, much of it is heavily dilapidated and falling into disrepair. Despite appearances however, ocean front property is as valuable here as it is elsewhere in the world and it is along this promenade that Egypt has lavished large amounts of capital.
At the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, they had a retrospective exhibition of the prominent Egyptian sculpter Ahmed Abdel-Wahab (born in 1932) and I thought I would share. Abdel-Wahab is an eminent figure among contemporary Egyptian sculptors. He devoted his artistic experience in pursuit of a contemporary character to be the model of a pure Egyptian sculpture. The character of Akhenaton attracted his attention with its contemplative noble features and firm piety Abdel-Wahab epitomized Akhenaton in different forms, in which he maintained the essence of contemplation and human piety. He created large and small-scale sculptures, as well as a relief sculpture with extensive attention to ornamentation. He also created rhythmical sculpture compounds in which he linked the triangular andrhombus-shaped masses together by colorful lines. The artist also resorted to abbreviating the details to emphasize the mass and achieve dramatic shadowy projections, which emphasize the idea of holiness and mysticism. In creating these pieces of art, the artist used many materials, like pottery, stone, and polyester withmetal. He was awarded the State Merit Award for art in 2002.
The famous burning of the Library of Alexandria, including the incalculable loss of ancient works, has become a symbol of the irretrievable loss of public knowledge. Although there is a mythology of “the burning of the Library at Alexandria”, the library may have suffered several fires or acts of destruction of varying degrees over many years. The Bibliotecha Alexandrina in Egypt is a tribute to the original Library of Alexandria lost in antiquity. The library has books in Arabic, English, and French. It is the largest repository of French books in the Arab world, and has an Espresso Book Machine, which offers print on demand books. There is also an internet archive. The Library of Alexandria was reborn in October 2002 to reclaim the mantle of its ancient namesake. It is not just an extraordinarily beautiful building; it is also a vast complex where the arts, history, philosophy, and science come together. Moreover, the many activities it offers have made it a place for open discussion, dialogue, and understanding.
When I was in Egypt last summer I visited the Temple of Isis from Philae and I, like many others before me, was fascinated by the hieroglyphs on the walls. Early hieroglyphics date back as far as 3,300 BCE, and continued to be used up until the end of the fourth century CE, when non-Christian temples were closed and their monumental use was no longer necessary. Hieroglyphs are a complicated business and my intention is to interpret just a few hieroglyphs to give an idea of how it is accomplished. Many ancient Egyptian symbols were used as amulets of protection, or they were used to bring good fortune. Many of the same ancient Egyptian symbols were also used in religious and magical rituals for the living and also for the dead. Hieroglyphs were based on everyday objects along the Nile river which may not be as familiar to us today. As the famous Jean-François Champollion, the man who deciphered the Rosetta stone, commented; “It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word”.
Since this is a food site, I thought it would be appropriate to write on cutlery or table utensils. As the country of origin of chopsticks, China was the first country in the world to use chopsticks (and forks) and has a history of at least 5,000 years of using eating utensils. Chopsticks play an important role in Chinese food culture. Chopsticks are called “Kuai zi” in Chinese and were called “Zhu” in ancient times. Chopsticks seem quite simple with only two small and thin sticks, but they are in possession of many functions, such as picking, moving, nipping, mixing and digging. Anyone using chopsticks would without exception admire the inventor of chopsticks although westerners might wonder if he was only trying to torment them. No one knows how they originated, but there is a myth that about 3000 BC two poor Chinese farmers stole a chicken from a storehouse. They hid out in a forest and cooked it over an open fire. They were so hungry that they could not wait for the meat to cool and pulled off the done portions with a pair of sticks so that they would not be burned. From their humble beginning as twigs or small branches, Chinese chopsticks (kuai zi) evolved into the modern square cross section with blunt ends and tapered length.