Monday, June 30, 2014

Tourism Ministry to hold cultural carnivals “Ramadan Zaman” during Ramadan

CAIRO: On the occasion of Ramadan, the Ministry of Tourism will hold “Ramadan Zaman”, a series of religious and cultural festivals and carnivals on El-Mo’iz Street in the heart of Islamic Cairo, Youm7 reported Friday.

“Ramadan Zaman” or a traditional Ramadan festival is set to be held every evening throughout the holy month, head of the Historic Cairo Restoration Project (HCRP), Mohamed Abdel Aziz, told Youm7.

“The festival is to revive the traditional rituals and memories of the holy month, boost Egypt’s tourism and to increase public awareness of the significance of Egypt’s heritage,” said Abdel Aziz, who added that admission to all the events is free.

The Wust El-Balad soft rock band, the folk group at the American University in Cairo, Reda folkloric troupe, a tanoura show, Sufi dance and religious chanting groups are to partake in the event, said Abdel Aziz.

On the sideline of the festival, a fine arts exhibition along with daily art workshops for children and a book fair will be held, he added.
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Back Home: Egypt recovers 24 smuggled artefacts from Germany

Smuggled artefacts probably came from a site close to Luxor

Twenty-four ancient Egyptian artefacts are due to come home on Friday after years in the hands of a private collector in Germany.

The collection includes of small fragments of clay statues, coloured beads and sections of engraved stone.

Minister of Antiquities and Heritage Mamdouh El-Damati told Ahram Online that these objects are from different ancient Egyptian eras and were stolen and smuggled out of the country.

He explained that the objects were offered three months ago to the Museum of Leipzig University in Germany. But, when its owner failed to provide the museum’s board with the required documents that approve his possession, the museum’s board decided to return the objects to Egypt in concern that they had been taken out of the country illegally.

Ali Ahmed, director of the ministry’s antiquities recovery department, said that after initial study, ministry experts had concluded that the objects were probably stolen from the Malkata area west of Luxor.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cairo Attractions (2): Giza Plateau " home of the last standing wonder "

When Khufu, perhaps better known by his Greek name, Cheops, became king of Egypt after the death of Sneferu, there was no convenient space remaining at Dahshur, where Sneferu was buried, for Khufu's own pyramid complex. Hence, he moved his court and residence farther north, where his prospectors had located a commanding rock cliff, overlooking present day Giza, appropriate for a towering pyramid. This rock cliff was in the northernmost part of the first Lower Egyptian nome, Ineb-hedj ("the white fortress").

Giza is located only a few kilometers south of Cairo, several hundred meters from the last houses in the southernmost part of the city proper, where a limestone cliff rises abruptly from the other side of a sandy desert plateau. The ancient Egyptians called this place imentet, "The West" or kher neter, "the necropolis of Giza According to a treatise on the geology of the pyramid plateau by Thomas Aigner, it is part of the Middle Eocene Mokattam Formation, which dips slightly southeast, comprising limestone and dolomites. To the south, the Mokattam and dolomitic limestones are overlain by the marly limestone and sandy marls of the Upper Eocene Maadi Formation. To the north and east, the Mokattam Formation is characterized by two steep escarpments about 30 meters (92 feet) high. It continues to the Great Sphinx ditch, which must at one time have formed a high peak. From there, the stonemasons cut the core blocks for the Great Pyramid

The older pyramids of the third and early fourth dynasty were built on thick layers of marl and slate. These marl layers were easier to dig than limestone, so excavation of the large shafts that extended as much as 30 meters beneath the step pyramids was accomplished in a reasonable time. However, there was also a serious disadvantage, because the marl layers could not support their weight. The underlayer gave way, and the construction became unstable. This in fact happened with the South Pyramid at Dahshur, where cracks and serious damage appeared in the corridor system and in the chambers so that the pyramid had to be abandoned.

Hence, when Khufu planned his own ambitious pyramid, he was looking for a solid rock base, nearby quarries and a dominating position overlooking the Nile Valley, which he of course found at Giza.

Giza can be subdivided into two groupings of monuments, clearly defined and separated by a wadi. The larger grouping consists of the three "Great" pyramids of Khufu, Khephren (Khafre), and Menkaure, the Sphinx, attendant temples and outbuildings, and the private mastabas of the nobility.

The second grouping, located on the ridge to the southeast, contains a number of private tombs of citizens of various classes. While the majority of the monuments of the larger grouping are made from limestone that was quarried and transported to the site, the tombs of the smaller grouping are simply carved out of the native living rock.

Though the three Great Pyramids are the most famous and prominent monuments at Giza, the site has actually been a Necropolis almost since the beginning of Pharaonic Egypt. A tomb just on the outskirts of the Giza site dates from the reign of the First Dynasty Pharaoh Wadj (Djet), and jar sealings discovered in a tomb in the southern part of Giza mention the Second Dynasty Pharaoh Ninetjer. But it was the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) who placed Giza forever at the heart of funerary devotion, a city of the dead that dwarfed the cities of the living nearby. In order to build his complex, he had to clear away many of the old tombs, filling in their shafts or even totally destroying them. His pyramid, the largest of all the pyramids in Egypt (though it should be noted that it surpasses the Red Pyramid at Dahshur built by his father Snefru by only ten meters), dominates the sandy plain.

On its southwest diagonal is the pyramid of his son, Khephren (Chephren, Khafre). Although it is smaller, a steeper angle results in the illusion that they are the same size. In fact, Kephren's pyramid
appears taller since it is on higher ground. The notion that this was done on purpose to out-do his father is without question. As it occupies the central point, has the illusion of greater size, and still has some of its casing stones intact, it is frequently mistaken to as the Great Pyramid, something that would no doubt please Khephren were he alive today.

Further along the southwest diagonal is the smallest of the three great pyramids, that of Khephren's son, Menkaure. It is also the most unusual. First of all, it is not entirely limestone. The uppermost portions are brick, much like the several Pyramids at Dahshur, though separated from them by several centuries. One theory is that Menkaure died before his pyramid could be completed, and the remaining construction was hastily done to finish it in time for the burial. It is also not along the diagonal line that runs through the Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid, but instead is nearly a hundred meters to the southeast. This error, if error it is, is of a magnitude not in keeping with the mathematical skill known to have been possessed by the ancient Egyptians. However, an idea has emerged in the last few years that the three large pyramids of Giza are actually meant to be in an alignment resembling that of the three "belt" stars in the constellation Orion: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. This theory is largely discounted by the majority of Egyptologists, but some do believe it is a point to ponder. Actually, it should also be noted that, while the center of the pyramid does not line up with its larger counterparts, the southeast sides of all three pyramids are in alignment.

All three pyramids stand empty, probably plundered during the political unrest that ended the Old Kingdom when the monarchy collapsed. Yet there are the occasional surprises. Airtight pits along the southern and eastern walls of Khufu's pyramid contain boats (not small ritual boats, but fully-functional funerary barges with 40-ton displacements. One was excavated in 1954).

Exactly how big Giza is may never be known. Excavations have continued to find new tombs and artifacts since Bezoni, Caviglia, Perring, and Vyse began the first systematic study of Giza in the early 1800s. It has been explored and excavated more thoroughly than any other site in Egypt, possibly more than any other site in the world, yet no one believes the research is anywhere near complete today.

Throughout the Old Kingdom, the cemetery of Giza remained the most prominent, even when the kings moved again to Southern Saqqara. For example, important officials such as the architects of the 'inti family, who constructed the pyramids of the 5th and 6th Dynasties, continued to live in the pyramid town of Khufu and had their family tombs at Giza.

During the First Intermediate Period, the pyramid town of Khufu and the cemetery of Giza were both abandoned, and they remained so during the Middle Kingdom. In fact, the pyramids were forcefully opened and plundered, and the private tombs were not ignored by thieves either. The causeways and temples were in fact even used as quarries by the architects of the kings of the 12th Dynasty.

Giza Plateau contains:
* Giza Pyramids: Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafre), Menkaure
* Giza Tombs: The Cemeteries of Giza
* Eastern Necropolis: Khufukhaf, Mastaba of Idu, Mastaba of Meresankh III, Mastaba of Qar
* Western Necropolis: Shaft Tomb of Queen Hetepheres
* The Great Sphinx
* workers Village
Source: tour Egypt

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Egypt: The Holy month of Ramadan … traditions & culture

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days widely used in the Islamic world. Ramadan falls 10 days earlier every solar year. According to Islamic history, it is the month when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

During the 29-30 days of Ramadan, Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset. It is one of five pillars upon which Islam is based. It usually witnesses a notable increase in religious observance among Muslims worldwide.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt is always special in its very traditional way. You wait for the Lunar confirmation that next day is first day of Ramadan, then you hear the Taraweeh Prayer calls in all mosques. 

A few hours later, the first Sohour (last meal you can eat till the sunset of the next day) begins, with a special guy (we call him “Messaharati”) banging on a drum in the streets calling for Sohour to each and every person in his neighborhood, especially kids.  Small confession: I used to make him call me by my nickname. Just imagine it, it’s 3.00 AM in the morning and a man is drumming your name, one of the coolest things ever!

Ramadan in Cairo means the very special Egyptian Ramadan lantern called “Fanous” in all forms: big glassy ones hanged over big buildings, restaurants, entertainment ventures; numerous plastic ones of all shapes with children, and thousands of paper lantern hanged over threads all over streets, plus houses and mosques decorated with many small colorful lamps. You’ll see them in the video.

Taraweeh prayer is an occasion where extended families can meet, if they live close to each other, to pray in the same mosque; neighbors socialize, children play, and friends can be made. 

Inviting people over for Iftar is a very popular custom in Egypt. True, it ends up as a competition between women of the family for who cooks better, but still it is usually a good chance to meet cousins you hardly see, nephews and nieces you know nothing about, and  old family members.

Zakat is very much respected and practiced during Ramadan, and there’s a well-known custom called “Ma’edat Al-Rahman” There’s no English translation for the words, but they are close to “The Merciful’s Table” where someone gets a tent with tables and chairs and starts distributing food and drinks for those who can’t afford their Iftar; this is mostly done in what are called “Ramadan-Tents.”

And since feeding someone Iftar is much appreciated in Islam, you find people, minutes before Maghreb prayer (the beginning of Iftar) – walking the streets and handing out grapes and water to people walking and those driving home… such a very nice scene.
Source Eman Hashim / Photo courtesy to Wikipedia

R a m a d a n   in   E g y p t
Copyrights for the Ministry of Tourism
We apologize their is no English subtitle

Very interesting article, you should read: By Ask Aladdin