Tuesday, August 28, 2018

New Discovery, Alexandria: Archaeological Inspection Unearths A Partial Ptolemaic Necropolis in Alexandria

Ptolemaic rock-hewn tombs uncovered in Alexandria's western cemetery. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An Egyptian archaeological mission discovered a Ptolemaic necropolis in Alexandria’s western cemetery while carrying out a preliminary archaeological inspection before erecting an iron gate around a workshop at the Gabal Al-Zaytoun railway station in Alexandria.

Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the ministry has allocated money for an excavation and to uncover the remaining part of the cemetery. 

He added that the mission found a collection of rock-hewn tombs with stairs leading to a small hall that may had been used as a resting area for visitors, as well as another open court surrounded by burial recesses.

Aymen Ashmawi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, said that the mission also unearthed a collection of lamps decorated with animal scenes and a cistern for funerary rituals, along with a number of clay and glass pots. A collection of skeletons and human bones were also uncovered.

“Early studies show that this necropolis had been used across several historical periods and that it was dedicated to impoverished citizens,” Ashmawi explains. He added that some of the tombs featured coloured and decorated layers of plaster, while other parts were coloured less.

Regretfully the tombs are in very poor condition due to a lack of conservation during the British colonial period when the railways were constructed, as well as the deterioration suffered as a result of the military invasion in World War II.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

News, Cairo: Egypt’s Mena House Among ‘World’s Greatest Places to Stay’


The end of the summer vacation may be just around the corner, but it is never too late to make this year more memorable, as TIME magazine revealed its list of2018’s World’s Greatest Places.

In its list of best places to stay in the world, Cairo’s iconic Marriot Mena House was included, next to other breathtaking places such as the Hotel de Crillon in Paris and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel in the Maldives. “Hotels often boast of sea or city views,” TIME said on its website.

The end of the summer vacation may be just around the corner, but it is never too late to make this year more memorable, as TIME magazine revealed its list of 2018’s World’s Greatest Places.

In its list of best places to stay in the world, Cairo’s iconic Marriot Mena House was included, next to other breathtaking places such as the Hotel de Crillon in Paris and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel in the Maldives. “Hotels often boast of sea or city views,” TIME said on its website.

“But this one overlooks a Wonder of the World: the Great Pyramid of Giza.” Indeed, the view of its magical palm trees next to the enchanting pyramids attracted many famous visitors like Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill.

The hotel’s strategic location also hosted Australian troops during both World War I and World War II, and the first peace settlement talks between Egypt and Israel in 1977 (which led to the Camp David Agreement).

Originally built as a hunting lodge, the hotel has undergone many renovations over the past few years, with the latest one just completed this February. It now offers 331 suites, four dining areas, an 18-hole golf course, 40 acres of gardens and a spa.

Other Arab destinations were also included in TIME’s list to visit, including Abu Dhabi’s Louvre, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia and Morocco’s 14th century Al-Qaraqiyyin Library in Fez. To create the list, TIME asked for nominations from editors, correspondents and industry experts around the world, and then evaluated each destination based on quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

News: White Desert National Park Becomes Egypt’s First Park to Join UNESCO World Heritage List

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) regional office in Cairo said on Saturday that the White Desert National Park in the New Valley governorate would become the first Egyptian geological park to join UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The White Desert became a natural park in 2002, with a total size of around 3010 Km. The park is located 570 km away from south-west of Cairo and 45 km away from the Farafra Oasis.

Professor of Geology at faculty of science in Alexandria University Manal Fawzi stated that the national park was selected along with two tourist sites from Egypt, with Lebanon and Kuwait also submitting requests.

The credential papers are to be submitted to UNESCO in October of this year.

The park contains rare caves, remains of old mummies and carved inscriptions, sand dunes, geological compositions of limestone rocks, rare plants and animals such as the Rhim gazelle, Fennec fox, and Barbary sheep.

Director of the Regional Authority for activation of tourism in the New Valley governorate Khaled Hassan said that Trip Advisor website, specialized at Tourism and Travel affairs, selected the park on top of the best 20 tourist sites worldwide, urging the government to move domestic airplanes from the park to Luxor and Hurghada to increase tourism.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

News: Winding Through Egypt’s White Desert

Beyond the Pharaohs’ tombs, Egypt’s oldest and most alluring secrets lay in its extraordinary geology.

At 3am, Egypt’s desert landscape glows a dazzling, almost luminescent white. Under a full moon, a crazy cluster of chalk outcrops scattered throughout the White Desert National Park reflect the lunar glow so brightly that it seems as if dawn has awoken our Bedouin campsite early. Australia has many magnificent desert vistas, but this surreal vision has no peer.

The desert has its grip on Egyptians. It’s more than just a geographical truth; at least 90 per cent of Egypt is classified as desert. It’s not even due to the insidious creep of the golden Sahara sand, which infiltrates its way to the streets of Cairo. Rather, it’s the solitude of the big open spaces west of the Nile that prove so seductive. Such splendid isolation is a welcome antidote to the cluttered chaos of a heaving city that accommodates up to 30 million people on any working day. Strangely, only an hour away from Cairo’s choked streets, where at least six lanes of traffic are forever trying to squeeze through three lanes of bitumised highway, there is not another person to be seen among the sand and rock stretching to the western horizon.

To enjoy the best taste of this, our 4WD safari veered off the highway onto sand running through the White Desert, about 570km west of Cairo and deep in the belly of the eastern Sahara. Classified as a national park in 2002, this area is startlingly remote. 

Covering about 3000 square kilometres and located 45 kilometres north of the 2000-person oasis town of Farafra, the national park is at the eastern fringe of a desert that covers 2.8 million square kilometres across northern Africa.

It’s easy to be mesmerised by the brilliance of bleached chalk formations that were once an ancient seabed, whose floor is now etched into a clean, white wave pattern by the billowing Sahara sands. The scouring becomes more dramatic as we near our evening camp spot before sunset, encircled by contorted chalk outcrops. Imagination starts to run wild – one looks like a chicken, another like a fox – but these white chalk inselbergs are from the cretaceous period, 60 million years ago, when a shallow sea covered this bedrock of limestone. Now, after a long history of erosion, fossilised shells are evident in the windswept chalk beds.

Our guide, 42-year-old Helal Selim of Cairo, recalls when campsites would be dotted every 300 metres through the White Desert – before the revolution that unseated President Mubarak in 2011, which subsequently saw tourism take a catastrophic dive. Now, we are the only overnight campers within eyesight.

Because of the erratic nature of tourist bookings, Helal has commenced other businesses and doesn’t guide often, but says the desert remains his favourite place. 

Similarly, our driver, 38-year-old Maher of Bawiti township, has hosted desert tourism treks for 15 years, but recently started working at a roadhouse to ensure a wage. These are hard times for desert folk, yet our journey still begins and ends with expansive meals in Maher’s modest mud brick home, in the reception room. He is unfailingly polite, hospitable and generous.

This doesn’t mean he won’t drive like a demon across the dunes. To reach our overnight destination, we pass through the Black Desert, its eroded mountains coating golden sand with flecks of volcanic dolerite and ironstone, and the Crystal Mountain, with coarse outcrops of crystal tinted in every imaginable colour. Occasional depressions in the landscape sprout outcrops of green. Oases such as Ain Khalfa abound with date palms, while a trough captures water constantly bubbling from a natural spring. More than 100 such artesian fountains are dotted across this region.

The big attraction is the chalk formations and as we wander to explore them at sunset, a feast is prepared over an open fire – ful (Egypt’s famed fava bean stew) and grilled chicken marinated in zaatar, teamed with salads of tabbouleh and feta with tomato and cucumber.

It attracts the interest of desert wildlife. A timid desert fox draws near in the darkness, looking more like an anxious bilby than the snappy European foxes. Our leftover food is left a distance away from the campsite, which the foxes nibble at quietly through the night. Other creatures can also be observed in the vacant expanse – falcons in the sky, a herd of feral camels in the distance.

There is no need for a tent; that would be too restrictive, our guides insist, robbing us of the luxury of such a big night sky. Instead, an elaborate fabric printed with brilliantly coloured geometric swirls is placed as a windbreak beside the Land Cruiser. A vivid quilt of woven rags becomes our groundsheet, and the sand makes a comfortable mattress that absorbs our forms.

We are most fortunate, says Helal, because there is a full moon and no wind. The giant orb sits as a big bright light in the night sky – so bright that moonlight reflecting off the surrounding limestone rouses me long before dawn. For a long time I just sit and stare, amazed to experience complete stillness and peace, and understanding why Egyptians hold this desert so dear to their hearts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

News, Assiut: Minister of Antiquities Inspects Meir Necropolis and El-Muharraq Monastery in Assiut


The minister of antiquities visited several historic sites in Assiut on Saturday, allocating EGP 300,000 as a preliminary budget to start excavation work at Meir necropolis, and became  the first minister to visit the ancient El-Muharraq monastery. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

During an inspection tour of several archaeological sites in the governorate, the Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany gave the go-ahead to begin a comprehensive plan to restore the Meir tombs, located 12km west of El-Qussiya town, and to develop the site to be more tourist-friendly and provide more services to visitors.

The necropolis consists of a collection of 15 rock-hewn tombs, which were unearthed last century by British Egyptologist Aylward Blackman. Only nine are open to visitors.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the tombs date back to the Old and Middle Kingdoms, from the sixth to the twelfth Dynasties, and include tombs of priest and rulers of the fourteenth Nome, or regional division, of Egypt at that time.

He explains that the tombs contain unusual painted scenes, characterised by their naturalistic qualities. Many of them shows highly detailed scenes of daily life, including industry, cultivation and sports, with a distinct local style.

Among the most distinguished is the one belongs to Ni-Ankh-Hpepy who was the chancellor of sixth dynasty King Pepi I. The tomb is painted with scenes depicting offerings of cattle, birds, and food, as well as fishing scenes. The tomb of Senbi, a nomarch (provincial governor) and overseer of priests during the reign of twelfth dynasty King Amenemhat I, has many offering, agricultural and manufacturing scenes. 

El-Enany also visited El-Muharraq monastery, noted for the important role it played during the visit of the holy family to Egypt. The monastery was the final place on their journey.

Waziri told Ahram Online that to commemorate El-Enany’s visit, as he is the first minister of antiquities to visit the monastery, the monastery’s abbot, Bishop Bigol, and the monastery’s board of directors, reproduced a replica of an icon depicting the Holy Family’s journey to Egypt, and offered it to the minister. 

The visit included a tour around the monastery’s old and new churches and its fortress. 

The minister also met with Bishop Bigol to discuss several archaeological matters and to solve any problems. Waziri said that Bishop Bigol highlighted the successful cooperation between the ministry and the monastery.

El-Muharraq monastery was built on the Qosqam mount in the fourth century AD. The monastery has three churches, the oldest of which is the Church of the Virgin, which was built on the site of a cave where the holy family spent six months and ten days during their flight to Egypt.