Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, Urban Legends about a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers

Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, Urban Legends about a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers

Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, Urban Legends about a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers

Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, Urban Legends about a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers

Synopsis

Living in Egypt at the turn of the millennium, cultural anthropologist L. L. Wynn was struck by the juxtapositions of Western, Gulf Arab, and Egyptian viewpoints she encountered. For some, Egypt is the land of mummies and pharaohs. For others, it is a vortex of decadence, where nightlife promises a chance to salivate over belly dancers and maybe even glimpse a movie star. Offering a new approach to ethnography,Pyramids and Nightclubsexamines cross-cultural encounters to bring to light the counterintuitive ways in which Egypt is defined.

Guiding readers on an armchair journey that introduces us to Russian and Australian belly dancers on Nile cruise ships, Egyptian rumors about an Arab prince and his royal entourage, Saudi girls looking for a less restrictive dating scene, and other visitors to this "antique" land, Wynn uses the lens of travel and tourism to depict a fascinating and often surprising version of Egypt, while exploring the concept of stereotype itself. Tracing the history of Western and Arab fascination with Egypt through spurious hunts for lost civilizations and the new economic disparities brought about by the oil industry,Pyramids and Nightclubsultimately describes the ways in which moments of cultural contact, driven by tourism and labor migration, become eye-opening opportunities for defining self and other.

Excerpt

Imagine two Egypts. the first is a mystical, antique land. a vast shimmering desert is bisected by a narrow strip of lush green running from south to north. Along the fringes of the fertile Nile Valley lie the ruins of ancient civilizations, more than five millennia old, whose pyramids and temples and tombs have been preserved through the centuries by the sand and the dry desert climate. Secret passages have been found in the pyramids, low crawling passageways that open out onto hidden inner chambers with empty sarcophagi. Ancient avenues are guarded by sphinxes and obelisks, sunbeams frozen in stone. Towering granite statues of long-dead kings and queens preside over vast, echoing halls of temples in the south. You can walk through these ruins, dwarfed by huge columns carved with lotus flowers, your heels echoing on the stone floor, and imagine that they were the palaces of a long-extinct race of magician-giants. These ancients had sophisticated astronomical knowledge and built their monuments to align with the sun and the stars on solstices and equinoxes.

The land of Egypt today is peopled by the descendents of these pharaohs. the ruins are best toured in the winter, but if you have to come in the summer, you go to bed early and rise with the sun so you can visit the monuments in the morning, before the blinding sun reflected off the glassy desert sand makes your eyes ache from squinting and you wilt in the intense afternoon heat. the evening is reserved for trips to the Khan el-Khalili, the maze-like bazaar where you can buy gold and silver pendants with your name worked in hieroglyphs, or you can haggle with shopkeepers over souvenirs made by local artisans such as mother-of-pearl inlaid boxes, alabaster vases, or delicate hand-blown glass bottles containing fragrant oils that the shopkeepers will tell you are the same scents that perfumed the bodies of Nefertiti and Cleopatra.

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