Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

You Can Smell the Heat of History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

You Can Smell the Heat of History

Article excerpt

Egypt is awe-inspiring. Bequeathed an astounding legacy of history by the Pharaoh kings, it boasts archaeological treasures of jaw-dropping beauty and size.

When it comes to having the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, few sights rival the first glimpse of the three Pyramids at Giza - the first being the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing.

Our Egyptian guide and fellow Pink Floyd fan, Ahmed Kasem, knew exactly how to make the moment one that I shall never forget.

With Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond ringing out in our coach, Ahmed recalled how 100,000 men toiled for 30 years to build the Great Pyramid of the Pharaoh Cheops, 4,500 years ago.

Then, through the tops of Cairo's mass of shops and apartment blocks, we caught sight of them, shimmering in the midday sun like mystical mirages.

"Man fears time, yet time fears the pyramids," cried Ahmed at their sight, repeating the centuries-old Arab proverb.

The three pyramids, built with enough stone to construct a 10ft wall around France, were indeed a magical sight.

Inside, the main shaft leading to the burial chamber of King Khufu was so narrow, steep and claustrophobic it was clear why entry had been limited to 150 either side of noon, but the experience was easily worth the effort.

One wonders what treasures still remain undiscovered, such is the awesome scale of the place.

We were given a clue to the possibilities at the Egyptian Museum, a short distance away on the banks of the River Nile, where Tutankhamun's priceless treasures were laid out in all their dazzling glory, surrounded by countless other pharaonic relics.

We found ourselves running round the museum as closing time approached, trying to feast our eyes on as many of the treasurers as possible.

The visit helped make sense of the Valley of the Kings and the colossal temples of Hatchepsut, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philae we had already visited as part of our eight-day trip with Panorama Holidays.

Few places in the world provoke more debate among archaeologists and historians than Egypt and the country has once again been thrust into the limelight after claims that the mummy of Queen Nefertiti has been identified in a hidden cell within the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep II. …

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