Touch Ancient History in Modern-Day Egypt: Spectacular Country Is a Vast, Open-Air Museum

By Waddell, Allan | Anglican Journal, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Touch Ancient History in Modern-Day Egypt: Spectacular Country Is a Vast, Open-Air Museum


Waddell, Allan, Anglican Journal


ONE OF THE great travel adventures foe many is Egypt, one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world and one of the few places where one can truly touch ancient history. Last year more than six million visitors made the journey, over 35,000 with Canadian passports.

Officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, it is tucked away in the northeast corner of the African continent and it is easily accessible from Canada. Its modern tourist infrastructure guarantees we can visit with Ramses II or Queen Nefertiti, or the infamous Cleopatra VII, in the same comfort and with the same tender loving care that they enjoyed.

Egypt's climate consists of only two seasons--no Fall colours here--winter lasts from November to March and summer from April to October. The winters are cool and mild, the January minimum and maximum temperatures varying between 11 and 18 C at the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. July in Cairo can average 29 C.

The north-flowing Nile River, at 6,600 kilometres, is the longest river in the world. Amazingly, it has no significant tributaries in Egypt. North of Cairo, the Nile Delta is 160 kilometres long and 240 kilometres wide. The Nile Valley and Delta, and numerous scattered oases support all of Egypt's agriculture and more than 99 per cent of its population. Not surprisingly, including the mega-city of Cairo with its population of 17 million, 47 per cent of Egypt's population live in the Delta,

Egypt is truly a vast, open-air museum, with recorded history stretching back to 3350 BC. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo houses the world's most valuable collection of its kind. It is unique in its presentation of the whole history of Egyptian civilization, especially the Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman periods. There are more than 100,000 items on display, 1,700 taken from the 1922 discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen, including the magnificent solid gold mask that covered the Pharaoh's head. (In contrast to the exciting King Tut find in 1922, the 4,500-year-old Pyramid of Cheops, the largest pyramid ever built, has never yielded the burial chamber of its famous resident. The final resting place of Pharaoh Cheops, who ruled From 2560 to 2532 BC, is still a mystery.) Don't miss the incredibly well-preserved mummy of Ramses II who reigned in the 13th century BC.

Egypt is also a destination where the ancient and the modern cross our path almost at every turn.

The state-of-the-art, five-star cruise ships glide effortlessly along the same river where familiar biblical history was enacted, then re-enacted with Charlton Heston in the title role. This is the river where a young mother hid her baby in the bulrushes so that he might escape the Pharaoh's murderous edict against Jewish male babies. Providentially rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, raised in the palace, and educated as a prince of Egypt, Moses was groomed by God to lead the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

The colossal, recumbent Sphinx at Giza and the amazing Temple of Karnak (described as "a great historical document in stone"), stand in stark contrast to the modern, welcoming, world-class hotels that make each touring day even more memorable.

The Aswan High Dam belongs in the 20th century. More than 110 metres high and with a crest length of 3,830 metres, it impounds the mighty 91-metre deep Lake Nasser, and yields enormous benefits to the economy of Egypt. …

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