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Week 2: 15-21 January 2017

After our first true taste of Ancient Egypt, a day full of classes was upon us. We had our last classes of Arabic, a preparation for our Delta trip and a seminar about Deir el-Barsha, the site where KU Leuven excavates, but that we unfortunately cannot visit.

Monday was the first day of our 3-day Delta trip. We had to get up early, since the bus ride to our first stop Tanis was very long and it even included a military escort. Finally we were in Tanis, known as the capital of the kings that ruled during the 21st and 22nd Dynasty of Egypt and famous for the silver coffins that were found there. The site was quite large and it contained the tomb of Psusennes I, which we were allowed to explore. It consisted of cramped spaces with few, but beautiful decorations. Some of us climbed a hill for an amazing view, while others tried to find other names but Ramses on the stone blocks in the area (not as easy as you think). Unfortunately the bus ride to Tanis took longer than expected, so we were not at Ismailia in time to visit the museum there. Therefore we could spend the whole day at Tanis and afterwards we headed straight to our hotel which was a blessing to some of us. The Mercure Hotel had the kind of luxury that we happily embraced; containing an open buffet, a quiet environment, good showers, and most importantly: beds with actual blankets!

On Tuesday we had to leave at 7:00 and we continued our bus ride in the direction of Alexandria. We made a stop at Rosetta, the find spot of the Rosetta stone which made translating hieroglyphs possible. There was a small museum called the Rashid Museum which we thought might tell us about its ancient Egyptian history, but the museum only briefly mentioned the Rosetta stone and focused more on the colonial and Ottoman period. Nevertheless, the interior of this museum was beautiful. After our group photo was taken by the security officers, we continued our journey to Alexandria. Eventually we arrived in Alexandria at 14:30 and the first site we visited was the Serapeum. It was time for the first site presentation, which was given by Juan. The Serapeum can be dated back to Ptolemaic and Roman times and was dedicated to the god Serapis. Our last site of the day was Kom el-Shoqafa, where we visited a large catacomb dating back to the 1st century AD. A part of it was submerged and it contained an interesting mix of Egyptian and Greco-Roman art style. In the evening we arrived at the Semiramis Hotel which was the complete opposite of our previous hotel. Everything was very outdated, brown water came out of the showers and the toilets were really peculiar, but at least the view from the hotel was nice.

We spent our last day of the trip in Alexandria as well. The first site of the day was Kom el-Dikka. This is a Roman site with an amphitheater, lecture halls and bathing houses. Our next stop was the Citadel of Qaitbay; a fortress built in the 15th century which had a great view on the Alexandrian bay. Before, we had been told that the Egyptians consider us as the antiquities. At the fortress we got a real taste of that, since we were ambushed and followed multiple times by some schoolkids who wanted to take our picture. Luckily they were eventually told off by the staff, so we could truly admire the view from the fortress. Lastly we visited the Alexandrian library which contained a small antiquities museum, and we got a tour through the library. A lot of us found some nice souvenirs at the gift shop before we went back to Cairo.

It was Saqqara-day on Saturday! First we went to the complex of Djoser known mostly for its Step Pyramid. On our way to the pyramid of Unas we saw the pyramids of Dahshur in the distance, which made for an amazing view. Once at the pyramid of Unas it was Nina’s turn to give a site presentation. She told us about the texts that were found there, including the notorious Cannibal Hymn and serpent spells. When we went inside we were in awe of the beautiful texts that were written on the walls. The pyramid was made even more spectacular when they turned off the lights, due to a recent discovery about reliefs beneath the texts that can only be seen when raking light is cast upon the wall from a certain angle. After the pyramid of Unas we went to the tombs of Maya and Meryt, whose statues are part of the famous collection of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. The tomb next to it belonged to Horemheb, dating from the time before he was king. For the Dutch students it was a great experience because we had learned a lot about them during our studies in Leiden, since Leiden University was involved in their excavation. Our next stop was the tomb of Mereruka, who was a vizier during the time of Teti. His tomb was beautifully decorated with all sorts of interesting scenes. Following that we went to the Serapeum of Saqqara, where the next site presentation was given by Maarten. It was an imposing structure with large granite sarcophagi meant for the Apis bull. On the way back we saw some puppies, which also got a lot of our attention.

And so another great week ended. We look forward to next week in which we will visit Meidum and Lahun and at the end of that week we will fly to Luxor. The adventure continues!

Marlijn Monteban, Emma de Looij, Jolieke van 't Hoff

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