Week 6: 10-16 February 2019
This week started quite different for us than usual. Instead of visiting a museum or seeing an archaeological site, we received an invitation for lunch from the Belgian Embassy in Cairo. The Counsellor of the Belgian Embassy, Mr. Ludo Rochette, who was also our host for the day, gave us an introduction to the history of the Belgian Embassy in Cairo and to its important role in the relationship between Belgium and Egypt. These few hours spent at the embassy gave us a perfect opportunity to ask many questions and to glance into the lives of diplomats and their everyday duties. The curiosity and interest were mutual from both sides, so it was our pleasure to answer many of the questions we received about our responsibilities as Egyptology students, but also as future scholars and archaeologists. After the diverse conversations, counsellor Rochette invited us at the restaurant Taboula where we enjoyed the tasty pleasures of traditional Egyptian cuisine. There we heard more about his different experiences during his long career as a diplomat throughout Africa and the Middle East.
The following day, early in the morning, we went to the mugamma, the administrative building where we needed to extend our visa’s. After all of us managed to survive the “chaos” of the administration, we rested our minds with an introductory lecture to the site of Dayr al-Barsha, by our professor Marleen De Meyer, who is also the co-director of the KU Leuven Dayr al-Barsha project. This site was the main cemetery of the governors ("nomarchs") of the 15th Upper Egyptian Nome during the Middle Kingdom. One of the most splendid finds is the tomb of Henu, a high-ranking official during the First Intermediate Period. Some of the objects in the burial chamber were a very rare wooden model of mud brick production, models of women making beer and pounding cereal, and a large boat model. This site is also known as the resting place of governors Djehutihotep and Djehutinakht IV or V.
The end of the Cairo Semester is slowly approaching and with that comes the deadline for our research papers, so on Tuesday and during the day on Wednesday all of us spent most of our time working on our papers and reading at the DAIK Library. Wednesday night was enlightened at the EES by Ramadan Hussein who gave a talk about the Saqqara Saite Tombs Project that was launched in March 2016 by the German Research Foundation.
The following day all of us gathered at NVIC to present and discuss the progress on our research papers. The day was finished by a lecture from Richard Redding from the University of Michigan, who spoke about the status and diet at Giza. In his research of the faunal remains at the workers’ town of Menkaure, he has been able to identify three different diets for the occupants of these areas and their social status. The analysis he presented also gave us a closer view of the everyday diet of the workers who constructed the pyramid.
On our only day off this week, some of us went to Giza again to explore more of the pyramids and the burial shafts that are sprinkled all over the plateau, while others decided to explore the bazaar district Khan el-Khalili in the historic center of Islamic Cairo.
On the last day of this week, early in the morning, we took the metro to Coptic Cairo. The train rides here are the same as the streets of Cairo, people trying to sell you different kinds of souvenirs and goods, while many are all together squeezed in the packed trains. To our relief, the train station where we got off was right next to the Coptic Museum, where we spent some time exploring the Christian art and architecture. Next we visited the Hanging Church dedicated to the Saint Virgin Mary, which is considered to be the oldest church in Egypt, and it lays on top of the walls of the Babylon Fortress. This site was a river port built in the Late period (664-525 BC) and was extensively used for trading many goods with the Levant and the Aegean. The site already had great strategic importance when in 112 AD the Roman Emperor Trajan built a stone harbour here, but its importance became even greater when Diocletian constructed a massive fortress in 300 AD.
We also walked over to the American Cemetery to see the grave of one of the most famous archaeologists, George Andrew Reisner, who died at Giza in 1942. Our last stop before we went back to Zamalek was the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization that possesses a small but diverse collection of objects coming from all periods of Egyptian history. When we finished our Coptic Cairo tour all of us got into the typical Egyptian white cabs and after a long rush hour ride arrived at Zamalek. We finished this week with the lecture of Pearce Paul Creasman from the University of Arizona about Maritime History and Archaeology.