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Week 1: 8–13 January

This year’s group of students is quite a diverse group: three students from Leuven, two from Harvard, one from Bologna and five from Leiden, but all of us share the same passion, being the culture of ancient Egypt. To be able to do so, we also have to be able to move around in present day Egypt and to describe in one word the first week of our Cairo semester is not difficult; it must be “introduction”.

Introduction to IFAO with Amr Bahgat

The week started with Coptic Christmas, so that was a day off and a good opportunity to get an introduction of present day Egyptian society in many aspects. For some of us it was the first time being in Egypt and even the ones who were more or less used to Egypt, had to adjust to Egypt again. The first taxi ride in rush hour through the centre was quite eventful, finding an apartment and supermarket were equally exiting and the first encounter with Egyptian food was also very interesting. The semester started with a very general introduction of the program and a tour around Cairo where we visited the Moqattam hills with an impressive, but hazy city view.

At the German Archaeological Institute with Isolde Lehnert and Dietrich Raue

The next days were spent with Arabic lessons and visits to a number of institutions. At DAIK, the German Archaeological Institute, a very nice and impressive villa alongside the Nile, we had a very interesting discussion on the bust of Nefertiti with the director, Dietrich Raue, followed by a coffee break. We also visited the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir square for an introduction to the database and restoration lab and to receive our museum assignment on which we have to work during the rest of the week.

At IFAO, which is housed in an impressive palace of the former royal family of Egypt, we had an extensive tour around the library, visited the C14 laboratory, the reconstruction laboratory, and the printing house, with its genuine and still working Heidelberg printing machines. One had to be careful not to get oil on one’s clothes by walking alongside all these huge machines.

In the IFAO library with Agnès Macquin (© Amr Bahgat)

On our day off some of us paid a visit to the Egyptian Museum to work on their assignment and afterwards had tea with cats at Tahrir square while others visited a hamam and just relaxed. On Saturday we had our first real site visit: Giza. We were shown around and had a very interesting encounter with Mark Lehner who talked about the pyramid of Khufu and the ramps and showed us the precise outlines of the outer casing of the pyramid. Then we got a tour of the rest of the site, including the tomb of Meresankh III, one of the best preserved tombs at Giza. In short, we had a marvellous first week.

At Giza, getting a masterclass in the construction of the Great Pyramid from Mark Lehner

Johan Oosting

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