ISSUE 22, July 2007
Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master : Address of the Pro Grand Master : Report of the Board of General Purposes
Historic: Architect to a King
Young Masons: Value of a warm welcome
Faith and Freemasonry: The twin supports
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
The Grand Secretary: Notes
   Travel: In the footsteps of the pharaohs
Inventor: Voice of the people
Human Rights Court Judgement: Landmark victory for Masons
International Conference: Masonic history unveiled
The Grand Chancellor: Special overseas role
Specialist Lodge: Prior Rahere and his legacy
Public Service: Serving the famous
Education: Events : Importance of the cable tow
Lbrary & Museum: Fraternal art
Masonic Charities: RMTGB : Grand Charity : RMBI : NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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© Andreas F. Voegelin, Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig


Natasha Blair

Top
The boy king Tutankhamun

Above
The inner sanctum of the temple at Edfu



Below
Painting from the Greek-Roman temple at Dendera

    A cruise down the Nile is one of those trips that most people contemplate at least once in their lifetime. It is particularly relevant now, with the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition opening at London’s O2 arena in November.
    We embarked on the MS RA11 at Luxor, one of 350 vessels moored on the Nile. The boat, which holds 136, has an Egyptian star rating which is equivalent to three stars in the UK. All are structured in the same way, with up to five visible floors including a sundeck.
    Our boat included what they described as a swimming pool, but which is more of a plunge pool. A bonus are the French doors in the cabins, rather than windows, and if you have a suite there is also a miniscule balcony which takes two chairs.
    The cruise took us from Luxor to Aswan with visits to various temples and tombs dating back to the New Kingdom, the time when Egypt became an empire in 1600 BC up until the Greek-Roman period of the 1st. century AD.
    When needed, a coach was always waiting to take us to a site. On several occasions, we also had a police escort.
    Following the massacre of 1997, there is always a strong police presence wherever you go. Our exploration of the Nile only started on the day after we arrived when we sailed north to Dendera. The Greek-Roman temple, discovered in the 19th century, is currently undergoing restoration to its ceiling to clean off the grime and soot, revealing pictures beneath.
    Having a good guide is particularly important to understand even a little of what the many carvings represent. We were particularly fortunate in having Salah Tawfik, who not only speaks excellent English, but as well as being a trained Egyptologist, is still continuing his research of the culture.
    The temples are usually divided into several areas, with the innermost sanctum being exclusively for the king or, in his absence, the high priest. The walls, adorned with carvings and hieroglyphics – often very colourful – are a pictorial representation of the order of services once held there.
    From Dendara, we sailed back to Luxor for our visit to the Valley of the Kings. The visits are generally well spread out so that, except for the odd day, there is usually time to relax and enjoy the experience of being on the water, as well as its unique scenery. Even with the desert so close, the area by the Nile is lush and green as it has been irrigated by the water from the river.
    Date and banana trees are interspaced with the occasional village, and even the odd cow can be seen grazing not too far from the water’s edge. My thoughts of retracing the path of Moses in the bull rushes was thwarted, however, as although we passed clumps of bull rushes, the area where this is purported to have happened, is apparently further down the Nile by the Delta.
    Although the royal families used to live in the Delta region, close to the Mediterranean, the Valley of the Kings was their burial place. To date, 62 tombs have been found. These include some belonging to noblemen. To preserve them, generally only 12 are open at any one time, with the entry ticket giving access to three, excluding that of Tutankhamun.
    To get into the latter, there is an additional payment, although it is one of the smallest and least decorated. Its notoriety is due to the fact that it was only discovered in 1922. Unlike the others, it was found intact, filled with 3,400 items, most of which are now in the Cairo Museum. A few, however, can be seen in the Luxor Museum.
    At the beginning of each temple or tomb, there is always a selection of small shops selling everything from clothing to ornaments, headwear and jewellery. Unfortunately, the vendors tend to pester you to the extent that it soon becomes very irritating. The bonus is that bartering is very much a way of life and so, if anything appeals, it is very often possible to buy it at a fraction of the asking price.


Natasha Blair


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