Egypt: Africa’s beacon of great antiquities

The famous cathedral of Notre Dame in France was gutted by fire recently and it became a trending headline on social media, television and radio stations.

The tremors were felt in Africa with many African governments not only sending messages of condolence but also contributing money to build the cathedral.

 

It is not a surprise that stories like these from the West get more attention in Africa than even more extreme events in Africa.

 

But in this situation, it is simple to understand why the whole world seemed to be grieving. The cathedral is one of the famous ancient establishments that France and Europe have.

 

They had preserved the relics of this monument for hundreds of years that millions of tourists visited France just to explore and learn about it.

There are quite a number of similar establishments in Africa. Some of these great historical establishments are found in Egypt, what the Arabs call Misr.

Egypt is renowned for its precious and priceless treasures. From the famous Great Giza Pyramid to the iconic Saladin Citadel and to the unique relics of the country found at the Egyptian museum.

I was in Egypt following how the post events of the Cathedral of Notre Dame unfolded but I want to be honest that the business I am focused on right now is exploration of Misr. My tour took  me to the three places I have mentioned above.

Let me start with the Great Pyramid of Giza. You probably have heard about this famous story of the pyramids. For those who haven’t, there are three pyramids located at Giza plateau in Cairo city.

Three of Giza’s famed pyramids and their elaborate burial complexes were built during a frenetic period of construction, from roughly 2550 to 2490 B.C. The pyramids were built by Pharaohs Khufu (tallest), Khafre (background), and Menkaure (front).

The pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs (the ancient political and religious leaders of Egypt). Unfortunately we didn’t enter inside the pyramid given the limited amount of time we had.

Our tour guide told us that the oldest and the largest of the three pyramids, the Pyramid of Khufu or Pyramid of Cheops took about 20 years to build and it is comprised of more than 2.3 million bricks.

The author dons a Arabic headscarf on his way to the pyramids.

In front of the Khafre pyramid sits the Great Sphinx of Giza, commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx. It is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.

When you look closer, the nose of the Sphinx was destroyed.

Many Egyptian people and historians will tell you that the nose was destroyed by French soldiers under the command of Napoleaon Bonaparte during his campaign between 1798–1801 to defend France’s trade interests in Egypt and Syria.

It is said that Bonaparte ordered his soldiers to destroy the pyramids and the Sphinx was used by his troops for cannon target practice making the nose break off. Those efforts were unfruitful, according to the guide who was with us on the tour.

However, Western historians including French writers have been trying to portray this as a myth and instead promoting a contradicting fact that the nose was destroyed well before Bonaparte came to Egypt, something many Egyptians quickly refute.

If you think about it for a moment, you are compelled to believe that should serve as a lesson to Africans to preserve historical treasures and not to allow anyone else to destroy them.

The Saladin Citadel of Cairo is a medieval Islamic fortification in Cairo and is famous for its fresh breeze and grand views of the city. 

That is what others are doing better than Africa. It is easier to believe that the Cathedral of Notre Dame survived many threats including one of the world wars than it is otherwise.

Well, for a fact, Egyptians were great, well-skilled builders, and they still are.

Scientists today still can’t be sure how these pyramids were built. They were constructed some 4,500 years ago.

For Egyptians, they like to believe it was the pyramids that built Egypt, rather than the other way.

Anyway, away from the pyramids, one is able to visit other architectural world treasures in Cairo. I visited the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities located just on the north side of Tahrir Square where Egyptians staged the demonstrations that led to the 2011 Egyptian revolution and the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Here you are able to explore the great antiquities of Egypt and learn the history of dynasties. I was particularly able to see the statuette of King Cheops, who built the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

The statuette was found in Abydos in 1903. When the statuette was excavated, three weeks elapsed between the discovery of the head and the body.

One thing stands out, most statues, the coffins, the chairs, beds, and other precious items housed at the museum were made out of gold or silver. Until now Egypt is still home to some of the world’s largest gold reserves.

Egypt’s gold reserves were at $2.84 billion by the end of February 2019 according to the Central Bank of Egypt.

There is a feeling you get after visiting the museum that makes you believe that Egypt is the epicentre of leadership. There were little over 30 pharaonic dynasties and all have incredible stories, stories of resilience of the leaders.

The same week of my exploration took me to the Saladin of Citadel, also known as Cairo Citadel. Back in time, over 800 years ago, the tale of this iconic medieval Islamic monument still lives on.

Saladin commenced the building of his monument in 1176. After his war in the crusades, Saladin was victorious and managed to take some of his enemies as captives of war, and he would later use them to help build the Citadel.

One of the most known buildings here is the mosque of Muhammad Ali which we were told took about 30 years to build. On a single Friday, a day on which Muslims hold their prayers, it can accommodate more than 2,000 people.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

 

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