Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Land of the Pharaohs..

Like many from my generation, Egypt was much more to me than Geography or History lessons..amongst the other civilizations that we studied about, this land always managed to come out of the pages and live its story in front of us. The intrigue all the more deepened on reading and later viewing the famous "Death on the Nile". The pictures of the Pharaohs, The myths and legends of the land, The eternal river Nile and the supreme Pyramids were all impressions that left me wanting to someday reach out to this land... to see for myself the wonders man is capable of creating.

Egypt, when I finally reached its shores proved beyond all my expectations. The place is soaked in ageless history, The main city of Cairo, the present day capital is a confluence of modern and ancient architecture, an amalgamation of cultures that have conquered and lived in this country and left footprints for posterity. The Coptic churches, the Roman Towers, and also the Persian Citadel stand tall and majestic along with the bustling modern day city life and chaotic traffic of Cairo.

As I travelled to the various temples on the shores of the Nile, the legends came to life, The pharaohs and their Gods, the High priests and the common people, the sacred offerings made to the Gods filled me to the brim with their timelessness. The carvings on the walls seemed to speak out the tales of a time which was full of romance and mystery. Out of the many stories that are prevelant.. the one that touched me the most was the story of Osaris and his sister-wife Isis. The great and powerful Osaris was treacherously killed by his brother Seth and his body cut into pieces and scattered all over Egypt. Isis hunted down each piece and rekindled the spark of life into Osaris' body long enough for it to impregnate her with Horus to continue the great line of Gods. Isis became the God of love and magic, which actually sums up to motherhood, Osaris became the God of afterlife.

Nearly two and a half thousand years have passed since Alexander the great conquered Egypt, yet images from the myths of that ancient civilization continue to surface, In the 1970s Bob Dylan composed a song on the Goddess Isis, the eternal mother. The US dollar depicts an eye and pyramid - Masonic borrowings from ancient Egypt- and numerous Egyptian companies use names, faces and cartouches from the old mythology to promote their product and services. The monuments and myths of Egypt have since long crossed its shores and spread out all over the world as very well known and accepted figurines.

The land is not just mythical it has a history of powerful rulers and dynasties. Rulers who have crafted out monuments that have stood the test of time like none other. Simple and strong designs, intricate craftsmanship, logical and methodical thought process have gone into creating the temples and the pyramids. The legend of the female Pharaoh Hashteshput is remarkable as a citing of equality of gender in the ancient Egyptians. She ruled the nation for more than 15 years fought battles and defeated crusaders, the temple built by her along the Nile in the city of Luxor tells the tale of this great warrior queen who was later succeeded by her son Thutmose III. Her tomb is in the valley of kings along with the other Pharaohs of the land and not in the valley of the queens which was the usual burial destination for the queens of Egypt. Another pharaoh who knocked at my heart strings was Akhenaten, within five years of his rule, this pharaoh radically simplified the polyesthetic religion of the land and replaced the multitude of deities, with one sole God, Aten. The object of his worship was the bright light of the sun, rather than the sun itself. Akhenaten was a mystic and a poet whose love sonnets to his beautiful wife Nefertiti are still recorded in hieroglyphics. Their importance is much more pronounced as Akhenaten is followed by Tutankhamun(his son in law) on the throne. The most powerful and intriguing image of Egypt, Tutankhamun and his mask of gold... The child Pharaoh who died before the age of 18.

Tutankhamun and his golden mask symbolize Egypt for many, but the facts tell another story, Tutankhamun was a pharaoh, but not the greatest, as he lived and ruled for a very short period, but his story is tender and young, his tomb, discovered very late is full of treasures that tell a story of young love and beauty, of ornaments and jewels, beds and thrones of gold, there are small coffins or tabouths as they are called, inside the tomb of Tutankhamun which show the probability of many still born heirs of this child King.

Ramases II was the self proclaimed ruler of the lower and upper Egypt, the most powerful and the most popular of kings. His staues and temples form the basis of the new Kingdom, he conquered beyond the boundaries of Egypt.He ruled Egypt for more than 66 years. The temple of Abu Simbel is dedicated to him..he stopped just short of announcing his divinity.

Egypt cannot be complete without the mention of Cleopatra. The diplomatic and beautiful queen who came to the court of the 54 year old Julius Caeser rolled in a carpet, The love of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is equally linked to Egyptian history as it is to the Roman history, their asociation and romance around the city of Alexandria is a tale of passion and deciet, of careless neglect and lavish splendor. This last queen of Egypt commited suicide immediatly after the death of Mark Antony on 12th August 30 BC. No one knew for certain how she died. They only found small pricks on her arm. Some say she brought an asp to her chambers, smuggled in a cart carrying figs... her body was never found.

Beyond the kings and Queens, Beyond the pyramids, ageless and tranquil, neither rain fed nor born from any glacier flows the Nile... The beauty of its colour and the depth of its floor is vast enough to hold all the treasures of all the pharaonic burial chambers, the mystery of the land is washed clean by its waters and the golden sun arising from its shore each day blesses the pharaohs of the ancient times. Just as the Sphinx guards the pyramids, the Nile guards this ancient land and brings the softness of the queens to the land of powerful pharaohs.