Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Best of the Blog: 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

We’re celebrating our first year of the Smithsonian Journeys blog! We love traveling, but we love sharing our stories even more. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2009.

From all of us here at Smithsonian Journeys, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Self portrait: Petra  Photo by Richard Kurin

Self portrait: Petra Photo by Richard Kurin

Richard Kurin, Under Secretary of Art, History, and Culture here at the Smithsonian, blogged his entries from our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey around the World tour. Read his testimony that cultural diversity is alive and well in what seems like an increasingly globalized world.

A boy in Bhutan

A boy in Bhutan

Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys, has been around the world several times over. But traveling from the National Mall to Bhutan had a few surprises. People in Bhutan speak… English?

The tomb of Ramses II on the West Bank

The tomb of Ramses II on the West Bank

Senior Program Manager Jean Glock will never tire of traveling to Egypt, home of some of the greatest archaeological finds the world has ever known. Here’s why.

Mont -St-Michel sits dramatically off the coast of Normandy

Mont -St-Michel sits dramatically off the coast of Normandy

Explore Mont-St-Michel with Sadie McVicker, Education Manager, who beautifully illustrates walking through the gates of the abbey as strolling back in time.

Future Racer   Photo by Alyssa Bobst

Future Racer Photo by Alyssa Bobst

If you adore animals, you’ll love Alyssa Bobst’s personal experience with the dogs and mushers from the Iditarod in Alaska. As our Program Support Coordinator, she’s amazing juggling multiple projects. With 16 dogs on each team and 67 teams competing, she found her calling assisting mushers with their dogs as a volunteer right before the competition.

Our commitment to World Heritage sites is serious business, but traveling to them is so much fun. Here are some of our favorite sites from around the world.

Which World Heritage site will you visit in 2010?

Photo: What happened to the Sphinx’s nose?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
The mysterious Sphinx and the Great Pyramid

The mysterious Sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Khafre on the Giza Plateau, Egypt

Legends have passed over hundreds of years regarding the simple omission in this photograph of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khafre, part of the Giza Pyramid (or Great Pyramid) complex in Egypt. Where is the Sphinx’s nose? Many of us have heard the tale that a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s soldiers hit the nose and caused it to break off. Sketches of the Sphinx by the Dane Frederic Louis Norden were created in 1737 and published in 1755, well before the era of Napoleon. However, these drawings illustrate the Sphinx without a nose and clearly contradicts the legend. So what really happened?

The Egyptian Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote in the 15th century that the nose was actually destroyed by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr. In 1378 CE, Egyptian peasants made offerings to the Great Sphinx in the hope of controlling the flood cycle, which would result in a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion, Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism. Whether this is absolute fact is still debatable.

Have you seen the Sphinx up close? Share your story below.

How big is the Sphinx? See it in person on our Ancient Civilizations of the Red Sea  tour, featuring free air for a limited time.

My Journey Through Egypt

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Sheila Lyons is a Smithsonian Traveler from Southern California. Here, she shares her reflections on her recent travel to Egypt with Smithsonian Journeys.

A Smithsonian Traveler takes a camel ride in the Egyptian desert

The Egyptian Odyssey was the trip of a lifetime. It was clear to me that every aspect had been researched and developed thoroughly. Amal, our Egyptian guide, and Dr. Rhanda Baligh, our study leader, were incredible. Hassan, our Egyptian tour manager, had everything under control and coordinated side trips in our free time. I loved how we seamlessly moved from location to location.

We were a group of 17 which was nearly perfect. Having Amal and Randa travel with us the whole time was really a treat. They are both so personable and all around exceptional people.

Amal, our local guide, is a treasure. She added an unexpected pleasurable element to the tour. She is so bubbly and outgoing. I loved her way of describing all the sites. She has incredibly good English. Amal always seemed to time our stays at each site perfectly. Just enough lecture and just enough free time. She is worth every penny she is paid – in fact she deserves more!

Dr. Baligh’s lectures were very educational and insightful. She has excellent delivery skills that are both informative and entertaining. Randa is a lovely person and a delight to have along. She is obviously incredibly knowledgeable and I like that she is so familiar with the US that she can do comparisons and contrasts between the cultures of the US and Egypt.

Hassan is a terrific asset. He always made us feel safe. We knew we were in very capable hands. We were all aware of our security guard being present at all times but did not feel it was necessary.

The extra stops at the perfumery, rug makers, spice market, papyrus store, etc. were lovely. It was nice to have the chance to purchase locally made quality products. The Aswan Spice market was fabulous. Only a few of us made this side trip, but I think everyone would have enjoyed it! There is a lot crammed into each day, making me feel that I really got my money’s worth.

Where have you traveled most recently? Share below.

See Egypt for yourself. Click here for travel opportunities with Smithsonian Journeys.

Traveled recently and want to share your thoughts? Click to see more information about submitting your post  for publication on our blog.

Photo: Egypt's Luxor Temple

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Egypt's Luxor Temple on a spring evening. Photo: Leah Ibraheem

Egypt's Luxor Temple on a spring evening. Photo: Leah Ibraheem


Luxor Temple, located on the eastern bank of the Nile, was founded in 1400 BC in what was then the city of Thebes. The Temple was built largely by Egyptian Pharoahs Amenhotep III and Rameses II, though many later Pharoahs decorated, added, and changed it. Its purpose was to honor the gods Amun, Mut, and Chons, and Luxor Temple served as the principal location for the festival of Opet, when the Pharoah would be reunited with his ka, or divine essence. In this manner, the Pharoah was transformed from man to god.

Today, Egypt’s Luxor Temple is open to the public. Many visitors prefer to tour the grounds in the evening, when the temple is beautifully lit. The grounds have served many groups over the last 34 centuries and include a church as well as a mosque.  When you visit, be sure to check out the many smaller rooms behind the pylons at the front entrance, and don’t forget to take photos of your own!

What ancient site would you most like to visit in Egypt? Share below.

Check out Luxor for yourself on one of our journeys to Egypt.

World Heritage: Egypt’s Necropolis

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Necropolis is one of the most frequently visited locations in Egypt, encompassing the enigmatic Giza Pyramids and the massive Great Sphinx. While long recognized as ancient masterpieces, today people remain intrigued by the mystery surrounding the engineering, construction, and intended purposes of these structures.The Necropolis was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, but long before 1979, in Hellenistic times, Greek tourists listed its Great Pyramid of Giza as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Necropolis is the only one of these Seven Wonders still in existence.

One of the most unique aspects of the Great Pyramid of Giza is the precision of measurement involved in its construction. The base forms a nearly perfect square and is almost exactly level. When first completed, this pyramid stood nearly 50 stories high (481.4 ft.) and consisted of 2.3 million blocks with an average weight of 2.5 metric tons per block. Today, it still dominates the desert landscape despite the effects of age and erosion.

Similarly mysterious are the methods by which the ancient Egyptians built these colossal structures. Scholars consider two major theories that might describe how the Great Pyramids were constructed. One theory purports that the stone was taken from a quarry and transported to the pyramid site. Another theory suggests the blocks were manufactured on site from a type of “liquid limestone,”–more like concrete. Both theories agree on the necessity for a large workforce; it is believed that as many as 35,000 men and women were involved in the pyramids’ construction.

The pyramids’ significance is similarly unknown. The Great Pyramid has multiple inner passageways and chambers which might have been royal tombs. In addition, scholars believe the structures may have held astrological significance because the sides of all three of the Giza pyramids were astronomically oriented to north-south and east-west within a small fraction of a degree.

Memphis, its Necropolis, and the Pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur have been attracting travelers since Hellenistic times. Because of the immense size and durability of these structures, tourists can visit today and draw their own conclusions about the construction, use, and decline of the ancient Egyptian pyramids.

How do you think the pyramids were used? Share below.

Click here for information on visiting Egypt with Smithsonian Journeys.