Posts Tagged ‘women’

A Feminine Perspective of Ancient Egypt

Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Smithsonian traveler enjoys one of many special experiences in Egypt.

A Smithsonian traveler enjoys one of many special experiences in Egypt.

There are many rites of passage for women that only women can truly understand.  Throughout history, and around the world, the female experience has often been misrepresented and misunderstood. That’s one of the many reasons we have our Egyptian Odyssey for Women Only.

What’s notable about Ancient Egypt was that women received equal standing in land ownership and had legal rights. There were several female pharaohs or acting regents including the most well-known—Queen Hatshepsut—as well as the lesser known Nimaethap and Sobeknefru. These women were sometimes wives, mothers, or sisters of male pharaohs who could not fully rule – sometimes due to their young age, but also for other reasons.

Being a woman in Ancient Egypt often involved the identity and role of mother in the family and community. Life expectancy was only 40 years, so most women married and started families in their teens. With the dangers pregnancy and childbirth, as well as diseases and infections, there were many risks for women and their young children. With little medical knowledge, mothers would keep statues of Bastet—the cat goddess of fertility—and wear amulets with the Eye of Horus, who warded off evil spirits, close by in the hopes that their families would be safe.

The average family would have five or six children, who nursed until age three. Wealthy families might hire wet nurses for these purposes, but most mothers carried their babies in slings while going about their normal chores and responsibilities. When these children grew up, it was expected they would care for their mothers to show their devotion and appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices the mothers made for children.

Do you think there is a big difference between being a woman today and being one in Ancient Egypt?

Explore the realm of womanhood, both modern and ancient, as you explore archaeological sites, speak with women living in modern Egypt, and take in the beauty of the fertile Nile River on our Egyptian Odyssey for Women Only.

Japan’s Tradition of Make-Up

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
A Traditional Geisha in Japan   Photo by Tracey Taylor

A traditional geisha in Japan. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The beauty and grace of Japan’s geishas are among many reasons visitors travel to certain parts of the Japan, such as Kyoto. The geisha tradition gained prominence in the mid-18th century, as women worked as skilled entertainers after seeing the success of male performers. Their talents included dancing, singing, playing music, and even creating poetry and artistic calligraphy.

While well-known for thir exquisite clothing, one of the most notable identifiers of a geisha is her immaculate make-up. The application of this makeup is time-consuming, detailed, and specific, and is an extra effort for apprentice geishas who are required to wear it while in public. For the first three years, the young maiko wear their make-up almost constantly.

The make-up of an apprentice geisha include three notable features – the thick, white foundation, red lips, and red and black highlights around the eyes. The white foundation originally included lead, but when it was discovered how toxic it was, the ingredient was changed to rice powder.

The white foundation covers the face completely except for two notable areas – the hairline, which gives the illusion of a mask, and the nape of the neck, which is designed in a traditional W shape, highlighting and accentuating the area, which is considered alluring. Then the eyes are outlined, originally using charcoal. Today modern eyeliner is used, but maiko still add red around the eyes to show their youthful status.

The woman’s red lips are filled in using a small brush with crystallized sugar added to the color to add texture. The rank of the geisha can easily be identified by looking at her lips. First year maiko only have their lower lip filled with color. Only a full-fledged geisha may have her lips fully colored red. It rare to see the lips filled in western-style as it would make the lips look unusually large; the intent is to give the illusion of a flower bud.

After a maiko has worked for three years, her make-up becomes more subdued because now she has matured to a point where her natural beauty can be seen. After the age of thirty, geisha wear the traditional make up only for formal events or special performances.

Which kind of make-up would you never forget to put in your luggage? Share below.

Appreciate the cosmetic efforts and performance skills of geisha in person on our Eternal Japan tour. International airfare included!

Trivia Fun: Undercover Operations

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Which one of these influential women was also a spy?

Which one of these important women had another, more secret job? Guess away and we’ll post the answers on March 31, to cap Women’s History Month.

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Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Our book of the week this week is by Mary Morris, novelist and author of the marvelous travelogue, Nothing to Declare. Morris has compiled a new expert anthology, Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers, chronicling three hundred years of women traveling around the globe. Morris observing that, “women move through the world differently than men.”  Selected essays describe exotic locales, dangerous situations, and drug addiction, as well as the varied customs, cultures, and people that can be found in the travels of these amazing women. With contributions by such literary lionesses as Margaret Mead, Willa Cather, and Mary Wollstonecraft, to name a few, this pleasurable collection is a who’s who of female letters.

Click here to learn more about this book.