Month: April 2017

Petra Treasury Revealed

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This first view of the great monuments at the Jordanian site of Petra was made even more famous than it already was among archaeologists by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

In the real world, but like the movie’s ‘Alexandretta’, after the Crusades, the Nabatean city of Petra was largely forgotten, except by the Bedouin, and only rediscovered by the west as late as 1812, when the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was first led through the canyon to the site (22 August 1812).

The Nabateans are something of a mystery themselves. It is likely that they were originally a nomadic people from the north-west of the Arabian Peninsula who took advantage of this spectacular geographical position in southern Jordan–astride a number of major trade routes–to found the city of Raqmu (later Hellenized as ‘Petra’ or ‘rock’) after 312 B.C..

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Islamic Treasures Return

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A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to the reopening of the Islamic Museum in Cairo.

For the past few years, the external appearance of the building has been a sad reminder of the bomb blast—targeting the police headquarters across the street—which shattered the windows, blew off some of the facade, and reduced some fragile exhibits to little more than powder.

Such was the power of the blast that I remember it rattling my windows in Ma’adi on the morning of January 24th, 2014.

The news reports and photographs in the following days were not encouraging, and it is a great testament to the restoration and conservation staff of the museum, the commitment of the Ministry of Antiquities, and the financial and technical support of the UAE, Italy, Germany, the United States and UNESCO that the museum has been able to reopen so relatively soon afterwards. (more…)

Chamas Villa, Heliopolis

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The modern district of Heliopolis was established in 1905, some 10 kilometers northeast of Cairo, by the Heliopolis Oasis Company led by the Belgian industrialist Baron Empain.
The new suburb developed its own architectural style combining Moorish revival, traditional Arab elements, Persian revival, and European neoclassical. (more…)

Abu Simbel Antiqued

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The story of the salvaging of the temples at Abu Simbel is well-known. To save the site from drowning under Lake Nasser—behind the Aswan Dam—the entire site was cut up into large blocks between 1964 and 1968 and reassembled at a spot 65 meters higher than the lake surface..

The Great Temple at Abu Simbel is a masterpiece of ancient engineering which probably took around 20 years to carve into the rock face, and was completed c. 1265 BC in the 24th regnal year of Rameses II. (more…)