Tag: Cairo

Nilometers Revisited

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(This is an expanded version of a previous post about nilometers. It will appear in the August 2017 edition of Egypt Today)

Nilometers were used in Egypt, particularly during the pharaonic, Roman and medieval periods, to measure the Nile’s water level during the annual summer flood.

Essentially, apart from such ritual functions they may have served in ancient Egypt, nilometers worked on the Goldilocks principle as far as the rulers of Egypt were concerned. If the water level in August–September was too high, the effects on the narrow band of fields either side of the river, and the surrounding infrastructure, would be devastating and there was no point sending out the tax collectors. If the water level was too low, the population would starve, and there was also no point sending out the tax collectors. If the water level was just right, a rich layer of alluvial silt would be deposited as the flood subsided, crops would grow, and off would go the tax collectors, no doubt singing merrily to themselves. (more…)

Roda Island Nilometer

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Nilometers were used in Egypt particularly during the pharaonic, Roman and medieval periods to measure the Nile’s water level during the annual summer flood.
Essentially, apart from any additional ritual function they had in ancient Egypt, nilometers worked on the Goldilocks principle as far as the rulers of Egypt were concerned. If the water level in August-September was too high, the effects on the narrow band of fields either side of the river, and the surrounding infrastructure, would be devastating and there was no point sending out tax collectors. If the water level was too low, the population would starve, and there was also no point sending out tax collectors. If the water level was just right, a rich layer of alluvial silt would be deposited as the flood subsided, crops would grow, and off would go the tax collectors, no doubt singing merrily to themselves.

(more…)

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…)

Cairo Inside Out

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All images from Cairo Inside Out (AUC Press)

As I remember it now, the first day I landed in Egypt to take up the role of Director of AUC Press, I was whisked off in the evening to celebrate the launch of a new book. Heavily jet lagged, much of that event is lost to me, but I do remember my impressions of walking into a curious little café on the corner of two very busy streets.

The dark wood of the furniture and walls contrasted harshly with the light and color outside, but, even though the walls on two sides were framed only in glass, somehow the noise coming from the streets was deadened, providing a little sanctuary from the assault on my weary senses. (more…)

Ibn Tulun Mosque

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The Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo

Ahmad Ibn Tulun (835-884) was the son of a Turkic slave and was raised at the Abbasid court in Samarra. Through both luck and talent, Ibn Tulun rose through the courtly ranks until, at the age of 33 (in 868), he was appointed governor of Egypt. His own military success and the growing weakness of the ‘Abbasid caliphs led Ibn Tulun to form an independent sub-kingdom consisting of Egypt, Palestine and Greater Syria in 880. (more…)

The Man Behind The Cat

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Gayer-Anderson (AUC Press)

One of the most beloved objects on display in the British Museum is a bronze figure representing the goddess Bastet. It stands 14cm high and takes the form of a seated cat with incised details, an inlaid silver sun-disc, a wedjat-eye pectoral ornament, and gold earrings and a nose ring. (more…)

Al-Ghuri Funerary Complex

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Al-Ghuri complex dome

In the pursuit of a bargain in the market outside, or on the way down to Bab Zuweila and the Street of the Tentmakers, it is quite possible to pass between the two halves of the Sultan al-Ghuri funerary complex—a stone’s throw away from the Khan al-Khalili—without a second thought. (more…)