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Just Another Boring Classics Minor

Note: I originally wrote this post the week before Eid and going on the cruise. Since I wrote this, I’ve been a bit more adventurous…and also I went on a cruise. Post on that coming soon. I just had to publish other blogs first.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: my life in mid-October did not really include any other plans but wake up, make a breakfast of honey cinnamon toast, yogurt/fruit or leftovers from supper, dink around a little, get ready, go to school, attend classes, go home, grocery shop en route, eat lunch between 2 and 5 pm depending on the day, do homework or dink around on the Internet, perhaps make something for supper or heat up leftovers, go to bed. On days without 9 am class, I tend to take Brannon’s slackline and spend some dedicated time at the British Embassy Gardens before class. Yep. Boring. Let me assure you, though, dinking around usually centers around something productive intellectually. I either am in email communication with family or friends (which means writing missives), writing blog posts (writing long missives, as you’ve seen), watching YouTube (presidential debates, subscriptions), or reading webcomics or political articles.

So I got sick of being inside and in Roushdy two weekends ago, and I went out. Normally, in societies similar to the traditional, tightly knit patriarchy of Egypt, stories that begin with “she went out” end in trouble. Classic example: Dinah in Genesis 34:1…the story ends with a massacre of women, children, and recently circumcised men in retribution for a slight on a family’s honor. That’s trouble.

I went out, as any good Classically minded scholar, to visit a Roman monument, though the city was far more important before Rome captured Egypt. One long tram ride, a jaunt of a walk, and 35 LE later (I forgot to emphasize that I was a student, so I paid the full price…I rationalized the cost by considering the poverty of even official employees), I walked into the closed-off area. And found that my Arabic skills were useful yet again. A guard yelled to a Brazilian man (tan with black coarse hair and beard) in Arabic, assuming by appearances that the latter was no foreigner. Mr. Brazil, in return, was utterly confused. All the guard wanted to tell him was that he could go down some arena steps set up in front of the amphitheater, the position of which was confusing me…long story short Mr. Brazil chatted me up (I went by the name Brittany, which was a good choice) and his “brother” from Peru finally got annoyed with our historically-based chatter. I also ended up helping out two older ladies from Italy. I like this knowing basic Arabic stuff.

The amphitheater itself, as far as I could tell, was seriously nothing spectacular. This I don’t understand – under Roman rule, amphitheaters, bathhouses, and fora were the center of city life. Yet in a city where life flourished, all that remains is more or less a pile of rotting bricks and a tiny amphitheater and one semi-conserved villa. There are, of course, other monuments in the city that I have yet to see, but this was disappointing. Also, I find fault with the Polish/Egyptian archaeological mission, who are supposedly working this site, because there is little to no interpretive signage. Oh, excuse me. The Polish/Egyptian site has no signage; I was including the Italian-managed Villa of the Birds in my thought. There is one interpretive board in the Villa of the Birds. Still, pathetic. I can appreciate the walls, because my classwork informs my vision a little more than the average tourist.

Also, I should also mention I hold dwindling respect for the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. The recent head, Dr. Zahi Hawass, resigned roughly the same time as ex-president Hosni Mubarak. I respect that the SCA is responsible for working towards restricting antiquities on the black market (I don’t like the idea of profiting rich people as through proper antiquities buying auctions, but as a scholar, I prefer artifacts to retain associated information, like original location, when found, and information about its context). I do not respect an (purportedly) academic oversight council with significant ties to commercialism, prejudice, or any sort of regime. [Since the cruise, more respect for that very same Dr. Hawass and the SCA has dwindled even farther!] Another side note: I filed complaints in my journal in J term against the Italian archaeological mission’s handling of artifacts in Turkey, and I find the same complaints creeping through my head in Egypt. Why must I apparently find fault with handling of archaeological artifacts? I know I’m not super interested in spending my life correcting how artifacts are displayed or preserved. I just know that pollution is seriously melting stone and brickwork, and letting ignorant visitors rampage around artifacts seriously detracts from the artifacts’ current condition.

I won’t bore you wonderful readers with further description of what I found, except in the snippets of each picture. If you have questions, send me an email or leave a comment!

p1110877 Proof of who is supposedly working the site.

p1110885 Statue of Muhammad Ali (19th century figure) over undated (Roman?) walls in the site. I just liked the juxtaposition of histories.

p1110892 p1110908 Larger views of the area I visited. The left hand one is from the top of stairs I thought was the amphitheater until I saw how little weathering the benches and steps had. What are you going to do there, host a crowd to watch a play with the tiny amphitheater in the background? Unlikely…

p1110888 The two figures are the Italian ladies I helped. Honestly, this view is reminiscent of Ephesus’s main drag for me.

p1110892 p1110884 There you have it: the amphitheater. Where’s the full scena? The structure independent of a hill due to the Roman invented concrete? I think I’m missing something, or it really is that small.

p1110879 The Coptic presence in the city is obvious on a chunk of rock, perhaps a column capitol, through the etched Maltese cross.

p1110878 p1110880 Ah. These pillar bases are more Roman in design, featuring motifs similar to stereotypical Corinthian (the leafy, crazy, and busy) capitols. Also, the mosaic picture came from behind the pillars. Similar mosaics adorn the the space we now call a sidewalk in Ephesus, which functioned more like houses’ front yards.

p1110915 p1110894 p1110900 p1110906 Don’t you want this as your tub? Also, this is how artifacts are displayed. No interpretation.

p1110926 p1110923 p1110919 p1110918 p1110917 Images from the Villa of the Birds; the first one is the housing of the Villa, and the method of keeping people (like me) out unless you have the ticket. Also, I had to ask a guard to find me the woman with the key to open the door specifically for me, as I was the only visitor at that time with the tenacity to get the Villa opened. Arabic to the rescue once again!

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