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Monday, December 10, 2012

Fit for a King: Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

 By Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor

The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.

Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the "Sea Peoples" in a great battle.

He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called "Israel" (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.

Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact.

"This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi," said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.
Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king's mummy inside.

Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn't get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber's door jams and build new ones.

"I always like to wonder about the conversation that might have taken place between the tomb builders and the people from the quarry," said Brock in a presentation he gave recently at an Egyptology symposium in Toronto. "This study has shown a lot of interesting little human aspects about ancient Egypt [that] perhaps makes them look less godlike."

When he first examined fragments from Merneptah's tomb in the 1980s, they were "piled up in no particular order" in a side chamber. Even when put together, the fragments made up just one-third of the box, meaning researchers had to reconstruct the rest.

Brock's efforts got a boost with the launch of a full reconstruction project (affiliated with the Royal Ontario Museum) that started in March 2011.  (Merneptah's tomb has been recently re-opened to the public.)

The four sarcophagi

Not only was the pharaoh's outer sarcophagus huge but the fact that he used four of them, made of stone, is unusual. "Merneptah's unique in having been provided with four stone sarcophagi to enclose his mummified coffined remains," said Brock in his presentation. [The 10 Weirdest Ways We Deal With the Dead]
Within the outer sarcophagus was a second granite sarcophagus box with a cartouche-shaped oval lid that depicts Merneptah. Within that was a third sarcophagus that was taken out and reused in antiquity by another ruler named Psusennes I. Within this was a fourth sarcophagus, made of travertine (a form of limestone), that originally held the mummy of Merneptah.

Only a few fragments of this last box survive today; the mummy itself was reburied in antiquity after the tomb was robbed more than 3,000 years ago. It was after this robbery that the outer sarcophagus box, and the second box within it, were broken apart (the lids for both boxes being kept intact). They were destroyed not only for their parts but also to help get at the third box (that was reused by Psusennes).
Fire was used in breaking apart the outer sarcophagus box.

"Scorch marks, spalling [splinters] and circular cracking on various locations of the interior and exterior of the box attest to the use of fire to heat parts of the box, followed by rapid cooling with water to weaken the granite," writes Brock in his symposium abstract, adding that dolerite hammer stones also appear to have been used.

Why so big?
Why Merneptah built himself such a giant sarcophagus is unknown. Other pharaohs used multiple sarcophagi, although none, it appears, with an outer box as big as this.

Brock points out that Merneptah's father, Ramesses II, and grandfather, Seti I, both great builders, were apparently each buried in one travertine sarcophagus.

The decorations on Merneptah's different sarcophagi offer a clue as to why he built four of them. They contain illustrations "from two compositions that describe the sun god's journey at night, one is called the 'Book of Gates' and one is called the 'Amduat,'" Brock said. These books are divided into 12 sections, or "hours."

He notes that the same hours tend to be repeated on the box and lids of Merneptah's sarcophagi. One motif the king appears particularly fond of is the opening scenes of the "Book of Gates," including one depicting a realm that exists before the sun god enters the netherworld, according to Egyptologist Erik Hornung's book "The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife" (Cornell University Press, 1999, translation from German). "Upon his entry into the realm of the dead, the sun god is greeted not by individual deities but by the collective of the dead, who are designated the 'gods of the west’ and located in the western mountain range," Hornung writes.

For the king repeating scenes like this over and over may have been important, it’s "as though they're trying to enclose the [king's] body with these magical shells that have power of resurrection," Brock said.
The research was presented at a Toronto symposium that ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 and was organized by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities and the Royal Ontario Museum's Friends of Ancient Egypt.

 Taken from: http://www.livescience.com/25282-largest-egyptian-sarcophagus.html [10.12.2012]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ain Sukhna, Egypt

Ain Sukhna can be translated as "hot spring" and the name originates from sulfur springs in Gebal Ataqa, a nearby Eastern Desert mountain.

The closest form of paradise from Cairo, Ain Sukhna offers the pleasure of the red sea along with the convenience of being 120 km only away from Cairo. Ain Sukhna is like the infant red sea destination with the natural beauty of the sea along with the quietness and peacefulness of an undiscovered paradise.

Whether you are after a quick diving experience, the relaxing red sea water, the tanning Egyptian sun, or just a quick getaway that adds to your city break itinerary, Ain Sukhna is an easy choice.

Ain Sukhna  currently has over 10 hotels and 15 resorts and compounds, nightlife of bars and clubs, restaurants and cafeterias, golf courses, water sports at the hotels, safaris, as well as different interesting activities and games. 


Ain Sukhna offers you not only the amazing Red Sea beach; it also holds one of the oldest and largest monasteries in Egypt. The Monastery of Saint Anthony located in Eastern desert, some 50km from the Red Sea. Also another interesting monastery that should be visited is StPaul's Monastery located in the Eastern desert, a little way off the main road linking Hurghada to Suez. The monastery was built to celebrate the life of St Paul of Thebes, not be confused with St Paul the Apostle, who at age sixteen was Egypt’s youngest known hermit. There are four churches on the site including the cave church of St Paul at its center. It is there that St Paul’s remains are kept.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Conquering Kilimanjaro: Jeanne Gerber & Eugene Fourie

Congratulations to our clients, Jeanne Gerber & Eugene Fourie, who conquered the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro on the 28th of September 2012.

 You can do it as well...book now. Click Here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Aswan is the ancient city of Swenet, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swenet is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name. This goddess later was identified as Eileithyia by the Greeks and Lucina by the Romans during their occupation of Ancient Egypt because of the similar association of their goddesses with childbirth, and of which the import is "the opener". The ancient name of the city also is said to be derived from the Egyptian symbol for trade.[1]

Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenet was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to "open" or begin at Swenet.The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (and north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier.

The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and monolithal shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who wrought in these 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, four miles (6 km) in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae.

Swenet was equally important as a military station as that of a place of traffic. Under every dynasty it was a garrison town; and here tolls and customs were levied on all boats passing southwards and northwards. Around AD 330, the legion stationed here received a bishop from Alexandria; this later became the Coptic Diocese of Syene.[2] The city is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Herodotus,[3] Strabo,[4] Stephanus of Byzantium,[5] Ptolemy,[6] Pliny the Elder,[7] De architectura,[8] and it appears on the Antonine Itinerary.[9] It also is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Isaiah.[10]

The Nile is nearly 3,000 yards wide above Aswan. From this frontier town to the northern extremity of Egypt, the river flows for more than 750 miles (1,210 km) without bar or cataract. The voyage from Aswan to Alexandria usually took 21 to 28 days in favourable weather.


The High Dam is one of the modern monuments in Egypt that are definitely worth mentioning. The dam was built sometime between 1960 and 1971.
The technical ideas were Russian-Based. And it was mainly built to save the Egyptian lands from the drought and the flood of the River Nile. And thus provide Egypt with a wider range for Agriculture.

Interesting Fact: The material used in building the High Dam can be used to build 17 Great Pyramids like the Giza Pyramids.


It lies in the Granite Quarries in Aswan; the unfinished obelisk is 42 meters tall. Unfortunately while working on the obelisk, the stones cracked and this prevented the obelisk from being finished.

Interesting Fact: If it had been completed, it would have been the biggest obelisk in Ancient Egypt.


Doka Restaurant is located on a small island behind the Elephantine Island. It serves authentic Nubian food with an extra flavour of an amazing view to the Nile and the feluccas sailing along. 

Interesting Fact: Doka is ‘Dining Room’ in Nubian language. 


The Nubian village is on the Elephantine Island. It is home to many Nubian villagers who have been a role model in protecting their culture and heritage. You can visit Nubian homes; they offer tea and bread and some of the Nubians pet crocodiles that you can watch and take pictures of. You can walk around and shop from the small shops, or enjoy a camel ride around.

Interesting Fact: The first woman to lead an archaeological dig; Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, who was a French Egyptologist, saved 14 Nubian temples from the flooding caused by the Aswan Dam.


This is one of the famous visits you do not want to miss. You can reach the Botanical Island by either sailing in a local felucca or by taking a motor boat to the Eastern bank of the Nile. This island was used in 1899 by Lord Kitchener who made it his army’s headquarter, it was then known as the King’s Island. Then when he left, the land was given to the ministry of irrigation and since 1928 the ministry has worked on making it a natural inhabitant to different trees and plants from the 5 continents. 

Interesting Fact: The Botanical Garden has many rare palm trees that are not easily found elsewhere such as the royal palm tree, sabal palm tree, and the phonic pam tree. 

In the 1970’s the temple was relocated to preserve it from the flood of the Nile caused by the High Dam this operation was done by a joint cooperation between the Egyptian Government and the UNESCO. The temple was originally dedicated to the Goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris, and mother of Horus. Isis is a very important figure in the ancient world; she was perceived as the giver of life, the healer, the protector of kings.

The sound and light show is very interesting, try not to miss it if you go there.

Interesting Fact: The word ‘Philae’ in Greek or ‘Pilak’ in Ancient Egyptian means ‘The End’.


1. Suʻād Māhir (1966). Muhafazat Al Gumhuriya Al Arabiya Al Mutaheda wa Asaraha al baqiah fi al asr al islamim. Majlis al-Aʻlá lil-Shuʼūn al-Islāmīyah.
2. Dijkstra, J. Harm F. Religious Encounters on the Southern Egyptian Frontier in Late Antiquity (AD 298-642).
3.(ii. 30)
4.(ii. p. 133, xvii. p. 797, seq.)
5.(s. v.)
6.(vii. 5. § 15, viii. 15. § 15)
7.(ii. 73. s. 75, v. 10. s. 11, vi. 29. s. 34)
8.(book viii. ch ii. § 6)
9.(p. 164)
10.Ezekiel 29:10, 30:6; Isaiah 49:12

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Play of Colors: Mozambique Above the Clouds

Posted on http://www.wildjunket.com/ (September 4, 2012) by ‹ 

Getting to Bazaruto Island, Mozambique, was an experience on its own. Onboard a light aircraft, we flew over the spearmint blue water off the sparkling coast of Vilanculos, past hundreds of submerged atolls, to get to Indigo Bay. The sea was painted in striated strokes of beige and white, with subtle hints of sand dunes dancing beneath the water surface.
Tiny sailboats looked like little lego pieces lost in the vast sea of blue. Patchworks of islands were scattered throughout the sea and clusters of seaweeds sprinkled along the light beige seabed resembled polka dots on a table cloth. These sand formations were naturally created by the warm, southward-flowing Mozambique Current – but from above, they looked like the work of an artist.
Some say, the journey itself is often more important than the destination. In this case, I can’t agree more. Words don’t do the Mozambique coastline any justice – I’ll let Alberto’s photos do the talking. Enjoy the play of colors!

Sailboats lost in the sea of blue

 Reaching mainland Mozambique – where the waters off the coast are clear as glass

Disclaimer: Our trip to Mozambique was made possible by Indigo Bay (Rani Resorts) and Nicky Arthur PR, but as always, all opinions expressed above are our own.