Well, today is the last day of my trip. We are chillaxin and just going to the museum. This museum was built in 1902 and has over 120,000 items. During the 2011 revolution it was broken into and two mummies were reportedly destroyed. Alexei tells me there is a lot of great stuff there, but, that the building is getting old and there is a plan to build a new one. He says it is crowded, dark and just…old.
I thought it was perfect!
We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I am inserting pictures from Wikipedia.
There is a lot of stuff! We went into the display for King Tutankhamun and saw his gold mask and that was cool. But, I really felt an impact when I saw a statue of Akhenaten. I don’t have a picture of it, but, here is another one:
Akhenaten was originally named Amenhotep IV and ruled Egypt for about 17 years. He died around 1336 BC. For many years he was called the “Heretic Pharaoh” and was all but lost from history.
Akhenaten believed in Aten who he declared was a universal deity, the ALL-encompassing Creator, and the only God. The symbolic representation of Aten is a rayed solar disc, in which the rays are commonly depicted as ending in hands. A sort of “hieroglyphic footnote” that accompanied the symbol stated that the symbol was only “a representation of something that, by its very nature as some time – transcending creation, cannot be fully or adequately represented by any one part of that creation”.
Some modern historians say that Akhenaten was the original monotheistic ruler, appearing almost two centuries before the first archaeological and written evidence of Judaism and Israelite culture.
Some liken aspects of Akhenaten’s relationship with the Aten to the relationship of Jesus with God. Akhenaten referred to himself as the son of the sole god: “Thine only son that came forth from thy body”; “Thy son who came forth from thy limbs”; “thy child’, etc. He placed a heavy emphasis on the heavenly father and son relationship. This close relationship between father and son meant that only the king truly knew the heart of his father and that the father listened to his son’s prayers.
As you can imagine, the traditional priesthood did not like this. During his reign, Akhenaten embarked upon a wide scale erasure of the traditional god’s names. He shifted funding away from the traditional temples. Eventually, he moved the royal court out of Thebes/Luxor and into Armana, a new city he built for the Aten. The priests were not happy at all.
For many years people believed Akhenaten neglected Egypt’s foreign affairs in favor of his internal reforms. But the recent discovery of Armana in the 19th century by Flinders Petrie and the finding of the Armana corpus of 380 + letters showed that Akhenaten was, indeed, involved in the affairs of Egypt. He appears to have tended more toward diplomacy than war. That sounds good to me, but, I wonder how his Generals felt about it.
Akhenaten changed the style of art during his reign, encouraging a more naturalistic representation of life by adding a sense of action and movement. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaton’s’ family were shown taking part in naturalistic activities, caught in mid-action, and showing affection. By contrast, in the traditional art form, a pharaoh’s divine nature was expressed by repose, even immobility.
A lot of discussion continues with regard to Akhenaton’s physical appearance. I read some almost scornful comments that his body was effeminate and misshapen, so different from the athletic norm in the portrayal of pharaohs.
There have been discussions that he could have had various genetic abnormalities that would have caused the physical attributes of being taller than average, a long, thin face, long curved spider –like fingers, sunken chest, larger breasts, sagging stomach, thick thighs, spindly calves, etc.
There is also a discussion that the body-shape depicted relates to some form of religious symbolism because the god Aten was referred to as “the mother and father of all humankind”. It is suggested that Akhenaten was made to look androgynous in artwork as a symbol of the androgyny of the god; and, that the art would depict a symbolic gathering of all the attributes of a creator god with multiple life-giving functions. The bottom line is – we don’t know if he really looked this way or not, and if he did, why? If it was real, I think it is cool that he didn’t try to hide who he was.
Akhenaten’s primary wife was Nefertiti. He is also the father of Tutankhaten whose mother was Akhenaton’s biological sister.
When Akhenaten died he was briefly succeeded by two others that lasted only a couple of years each. Finally, he was succeeded by his son Tutankhaten who by that time had re-aligned with the priests and renamed himself Tutankhamun, the famous boy king. The capital was moved back to Thebes/Luxor. Eventually, King Horemheb tried to erase all traces of Atenism and the pharaohs associated with it which is why Akhenaten and Armana virtually disappeared until that 19th century discovery.
It reminds me of Hatshepsut and how you just cannot keep a good thing down. I felt a connection with Akhenaten and I liked reading his “Great Hymn to the Aten”. But I liked even more a couple of the attributes he ascribed to Aten on his monuments: “Thy beams of light embrace the lands… and thou bindest them with thy love.” I loved reading the book: Akhenaten – Dweller in Truth, by Naguib Mahfouz. I don’t know how much of that book is based upon truth or is fiction. For me, romanticism or just wishful thinking, I like to think of Akhenaten as the first monotheistic ruler who tried to live and rule in Light and Love.
Ahh, it’s the last night in Egypt. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and then walked around downtown Cairo visiting shops. We grabbed some ice cream cones and in the night headed back to our hotel. I walked through the busy nighttime traffic in Tahrir Square and as I reached Alexei on the other side of the street, I found him grinning at me.
“You are not even aware of how you nonchalantly, while eating ice cream, just meandered through that busy traffic as if you have been doing it all your life.”
“Hmm, I guess now I know how to ‘walk like an Egyptian’!”
I am going to stop this tale of my Mid -East trip now with one last picture of that first night in Tahrir Square when I began my trip. I am grateful I got to travel when I did and meet so many wonderful people. A lot of strife and struggle is still happening in the Mid – East and it is spreading, I know. This picture reminds me of the celebration and joy after the revolution; and the continued efforts to bring the Light of Love and Freedom into the dawn of a new tomorrow.
The end. 🙂