Monday, 22 September 2008

"The Robber Artist" by Suzette Hartwell

Driven by greed an ancient Egyptian robber stealthily entered a dark tomb one night, all the while fearful of the King's ba flying out of the coffin to confront him with his awful deed. Having made it inside undetected he relaxed momentarily, until the flaming stick he held highlighted the King’s stern face painted onto the wall, his one all-seeing eye staring back, watching him.

The flickering flame served only to enhance the other uncompromising images of the gods on the wall. Although he had painted these very images during the day as a tomb artist and thought them quite serene, by night and in the deathly silence they appeared to be sinister. In his fright, he tripped over a golden casket and called upon favoured god for help, not sensing the irony in his request.

Unaware the heartbeat he could hear was his own, panic now overtook him. How different it had been a few hours earlier when he had drank several bowls of his porridge-like beer, his confidence swelling along with his belly.

Despite the fear, the lure of golden rewards and unfathomable wealth urged him closer to the body where a golden inlaid pectoral lay within a hands grasp. He lunged toward the mummy, intending to at least take the pectoral as his own. As he seized this precious ornament a loud groan emitted from the walls and filled the chamber.

He was sure now that the King was alive in the room and out for vengeance. The groaning ceiling collapsed in seconds above him, pressing his screaming face into whom he had served in life and cheated in death.

Here he remained for centuries, a mute witness to the truth.

© Suzette Hartwell 2008. Reproduced by kind permission.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

'Baskets' by Susan Corcoran

We had planned and we had schemed.
For a year or so we’d dreamed …
of riding bikes along the River Nile.

We had tried it once before,
and of this we were quite sure …
that we really could go for the extra mile.

Well, we haggled and we bartered,
on a price per hour for starters,
with a man in whom we really put our trust.

The bikes, they should have brakes,
and the bones they must not shake,
but bikes with frontal baskets are a must!

Now we were quite specific.
We didn’t expect terrific,
but before we settled business with Mohammed,

we had questioned and cajoled
half of Luxor, truth be told,
and left a lot of locals stunned and aching-headed.

For last year we ambled idly
past a guy with bikes, who kindly
said he’d come along with us ... just for the ride.

He was known as good 'King Jimmy'
and according to his whim (eh?)
he would escort us down and out along the Nile.

It was very, very hot,
and from time to time we stopped
to have a breather and a rest as well.

We cycled over bridges
and many assorted ridges
and into one another (I had no bell!)

But it seemed that in that year
all the baskets disappeared,
‘cos a bike with one was nowhere to be found.

The guy, he was a star.
He found two with no crossbar,
and we paid the price of 10 Egyptian pound.

Now, Christine’s bike was blue.
Mine, a multi-coloured hue,
and was labeled with the name ‘the flying pigeon’.

The saddle had a fringe
and I really couldn’t whinge
‘cos the Scottish would have called the bike a ‘Guid jun.’

A side street was the start
to begin our cycling art
so that nobody would laugh if we fell off.

But a nice horse (with kalesh)
watched us get into a mess,
and politely covered his laughing with a cough!

We had cycled on full power,
and in under just one hour,
we had mastered roundabouts ‘n’ left turns too.

Past kaleshes, donkeys, carts,
‘n’ women carrying carrots,
we felt there was ‘nothing we can't do!’

But we quickly lost composure,
when a coach reversed, and closer
came to knocking Christine off her trusty steed.

My jaw, well, it did sag,
as the bike she had to drag
or be flattened by the wheels … oh yes indeed!

One day the Cornishe beckoned,
felucca men too, beckoned,
but we were on a mission to Karnak.

‘Would you like to sail a while?’
‘Ride a nice kalesh in style?’
‘OK! we'll question you again when you call back’.

‘Do you know how much?’ they say,
and you look the other way,
‘No thank you’ is so often our reply.

They’re undaunted by all this,
but they never take the piss.
They just say ‘OK, maybe later?’ with a sigh.

‘Nice baskets!’ they all cried.
But the sarcasm aside,
they’ve a quirky sense of humour, don’t you know.

‘Asda prices just for you’
‘Would you let me clean your shoe?’
‘Welllllllllcome to Alaska ‘bout the snow!’

They say mad dogs ‘n’ Englishmen
go out in the midday sun and then
get sunburned to an awful crisp and fry.

We went out for a spin one day.
Fell into a bush, and there I lay
till Christine picked me up again – Oh My!

The bridge across the Nile
is off-limits for a while,
and between the dusk and dawn no tourist crosses.

‘You drive those baskets well!’
as we cycled fast as hell
past the roadblocks, policemen and their horses.

The speed, it was excessive
the flies and gnats ... impressive
as big numbers of them, well, we swallowed whole.

The streetlamps were just winking
As we were just a-thinking
that the man would charge us for the bikes we ‘stole’.

In our hurry to leave the bikes
in the place the ‘bike-man’ likes,
we forgot to leave the key that locked the chain.

‘Cos when we left the bikes alone,
we made sure they didn’t roam
by linking them together with a rein.

We climbed wearily the stairs.
Put our shoes outside in pairs,
‘cos they hummed a tune and sweated like a pig.

Then a knock upon the door,
shook us to our very core
and a guy stood there doin’ a little jig.

With his hand outstretched he asked it.
‘Can I have the key to the basket?
I was just around the back having a pee.

I chased you down the road
but you were in a speeding mode
So I had to follow you to get the key.’

At the start of this rum tale
I hope I did not fail
to say how much we did enjoy this game.

These ventures were so funny,
and were for so little money,
that it’s something that we'll want to do again!

© 2008 Susan Corcoran. Reproduced by kind permission.

Monday, 15 September 2008

'Postcard from the Desert' by Suzette Hartwell

“A party of us are going to the pyramids this afternoon. A stranger has a good chance of losing himself in this place.”

These were the heart stirring words that Lavinnia’s husband Richard had penned to her on the postcard, which had just arrived in the morning post. The black and white picture showed the three pyramids of Egypt with palm trees and a donkey laden with goods, its master walking behind wearing a long flowing galabiyya.

“This looks like a scene from the bible, it’s almost a timeless picture,” Lavinnia claimed.

Her family agreed as they shared the postcard in turn, each conjuring up what it must be like over in the antipodes. What adventures he must be having.

Although Lavinnia’s impending birth was a blessing, it had cut short her plans to travel with her husband and soul mate. Never mind that the British Steamer Company had just began offering Nile cruises, the thought of a premature birth on a boat, in the heat, surrounded by flies and the “natives” was the last thought this young English woman wanted to entertain, thank you very much! Far better to think of the romantic adventure Richard would be having. Over several steaming cups of good English tea and delicious petit-fours, the family had imagined their intrepid traveller visiting the pyramids by donkey, led by his faithful servant (a local who could be trusted, of course), and taking high tea with a local sheik of the desert. Not to mention the souvenirs he would bring back.

Richard had the same romantic notions about this trip, too. Walking into the Khan-el-Khalili bazaar that first day he couldn’t believe his eyes. There were so many small shops, their owners elbowing each other for room, each vying for his attention, displaying richly patterned carpets and cloth, mother-of-pearl inlaid mirrors, tables and boxes, delicate glass perfume bottles, exotic smells, myriad colours of spices, and hordes of people weaving in and out.

“English! Over here!” Richard spun around, and came face to face with a smiling Arab, his teeth stained by incessant black coffees. “I am Ahmed, welcome my country. You want postcard for back home? Pyramids? I take you there, and you can climb to top. Others are coming.”

“W, Why yes, alright.” Richard couldn’t believe his luck, meeting a local who spoke English and who would take him to see one of the seven wonders of the world. The purchase of postcards was made, a price set for the excursion, and a deal struck. The party travelled by donkey later that following day.

“Gosh, I never imagined them this big!” Richard marvelled, as the pyramids loomed larger.

“Yes, all visitors say this. They are 481 feet high. Ready to climb them?” Ahmed asked. “We will begin climbing here. See? You can climb up these rocks, stretch one arm above the other.”
It looked easy enough, but it was a grinding, hard struggle, to stretch up to the next block, and pull one self up. How Ahmed could do this in a flowing robe amazed Richard.

Ever so slowly, they climbed, until Ahmed stopped and said, “We are halfway, have a look how close the city is.”

Richard turned to appreciate the view, but a sense of vertigo assaulted him. He felt dizzy, but his sweaty hand automatically grabbed the nearest limestone rock as he imagined himself falling, falling … Despite the heat, he instantly went cold, and could feel the bile making its swift, insidious journey up his throat.
“Here, grab my arm,” yelled Ahmed.
By now Richard’s fingertips were only just holding on to the surface of the rock. With his eyes bulging, Richard swung for the outstretched arm of Ahmed, and missed it! He tried again, this time only just catching the end of the galabiyya, but it was enough for Ahmed to reach down and save his companion.

Safely sitting on the edge of the block, both men regained their breath, each quietly thanking his own God. They sat there until dusk, when the desert cooled. The view was spectacular. Richard thought of his life and how insignificant it had been, like the grains of sand that seemed to collect everywhere out here. He made his way back to his hotel, exhausted after the day’s unsuccessful ascent.

The next morning, Richard booked a steamer for his Nile cruise, and put his luggage aboard. The cruise didn’t leave until dusk, time enough for him to go back to the pyramids and complete the climb to the top. This thought had occurred to him while sitting on the pyramid the day before, during his deep soul searching.

Richard did make it to the top of the pyramid, with the help of his friend Ahmed. However, when he finally gazed around, he froze, rooted to the spot. Never before had he felt such fear. No amount of cajoling from Ahmed could coax him down. Finally, after some time, Ahmed reluctantly left his companion to get some help. It was then that Richard realised that he would miss his cruise.

Several hours later, the Nile cruise ship sailed. Her Egyptian captain was confident all passengers were on board, after all, every piece of luggage was accounted for, and the passengers were scattered all over the various decks. He strolled around, greeting the weary travellers, and laughed to himself at their insistence on wearing stuffy Victorian clothes, with heavy lace up clothing and boots in this climate.

The travellers congratulated themselves on such a fine choice of destination, this exotic land of the Pharaohs! They sipped their aperitifs, lulled into a false sense of security by the calming waters and noise of the engines. Below deck, however, all was not well in the kitchen. A fire had broken loose on the stoves, fuelled by a tin of cooking oil thoughtlessly left with its lid open. An explosion erupted and the terrified, unorganised crew’s efforts to scramble up the narrow wooden steps, to reach the top, were in vain. Those above board were stupefied in their horror - surely this couldn’t happen on their trip of a lifetime! The fire continued its destruction, leaving scant little in its place. Those who were able to jump overboard were soon drowned by their heavy clothes, or overpowered by the hippopotami lurking under the water.

A telegram arrived at Lavinnia’s house the next evening. She looked at the faces of her family, hoping they might show some sign that this was not ominous message. With a dry throat and trembling hands, she tore open the envelope. She gasped as she read:

Regret to inform you, fire has destroyed all souls on board British Steamer B.S.1. Friday 1st November, 1901.Your husband’s luggage recovered, will be forwarded on to you as soon as possible. Deepest sympathy to you. Signed: Admiral E.M. Baines, British Steamer Company.

Lavinnia’s screams stopped only when she found herself feeling faint, and falling down, as if from a great height …

© Suzette Hartwell, 2008. Reproduced by kind permission.

Suzette hails from Bendigo in Australia's Victoria State and has recently finished a Certificate of Egyptology from Manchester University. She has also worked in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with the American Research Council. Suzette has documented her travels and experiences and with her kind permission we will be publishing these in coming months.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Horus Egyptology website relaunched.

Horus' new site can be found at

The site features a diary of forthcoming events, all the contact details for the Society and a page containing links to other Egyptology related resources.

Instead of using the site as an article resource we have decided to use this blog for publishing purposes. Anyone wishing to submit an article please feel free to do so.

Memories, travel diaries, photographs, humerous tales, anything is welcome - the more diverse the better.

Submissions can be made to

Many Thanks,

Martin Kershaw
Horus Website Bloke

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Friends of the Colossi


Amenhotep III (Heqawaset) Nubmaatre (1386-1349 BCE)
Amun is pleased, Ruler of Thebes, Lord of the truth of Re.

The 37 year (approx) reign of Amenhotep III was one of the most stable and prosperous periods in Egyptian history.

He was the son of Tuthmosis IV and his wife Mutemwiya. He boasted a large harem with many foreign princesses but his chief wife was Tiy a daughter of Yuya and Tuya. Amenhotep and Tiy had more than 6 children with 2 known sons and 4 daughters’, perhaps the most famous of their sons is Akhenaten.

The last 25 years of his reign seems to have been when most of his building work was undertaken funded by the abundant supply of gold and foreign trade.
Part of this building work was his mortuary temple on the west bank of Thebes, which was used as a quarry in the 19th dynasty. There are hardly any visible remains of the temple left, but it is fronted by the two enormous seated statues of Amenhotep III with smaller standing figures of his mother and wife, one flanking each side of his legs, the statues are known as the ‘Colossi of Memnon’.

Each statue is made of orthoquartzite, one white and the other red to symbolize Upper and Lower Egypt. They are approximately 18 metres (59 feet) high and weigh around 1,000 tonnes each.

The name Memnon comes from the Greek travellers who visited the site and noticed a whistling sound coming from the northern figure at sunrise, this had happened only after the earthquake of 27 BCE. They equated this with the Memnon the son of Aurora, the goddess of dawn. It was silenced when the Emperor Septimus Severus had it repaired.

The Temple stretches out behind these and covers an area of 350,000 square metres. Only a small amounts of the temple layout was know from some remaining column bases and a repaired stele which is situated 3/4 mile behind the colossi. It is suggested that it had two great courts with other seated colossi statues, a similar long processional way like that at Luxor temple and a large solar court with the large stele at its entrance.

The temple is located on the flood plain and it is thought that the flooding from the yearly inundation came up to the sanctuary which was built on a knoll. The receding of the flood waters would have symbolized to the Egyptians the emergence of the world from the primeval waters of creation. Recent work at the site began in 2000 under a joint German/Egyptian programme led by Dr Hourig Sourouzian and an enormous amount of work has already been accomplished. With continued funding of the excavation we will see the magnificent mortuary temple of Amenhotep III come to live once more.