Welcome to Alaska! JHU goes to Egypt

Name: Margaret Deli

Year: Class of 2008

Hometown: Winnetka, IL

Major(s): Double major in English and History of Art, with double minor in Writing Seminars and French Literature


When Air France flight number 27 touched down in Cairo on January third, the passenger next to me—an Egyptian woman with a Hermès scarf wrapped around her hair, in all other respects the spitting image of my Hoosier grandmother—turned to me with a grin and said, “Welcome to Alaska!Cimg0219_101

Actually, that’s a lie.  But I can honestly say that that was the only time during my 24 day tour of Egypt—a JHU intersession trip led by Hopkins’ own archeological wunderkind, Dr. Betsy Bryan—when someone didn’t gleefully welcome me to the fiftieth state in the union upon learning that I was American.  Tall men in galabiyas, selling postcards at the Great Pyramid.  Little children shuffling a soccer ball.  The security guard outside the temple of Dendara.  With a twinkle in their eye, every time: “From America?  Hey lady!  Welcome to Alaska!”

Dscn0904_269Of course, if Alaska were anything like Egypt, I’d be there in a heartbeat.  But the rather lamentable fact of the matter is there is only one place in the world where you can find the hulking colossi of Memnon, or the tomb of Tutankhamun, or the step pyramid of Djoser—and if your starting point is Baltimore, Maryland, it takes at least one Atlantic Ocean and a Mediterranean to get there.

But let’s assume for the moment that you do get there—and better yet, you Cimg0296_057_edited1find yourself standing in the chaotic noise and smog of Cairo-Airport-on-a-Friday-night with a bona fide JHU professor of Egyptology.  (If she’s anything like Dr. Betsy Brian, she’ll know her subject so well the local tour guides will be terrified of her.)  What then?  If you want my advice, do what we did over the next three weeks: rent a bus, buy a tankload of water, and spend the rest of the month climbing up and down and over and through the Pharoanic remains of Ancient Egypt.

Dscn0819_196We started in Cairo, travelled by bus to the edge of the Mediterranean, and then turned around and followed the Nile all the way to Lake Nasser and the border of the Sudan.  In the meantime, we climbed through every available pyramid on the map, exhausted the Ptolemaic temples between Tanis and Aswan, and made good friends with the Sphinx.  (If you ever find yourself in the burial chamber of the Great Pyramid, incidentally, be warned: IT SMELLS AWFUL.)  We rode camels through the backstreets of Luxor, smoked water pipes in Cairo—oh, and learned that Egyptians really like a good party.Cimg0235_090

So what did I learn from my Egyptian adventures?  (I must have learned something, after all, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog…)  Ah.  Weeell.  I suppose I could tell you that I learned how to haggle and not break the bank, or how to take a picture on the back of a camel, or I discovered a fondness for crawling through tombs, or the desert at sunset when the ruins are turned to gold, and from far away you can hear the call to prayer…

But honestly.  It’s really nothing like Alaska.

Photo Captions:

(1) The woman in the blue coat is Dr. Betsy Bryan at Temple of Mut and this is the JHU excavation site in Luxor.

(2) The girl standing in front of the square mastaba tomb is me, and its at a site called Tuna al-Gebel.

(3) The big group of people is the largest group shot I could find from all of my pictures, its from the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan (several people on the trip had a birthday part, so we had a party…).

(4) The girl in the tomb shaft is also me (sorry, again), its at one of the Queen’s pyramids at Giza.

(5) The girl on the camel is Megan Solomon, its from a morning camel ride through Luxor.

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