Happy Friday and welcome to/back to the 3DB. I hope everyone had a good week and are ready for the weekend. This week we will finish up our visit with Cleopatra and I hope you will enjoy the conclusion of my story which I published in volume one of, “Life of an Aviator.”
Turns out most Egyptians believe that Cleopatra’s legacy, including her grave, was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and the resulting tidal waves that washed ashore. This, Mohammed explained is why no one has ever been able to find evidence of her dynasty and legacy. Initially I was not a believer but then Mohammed produced a newspaper that detailed the work of renowned archaeologist Frank Goddio, and his team, who had discovered Cleopatra’s sunken city just off the coast of Alexandria. I looked at the date on the paper and much to my surprise this project was happening at this very moment.
I asked Mohammed if the research vessels were here now, and he advised that we were going down to the docks to see – great, let’s go. To say that the Thai aircrews were not very excited about their tour of Alexandria is an understatement; however, I told them to bear with me and tomorrow we would be riding camels at the pyramids. The senior pilot, a Colonel, smiled and said, “This is what I want to do and see.”
The research vessels were in port but the only people around was two police officers with AK-47s. I guess this means we do not get to see any treasures on this trip but to know that history was being rewritten under our noses was good enough. I have since seen, in photos, most of what the research team has brought up. The only thing that is missing is evidence of the Queen remains. This may happen and if it does, I hope Charlie has another need to move an airplane through Egypt. I am ready to find an answer to the age-old question of, was Cleopatra Egyptian or Greek?
(The Cairo Museum)
The next morning we were off to Cairo and before I knew it, the Thai aircrew had me at a Thai restaurant having lunch. The big question I had was how did they know this restaurant was there? The Colonel smiled and said, “I have connections with Cleopatra.” OK, fair enough – let’s eat. The food was good, not exactly true Thai noodles and spices, but the Thai’s were happy. We mapped out our plan for the next day and then headed off to the National Museum to see a few mummies and the Rosetta Stone.
The museum was great, the mummies were mummies, and the Rosetta Stone was a copy of the real thing. Turns out the British have the real one in their museum in London. Something about that is not right. I am in Cairo, land of the Pharaohs, and all they have is a copy of their Rosetta Stone. How is that possible? One day I will write a story about the number of Egyptian treasures that are not in Egypt. Some were stolen, and sold on the black market, but most were carried home by the colonial powers.
As we were about to conclude our tour the Museum went on lock down. OK, this is interesting – we must have another representative of a colonial power trying to sneak out a few more treasures. Nothing could have been further from the truth and I will let the British newspaper, The Independent, tell the story:
After a lull of almost 18 months, Islamic militants have struck again in Cairo, killing ten people, including six German tourists. The dead were among a party on a bus outside the popular Egyptian Museum. The militants aim to damage the government by damaging the economy – and they do that by driving out the tourists.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, in which at least nine people were wounded, but Egyptian security sources said police had arrested three suspected militants and were looking for two more.
The sources said all of those who died were inside the bus parked outside the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square, one of Cairo’s busiest areas.
An Interior Ministry statement identified one gunman as Saber Farahat Abu el-Ela, who was put in a mental hospital after he fired on tourists at the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo four years go.
Ela’s brother Mahmoud was also arrested after the attack, the statement said. Security sources said the third gunman was shot in the head and was in a critical condition. Security sources said one of the gunmen climbed aboard the bus, reported to be carrying 33 German tourists, and started spraying the interior with gunfire.
When he saw several tourists escaping through the rear exit, the gunman threw a petrol bomb inside. He then ran out and put a second bomb under the bus.
Other gunmen fired at three or more buses parked near the museum, security sources said.
Thousands of tourists visit the Egyptian Museum every day. The sprawling building houses more than 100,000 ancient relics, the most outstanding being the tomb and gold mask of Tutankhamun.
Security sources suspect the gunmen were Muslim militants who have been seeking to topple the government since 1992.
The attack was the first major militant operation in the capital since April 1996, when suspected militants shot dead 18 Greek tourists and wounded 14 outside a hotel.
It was one of the bloodiest attacks against the Egyptian tourism industry since militants began sporadically targeting tourists in 1992 as a way to damage the country’s economy in their fight against the government.
Before yesterday, Muslim militants had killed 26 foreigners and wounded 73.
The German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, expressed horror at the bomb attack, saying it was the third disaster to hit Germans abroad this week.
The Independent – Friday 19 September 1997
To say that things were a bit chaotic was a true statement but the real chaos was outside the museum. When they finally opened the doors for everyone to leave the events outside were the most difficult to deal with. The security forces were using canes to chase away the pedestrians and when that did not work, they started firing randomly in the air with their AK-47s. Time to get inside out of the way so I grabbed the Colonel and said everyone needs to follow me, who in turn grabbed his guys and pulled them along. We ducked inside the Hilton, went to the bar, celebrated life with a few beers, a thick steak, and waited for the guys with the AK-47s to go home.
We finally made it back to our hotel around six in the afternoon and everyone agreed to meet at the bar around nine or so. This was good for me because I needed a shower, a power nap, and some quiet time. The designated hour arrived and as I entered the bar, I did not see the Thais but I have to admit I was looking for a table with four guys of Asian descent. Then, as I surveyed the room, I identified the four heads I was looking for but they were with four young ladies of Egyptian descent. OK, they are big boys so who am I to judge and for all I know they could be getting a lesson on Egyptian history. As I approached the table the Colonel stood up and introduced their new friends, they all spoke perfect English by the way, and then pulled up a chair for me. As I sat down I had to make one comment to the Colonel before the small talk began and I turned I spoke quietly in to his ear, “I see you have been talking to Cleopatra’s friends again.” He smiled and said, “Not exactly.” We both smiled and as my beer arrived to the table the Colonel offered up a toast. “To Egypt, home of Cleopatra, and to the beautiful ladies who have honored us with their presence – Cheers” – OK, I can see where this is going so I need to plan my escape.
I finished my beer, while making small talk with the Thais, and their new friends, and then I asked the Colonel if I could have a few words with him at the bar. Once we were away from the table I advised that he and his men appeared to be in good hands so I was going to have a quiet dinner in my room and a good night’s sleep. He encouraged me to stay with them but when I insisted no, he yielded to my request with a smile and a handshake. I will see you at nine for breakfast, the pyramid tour is at ten, and please offer my apologies to everyone for my having to leave early. The Colonel responded with roger that sir and I will see you tomorrow.
Breakfast at nine arrived but not the Thais. I waited until ten before I called the Colonel and just as I was picking up the house phone, I spied four Thais, with pillow hair, headed for the restaurant. Wow, I think they had a late night but that’s OK. They were supposed to be having fun – orders from Charlie.
Breakfast was quick, the Thais had their pictures taken at the base of the Pyramids, then riding on the camels, and standing in front of the Sphinx. Life was good but they were all ready for a nap. Between having a late night, I think, and the hot desert sun, they were finished. At the hotel, they headed for their rooms and I opted for the pool and a beer. Life was good and tomorrow we were off to Bahrain where many believe that the Garden of Eden is located. Maybe we will find evidence of Adam and Eve. Sounds like another good story for the series, “Life of an Aviator.”
Have a good weekend, enjoy your time away from aviation/work and keep family and friends close – life is short.
The first lighthouse of the World, the “Pharos of Alexandria,” lasted for over 1500 years in the harbor of Alexandria and is one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The Lighthouse at Alexandria was so legendary that it was thought to set enemy ships on fire before they ever reached the city’s harbor. It was so famous that its name, Pharos, became the root word for lighthouse in many of the Romance languages.
Built around 280 B.C, the Pharos Lighthouse was anywhere from 350 to 450ft tall. To keep out the pounding waters the interlocked stone blocks were sealed together with lead. It took its name from the island it was built on – Pharos, just off the coast of Alexandria. A giant fire was lit every night at the peak of the lighthouse and reflected upwards of 47 kilometers out over the ocean by polished mirrors.
It was Ptolemy that commissioned the lighthouse when he took power after the death of Alexander the Great, but the building was designed and built by the architect Sostratus. Ptolemy wanted all the glory of the lighthouse for himself, and he forbade Sostratus from engraving his name anywhere on the work. The architect found a way around this limitation; trusting that the King would know little about the mundane details of construction, Sostratus hid an inscription of his name in stone under plaster. This would have been sneaky enough on its own, but Sostratus then carved an inscription honoring Ptolemy into the surface of the plaster. After years of weathering the plaster would crumble and reveal the stone inscription of the Architect, Sostratus. Presumably, by then the King and Architect would be safely dead.
The only problem with the story is that there aren’t any remains to know if it actually happened – the Pharos Lighthouse was destroyed in the 14th century by earthquake, and then the ruins were reused for other structures. Scholars and Historians have derived all of what they know about the Pharos Lighthouse from travelers’ journals, diaries, and histories. A few of the original, blank stones can be found on the ocean floor, their watery grave an ironic tribute to the lighthouse they once supported.