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portfolio viii
portfolio vii
portfolio vi

No land on earth possesses more wonders than Egypt, wonders long hidden, but revealed occasionally by a shifting of the sands or a curious tale.
The Nile at Aswan
photo: Woodcock 2000
To take a glimpse of Egypt is to glimpse our very beginnings, and the source of those beginnings is the Nile. The longest river on earth, at more than 4000 miles long it's the greatest river in Africa, crossing nearly half the continent. Egypt without the Nile is a desert suitable for asps and scorpions. Along the floodplain, it is only here, the desert heat is softened and the arid sand is turned to farmland, nourished and irrigated by the river.
A rich land made possible a vast founding culture, and a stable
Hieratic script, Predynastic period, 3000 B.C.
civilization able to turn from daily survival, to works of the mind. Science, mathematics, engineering and astronomy, they studied the heavens and the seasons, they gave us the 24-hour clock and the 365-day calendar.
To the ancient Egyptians there was one thing even greater than the Nile, the sun, the god they called Ra, the creator of everything. With it's rising each morning he would be born, and in setting each night he would die. The next morning he would rise again, never failing, he was eternal.
Ancient Egyptians accorded their rulers absolute power, which they used to build an extraordinary empire, an empire of buildings so enormous, and art so exquisite, we are still trying to understand how such wonders were created. How stones from the desert were turned into timeless monuments. Some of the oldest buildings on Earth are here, preserved by the desert air, and
Golden mask of King Tutankhamon, 18th dynasty, 1347-1337 B.C.
photo: Woodcock 2000
the skills of their creators. Some are so old, that they already stood for 1000 years when King Tut was born.
By far the most famous being the Pyramids of Giza. Monuments of colossal proportions, mammoth mountains of stone. One of the fabled seven wonders of the ancient world, only they remain today. Nearly 500ft. tall, they contain some of the largest pieces of stone ever moved by humans, some as much as 50 tons or more. It wasn't the gods who built the Pyramids, it was people, and it took 20,000 of them more than 20 years to move more than 2 million stones. Yet this was accomplished without the aid of
The Pyramids of Cheops and Khafre at Giza. 4th dynasty, 2550 B.C.
wheels or pulleys, or even iron tools.
Farther to the south are granite temples supported by pillars among the largest ever built. Both immense and colorful temples like the great structure called Karnak, were the settings for magnificent rituals that proclaimed to all, not only the pharaohs power and wealth, but his devotion to the gods he would one day join. Death for them wasn't an end, it was a beginning of a great journey through eternity.
The Egyptians were pre-occupied with life after death, probably because, no ancient peoples enjoyed life as much as they did. On the walls of tombs and temples there are picture stories of invention and adventure, board games and ball
Hypostyle hall, Temple of Amon, Karnak. 18th dynasty
photo: Woodcock 2000
games, of dance and music, of affection between husbands and wives and of family unity and love. It was the most advanced civilization of its time. It went on for more than 3000 years, and then gradually, inevitably the kingdom of Egypt began to crumble. Little by little, much of the Pharaohs great empire along with its secrets was reclaimed by the desert. Even as the monuments crumble the stories remain.
The stone creations that loom up from the deserts are mute testaments of humanities great strive forward. From hunters and gatherers to builders of majestic structures to dreamers of grand dreams. These stone wonders are the shape of our beginnings, towering symbols of our rise to become thinkers, artists, poets and builders.

Banquet scene. Tomb of Nebamun,
West Thebes. 18th dynasty

Egypt today is a study of contrasts. A modern factory sits beside water wheels powered by patient donkeys, walking endless circles to irrigate fields. Buffalo herded down the road are passed by jammed "micro-busses," derelict structures sit in the shadows of glass and steel. The Sphinx stands like a silent sentinel as crowds of tourists with cameras swarm around its base. The melee is imagined to be similar to the frenetic activity of those who labored on these ancient monuments, or perhaps they are the modern-day pilgrims that a pharaoh once envisioned.
The Nile River of today bears little physical resemblance to the Nile of ancient Egypt. Tamed by the Dams in Aswan, in the south, rises and drops in the water level are minimal. Man-made irrigation canals, controlled by weirs, assume the role
Khan el Khalil, Cairo
photo: Woodcock 1999
previously played by the annual floods. Although there are those who would mourn the passing of a wilder river, there are others that recognize the benefits: Double cropping of land that now supports Egypt's 62 million people, as well as the hydro-electric power that has been a major stimulus to Egypt's development process. Regardless of the changes it has experienced, the Nile continues to be the source of life in Egypt.
Cairo, or al-Qahira, was established as the capital and residence of the Fatimid Caliphs more than a millenium ago. Today, it is a sprawling metropolis with more than 16,000,000 inhabitants. Cairenes spend much of their evening leisure time on the streets and boulevards of the city, mixing in the magic of the bazaars, the city hardly seems to sleep.
Within minutes of leaving Cairo,
however, one is stuck by how the tempo of life changes. Here, the sun dictates the pace of work and effort. Early morning is the most productive time of day, as women begin their daily chores and men head to the fields with their tools and animals. By mid-afternoon, activity slows to a crawl, as some people seek relief from the heat under the shade of a tree. As the afternoon slips into evening, the hamlets and roadsides become active again. For those whose work ends at sunset, this is the time to enjoy the company of family, friends and neighbors, over a cup of sweet mint tea and a smoke of sisha tobacco.
portfolio viii
portfolio vii
portfolio vi