A Virtual Voyage through Ancient Egypt
The new year has barely begun and already the calendar is looking very busy — we’re off to a big start. Paris is back to being the Paris we have always known and loved including typically cold, rainy weather. That didn’t stop the hordes of people Sunday afternoon bearing the downpour to visit the “Osiris, Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries” exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe — closing soon (January 31st).
The first time (and last time) I visited Egypt was just one year before the uprising on January 25th, 2011, known as the “Egyptian Revolution of 2011.” It was a stroke of luck to have missed it, as it “consisted of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, riots, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience and strikes.” (Wikipedia.org) Almost 1,000 people died and over 6,000 were injured, yet our 11 days there were some of the most amazing times of all of our lives — 13 friends traveling together to celebrate someone’s birthday.
I spent New Year’s Eve in Nice with several of those friends from our voyage down the Nile and visits to the many ancient sights, including the ‘birthday boy’ who hosted the party. We reminisced about the three glorious days on a felucca — “La Flâneuse du Nil,” which is “a traditional wooden sailing boat used in protected waters of the Red Sea and eastern Mediterranean including Malta, and particularly along the Nile in Egypt, Sudan, and also in Iraq.” (Wikipedia.org) This particular felucca is French owned and operated in superb luxury and style. We all agreed those were three of the most glorious days of our lives and the time we spent discovering ancient Egypt was a life-changing experience.
(You can read the past Nouvellettres® from the trip in 2009 by visiting
For this reason, the Osiris exhibit was intriguing and the reviews from it touted it as well worth standing in the rain to enter. We were not the only ones to have had the idea to visit the exhibition as it was SRO and posturing to get a good look at each artifact was not an easy task. Still, the whole story is amazing about these sunken treasures unearthed off the coast of Alexandria and Abu Qir (aka Aboukir, like the street here in Paris, which has more to do with a battle in which Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Seid Mustafa Pasha’s Ottoman army in July 1799 than the Egyptian village!). Over 15 years of underwater excavation were devoted to discovering the relics of the great city of the Ptolemies “much of which collapsed under geomorphic changes — including coastal erosion and earthquakes — that tossed antiquities, palaces and even the Great Library under the waves.”
There are 290 artefacts on display in 1,100 m2 of space along with another 40 objects from the museums of Cairo and Alexandria never before seen in France. A mysterious mood has been set within the exhibition utilizing low lighting and dark walls. All emphasis has been placed on the beautiful objects thousands of years old, mostly set in glass cases except for the very large objects carved from stone. You are led from one room to another in a natural flow and there are videos throughout of the underwater excavation itself.
It was an honor for Paris to have been chosen to hold the exhibition, but it must be noted that most of the archeologists of the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (EIUA) who did the underwater excavation were French. The two state heads of France and Egypt agreed this was a strengthening of their relations “on the cultural, political, and economic levels, and especially their alliance against the terrorism.” Egyptian heritage is currently being threatened by terrorist groups who claim it as “idolatry.”
This virtual voyage through the ancient city of Thonis-Heracleion, the city which once occupied what is now known as Alexandria and had been lost somewhere between “myth, history, legend and reality until its discovery in 2000,” took me back to those lazy afternoons on the Nile and in the land of Egypt we must never diminutize.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(on the Nile in 2009)
P.S. Next week I’ll be off to the Big Apple for my daughter Erica Simone’s book signing and exhibition of “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on January 14th. I hope all of you in the New York area will join me there! And if you’re planning on attending, be sure to arrive early (opens at 7 p.m.) and RSVP at [email protected] as a large attendance is expected! (At least we hope so!)