Tombs, Scarabs and Negotiating in Egypt!

In ancient Egyptian religion, Egyptians viewed the humble dung beetle as a symbol of renewal and rebirth, they used scarab amulets to protect the living during daily tasks and the dead as they journeyed to the afterlife. The scarab (kheper) beetle was one of the most popular amulets in ancient Egypt because the insect was a symbol of the sun god Re.

Since my first African Journey, I’ve been fascinated and somewhat infatuated with dung beetles. Their lifestyle is not particularly attractive, Scarabaeus sacer are known for their peculiar habit of rolling balls of dung even larger than their actual size and depositing them in their burrows. Once there, the females lay their eggs inside the dung balls that would serve as nourishment for the larvae. Once totally consumed, young beetles would emerge from the ground suggesting they came from nowhere. In Africa, they are enormous bugs with striking iridescent bodies, awfully intent on rolling the dung ball up and down hills and through fields.

In Egypt, the beetle was associated with the divine manifestation of the early morning sun, Khepri, whose name was written with the scarab hieroglyph and who was believed to roll the disk of the morning sun over the eastern horizon at daybreak. 

Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62)

The ancient Egyptians believed that these beetles came from a spontaneous birth from the burrows. This made the populations worship them as the Khepera or “He who came forth” – an aspect and function associated with creation god, Atum. One needs a degree in Egyptology or a detailed spread sheet to keep track of all the Egyptian gods. I’m certain our very informed guide, Haytham, frequently detected glassy gazes when he enthusiastically inquired ‘do you remember this God, Horus who?’ Tracking the deity, Kings, Queens, mothers of, is mind boggling, particularly on 8-hour tour days in the hot Egyptian sun.

Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) Beetle hieroglyph in left panel

Oddly enough, these critters do indeed have impressive celestial powers. Dung beetles, like the scarab, are astonishing navigators that actually use the sun as guidance when moving their dung balls. Rolling the dung ball along, the beetle will periodically stop, scramble atop its prize, look around to orient itself, and climb back down and start pushing the ball once more. Part of my fascination in watching them in the bush. They are frankly proud creatures which is evident if you observe them.

Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) Beetle hieroglyph in upper left panel

I knew the tombs in the Valley of the Kings would have an abundance of scarab hieroglyphs. While touring the museums and temples, I was on the prowl for scarabs and ultimately when ascending into the important tombs, we spotted many. I hoped to find an extraordinary scarab memento. In an alabaster factory near the Valley of the Kings, appropriately named Hapi Alabaster, it was chock a block with objects, some rare, some not so much. Egyptian shop owners are slightly assertive; however, I take my time, contemplate and evaluate. Wandering with our group, the shop owner asked if I would like to visit the room of antiquities – at this point in conversation, any seasoned traveler should depart! A guide will always negotiate, and one understands the guide will also profit for delivering a customer. The firms we work with are particular about tourist shopping, I tell our teams – we want authentic items, and for most trips, never a rug shop! In the ‘antiquities’ room behind a closed door, I discovered an exquisite bronze Anubis canopic box, the sides adorned with vivid lapis scarabs, a jackal sits regally on the sliding top; uncover the lid to discover four small urns with animal heads used to hold body remains in mummification. Frequently seen in the tombs and museums, canopic jars were used by the ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife.

The canopic jars were identified and protected by four different gods who were the sons of Horus. The names of the Sons of Horus were Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef and Qebehsenuef. The canopic jars were four in number, each for the safekeeping of particular human organs: the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver, all of which, it was believed, would be needed in the afterlife. There was no jar for the heart: the Egyptians believed it to be the seat of the soul, and so it was left inside the body. It’s important to remember that the Egyptians understood their cosmos in terms of cycles, so death was necessary for regeneration and life to continue.

I was besotted with the bronze Anubis canopic box with the lapis scarabs, however, did I want to reveal my enthusiasm, I made a small mound of chosen objects to ponder. The owner asked, would you like to see the secret room, my late father’s private collection? Did I mention depart when one hears certain phrases?  I exclaimed: you are selling your father’s treasures? Calling to one of my travel friends, come to the secret room!  We entered another closed-door storeroom; poking through a cardboard box, I unearthed a small scarab. A hand carved bone scarab wrapped in silver, with carvings on the back. I’m ready to depart, time to negotiate!

Anubis canopic box with lapis scarab

Our brilliant guide, Haytham, began the negotiations– i.e. yelling at the shop owner to gift me the scarab and lower the price of the box – she owns a high-end travel firm, she will send her clients – that’s all I deciphered from the negotiations – in the end, I received the little bone scarab as a gift and paid for the Anubis with blue lapis scarab canopic box. Our small group of agency owners stood agape at the ‘transaction’ some were also purchasing and Haytham again yelled, they own agencies! When exploring Cairo a few days later, a local guide told me the scarab was a fine piece of jewelry, she had never seen such a lovely scarab… I love it and was thrilled to have a professional endorse my diminutive scarab.

Bronze Anubis canopic box with the lapis scarabs

The beetle itself was a favorite form used for amulets in all periods of Egyptian history. Scarabs may be made from a variety of materials including carnelian, steatite, lapis lazuli, basalt, faience, limestone, schist, turquoise, ivory, resin, turquoise, amethyst and bronze. Hundreds of thousands of these artifacts have been excavated in Egypt.

A winged scarab might also be placed on the breast of the mummy, and later a number of other scarabs were placed about the body. Perhaps my little scarab will be entombed with me, not certain if the Canopic jars are practical though, I will leave that up to my son!

Bronze Anubis canopic box with the lapis scarabs – the canopic jars from inside the box

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/book-of-the-dead/kgLyHi8MwqOxJQ

Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) Anubis Black Dog Jackal Egyptian God of Underworld 

Anubis is known as the god of death and is the oldest and most popular of ancient Egyptian deities. The ancient Egyptians revered Anubis highly because they believed he had tremendous power over both their physical and spiritual selves when they died.

Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) Anubis Black Dog Jackal Egyptian God of Underworld 

https://www.ancient-egypt-online.com/anubis.html

Corona Virus Blues? State of Emergency.

Shelter in Place and already dreaming of warm beaches, and suffering from Severe Wanderlust? Stir Crazy? Add these movies to your Netflix Binge List.

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Maldives

Whenever a client requests a Journey, they receive a bag of Travel books and a suggested reading list for their destination…Since Journey planning is on a bit of a hold, may we suggest a few travel related films?

Lawrence of Arabia Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is sent to Arabia to find Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and serve as a liaison between the Arabs and the British in their fight against the Turks. With the aid of native Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), Lawrence rebels against the orders of his superior officer and strikes out on a daring camel journey across the harsh desert to attack a well-guarded Turkish port. The autobiography of the English officer retells his Arabian adventure and his experience uniting and leading the nomadic Arab tribes during World War I. Gathering intelligence about the Arab revolt against the Turks, Lawrence reminds us that one of the greatest parts about traveling is learning about other cultures. I’ve watched this countless time and love it.  I just spent a few hours in Wadi Rum in Jordan, where it was filmed. Peter O’Toole and Omar Sherif are swoon worthy!

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The Spy Who Loved Me A British and a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine suddenly disappear. James Bond — MI6 agent 007 — is summoned to investigate. On the way to his briefing, Bond escapes an ambush by a squad of Soviet agents in Austria, killing one during a downhill ski chase and evading the others. The plans for a highly advanced submarine tracking system are being offered in Egypt. There, Bond encounters Major Anya Amasova—KGB agent Triple X—his rival to recover the microfilm plans. They travel across Egypt together, encountering Jaws – a tall assassin with razor-sharp steel teeth – along the way. Bond and Amasova reluctantly join forces after a truce is agreed by their respective British and Soviet superiors. They identify the person responsible for the thefts as the shipping tycoon and scientist Karl Stromberg. The film takes its title from Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me, the tenth book in the James Bond series, though it does not contain any elements of the novel’s plot. The storyline involves a reclusive megalomaniac named Karl Stromberg, who plans to destroy the world and create a new civilization under the sea. Bond teams up with a Russian agent, Anya Amasova, to stop Stromberg. It was shot on location in Egypt (Cairo and Luxor) and Italy (Costa Smeralda, Sardinia), with underwater scenes filmed at the Bahamas (Nassau), Scenery & escapism, we need a double dose now!

A Good Year Russell Crowe stars in this movie as a high-powered London stockbroker who learns there is more to life than money. Inheriting a chateau and vineyard in Provence that he prepares to sell, Crowe falls in love with the simple life of the French countryside and a local beauty. This light-hearted comedy will make you want to book your ticket to the South of France

Out of Africa One of my favorites for several reasons: Seven Oscars, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and sweeping scenes of Africa wildlife. Meryl Streep and Robert Redford star in this tragic love story about a married baroness who falls for a big-game hunter, based on the autobiographical novel by Isak Dinesen. Filmed on location in the UK and Kenya, including the Shaba National Game Reserve, Out of Africa feels about as epic as the doomed love affair between two very different people.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel A few British retirees (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy) decide to outsource their retirement to exotic — and less expensive — India. Lured by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and imagining a life of leisure in lush surroundings, they arrive and find that the Marigold is actually a shell of its former self. Though their new home is not quite what they had imagined, the retirees find that life and love can begin again when they let go of their pasts

The Way The Way is a beautiful and inspiring tale about a father walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago trail to honor his recently dead son. The experience is an eye-opening an emotional one for him, as he’s forced to make friends with complete strangers and examine his life during the 800km journey. It features a very eclectic mix of characters, all walking the path for their own personal reasons.

Under The Tuscan Sun With all the delightful wines, mouthwatering food, remote cottages and scenic rolling hills shown in the film, this romantic flick will inspire to you to travel to this Italian paradise, as well as urge you to scrap your urban life, for a chance to harvest an awesome dream of living a life Under the Tuscan Sun.

Lost in Translation A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. Lost In Translation is based on two separate travelers, Bob & Charlotte, visiting Tokyo at the same time. They meet each other and form a friendship as they experience confusion and hilarity in a strange and curious city. Bob is an aging actor starring in commercials, while Charlotte is the bored wife of a photographer there on business. They are an unlikely pair, experiencing a degree of loneliness in a foreign city filled with millions of people. This is another beautifully shot film that also shows how funny and interesting traveling in a new country can be.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty When Walter’s job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. This is a lighthearted look at the adventurous spirit with some awesome travel mixed in.

A Walk in the Woods Author Bill Bryson , (Robert Redford ) after living for ten years in the UK, returned to New Hampshire. Now in his 60s, he had been living there peacefully for the past twenty years. A television interview reports that he has published several popular books and there is speculation he will be writing more. Bryson, however, has no such plans.Bryson and his wife Catherine, (Emma Thompson) attend a funeral. Not being an outgoing person, he takes a stroll up to the nearby Appalachian Trail. He suddenly decides he will hike its entire length. Catherine objects, presenting all kinds of accounts about accidents and murders on the trail. She relents on condition that he not travel alone. He agrees and searches for a friend willing to join him. Everyone declines his invitation; some declare him insane. Finally, he is contacted by Stephen Katz, (Nick Nolte) an old friend who offers to be a hiking companion. Within less than a mile of their departure point, as groups of hikers overtake and pass them, they begin to grasp the difficulty of their ambition. Shortly after, a group of young children effortlessly runs by them up the trail, laughing and calling out to each other. Seeing others pass by so easily motivates them to carry on. And they move on, day by day, making more or less pleasant acquaintances, having more or less pleasant experiences

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Midnight in Paris While on a trip to Paris with his fiancée’s family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight. In this romantic comedy, Owen Wilson plays Gil, an unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter who heads to Paris with his fiancee Inez, played by Rachel McAdams. Dealing with the divergent goals between he and Inez, Gil mysteriously transports back to the 1920’s every evening at midnight. Mainly taking place in the Jazz Age of Paris, themes of modernism and nostalgia permeate throughout the film as Gil meets some of the greats from that era. If you need to be encouraged to follow your dreams, Midnight in Paris should be the next movie you watch.

Encounters at the End of the World Encounters At The End Of The World is an incredibly beautiful and funny movie about the people and animals who live in Antarctica. The film by Werner Herzog, one of my favorite directors. The individuals that work at the National Science Foundation research station are full of character, and most are permanent world travelers.

The Motorcycle Diaries This awe-inspiring film is based on the memoirs of Che Guevara, from a time before he became an iconic Latin American revolutionary. Guevara (Gael Bernal) and his friend Alberto “Mial” Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna, Guevara’s real-life second cousin) climb atop a motorcycle and ride across South America for eight months and over 14,000 kilometers. The trip inspired the rest of Guevara’s incredible life. The movie will inspire you to learn more about the incredibly beautiful continent.

In Bruges Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell. Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be. They live like tourists and have several bizarre encounters as they wait for the call from Ralph Fiennes, their crime lord boss. The more Farrell complains about the city, the more you’re going to see this beautiful city.

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Amelie Amélie is a fanciful comedy about a young woman who discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, creating a world exclusively of her own making. Shot in over 80 Parisian locations, acclaimed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Delicatessen”; “The City of Lost Children”) invokes his incomparable visionary style to capture the exquisite charm and mystery of modern-day Paris through the eyes of a beautiful ingenue.

The Bucket List Two iconic actors: Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. The Bucket List is a tearjerker, and more importantly, a heart-warming film that will inspire you to do all the things that you want to do before you kick the bucket, including traveling.

Monsoon Wedding With family coming in from across the globe for a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi, this film gives a great look at the Indian culture. Just like any family and a huge event, we get to experience the chaos that arises from the issues of different characters as Vasundhara Das prepares for her arranged marriage. The beautiful scenery and the fascinating family members make this romantic comedy a great addition to your list.

Up Fulfilling a promise to his dead wife, 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to explore the South American wilderness. Accidentally stowed away as the house takes flight is an excitable eight-year-old wilderness explorer named Russell. The Pixar-produced film follows their hilarious once-in-a-lifetime adventure and the encounters they have with others along the way.

A house is floating in the air, lifted by balloons. A dog, a boy and an old man hang beneath on a garden hose. "UP!" is written in the top right corner.

Wild China This six-part nature documentary series gives an in-depth look at China’s greatest natural wonders. The animals and wildlife really come to life in a way that most people don’t experience when they explore China. The natural history is put together beautifully and makes for an interesting documentary that everyone should see.

Be Well, make a list of Where to Go Next! We are plotting fall Journeys and Summer 2021 Safaris!