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

Cashew Bites from William’s Camp

Safari by Appointment. Our clients and I rave about our Kenya Safari Team’s wonderful portable tent camp in the migration path in the Maasai Mara on the banks of the Sand River. They own the spot and return every year to set up an exclusive private camp. In weeks, the herds will head toward the Serengeti, with half a million wildebeest competing for grazing with herds of zebra, all will eventually cross the Mara River. Our safaris include all private transfers, one does not share a bush plane with other travelers. At William’s Camp, you travel in custom stretch Land Rover Defenders with luxurious comfy leather seats.

Brekkie in the Bush, Kenya

It goes without saying that we provide the best guides and in our portable camp, Stormin’ Norman, the indomitable bush camp chef, turns out soufflés, exquisite appetizers and bountiful banquets. Eventually you beg him to stop serving more food, he doesn’t understand NO! If you need a stationary bike or small gym set up in the bush, we can oblige!

In Kenya, after staying at a few spectacular lodges, we usually conclude our safari’s at William’s Camp. One of my favorite snacks among a long list of menu items is a snack we dubbed Cashew Bites from William’s Camp.

Cashew Bites from William’s Camp
2 segmented and chopped limes
2cm piece of chopped ginger
1 finely diced shallot
1/2 chopped hot chili
1 Tbsp coriander leaves
2 Tbsp peanuts of cashews
dash fish sauce ( optional)
sprinkle of sugar
8- 12 spinach leaves
Mix together all ingredients except spinach leaves.
Lay the spinach leaves on a platter and place a spoonful of the mix on each, roll up on each leaf and eat in one bite!

Lunch in the bush, Kenya

A Day in the Life of A Safari Guest

  • As your plane descends towards the sun-baked airstrip, a beaming member of my land team is ready and waiting to welcome you with chilled drinks before you are whisked off on a scenic game drive en route to your lodge or camp.
  • The lodge staff is waiting at the entrance to greet you with refreshing drinks and fragrant towels. Your personal butler escorts you to your bush suite, where your luggage is already waiting, as you unwind and drink the views of the surrounding bush.
  • Mouth watering aromas waft on the still air as lunch is served on the private deck of your suite, on the wide veranda of the main guest area or at the poolside.
  • Choose between a blissful nap on your downy bed or chilling out at the pool.
  • After a sumptuous high tea, embark on a thrilling afternoon-into-evening game drive. Chances are excellent that you will encounter a great variety of exciting animals and birds. Your professional, highly trained ranger and tracker will interpret the wonders of the wilderness, making your experience effortlessly enlightening and unforgettable.
  • As the golden orb of the sun sinks towards the horizon, you stop in a scenic bush setting. As if by magic, a table with snacks and drinks appear, with the noises of the African bush as a primeval soundtrack. A traditional Sundowner is a nightly occurrence in the bush.
  • After a dramatic spot-lit night drive where you thrill to predators hunting and other nocturnal animal activity, you return to the lodge, where iced drinks and snacks await you in the fire- and lantern-lit boma under a bright canopy of stars.
  • Alternatively, you may experience a real surprise on your night game drive. Rounding a turn in the bush, you come across an enchanting scene: dozens of lanterns festoon the trees, and huge fire-bowls illuminate damask-clad tables twinkling with crystal and silver. An alfresco feast of scrumptious Pan-African cuisine is served by smiling chefs in crisp white, followed by cigars, cognac and stargazing.
  • As you drift into a deep sleep, you contemplate the delights that the next day will bring: an early morning wake- up tap on your door, fragrant coffee and muffins before setting off on a game drive as the pre-dawn sky reveals tints of cerise, gradually turning to azure blue as the new day welcomes the warmth of the rising sun. The bush is alive with wildlife, early risers browsing, lion stretching and yawning as their fluffy cubs frolic nearby. A mid-drive stop produces welcome hot drinks, chilled fresh juice and snacks: merely a prelude to the delicious breakfast that awaits your return to the lodge.
  • Later, you may decide on a fascinating bush walk, where your ranger will share intriguing insights into the fauna and flora of the area. Or you may simply opt to relax in a quiet corner, where warm, friendly land teams will ensure that your every desire is anticipated and exceeded.
Kenya Safari
Kenya Safari endless horizons