Friday, February 27, 2009

Pyramids and Progress ca. 1900

John Ward, E.S.A.
Eyre and Spottiswoode

Yes I know I am writing a review of a 111 year old book but hey I am a live one unlike the participants in this book whom all have long past into the fossil record.

The author John Ward was given the good graces of Dr. Flinders Petrie and the Egypt Exploration Fund with the introduction to the book from the Reverend Professor Sayce. The introduction by Professor Sayce is a lovely but short view of the modern restoration of this most ancient of landscapes.

Mr. Ward's journey begins in the delta and soon it is sunrise and the elegant Mr. Ward is in the rose granite temple of Khafra on the Giza plateau sipping coffee made for him by the tall handsome guardian of the temple.

On his journeys the author all the while is collecting small scarabs and other small antiquities plus making the acquaintances of M. de Morgan who takes Mr. Ward down the shaft at Saqqara to show him the catacombs of the Princess' where M. de Morgan found two caches of fabulous jewels belonging to the middle kingdom Princess'.

The author has a good sense of humor and is soon riding a skeleton of a tiny donkey many miles to the pyramid of Medum, bareback! The pyramid having been long ago stripped by Rameses II of its casing and yet still the most impressive of ruins.

The book is lavishly illustrated with quaint pictures on just about every page and is truly a romantic read of a time when Egypt was much more open to explore. Mr. Ward and his party visits the temples at Luxor by moonlight and has to go down several dozen steps in order to visit the interior of the partially dugout temple at Esnah in which a mosque sits on the roof.

As interesting as the book is it is the last chapter on the creation of reservoirs at Assouan and Assiout and the repair of the old barrage near Cairo in the last years on the 19th century that are particularly fascinating.

All in all the journey is of fine class in a land before tourist amounted in the millions and when a visitor could explore Egypt as a man and not as livestock.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks this was helpful