Monday, 8 December 2014

Tour de Egypt

Slipping out of the culturally rich Parisian streets to sample ancient Egypt might not seem like the obvious ‘to do’, but as I discover this endlessly astonishing collection is well worth a look. Originally sold to the French king around 1826, by Jean-François Champollion, a master of ancient language, the collection grew from around 9000 pieces, and still grows today.

A blur of bikes – a living train of spokes and colour – hurtles past me. The crowd cheers as the entourage of determined cyclists snake around the Arc de Triumph just as quickly as they appeared. A fantastic sight. On a stiflingly hot July Parisian summer’s day, however, further stifled by hordes of gatherers for the Tour de France, I decide to take time out.

A long and frustrating diversion means I have to take the most indirect route to the Louvre possible. Squeezing past a plethora of bright yellow Tour de France t-shirts and hat stalls, and bedazzled tourists, I eventually turn through an arch into the courtyard of the Louvre.

The queue circles around the elegant glass pyramid, and eventually I am in, and navigating my way to the Egyptian exhibits. I hadn’t anticipated the scale of the Louvre – really I hadn’t – and its cavernous wonders, spaces and corridors seem to have more intricacy than the human mind; at least more than the mind could ever possibly fully absorb.

The Egyptian area is marked by the appearance of a magnificent sphinx.

Smaller artefacts appear around every corner, including small carved boats. I’m astonished at the level of detail retained after all this time.

Large hieroglyphic tablets boggle the mind – do we really know everything about this ancient world?

Other artefacts indicate the level of dedication they had to worship and ritual.

Some of the figures look almost otherworldly.

Just when I think that these discoveries are over, I enter a huge room lined with giant, hieroglyphic columns and imposing statues.

I’m particularly drawn to a hieroglyphic arch. The Egyptians seemed to have held most of their importance on portals and transcendence.

Speaking of transcendence I finish off in the afterlife section, though a little eerie, giving a sense of the scale of belief they had in the ‘other’ world. A mock-up of a mummy reveals the end result of the preparation for the afterlife.

Ascending the stone steps back into the Tour de France crowds, I welcome the chance of such a fascinating and unusual distraction, into another time and place entirely.

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