A survey of Egypt, Part VIII: Port Said to Cairo
By Jimmy Dunn
The 1st of October was to be our last day in the Delta on this visit to Egypt, as part of our survey. It was also my 55th birthday. According to my original travel plans, I should have been back inCairo for several days at this point, and there was to be a little party at theHotel Longchamps. Unfortunately, delays at the beginning of the survey made our departure into the Delta several days later than originally planned, so the party was never finalized and now, I began my birthday at 3:00 am, leaving Port Said, but at least I would be back at my home away from home at the Longchamps that evening. Nevertheless, we had some important sites to visit this day.
Poor old, tired Ramesses the Great rests in the sand at Tanis
Our plan called for us to head down along theSuez Canal to Qantar, prior to moving west. This worked out well, as sunrise found us in a good position next to the canal, just as several ships were passing. It was a hazy morning though, and the ships seemed to suddenly appear out of the mist. We photographed for some time along a small ridge, before moving on.
Our first scheduled stop this morning wasTanis. Tanis was really the Greek name of the city. Its ancient Egyptian name was Djanet. I cannot say that this is the most extensive site that we visitedin the Delta, as is often reported. ActuallyButoperhaps holds that distinction, because of its development over much of Egypt's ancient history, but for a tourist, Tanis certainly has much more interesting artifacts and is the most impressive site that we visited. Of course, the reason for this is that Tanis was an important area much later in Egyptian history. Indeed, Tanis is one of the most important archaeological sites of Egypt'sThird Intermediate Period. It replacedPer-Rameses as the royal residence of kings during the21st and22nd Dynasties.
Many obelisks with good crisp inscriptions dot the landscape at Tansi
There were a number of temple complexes built atTanis, and also a number of tombs. Today, there are really no completed temples here, but there are many monolithic statues and obelisks,along with some good small tombs that can be seen from the surface. Again, one of the most impressive aspects of Tanis is the crispness of many of the inscriptions. This site is not really all that difficult to visit, and it is well worth the effort.
As we continued our journey, we soon passed by a local delta market. This type of market is not a bazaar, open constantly, and it is certainly not a tourist market, but rather one that is held usually once each week, where locals sell their products. In this case, it was mostly various produce. It must be a good time forthe local Egyptians, a time when they can socialize and meet up with friends. I had to make a stop here. Surely most of these people had never met an American, but they could not have been more friendly and open. Everyone seemed in such a good mood, and the atmosphere was festive. To be honest, I enjoy the ancient archaeological sites of Egypt, but I suppose that I enjoy this sort of cultural exchange much more.
We also visitedTell el-Dab'a, though there were some sites in this general vicinity that we missed. Indeed, we had planned to visit, in this vicinity, and around Tanis, Ezbt Rushdi, Tell Far'un,Tell el-Qirqafa and Tell el-Maskhuta. However, after a bit more investigation on these sites, I do plan on visiting them, or at least the ones that are worthwhile to visit, in the near future.
Really, while there are a number of sites in the Delta that are well worth a visit, there are many others where one will simply distract hard working Egyptologists, while seeing very little. Largely, Tell el-Dab'a seemed to be one of these sites. For every place in the Delta that is readily open to tourists, there are perhaps ten or twenty where scholars tediously work to piece together very small parts of history. Sometimes this involves carefully scratchingthe dirt away from ancient brick walls, or at other times meticulously assembling thousands of pieces into recognizable vessels.
We moved on, this time toZagazig, a modern industrial city with an ancient cat necropolis known asBubastis (Tell Basta). This is a rather refined site compared toTanis with a open air museum and fairly well labeled exhibits, just next to the ruins of the actual necropolis. Its proximity toCairomakes it a relatively easy site to visit, and it is more or less on the way to visiting Tanis. This site is dominated by a colossal statue ofBast, the ancient cat goddess, who seems to look down upon and guard the ancient ruins. Bubastis is a pleasant visit, with some good artifacts, and its necropolis, though only a series of mudbrick walls, indicates the reverence that the cat goddess held. There are also a number of other ruins here, including a few tombs.
Admittedly, we made a bit of a short day of it on the first of October. I enjoyed the Delta, but was ready to get back toCairo and everyone was ready for a little rest. We would have the 2nd to rest, at least to some extent, because the morning of the 3rd we would begin to make our way into theSinai at 3:00 am. I missed some places in the Delta that I wanted to explore. That is not too troublesome though as I will, in the near future, return and make some day trips back in that direction. There were also a number of sites we did not visit inAlexandria, but once again, a future part of thesurvey will lead me back through Alex where I can spend a little more time.
The Delta is really an amazing place, mostly unspoiled by tourism. These people here, many very common Egyptians, are a robust folk who most of the time seemed outright jolly and openly friendly. Though they toil hard, it is rewarding for most of them. They are able to feed their families well, and otherwise provide for them, and this it seems is all that matters. Perhaps many of them are unaware of world politics, or unconcerned. They certainly welcomed me with open arms, hearty smiles and the usual hospitality I have come to expect in Egypt. While the Delta may lack the grand monuments ofLuxor andCairo, it has its own sweet flavor.Alexandria, on the other hand, seems all the time to sprout new reasons to visit. This second largest city in Egypt will, it must, doubtless see a rising number of tourists. Once a day trip for most, it will soon be much more of a primary destination.
Last Updated: December 25th, 2011