26 Feb 2024

EES Members on tour, 2024

Walking in the footsteps of Amelia B Edwards.

Banner image: EES Members at the temples of Wadi es-Sebua in Nubia.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Amelia B Edwards’ journey up the Nile, the Egypt Exploration Society and Ancient World Tours guided 23 members around Egypt from 8 to 21 February 2024. Travelling in Amelia’s footsteps, the group visited sites around Aswan, Lake Nasser, and Cairo and even managed to visit the latest EES Walking Trail at the Egyptian Museum

2024 EES Tour_Members_Walking Trail at the Egyptian Museum_EMC

EES Members visiting the Society’s Walking Trail at the Egyptian Museum with Dr Stephanie Boonstra (EES Collections Manager). Note the large EES banners on the façade of the Museum including archival images of Khufu and Nefertiti.

The group started in Cairo, the modern capital of Egypt. This gave everyone chance to visit the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Though it was not located here until 1901, Amelia would have been familiar with many of the masterpieces on display here today (not Tutankhamun’s treasures though, of course). Without Amelia’s founding of the EES, many other artefacts would not be displayed in the Museum, including the small ivory statuette of Khufu (discovered in 1902) and the unfinished bust of Nefertiti (discovered in 1932) which were the stars of our own Walking Trail.

The group then travelled to Aswan where they visited the sites of Sehel Island, Elephantine Island, and Philae temple. Amelia visited the First Cataract region before damming activities on the Nile and recorded, in detail, how her dahabiyeh passed the rapids around Aswan. This is no longer an issue, and the group were able to see many of the sites that she described – though often not in their original locations.

2024 EES Tour_Philae Temple_Gateway of Nectanebo_painting_Amelia Edwards_1874

Philae Temple from the Gateway of Nectanebo, as painted by Amelia Edwards in 1874 (Principal and Fellows of Somerville College, Oxford), and the temple today.

The island of New Kalabsha, for example, includes various relocated monuments such as Kalabsha, Beit el-Wali, Qertassi, and Gerf Hussein. Amelia was not always complimentary about the sites she visited. Kalabsha, for example, she notes was decorated with ‘a masquerade of deities ; such striped and spotted and crossbarred robes ; such outrageous head-dresses ; such crude and violent colouring, we have never seen the like of.’

2024 EES Tour_Temple of Derr_Ramesses II

Decoration in the Temple of Derr dating to the reign of Ramesses II.

Boarding a cruiser (the Omar el Khayam) the group then embarked on a journey along Lake Nasser to Abu Simbel. On the way they visited New Sebua (to visit the temples of Wadi es-Sebua, Dakka, and Maharraqa), and then to New Amada (where they visited the temples of Amada and Derr). Amelia was very disparaging about the temple of Derr, but the group found her pessimism unfounded and thought the decoration there was comparable to that at Abu Simbel!

The ultimate aim of the tour was to be at Abu Simbel on the 150th anniversary (to the day) of the Painter’s discovery of the small chapel of Thoth to the south of the Grand Temple’s main façade. Though the chapel is not open to the public, we achieved our aim and were able to visit the temples three times during our short stay, including the Light & Sound Show.

2024 EES Tour_Members_Members_ stelae_temples of Abu Simbel

EES Members visiting the stelae at the temples of Abu Simbel - often missed but filled with important information about the administration of Nubia during the 19th Dynasty.

On arriving back in Cairo, the group visited the site of Saqqara and the Serapeum, which Amelia visited before modern lighting, and the mastaba tomb of Ty which Amelia considered one of the most impressive works of art in ancient Egypt. The tour also visited Medieval Cairo where the group got to experience Amelia’s own journey walking through the tight alleyways and visiting grand mosques of the Mamluk and Fatimid Period. Our final visit was to Giza, as recommended by Amelia who wrote: ‘The last [excursion] one makes before leaving, is to Ghizeh.’ ‘It is only in approaching [the pyramids], and observing how they grow with every foot of the road, that one begins to feel they are not so familiar after all.’ To finish the trip, we were able to visit the Grand Egyptian Museum to see the recently opened staircase which includes almost 70 monuments – a truly breathtaking end to an adventurous trip in the footsteps of our founder.

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EES Members at Giza panorama at the end of their journey.

The Society was very pleased to work with Ancient World Tours to make this visit possible and would like to thank all those that joined Dr Carl Graves (Director of the EES) on this trip. Medhat and Wael guided the group with patience and expertise along with Peter (AWT) – all of whom provided great company too! Carl delivered five lectures during the tour and accompanied the members throughout. It is always a pleasure to travel with EES members who bring such dedication as well as joy to these journeys. If you’d like to join a tour in the future, then please keep an eye on our website and newsletters as they sell out very fast!

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