I flew to Cairo from London Heathrow on Sunday, March 15, in fact exactly one week ago. Arriving rather late in the afternoon, there was not much time left to do lots, so I went to my Pension , relaxed, got something to eat and had an early night. That was necessary, as the following morning I had to be at the Austrian Archaeological Institute at 6:30 for a trip to Tell el-Dab'a. The objective of the current (and some previous) season is the 15th dynasty palace . I gained some insight in the archaeological conditions and the complex as a whole, was able to talk to Manfred Bietak and take a thorough look around the excavation house.
The first thing I did the following morning (17 March) was to pack my stuff together and move it to the Austrian Archaeological Institute on Zamalek where I was kindly permitted to stay for a couple of nights. The rest of that day I spent walking round Cairo, getting organised, getting lost - the usual sort of thing.
After a good night's sleep I left early and took a succession of several vehicles to reach the city of Tanis, near San el-Hagar in the Eastern Delta. I had to leave from Cairo's Aboud Station (for buses), take a Peugeot Taxi to Faqus, a microbus to Huseynia and then another bus to San el-Hagar...at which point I was so confused that I asked for help, as I was not sure how to reach the site itself. Thus I ended up following a friendly local who had been on the same bus to his workplace – a school, where I sat in the headmaster's office for about an hour, talking and drinking coffee. Talking mostly in English, mind you, as my Arabic is unfortunately still rather abysmal.
At Tanis, which I reached after being driven there by a member of staff at the aforementioned school, I took about 400 photographs with the lovely new camera I bought a short while ago. I managed to get a good feeling for the site, which I had entirely to myself, wandered far and got a decent overview over the amount of material from Piramesse-Qantir which had been brought there after the Piramesse was abandoned after the 20th dynasty.
The trip back to Cairo took a very long time - I managed to board the wrong Peugeot taxi at Faqus which had a bus station well outside Cairo as its final destination... I met a helpful guy there who travelled into Cairo with me, but managed somehow to lead me through some rather dark suburban streets. I was happy to finally take a taxi which took me to the closest Metro station from which I reached Zamalek and then the Austrian Institute rather late that evening.
The next day I went to Bubastis, a site which is on the outskirts of the city of Zagazig in the south-eastern Delta. The journey was unproblematic – a Peugeout from Aboud took me straight to Zagazig from where a cheap (£E 2) taxi took me to the site. Some friends from university in Berlin work there, now for the University of Postdam, and it was good to see them again. Apart from the temple and I was able to see the New Kingdom necropolis and Middle Kingdom palace with a policeman, and also the current excavations.
I was very lucky on the 20th – my plan had been to visit Memphis that day, as one of the key-sites for my PhD this site had some priority, but I was also aware that this trip was rather expensive. An American tourist who had been waiting for a taxi at my hotel and was only in Cairo for the day had already booked a car for the day and he kindly let me come along. He wanted to see more than just Memphis, so we first went to the Citadel in Islamic Cairo which was very enjoyable. We then went to Giza, where he even paid for a horse and carriage ride round the plateau, before we moved on to Saqqara, stopped briefly at Abusir and then went to Memphis. He gained some egyptological insight from me whilst all I had to pay for were my entrance fees. In Memphis, we visited the museum, but I was rather disappointed, as the site of Kom Rabi'a was closed to the public. Even begging did not work and I was only able to take some pictures through the fence. Finally I managed to find a way into a different part of the site and take some pictures of some mudbrick and limestone structures.
The following day I needed some rest and spent the day in the hotel, working on my GIS project, georeferencing the maps from Amarna which I had recently scanned. I was halfway successful but shall continue working on this.
Today, I am leaving Cairo and will take a bus to Mellawi in Middle Egypt, from where I will take a car to the site of Amarna . Barry Kemp kindly agreed for me to arrive a day earlier than intended and I am looking forward to getting there very much!
Photos to follow - the internet connection is not fast enough at the moment.