January 30, 2012
0111 EGYPT (Cairo) - Memphis and its Necropolis - the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (UNESCO WHS)
This view of the pyramids at Giza, from the plateau to the south of the complex, is, without doubt, one of the most popular. From right to left can see the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops in Greek - 2540 BC), the Pyramid of Khafre (Chefren in Greek) and the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mykerinos in Greek). The three smaller pyramids in the foreground are subsidiary structures associated with Menkaure's pyramid. The largest of them, the Pyramid of Khufu, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence, remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, unsurpassed until the 160m-tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in 1311. But not about the records of the pyramids I want to talk, nor about their meanings or about how they were built, but rather about their historical destiny and about how they were treated by the followers.
They were opened and robbed even by locals, likely during the First Intermediate Period (ca. 2181-2055 BC), anyway before that firstly the Persians, then the Greeks and finally the Romans to conquer Egypt. Moreover, during the 18th dynasty, to the orders of another pharaoh, none other than the great Rameses II (ca. 1303-1213 BC), casing stones were detached from the Pyramid of Khafre to build a temple in Heliopolis.
When they conquered Egypt in 641 AD, the Arabs found the Pyramid of Khufu intact, but they haven't left it so for long, because they also began to tear the casing stones off. Around 820, during a visit to Egypt, Caliph al-Ma'mun ordered the breaching of the Great Pyramid of Giza looking for treasure. He entered the pyramid by tunneling into the Pyramid of Khufu near where tradition located the original entrance. Of course that they didn't found any treasure, but the tunnel, named afterwards Robbers' Tunnel, is used in nowadays as entry for tourists. The Pyramid of Khafre was also open in 1372, during the reign of the Great Emir Jalburgh el-Khassakim, as recorded the arab historian Ibn Abd as-Salaam.
At the end of the twelfth century, Al-Malik al-Aziz Osman bin Salahadin Yusuf (the second son of Saladin, who crushed the Crusaders), attempted to demolish the pyramids starting with Menkaure's one. Sultan’s people worked eight months, managed to remove, with exhausting efforts, one or two stones each day, using wedges, levers and ropes. Ultimately they merely spoiled the pyramid by leaving a large vertical gash in its north face and proved themselves incapable. Perhaps if they had continued, the Ottomans, if not even Napoleon, would have found them still removing blocks of stone.
The Ottomans, who conquered Egypt in 1517, have been content to leave the pyramids to the mercy of fate, ie to the mercy of anyone who wanted, and Napoleon's incursion of 1798 and then British rule (1882-1952) have not brought either anything positive to Giza Necropolis. The celebrity, which attracted crowds of tourists, adventurers and crooks, meant for the pyramid only plunder and degradation. It's enough to remember that in Victorian times wealthy Europeans liked to buy mummies and invite everyone over to their parlors for an unwrapping party, or that the mummies were used for produce a brown pigment (still referred to as "mummy brown" or "Egyptian brown") or aromatic oils, such as olibanum and ambergris, which can be made into machine oils, soaps or even incense for use in the Catholic Church.
Only in recent decades, with the introduction of non-invasive research methods, and the efficient legal protection, the pyramids have come to enjoy the respect that it deserves. On this line to score also the ansamble's designation a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 under the name Memphis and its Necropolis - the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur.
I couldn't find any info about the stamps.
sender: Azzam Adil (direct swap)
sent from Cairo (Egypt), on 16.01.2012
photo: M. El-Bayoumy