The Alabaster Sphinx of Memphis

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The Sphinx of Memphis, carved curing Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, is the largest known statue made of calcite. It is tiny when compared to the great sphinx of Giza, but impressive, unique and beautiful. It is also called the Alabaster Sphinx because calcite and the softer mineral, gypsum, are the two “rocks” known as alabaster. It’s tail was noticed in 1910 protruding from a pile of sand. It was excavated the following year. Only in a rainless environment would it have survived so long.

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I shot this during a trip to Egypt in 2009. It is just lying down (sphinxes tend to pose like that)  in a courtyard of the Memphis Museum near Cairo, which houses (inside) a colossus of the 19th Dynasty pharaoh, Rameses II.  I was being harassed by a fellow traveler named Mike from New York, who came up behind me calling “Meester… Meester.” Didn’t fool me. I knew right away it wasn’t a vendor trying to sell me something. Good try, Mike, good try… You’d have more luck “doing” Rodney Dangerfield impressions.

Cairo – Khan al-Khalili At Night

Khan al-Khalili market Islamic Cairo
Khan al-Khalili souk in Islamic Cairo

February 10, 2009: The first place we went on our first night in Cairo was to the “Khan,” a famous bazaar or souk. It was a terrific start to our holiday, full of the traditional with a touch of the modern in some of the clientele. We had some shopping to do.

Khan al-Khalili Clothing Shop
Khan al-Khalili Clothing Shop

In a place like this we bought our traditional Egyptian galabeyas for a good price. Very comfortable Egyptian cotton. They were recommended by our tour company for a gala dinner that would occur five days later on our Nile cruise.

Khan al-Khalili Restaurant and Naguib Mahfouz Coffee Shop
Khan al-Khalili Restaurant and Naguib Mahfouz Coffee Shop

We ate a very enjoyable dinner here. The coffee shop is named after a famous Egyptian writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. His well known work, the Children of Gebelawi, published in 1959, managed to simultaneously tick off the clergy of all three Abrahamic “faiths.” It was banned in Egypt until 2006. Lest you laugh, I remember the Vatican banning sexy saxophone music in the same period when Mahfouz wrote this book. Sexy tenor saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor benefited immensely from the interdict. I and many other teenagers bought the offending album, Blue Mist. It sold like hotcakes. I enjoyed reading Children of Gebelawi almost as much as I enjoyed close dancing to Blue Mist.

Khan al-Khalili Restaurant Bill
Khan al-Khalili Restaurant Bill

Don’t be alarmed. This bill was in Egyptian Pounds.

El Fishawy Bar
El Fishawy Bar

We had a coffee here. I was tempted to try the sheisha, or waterpipe, with some flavoured tobacco. Chickened out. Fantastic atmosphere, decor and attractive, modern clientele.

Khan al-Khalili market lamps
Khan al-Khalili market lamps

We took taxis to and from the Khan back to our opulent Cairo Hotel Marriott on Gezira Island, Cairo’s “Manhattan.” The core of this hotel was once a palace built to accommodate Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. Eugénie was in town to grace the opening of the Suez Canal in 1879.