Friday, February 19, 2016

2016 Pre-Field School "Prep Week"

Declan and I left Wednesday night the 10th, and after a mega-journey via London and Cairo, we finally arrived in Luxor at midnight on the 11th. We spent the weekend getting over jet lag and acclimatizing. This was especially good for Declan, as he re-met all of Hazem’s family and began to get to know them again. Of course, Hazem’s family has been wonderful and Declan very quickly became a part of them; he has particularly taken to Hazem’s brother Ahmed, who was working on the Red Sea Coast last year. They even made Declan a little tent in the living room, which he calls his “house.” I spent Sunday and Monday meeting with various East and West bank officials, stopping off at ARCE to say hello to everyone there, and checking that all the paperwork for us to start the school had been done. In addition, on Monday I was able to visit the tomb of the “other” Djhuty, TT 11, which is being excavated and conserved by a team directed by a good friend and colleague, Jose Galan. Their work is truly magnificent! TT 11 Djhuty was also a very important official during the reign of Hatshepsut, so it was fascinating to see all the discoveries the Spanish team has made. Afterwards, I was invited to lunch with Jose and his team, and Hazem joined us as well. It was a reunion of sorts for Hazem, as he also works for Jose.
Declan on the plane to Cairo
Declan's "house" at Hazem's

On Monday evening, Declan and I moved over to Betsy’s flat in preparation for Will’s arrival from London that night. Tuesday was a slow start, and Will and I spent much of the day reviewing our field school notes from last year and talking about the program for this year. Naturally, the Oasis Restaurant with its delicious iced coffee was once again our working base. Our favorite waiter Ayman welcomed us as long-standing regulars. We finished off the day with a wonderful dinner at Hazem’s house.
Declan's first morning in Betsy's flat

Wednesday we hit the ground running and made our way to the West Bank first thing. Although we intended a brief stop at the ARCE office, an unexpected surprise awaited us in the form of Maggie Bryson, a PhD student of Betsy Bryan’s and working in Luxor on an ARCE Fellowship. I know here of course through Betsy, and Will had met her before in Cairo. Yet another reminder, as if we needed it (!), of how small the Egyptological world is. Then it was off to TT110 to meet our inspector, Megahad, who was incredibly welcoming, and seems enthusiastic about our arrival and the imminent beginning of the field school. Will and I spent a couple hours in the tomb to re-familiarize ourselves with what we had done last year, and also to look at the passage with the newly cleaned and conserved walls. The passage is the area that our 2 returning advanced students (Peter and Shaimaa) will be drawing. When we emerged from the tomb it was to discover that Saad Bakhit had arrived from Dra Abu el-Naga. An old friend from last year, we were pleased to learn he will be our neighbor during the work as he is in charge of excavating the shafts in the courtyard of T110. At the end of the morning, our Assistant Epigrapher form last year, Sayed Mamdouh, joined us at the tomb and we gave him a lift back to ARCE. We no sooner did that, than we saw our former student Alaa trying to hitch a ride to the ferry. Naturally, we turned the car around and picked him up, to much general rejoicing. We invited him to join us for coffee with our other assistant, Yaser Hussein, near the ferry landing. In classic Egyptian fashion (which you will begin to recognize through the course of this field school), when we stopped to meet Yaser, who should be with him, but yet another former student, Abd el-Ghany! Again much rejoicing ensued and we all made our way to a local balady tea shop.
Epigraphy Assistant Sayed Mamdouh and JJ discussing the north stela in TT110.
General rejoicing in the minibus with Alaa

After lengthy goodbyes at the ferry landing, Will and I made our way East for a brief working lunch at Oasis. Then we planned to go to yet another coffee shop to meet all of our former students for drinks. This one was recommended by Hazem, but had managed to close the previous week! No matter, as there are many of them, and we found one across from Luxor Temple, informing all of our students by phone of the change in plan as we walked. As is often the case in Egypt, the alternative proved to be an excellent choice because it offered wonderful ice cream. We had a lovely time chatting and catching up and general rejoicing ensued!
Coffee & ice cream with the 2015 students

Thursday Will and I again made our way to the West and TT110 to finish planning and preparation for the work and teaching in the tomb before the field school starts on Saturday. This also proved an ideal opportunity for Hazem and Sayed to install the lighting system within the tomb, which will be essential once we began the epigraphy. At the end of the morning we gave Megahad a brief history of our work and the historical importance of the tomb, which he was quite interested to learn. After dropping Sayed at ARCE, Will and I headed East for another working lunch, followed by a few hours of down time before heading back across the river to Marsam Hotel / Sheikh Ali’s. There we had arranged for a dinner with all the new students, so that they could meet each other, and of course also Hazem, Sayed and Yaser, so that they too could meet the new students, and we could all get to know one another a bit better. It also allowed us to give them more information about the field school and how the program would run. The dinner ended, as often happens, with several attempts at a group photo. With several photographers amongst the group, each with their own ideas about group photos, it takes a while to come to an agreement!
Dinner with our new 2016 students
2016 ERFS Students and Crew. 
From left to right, rear: Nadia Abd el-Latef, Yaser Hussein, JJ Shirley, 
Will Schenck, Sayed Mamdouh, Abu el-Hagag; 
front: Sayed el-Rekaby, Hazem Helmy, Mahmoud Hassan

Friday, like last year, Will and I spent at Chicago House working and partaking of their excellent lunch. It also allowed us to meet many of our friends and colleagues who are working now in Luxor, including Geoffrey Martin, Japp van Dijk and Julia Harvey, and of course the Chicago House folks. The day ended with a return to Declan’s favorite restaurant (where he celebrated his 1st birthday last year), Pizza Roma, where he is beloved by the kitchen staff. We were joined by Maggie Bryson and Abduallah Soliman, who entertained Declan with many pictures of horses from their ride that afternoon out into the wadis of the West Bank. It was a good end to the first week.