Hieroglyphs in the Sun – Chapter 2

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 13/05/2024

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The Pyramids

It was 10 o’clock at night when they finally arrived at their hotel. Everyone was tired and eagerly awaited to hear from the organizer their room numbers. It was there that Sofia heard Nefeli’s surname and that of her son: Emberhardt.

-Her husband must be German, she concluded. And the child is too dark-haired to have a German father, even though Nefeli is quite brunette. Perhaps he is adopted. Who knows?

When she reached her room, she was amazed by the luxury she encountered. The last time she stayed in a hotel, years ago, the room was very small, barely fitting her and Kyriakos. This one was as big as half of her house. It had a huge bed, an armchair, a desk, a bathroom, a separate shower, and many other luxuries.

-Well, if Kyriakos saw this, he would have had a stroke! she thought. But I must leave Kyriakos where he is. I shouldn’t bring him along with me! Let him rest in peace!

Tired as she was, she took a warm bath and lay down. Her sleep was restless. She wasn’t used to sleeping in hotel rooms, and despite her excitement about the trip, she had an underlying anxiety.

She woke up at six and got ready for breakfast. In the dining room, she saw Hans sitting alone at a table and thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to him and break the ice. She approached and greeted him. He replied with a curt “good morning” and continued eating.

Although he didn’t invite her, Sofia sat down and tried to engage him in conversation in English. He answered her questions dryly, but she behaved as if she didn’t understand anything. She knew this reaction from her days as a teacher. Children who are angry behave like that. Deep down, however, they crave attention and significance.

Nefeli, who had arrived shortly after, took her seat, and Sofia got up to serve herself. The buffet was very rich, and unintentionally, she remembered Kyriakos and the disparaging comments he would make.

-Sofia, you should leave him behind, she said critically to herself. You came here to have a good time!

She returned to their table, but the conversation was limited to herself and Nefeli. They talked pleasantly about the day’s program, their rooms, without mentioning any personal issues. Soon, Hans got up, said something to his mother in German, and left. Shortly after, she followed him, leaving Sofia alone.

She looked out the dining room window and saw the Nile flowing silently beneath the city buildings, a silent witness and cause of a civilization whose origins were lost in time. She realized she was in a romantic mood, gazing at the landscape she had waited years to see, but she had to hurry because the trip to the land of the Pharaohs would soon become a reality.

She rushed to her room, grabbed her bag and jacket, and went down to the hotel lobby. Her fellow travelers were all there, full of smiles and expectations. After introductions from the organizer, they all boarded the bus and set off to explore Cairo. The bus was much too big for the number of people in their group, so everyone could sit alone. Hans moved away from his mother and took a seat towards the back of the bus. So, Sofia sat with Nefeli.

Their guide, an Egyptian who spoke flawless Greek, was very informative. He provided initial information about modern Egypt, a country of 110 million people, almost all living on the banks of the Nile, crammed into miserable apartment buildings, and with meager wages for most. In Cairo, 28 million people live, making it the most populous capital in Africa. Everyone is confined to the two banks of the Nile because the rest of the country is a desert. Thus, Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

From the bus windows, everyone could see the sad sight of the dilapidated apartment buildings, which were squeezed close together, housing crowds of people who enjoyed minimal to no comfort. The atmosphere was hazy and gray, creating a heavy feeling for the travelers from Cyprus. Moments like these make people realize how grateful they should feel for the blessings in their lives.

They initially visited the new museum in Cairo, called the Grand Museum, which is a marvel of architecture, and admired the exhibits in the unique hall open to the public. Sofia began to tire of the standing required for this tour and then realized she hadn’t considered this aspect at all when deciding to take the trip.

-Sofia, you’re getting old! she said to herself. I’ll need to find ways to rest in between, she decided.

Their next stop was the pyramids of Giza, the three most significant pyramids in Egypt, as there are many others less known to the public. They are considered the tombs of the Pharaohs, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, who were father, son, and grandson, respectively, and are believed to have been built around 2,500 BC.

Walking among a crowd and endless rows of cars and buses, they reached the infamous pyramids. Sofia was eager to see these enormous structures she had read so much about. As they walked beside Nefeli, they saw Hans leaning on his cane. In a moment, he turned to say something to his mother, and as his face was lit by the sunlight, Sofia saw a green gleam in the depths of his black eyes.

-Perhaps it’s his German blood, she thought. Anyway, his face is very beautiful, although there’s something stern about it. He surely harbors anger inside and is a very lonely child.

The landscape around the pyramids didn’t help Sofia align her expectations with what she saw. A mosaic of different people moved around, all mixed and speaking their own languages. There were Western tourists, Asian tourists, Arab tourists, women in burqas, children, and among them, Egyptian street vendors advertising their goods, from scarves to bags, beads, miniature pyramids, and anything you can imagine. There were also several stray dogs roaming among them, indifferent to the crowds walking beside them.

As they approached the pyramid of Khufu, dozens of camels awaited to take them for a ride, for a fee, of course. According to their guide, it was better not to accept a camel ride because the agreement might be one euro, but then they could demand another 20 euros to get you down. So, the group didn’t dare to try the camel experience.

Further away were horse-drawn carriages, which took tourists around the pyramids, also asking for a fee, of course. Sofia and Nefeli walked along the pyramid of Khufu for about a quarter and then Sofia felt very tired.

-I’ll return to the bus, she said to Nefeli. You can stay here with Hans if you want. I’m exhausted. I can’t take it anymore.

-I’ll come with you. We can’t see much here anyway. It seems more like an amusement park than an ancient monument. I know Hans prefers to be alone. He won’t mind if I leave, Nefeli replied.

She said something in German to her son, and they both headed back.

-Does Hans understand what the guide says in Greek? Sofia asked.

-He understands most of it, but he has no problem. He knows so much about Egypt and its archaeological sites that he doesn’t need a guide. My husband, his father, was an Egyptologist, a professor at the University of Nuremberg. Hans had a great affection for him, and Otto talked to him about Egypt since he was a baby. Instead of fairy tales, Hans learned about the history of Egypt. Six months ago, Otto died of a heart attack, and Hans was inconsolable. We came to Cyprus, which he loves, to forget. We decided to take this trip as a memorial to his father, whom he loved dearly.

-I understand he carries great anger and sadness within him. He’s a very lonely child.

-Yes, that’s how he’s been lately, Nefeli said slowly and fell silent.

Sofia didn’t continue the conversation. She realized she wasn’t pleasing her friend. She tried to change the subject.

-I wasn’t as impressed by the pyramids as much as I expected, she said. Maybe it’s the crowds, maybe the environment that feels like a fair. I’m somewhat disappointed.

-The pyramids of Egypt, especially the great pyramid of Khufu that we just saw, are among the most significant monuments of antiquity and human civilization in general. They have been studied by many scientists and will continue to be studied in the future. The name ‘pyramid’ is a Greek word derived from ‘pyr (fire)-amis (vessel),’ meaning the fire vessel. It’s likened to the fire that starts from the ground and rises upward, forming a triangle. It also resembles the sunrise as we see it rising behind two hills, forming an inverted triangle. The Egyptians considered it an image of the world, a ladder of light connecting Heaven with Earth. Because of this association with light, the great pyramid is called ‘luminous.’ For the Egyptians, the sun god, Ra, was a very important deity. The pyramids, in their original form, were covered with limestone, and at their top, they had a gilded stone. Imagine how they would shine under the sun that floods this country.

-Despite the theories that have been developed, nobody really knows how they were built. At that time, people hadn’t yet discovered iron, and the metallic tools they had were made of copper, which is a very soft metal. However, it has been confirmed that the Nile’s riverbed at that time was very close to this area, so they managed to transport the stones, which they quarried quite far from here, by boat.

-Well, you’ve impressed me with your knowledge. Everything is very interesting.

-I’m just passing on what I heard from my husband. Another topic he often mentioned was that there are many theories about the pyramids, their construction time, and their uses. Let’s not forget that pyramids exist all over the world, not just in Egypt, and new ones are being discovered from Peru, Mexico to Asia, Europe, everywhere. The question of why all ancient peoples used this type of structure for their important monuments remains unanswered, although there are various theories.

-I’m impressed, Nefeli! Please continue!

-I’ll continue since you find it interesting. Otto often came to Egypt for his studies, but he didn’t bring us along. He said we would go together sometime for tourism. Now, I’m going to work. I can’t have you with me. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it, so we came alone…

-Anyway, to continue from where we left off, Otto, despite basically sticking to accepted views, also read alternative theories. One book that particularly impressed him was Robert Bauval’s book, “The Orion Mystery,” published in 1993. The author adopts the theory that the positions of the three pyramids precisely match the stars of the Orion constellation. Using modern means, he simulated the night sky of ancient Egypt and found that the pyramid-star alignment “locks” into the date of 10,450 BCE (in the astrological age of Leo).

-With the same theory, the position of the Sphinx is also identified, which also aligns with the same date opposite the constellation of Leo. Let’s not forget that the Sphinx is a lion with a human head. It is concluded that the prevailing opinion on the construction time of these three pyramids is wrong and that they are much older.

-How exactly does that work? It’s hard for me to understand.

-I’ll explain it as best I can. As you know very well, the Earth is constantly moving, and the positions of the constellations shift in the sky. There is a science called archaeoastronomy, and for monuments like the pyramids, whose position is believed to coincide with a certain constellation, scientists can calculate what the specific position of the constellation was when the monuments were built, so they can be directly below them. This way, they find the date of the monuments’ construction. Of course, there are different opinions on this, but it’s a very interesting interpretation.

-Yes, it’s very impressive!

-There are also many mathematical relationships that arise from the proportions of the Great Pyramid, but to be honest, I can’t convey them to you. What I remember is that the proportions correspond to the golden ratio.

-What exactly is the golden ratio?

-That’s the question I asked Otto as well. It’s somehow the perfect proportions when we talk about a work of art, a building, etc. It’s the mathematical relationships that various parts of a work have with each other. The ancient Greeks were the first to discover it, and masterpieces like the Acropolis of Athens, the sculptures of Phidias, and many others were created based on this principle. I can’t tell you more because I don’t have a strong connection to mathematics either.

-It’s okay. I probably wouldn’t understand anyway.

-Another characteristic of the pyramids – any pyramid with the correct proportions – studied by modern scientists is their bioenergetic ability to accelerate biological processes. Specifically, inside a pyramid, plants grow faster, wounds heal faster, and other similar effects occur.

-I’ve heard about that too. It’s said that if you put a piece of raw meat in a pyramid, it stays preserved and doesn’t decay as quickly as it would in any other external conditions.

At that moment, the other fellow travelers had started returning to the bus, laden with small purchases they had made from the itinerant vendors. Sophia looked out the window one last time and faced the pyramids. Now she saw them with a different spirit and respect. The colorful crowd and activities taking place around them couldn’t influence their timelessness and mystery. She felt a shiver run through her. She greeted them with her gaze and decided to read more about them when she returned home.

That night, as she lay in her room, contemplating the day that brought many questions, she realized how lonely Hans looked. His mother seemed to have a concern, but she didn’t want to talk about it. Of course, I won’t pressure her, although with my experience with children, maybe I could help her. Time will tell if she trusts me. It’s impressive, though, how much she knows about the pyramids. She brightened my day with the information she gave me. My experience changed a lot after we talked.

With these thoughts in her mind and the day’s fatigue in her body, she fell into a deep sleep.


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