Eyre Affairs

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006


"You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!"

Two years ago when I redecorated my new bedroom, I wanted a room that would feel transporting. I was toying with the idea of Japanese prints and Asian decor, but in the end I chose prints and decor of one of my favorite cultures: Egyptian. My walls are a deep golden color. Prints on the walls include that of Nefrititi, Hathor, and Seti. There are two sculptures I ordered specifically from an online store that specialized in Ancient Egyptian art: one is a cat, the other a bird.

I think every child in New York remembers his/her first field trip to the MET, because it always involves the Egyptian wing. I recall being there on a second grade field trip, being ushered in and out of small crevices in resurrected temples and staring into thick glass which contained the various coffins of mummies. I think the morbid fascination with mummification begins quite early on in the elementary school years. There is just something really appealing to an eight year old about a deceased person's brains and other body fluid getting sucked out of the body via the nose. Of course, there are other aspects of Ancient Egyptian culture that are also fascinating, including the hieroglyphics, architecture, and deities. Ancient Egyptian culture is studied at various stages throughout grade school, and when I was teaching ninth grade three years ago, I and my history counterpart at school put together an interdisciplinary project involving a trip to the wing at the MET. He and I went together one late afternoon in October and had so much fun putting together this kind of scavenger hunt for our students. It amazes me how the MET was not only able to obtain such beautiful artifacts from Ancient Egypt, but to obtain these artifacts in such high quantities. Of course I love the Temple of Dendur, as does Billy Crystal's character does in When Harry Met Sally, but there are so many other beautiful pieces in the collection that are so much more subtle. A few favorites of mine include a crocodile statue, the jewels and amulets from the mummy burials, and the carefully etched sarcophagi.

When I was in sixth grade, I attended a Halloween party dressed as Cleopatra. I had found this awesome headdress that had gold sequins and a snake that came out at the forehead, complete with beads dangling down my hair from the crown of the headpiece. My mother loves Elizabeth Taylor, so my sisters and I saw the movie as young girls. Of course I realize now how far from historically accurate the film is, but nonetheless it does capture the aura of Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra happens to be one of Shakespeare's lesser read plays, which is rather unfortunate. It is one of my favorites because it is evident how much Shakespeare was mezmerized by the sexual power Cleopatra owned. It is my hope that one summer it shall be the play in the park, and perhaps even put on screen.

Of course I have also come to love Egyptian food in my adult years. Some of the best Egyptian restaurants in New York are found in Astoria, including Mombar. I have eaten there twice; the decor makes you feel as if you have stepped into Arabian Nights, and the food is phenomenal. There is quite a link between Egyptian cuisine and Armenian cuisine, but Egyptian cuisine has some great twists that I enjoy as well. I do hope that one day it will be safe to travel to Egypt so I can see the pyramids, enjoy the food, and relish in the ancient history.

So what inspired this post?

As a teacher, I feel that it is important to expose children to various cultures very early on. A teaching moment arose yesterday with my Kindergartens. One of my counselors busted out her 80's music cd collection, and on came "Walk Like an Egyptian." I looked around the room; my kids were completely disaffected as my counselors and I were going crazy over the song. We decided to take matters into our own hands; I think we refused to succumb to the generation gap. We grabbed chairs, cleared tables, and instructed my kindies how to walk like an Egyptian for a good twenty minutes. They loved it. Ok, so there is absolutely very little merit in teaching them about Egypt via a cliched movement that Susanna Hoffs perpetuated, but you have to start somewhere, don't you?

25 Comments:

Blogger Marty said...

Next, teach them what a Manic Monday is. Just don't try and get them In Your Room, as you may be fired for being "That Kook."


(Nice post, dearest. Egypt is my Dream Place.)

10:02 PM  
Blogger question girl said...

i DO remember my first visit to the TOMB's

10:33 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Marty ~ I was thinking Hazy Shade of Winter myself.

QG ~ I was so disappointed that there were only casings, though. I thought I was going to see a real mummy.

11:23 PM  
Blogger work in progress said...

What a great visual! Thursday in a classroom, with the chairs and desks thrust aside, teaching 5 year olds to walk like an Egyptian!

Love it!

8:20 AM  
Blogger question girl said...

what i enjoy now, is when i go seeing it from, literally a differnt angle.... but i also love that now i can meander thru the entire place w/o my parents - we just meet up at different times - i love just sitting and staring at paintings of my own choice

9:44 AM  
Blogger Connie said...

I LOVE that story!

Great job, Teach.

1:10 PM  
Blogger David said...

I LOVE the Egyptian wing at the Met. When I visted NYC last year, it was mainly as a hopping off point to my Egyptian adventure. I had one day to cram in as many NY sights as possible. At the top of my list was the Met. Statue of Liberty could wait... I had to get to the Met. And the Egyptian exhibits did not disappoint. The Temple of Dendur is unbelievably cool. And I love Egyptian cuisine. I would love to try Armenian. :)

1:56 PM  
Blogger beachgirl said...

None of my teachers were EVER as cool as you!!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Ryane said...

Oh, what a great image. I have never been to the Met (please don't boo me out of the room!) and, here in DC, a similar experience is had by school children at the Musuem of Natural History. Hiding inside this museum is a rainforst, a bug zoo, the Hope Diamond and that amazing mastadon elephant in the entryway...I could spend hours in there...And now--I will put the Met (and eating Egyptian food??) at the top of my next NYC visit--which will hopefully be soon! =-)

3:20 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

WIP ~ Maybe you can play the song at your wedding? ;) j/k

QG ~ I have gone to the MET alone a few times and loved every second of it!

David ~ I am still jealous that you were IN Egypt itself. :)

BG ~ I try!

Ryane ~ Whoah. The DC Museum of Natural History sounds so much more cooler than the NY one. A bug zoo? Awesome!

3:27 PM  
Blogger Ryane said...

Yup--there is a bug zoo at this museum and if you care to--(ick! i can't do it!!), you can go there for feeding time at the tarantula cages. I prefer to immerse myself in the jewelry when the bugs eat, thanks!

3:33 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Ryane ~ Ooooo! I would so watch the spiders eat dinner! :) That sounds awesome. I need to go check the website out...

4:49 PM  
Blogger Percival said...

Yes, Egyptians had good posture so it is well to teach Egyptian-walking to youngsters. I do this myself on a volunteer basis at my local library.

Meanwhile I have interupted my fishing just to spring cartwheels outside your picket fence.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Eunuch said...

Thanks for the visual...as a non-native New Yorker, I haven't ever gotten to visit there...but I did get to the Luxor in Vegas, and have watched the HISTORY CHANNEL a lot! :-)

11:41 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Percy ~ Not good enough. I want backflips, not cartwheels.

Eunuch ~ Hmmm. Being a lover of Las Vegas, I think Luxor kinda counts as authentic Egyptian! ;)

12:51 AM  
Blogger Percival said...

Figuratively, it was a series of cartwheels and backflips, plus I threw in a lot of Egyptian-walking, backwards as well as frontwards, and with King Tut/Steve Martin hand gestures thrown in, none of which was even in the original Mark Twain version.

Is this not enough to win even a smile? A pat on the head? A pinch on the cheek?

8:06 AM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Percy ~ :) {pat, pat} *pinch*

8:49 AM  
Blogger afromabq said...

my high school girls and i have a very memorable moment in our lives to the song "walk like an egyptian." it wasn't in a classroom where we could be monitored. :)

what i love is egyptian jewelry. and of course food....my cousin's husband is armenian and he makes us some amazing dishes . . .

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

Absolutely! I just taught one of my best friend's little girls about the power of Madge....

2:24 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

would you be envious if i told you i had a gig drawing for the exhibition catalog egyptian objects from *********?

i spent days in a cool basement with the inner and outer coffins of Iawttayesheret, neskashuti, ...un-named mummies from the late ptolemic period. i kept thinking i would inhale some weird ancient mummy death dust.

but my favorite thing of all was the falcon mummy. the wrap was like a basket in the pattern and the head was gessoed and painted with a stylized falcon face. it was fierce and i was sad looking at it. but i love that they mummified creatures, and honored them in this way. there was an ibis mummy, too.

when i get back to my studio i am going to post my egyptian drawings on my photo essay spot for you.

lucky kids!

/grrrrrrrrrr

3:30 PM  
Blogger boneman said...

Well, I've not been to the Met, but, I will remember my first visit to Chicago Art Institute.

Ya see pictures of paintings and ya think ya know what they are, then ya go to a real place like the Institute and ya see paintings that actually have LIGHT pouring out of them.

Light so profoundly stated ya find yerself squintin' at the paintins, standin in front of one so long, the guard comes over t'see if yer up t'no good.
But, they've seen it before, I'm sure.
Even as I started explaining the unexplainable, the guard was walking away, mutterin' something to the effect, "stupid artists....Just keep movin', wouldja?"

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:27 PM  
Blogger schaumi said...

well, if you are not jealous of k9, i am.

I've been to the Louvre quite a few times and always thought how lucky the French elementary students were who I'd see sitting infront of some famous work of art while on a field trip.

Ancient Egyptian art has become such a part of our pop culture that I have incorporated it into my curriculum. I want my students to know what they are looking at when they see mummies on Jimmy Newtron, for example. Last year I wrote a grant to make Egyptian funereal masks out of plaster. The students had a blast. oh and yes, we do also walk like Egyptians. :)

4:38 PM  
Blogger Darius said...

Egyptian cuisine... I'm realizing I never had that. For several years I lived in an area with restaurants representing practically everywhere... Maybe fewer Egyptians in DC than NYC?

6:59 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

PS ~ You will have to tell me what Armenian dishes you have had via your cousin's husband! :)

Lynn ~ Madge caused yet another stir this week, eh? I love her music. If I had to choose, I think my favorite song of hers is "La Isla Bonita."

Rottiepie ~ I. AM. SO. JEALOUS. MY. EYES. GLOW. GREEEEEEEN! I look forward to hearing more about your meetings with mummies...

Boneman ~ Giggle. I like that anecdote, sir!

Schaumi ~ Add to my jealousy; I have yet to visit the Louvre! Ooo la la you are lucky!

Darius ~ There is a great pan-Middle Eastern restaurant in DC called Zaytinya...have you been?
http://www.zaytinya.com/
If you have not eaten there, go this second! My best friend and I had some amazing food there. Get the lamb dumpings...we call it "manti" in Armenian!

8:55 AM  

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