Audio Postcard: Artifacts of Egypt
LYNN NEARY, host:
WEEKEND EDITION's Liane Hansen returns next weekend with a series of climate change stories from Egypt. She visited the legendary city of Alexandria where a great library was built in the 3rd century, B.C. One account says the library was destroyed in fires set by Julius Caesar in 48 B.C.
Today across from the shore of Alexandria's harbor a modern glass and granite library has been open to the public since 2001. Liane went on a tour and sent this reporter's notebook.
LIANE HANSEN: The cool interior of the new Alexandria Library is the perfect escape from the bright seaside sun and the calm atmosphere of the reading room is a welcome respite from the beach traffic.
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HANSEN: We go down a flight of stairs and descend below sea level to a dimly lit series of rooms. This is the antiquities hall. Our guide, Rami Reefhoff(ph) shows us a small sculpture of a young woman that dates back to 200 B.C. It is the only remaining artifact from the ancient library.
It's beautiful. I mean, it's about, what, three-and-a-half inches high and it's rose-colored. It's made of terra cotta. A girl with a book in her lap.
Mr. RAMI REEFHOFF (Guide): And this is a proof that girls had the same opportunities in studying and learning as boys. It was not only exclusive for boys to learn but also girls had the same opportunities in learning and studying.
HANSEN: There is also a large display case with several pieces of papyrus. There's a copy of the New Testament next to a horoscope, a torn scrap from a play by Euripides, and a Post-it-note-sized square with a few words written in black ink.
Mr. REEFHOFF: This is from the Greek era. This is an invitation for dinner and it dates back exactly or precisely to the first century A.D. It's the very first state or condition to have an invitation for someone to invited one for dinner. And I suppose that this is the start for the invitations over now.
HANSEN: So in other words, this is the first formal dinner invitation?
Mr. REEFHOFF: Yeah, I suppose so, yeah.
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HANSEN: Next, we pass through an archway marked "The Afterlife" and enter a room with huge mummies. There's a tableau on the wall from the Book of the Dead. During the judgment process, ancient Egyptians were asked important questions before their souls could be admitted to the afterlife. For example: did you lie; did you steal; did you pollute the Nile?
You'll hear some Egyptians' answers to that last question in the next few weeks. Next Sunday we'll broadcast our first story on climate change from Egypt, the rising seas of Alexandria.
I'm Liane Hansen.
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