Friday, November 13, 2009

man and nature at saqqara and giza

Shifting our focus to the ancient world that once flourished in this place, we spent the next day going to Saqqara and Giza. The monuments at Saqqara are the first stone monuments ever built. Now, it is difficult for me to emphasize just how important this is. Before these monuments there were a few civilizations -- in Mesopotamia and in the Levant -- but no society in the entirety of human history up until this point had reached this level of power. This was the first time that a leader had the power to erect a monument to his existence which he wanted to last beyond his death.

Now, we know that this continued and continues to happen throughout the world, but this was the first. The first guy to have the influence over an army of workers that he could make build a monument to himself. The first guy to have the insane level of narcissism that he couldn’t imagine not existing after death. Now, thousands of years later, we still know his name.

After staring in awe at this all-important Step Pyramid, we moved on to the infamous great pyramids at Giza. From later on in the Old Kingdom, these monuments are shrouded in myths and mystery. All sorts of people have come to these monuments and have been struck by their precision, symmetry, numerical and directional significance. Many people have supernatural theories about them: they’re built by aliens, they have astrological significance, etc, but I just think they represent the very height of power of the very first great civilization of the world - the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.

I was surprisingly less astonished by them, most likely because I have seen their image repeated and reproduced since childhood. I wasn’t seeing something for the first time, but instead confirming the existence of an image that I have been exposed to forever. After fighting through the hairy mobs of ice-cream-in-a-desert-eating tourists, we found a place to sit out isolated among the sand and rocks.

Although I wasn’t so shocked by these monuments, I was instead humbled and interested in them. While we sat, I watched the sky and its infinite combination of pillowy clouds playing unending games of light and dark as they moved across the sky. The sun swept across these ancient wonders and the wind whipped up some sand from the Sahara and it swirled around us. On this day, the Great Pyramids at Giza were merely a backdrop for the limitless beauty of the natural world.

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