Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The house (called the American research center in Abydos) is made of mud brick, concrete, and other miscellaneous brick material all plastered white. It has three courtyards surrounded by various rooms (many egg-like and some flat – which are good for sitting on). It might be found in Santorini with its blue doors and windows and planters full of flowers and vines – bougainvillea, jasmine and hibiscus (photo from Alex M.). The house has a live-in staff that run the place – they make things work, which can be a tricky thing in southern Egypt. They know how to get things and fix things and without them the egg house would be abandoned, and the sand dunes around it would fold in over it and consume all we’d left behind. This is what they’ve done to the countless other structures we’re here to find. The sand has taken tombs and temples and whole city walls and hidden them and churned them and blasted them to smaller and smaller bits.
This is how the day begins. I wake up first at hearing the call to prayer. It’s 4:30am and dark. I don’t have to get up yet, but I listen for a few minutes. The prayers go up from the minarets and out through loud speakers to Ala. It sounds like a series of house parties all playing music I’ve never heard before. We (the team of Westerners and an Egyptian house staff) live out in the desert – a few minutes walk from town, and the prayers are muffled and pleasant. I get up an hour later and go out into the mellowing darkness. My room is one egg in a row of five lining a courtyard – these domed rooms stuck together look like an upside-down egg carton (photo from Alex M., man of a million photos). The first thing to do is load the donkey cart with our dig tools in great big hand woven baskets. The cart driver and his son take our tools to the site. We leave moments later after coffee or tea to walk up over the dunes and past amazing things, which I will tell you about.