Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sweeping away the sands of time

SSSSsssssSSSSssssSeSheShet ssssSeSheShet ssssSeSheShet
She has been unearthed from the sands...

Yes, once buried beneath the sands of time 
She now rings loudly across the lands!

There is so much more to tell about this wonderful evolutionary journey but for now permit me if you will to proudly shake the SYSTRUM and invite you to do so too!  

I am soooo excited to make this announcement and hope you will continue to enjoy this blog revealing the blessings of many a deep, meaningful, healing, energetic and joyful experience since my trip to Egypt in 2007.  Revelations from that trip heighten and renew my enthusiasm for the wonders of a life lived wherein every day affords new opportunity for sharing my passion, meeting new people and widening the circle of friends.  Thank you God/Goddess/Goodness... 

Till my next post, please celebrate with me!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oso many temples . . .
Oso little time ~

Arriving in Luxor, the clip clop of horses hooves pulling carriages was but one of many steps back in time. Our hotel in Luxor was situated a block from the beautiful new Luxor museum and equidistant between the corniche (boulevard) along the Nile and the bustling main back road that led to the open market. Across the street from our hotel we enjoyed tea the proprietor of Farouk Papyrus as we perused his beautiful papyrus paintings.

As we walked the narrow dirt alley ways, home to the inner city residents of Luxor, we also saw sheep tethered to a post outside the front door of some the homes. The main roads were shared by horse-drawn carriages, carts pulled by donkeys, motorcycles and bicyclists. Young children played in the alleyways in front of their homes and walked the sidewalks quite freely.

I found Luxor a contrast in cultures each struggling for its "rightful" place. There are the splendid ancient sacred temple sites both on the East and West Banks and a sprawling 21st C. tourist culture imposing upon the long-standing agrarian village culture of this ancient city that may even predate pharonic times.

Bas-relief at Abydos ~ Seti I
making offering with incense
and menat 'necklace' (rattle)
With Luxor as our "base camp" we visited Abydos, the Osiris cult center built by Seti 1 approx. 1295-1279 BCE*. Abydos was regarded as the holiest of Egyptian towns in Pharonic times. 

The bas-reliefs at this site were simply awe-inspiring and no photo can ever convey the magnificence of seeing this ancient art in person. For example, not only is the art perfect in its execution and astonishing in its standing the test of time, but the renderings of loving scenes between pharaoh and goddess, goddess and child stir the soul. Furthermore, the ability to convey the pleated linen garments not to mention the transparency of the fabric in this style of carving baffles my imagination. 

The bas-reliefs also exquisitely rendered the offerings made at the temple ~ e.g., the alabaster perfume vials; baskets laden with grapes, pomegranate, celery, lettuce, and loaves of bread; a long handled implement depicted as a forearm with the hand holding an offering bowl with burning incense.

From Abydos we traveled back toward Luxor stopping at Dendera home to the Temple of Hathor. 

Temple of Hathor, Dendera
also referred to as 'The House of Sistrum'
Visiting this site was especially meaningful to me. I feel a connection to the goddess Hathor, goddess of love, music, dance, and fertility. It was wonderful to see the temple columns adorned with Hathor's beautiful face.


Little did I know how meaningful it would prove to be for me to see the processional of priestesses depicted on a chapel wall processing with sistrum.
Priestesses of Hathor in processional
each playing systrum (aka sistrum)

All too soon it seemed it was time to return home ... Thanks to the careful attention to details of our Windows of Egypt staff everything went exceeding well and every inch of the itinerary went without hitch on time and sa-moothly. Hamdul'Allah (Praise God)!

If I had to choose a favorite capsule of this excursion I would be hard pressed to choose between visiting the temples or...

the smiles and waves of the children as our convoy passed from town to town or ...

the nearly full moon night in the White Desert drumming and dancing with our Bedouin friends. Long will I remember the White Desert's magical lunar-like iridescent landscape and the smiles shared at the fireside.

I had many wonderful experiences; my dear friends and I shared many treasured moments and personal revelations. The most magical ones I hold secret so that when Egypt beckons you, you will be equally surprised and delighted, but I will tell you this:
Professor Shata shared with us a popular Egyptian idiom:

 "We do not ask how old you are;
 rather how young is your heart." 

 He also pointed out that depictions of a deity leading the ruler underscored the ancient admonition of "hand follows heart" ~ i.e., stepping forth with the left foot, the left (heart) side leading. 

I close with an inscription from a statue of Satepihu discovered in his tomb at Abydos:

"Your heart will guide you,
and your limbs will obey you."

May your heart lead you when Egypt beckons!


(1) Hatshepsut exhibit catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 2005

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dancers kicking up their heels. . .

Saqqara: On the seventh day (out of seventeen) of our 2007 Egypt tour, we were impressed with the sublime grandeur of the bas-relief at the mastaba (rectangular tomb) of Mereruka [son-in-law of King Titi dating back to the Old Kingdom (approx. 2340 BCE*)]. I especially loved seeing depictions of clappers marking time for the dancers kicking up their heels.
Yours truly kicking up her heels Hathor Chapel, Isis Temple Complex

Aswan and the Temple of Isis:
 On Day 8 our group headed toward Jordan while my friends, Lana, Melissa, Gloriel and I flew to Aswan in order to visit the Temple of Isis with its supremely high and sweet energy.In fact, during my very last few hours in Luxor at the end of our tour I was reminded of these images when I enjoyed a celebration on the West Bank in honor of the first day of Spring (the Monday following Easter Sunday). A troupe of Nubian drummers and dancers were entertaining tourists at a local restaurant and their performance consisted of three men drumming and eight men chanting while clapping. They moved in two lines facing one another, coming together and then backing up. They then progressed to circle dances with their hands either palm to palm or embracing one another with their arms draped around the shoulders and one extremely agile young man dancing in the center. He deftly descended to his knees while shimmering his shoulders and softly bending backwards. 
Isis, the Great Mother Goddess, is greatly revered throughout ancient Egyptian culture and to this day she is a symbol of loving protection among other things. Her temple on the island of Philae was the last to close. Due to invading religious dominance, it did not cease operation until approx. 550 CE* when during the reign of the Emperor Justinian (527-565 A.D), the main temple was converted to a church. After this the temples of the island were neglected but they remained practically intact since the ancient days. After the dam was built in Aswan, with each inundation the situation worsened and in the sixties the island was sadly submerged up to a third of the buildings all year round.

Melissa on the ferry to the Temple of Isis
NOTE: In 1960 UNESCO started a project in order to try and save the buildings on the island frothe destructive effect of the ever-increasing waters of the Nile and so the complex was transported from the Island of Philae to the nearby island of Agilkia, situated on higher ground.

Similar to my feelings in the Bahariya Oasis I could have lingered much, much longer in Aswan; however, only one day was allotted in Aswan so that we could join a convoy to Luxor in order to be able to stop at Edfu, home of the Temple of Horus, son of Isis and avenger for his father Osiris, Egyptian god of life, death, and fertility.

Ancient Egyptian Diety: Horus
Edfu: Temple of Horus
Horus is a deity of the Ancient Egyptian religion, whose cult survived so long that he evolved dramatically over time and gained many names. The most well known name is the Greek Horus, representing the Egyptian Heru/Har, which is the basic element in most of the other names of Horus. 

Horus was so important that the Eye of Horus became an important Egyptian symbol of power and protection. He had a man's body and a falcon's head. He only had one eye because after Osiris was murdered by his brother Set, Horus fought with Set for the throne of Egypt. In this battle Horus lost one of his eyes and later this became a sign of protection in Egypt. Horus united Egypt and bestowed divinity upon the pharaoh. The temple complex dedicated to Horus at Edfu impressed me and I had a wonderful realization as I viewed the falcon statues depicting this revered Ancient Egyptian deity. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

happiness ... straight from the heart

During that fateful trip in 2007 we stayed several days and nights at the Beshmo Lodge in the Bahariya Oasis.  One evening after dinner we were entertained by some of the local villagers -- a singer, a man who played mizmar and nai, another who played an exotic looking stringed instrument whose name I was unable to capture, along with several drummers and dancers ~ all male. The hip articulation, foot work and shoulder shimmies rivaled any dancer I've ever seen and the happiness coming straight from the heart beamed brightly through their eyes.

They encouraged me to dance and I enjoyed myself in this wonderful organic setting albeit I have to admit the tempo of the 2/4 rhythm they were playing was a wee bit faster than I felt comfortable with or inspired by. When they started doing deep knee bends, I bowed out. One by one they encouraged everyone to dance and before long everyone was dancing hand-in-hand.

The next day we headed out to the White Desert where we would camp that night was a caravan of 4x4 jeeps. Hours passed as we drove miles and miles past the black desert sand remnants of volcanic activity making our toward the White Desert. Along the way we stopped at Crystal Mountain, discovered only 20 years ago. Brilliant sparkling crystals charged by the sun and the moon dazzled us in the mid-day light.

Jihadah, our driver
In our jeeps we took detours off road through sand dunes and in and around the boulders and natural sculptures of the spectacular White Desert. I enjoyed this experience of being off the paved road and driving into nature while at the same time thinking/praying/hoping escapades such as ours do not harm the environment. I must tell you the Bedouin men were extremely careful to carry out everything we carried in and I bless their hearts for their diligence in this regard.

In addition, they not only skillfully maneuvered the jeeps (and changed a flat tire off-road), the also set up a beautiful tapestried camp and happily drummed and sang for us by a lovely fire after preparing a feast and pitching tents for us ~ and all this amidst a sand storm!
After a couple hours of the winds kicking the sands around, the storm finally passed and we enjoyed our desert camp feast which consisted of barbecued chicken, roasted vegetables and rice, chopped tomatoes and cucumber salad and tahini and bread.  After dinner we clapped along with the men who were drumming and singing at the fireside.

Jihadah, our driver, tied a scarf around his hips and with a cigarette in his hand, he danced around the fire joyfully singing with a broad smile on his face and a teasing and slightly mischievous kind of sparkle in his eye. Pure joyfullness pervaded every cell of his being and extended out toward all of us as he invited us to join him in...
the dance,
a celebration of life.

In the morning our Bedouin hosts broke down camp as efficiently as they had set it up and not one trace of our ever having been there remained behind.

We reluctantly left Bahariya Oasis and the hardy, happy Bedouin souls we met there; however, Saqqara, home of the famous "Step Pyramid of Zoser", the mastaba of Mereruka, the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, the many temples of Luxor and the West Bank, and more, still lay ahead.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome to Egypt

Upon landing in Cairo Mohamed Shata (see previous post for more about Dr. Shata) warmly greeted us and welcomed us "home" to Egypt distributing a long-stem red rose to each of us, a very nice gesture I am sure you will agree.

On Day Two, we toured the Citadel of Salah al-Din (c. 1171 CE), the Mohammed Ali Alabaster Mosque and the famed Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where we were captivated by Professor Shata's thoughtful, careful, archeological and egyptological explanations. His passion, sincerity and depth of expression beautifully translated the spirit of loving protection symbolically depicted in the artistry of the delicately carved and colored bas-reliefs, statues, jewelry, etc. of ancient Egyptian culture.

Surprises & Smiles in Bahariya Oasis: On our third day in Egypt we headed out to the Bahariya Oasis which as the itinerary promised was indeed "full of surprises." Hotel Beshmo, located in the Garden Under the Moon Camp, charmed us immediately upon arrival and it was lovely to be far from the "maddening crowd" of Cairo. Driving in to the Garden Under the Moon Camp it appeared to me the villagers are content. They walk through the village with grace and ease and the children play in the dirt streets greeting you with their beautiful smiles. I must tell you, however, behind their smiles they are hoping we will gift them with a pencil or pen (their favorite being a ballpoint clicker pen), a chocolate, or the big jackpot, an American dollar bill. I was happy to take the time to exchange a few words, share each other's names and to tell the girls they are 'gameela' (beautiful). In so doing, their faces and the pink in their cheeks reflected their genuine happiness and good health. 

Clockwise: Shadia and daughters:
Walah, Minar, and Narme

We visited Shadia's shop "Horass Handicraft Exhibit" and I was happy to exchange my money for the handicrafts therein since the sign said "The exhibition is for helping poor families' girls through working." Shadia agreed to my taking a picture of her and her daughters.

When I was back in my room at El Beshmo Hotel taking a little siesta I heard a donkey braying and the sounds of children voices as they played outside. I thought now there's a sound that has become nearly extinct in our culture where children stay inside glued to a TV and/or X-box.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My family encouraged me, my class participants urged me, and when I telephoned two of my oldest dearest friends (Lana who resides in Georgia, Melissa in Colorado), they not only encouraged me, they also decided to join me! So, in only a few short weeks since Egypt beckoned, we all united at JFK airport in New York to fly direct to Cairo with the other Windows of Egypt tour participants organized most capably, efficiently and effectively by Alice Nagy of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Mohammed Shata* of Cairo. Their diligent attention to detail provided an experience wherein everything went exceeding well and every inch of the itinerary went without a hitch, on time and very smoothly. All along the way it was as if a red carpet had been rolled out for us. Hamdul'Allah (Praise God) and, I might add, Praise Goddess (Hathor)!

Photo taken by Tahya @ Temple of Hathor, Dendera 

Words fall short of describing the overwhelming experiences I had in Egypt where the past and the present, the sacred and secular, generosity and scarcity coexist. It's a country of contrast and emergence, albeit reluctantly, into the 21st Century.

Weeks after I landed back home in the U.S., I continued to awake around 4:30 a.m. (just about dawn and the first "call to prayer."). Upon waking I found myself inspired and ready to launch from my bed to begin to put into action the thoughts swirling in my head yet by the same token my body ached for more rest. Despite how tired I was, I was coming to realize there IS something about the energetics of Egypt and being changed forever having visited the place. I guess Florence Nightingale said it best...
"One wonders that people come back from Egypt and live lives as they did before."**  
We were blessed to have the expertise of one of Egypt's "best of the best" tour guides: Mohammed Shata, accomplished Archeologist, Egyptologist, and Metaphysician, known worldwide for his extensive knowledge. In fact, Mohammed Shata is the best guide anyone could ever wish for! Professor Shata has a degree in archaeology from Cairo University, and worked for many years with the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities. He is the former Inspector of Antiquities at Giza and specialized in excavating sites in the vicinity of the Pyramids. He participated for two years in the re-assembly of the Solar Boat, discovered many tombs of Old Kingdom royal family members, and worked on the restoration of the Sphinx, among other projects. Mohammed lectures widely in North America and England.

**Nightengale, Florence. Letters from Egypt, A Journey on the Nile 1849-1850, Weidenfeld & Nicoson, New York. 1987

Friday, July 19, 2013

Egypt Beckoned....

and I answered "the call."

by Tahya

2007: It was a mid-January morning when my friend Gloriel Leight informed she was contemplating a return trip to Egypt wondering if I'd be interested in joining her. At first, I admit, I did not think it was possible since the departure date was less than 8 weeks away and I had a "full plate" of classes scheduled. Furthermore, what with the holiday season only weeks behind, I was short on cash, and, Egypt, to the best of my knowledge, was not among my top five picks of places I might want to dedicate time and expense. Nonetheless, as Gloriel revealed the itinerary, my interest was piqued. I contemplated the idea and allowed myself to "listen" to my inner guide who seemed to be ever so sweetly nudging me to let go of worry and to feel free to make this excursion. Even though I felt great uncertainty about the reality of managing to pull together the dollars needed for this adventure in a very short period of time, something inside convinced me that if I would only heed the call, the money would follow. I sensed a great "pull" I cannot explain nor could I ignore.