Luxor: the movie

I would not have known about this film had Niki van de Beek not mentioned it in her blog. It proved easy enough to find on YouTube, was free to watch, and was Sundance nominated for 2020. Having recently visited Luxor I was quickly caught up in the sheer beauty and mystery of the place that the movie captures perfectly. It feels as if you’re there, or at least in the midst of a tourist board travelogue.

Street mural Luxor screenshot from trailer

Written and directed by Zeina Durra with Andrea Riseborough playing the central character. Hana is returning to Egypt to spend a short vacation at the Winter Palace in Luxor. She’s a doctor whose been working in war torn Syria which has wrought havoc on her emotional state. She travels light, arriving at the fabled Winter Palace hotel with only a large but half empty purse.

It doesn’t take a moment to become enchanted with Riseborough’s portrayal of the enigmatic Hana, but the story becomes quite a challenge to follow as it slowly wanders along. There is a completely out of character part of a one-night stand with a hotel guest who is besotted with her on her first evening at the bar of the hotel. She later needs the hotel manager’s help to avoid being seen by him in the hotel.

If you are listening for the dialogue there’s mostly an extraordinarily effective communication of what’s going on in Hana’s head with the camera’s capture of her expression. But there are curious moments too, as when Hana’s ex takes her to meet his boss none other than Salima Ikram. The Prof appears I guess, as the celebrity Egyptologist she is, while being Hana’s ex’s boss in the movie. In this cameo she first explains the purpose of faience shabtis to Hana followed later over lunch by an explanation of Freud’s interest in Egyptology. It’s during this over lunch chat that Hana without a word abruptly leaves the table to gaze out over the landscape. And who can blame her?

Professor Ikram playing herself shows a shabti to Hana (Riseborough). screenshot from movie trailer

By this time I’ve taken to stalking Hana around Luxor, King’s Valley – there were very few people when I visited recently, but Hana hit the place when there were more guards than tourists. She visits Karnak at night with her ex who she has run into again – quite by chance. He is unsurprisingly mad keen on rekindling their romance but anyone would take the bet that he’s not going to get there. However, his efforts to lead to a funny scene with him and Hana in the hotel pool with him swimming in his underpants to the dismay of the hotel concierge.

Zeina Durra is a widely respected film maker, and Luxor is entirely due it’s critical success. Andrea Riseborough’s performance is also superlative. And of course, there is Luxor and Egypt beautifully captured by the director and cinematography. The films quirkiness has not settled well with audiences and I get that, but Luxor has a friend in me.

Explorers of the Nile

John Hanning Speke was first of a group of European Victorian-era explorers to discover the source of the river Nile, the longest river in the world. His discovery was contested by notably by Richard Burton and others but verified in 1877 years after his death in 1864 in a shooting accident. This explorer who was able to verify Speke’s maps was non other than Henry Stanley. Stanley having found David Livingston was able to proceed with him on a journey that established the veracity of Speke’s mapping and definitively proved Burton claims as false.

Richard Burton, John Speke, James Grant, David Livingstone, Henry Stanley, and Samuel Baker and his mistress, Florence von Sas.

A monument was belatedly erected in Kensington Gardens, London as a to tribute to Speke by the RoyalGeographical Society with funds raised by public subscription

In Memory of Speke Victoria Nyanza and the Nile 1864

Location of monument in Kensington Gardens

Speke Nile-Nyanza memorial on the corner of Lancaster Walk and Budges Walk

The triumphs and the tragedies of the Nile explorers during the Victorian era is wonderfully recounted in Tim Jeal’s book.

Centennial of the Discovery of Tutankhamen’s Tomb

In November 1922 archeologist Howard Carter, his benefactor Lord Carnavon and lady Evelyn took a peek inside at the royal tomb with intact that Carter was sure belonged to the 18th dynasty Pharo Tutankhamen. The story has been told and retold mystified and mythologized many times.

In anticipation of the explosion of Egyptomania that will likely grip the public attention

Howard Carter was born in South Kensington, London a blue plaque marks where he lived in his later years and he is buried a London cemetery where coincidently, also is Lady Evelyn

The youngest of eleven children Howard’s ill health caused him to be sent out of London to stay with relatives in Swaffam, Norfolk.

One of Samuel Carter’s patrons was William Amherst Tyssen-Amherst of Didlington Hall, an estate eight miles from Swaffham. As a boy, Howard visited Didlington Hall when his father painted Lord Amherst’s portrait, and this is where he first became exposed to Egyptology.

Highclere castle

Flinders Petrie

British Museum

Cleopatra’s needle

Other important collections of Egyptian antiquities in the UK

Down tomb valley – digging for King Tut

The story of the search for the tomb of Tutankhamun. Keep an eye out for Indy Jones being hotly pursued by irate Ottomans! Most reviews at the time of the 2017 ITV four-part mini series were generously favorable. The cast is very talented and does a fabulous job given that the story line bears only a glancing relationship with history. But it does include a completely fictitious character Maggie Lewis of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thus, without the presence of Catherine Steadman would have been significantly worse off. By the way Steadman played a role in Downton Abbey and so in my view has as strong a connection with the historical discovery of the tomb as the script. The Radio Times review is worth a read. So too, James Walton’s review in the The Spectator in which he describes Carter’s meeting with Sir Flinders Petrie as ” — here depicted as a more naked version of Caractacus Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” But above all, watch the mini-series on Amazon Prime (Britbox if in the US).

A Cephalopod Has Passed a Cognitive Test Designed For Human Children

A Cephalopod Has Passed a Cognitive Test Designed For Human Children

A Cephalopod Has Passed a Cognitive Test Designed For Human Children

Corps of Discovery: Chronometer

Meriwether Lewis was encouraged to take a chronometer to assist with accuracy of longitudinal measurements and navigation. It proved less than practicable for the journey requiring continual winding and having vulnerabilities to fine particulate matter (sand). The corps abandoned use of the instrument half way across.

Based on a design from Europe but made in Philadelphia. It would have been similar in appearance to the instrument shown below:

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