Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Clock and the Obelisk

In Place de la Concorde there is a huge Egyptian obelisk. It is a beautiful object, tall and well kept, capped by a gold top and sitting on a base also decorated in gold. The base tells the story of how they brought the obelisk across the ocean to erect it here. It sits in a place of honour in Paris, around the same spot the guillotine sat and we all know how the French felt about their guillotine. If you come to Paris you will see the obelisk but I bet you won’t hear the same story we heard in Egypt.

This obelisk is from Luxor. It is one of two obelisks that stood on either side of the Luxor Temple entrance. If you go to Luxor you can see the other obelisk still outside the gates as it has been for over one thousand years and you can hear the story of how the Egyptians lost the other one. You see, around the end of the 19th century things Egyptian were all the rage. Everyone in Europe wanted a piece of Egypt to decorate their living room. Many countries sent envoys to Egypt to dig for artifacts and bring back treasures and you can see these treasures in museums all over Europe.

The French wanted a treasure as well. They negotiated with the Egyptian government to trade an obelisk for a beautiful French clock. At the time, mechanical clocks were items of interest. In Egypt they didn’t have one and the Egyptian government agreed this would be a good deal. I’m not sure why they figured the one outside the Luxor temple was the one to give up but that’s the one they agreed to let go. So, the French sent down a big clock and the Egyptians gave up the obelisk. The clock is at the Citadel in Cairo. From the moment it arrived it has NEVER worked. The Egyptians are quite bitter about this and you’d think after two hundred odd years the French would have sent a repair guy down to fix the thing but alas, no. I suppose it could be argued the obelisk doesn’t work either. It was supposed to provide the protection of the Gods to temples and tombs.


maryanncart said...

Very interesting story...neat to see the connections. Ian still home sick. I went to Victoria today to a funeral...long day. Love to all of you. Mom

Rhonda Staples said...

With the expertise and knowledge that you are attaining from your travels, you will return to your teacher-librarian job as a SUPERSTAR EXTRAORDINAIRE!!! Please work at my school when you come back!! You won't have to do a read-aloud ever again. You could just have 'story-telling time' and recount all of your adventures!!!