“In the grand propylon, among the names of tourists and travellers, in a small plain hand, is written – “L’an 6 de la république, le 13 Mercidor, une armée Française, commandée par Buonaparte, est descendue à Alexandrie; l’armée ayant mis, vingt jours après, les Mamelukes en fuite aux pyramides, Dessaix, commandant la première division, les a poursuivi, au de-là des cataractes, où il est arrivé le 13 Ventose, de l’an 7.”

J.L. Stephens 1873

Egypt reeks and drips with the history of humanity throughout the ages. And something I hadn’t foreseen when I first traveled there is its interwoven involvement with world history long after it ceased to be the central hub of civilization. From the Greeks and Romans to Napoleon and the renaissance men of the 19th Century there are examples of Egypt’s part in human history time and time again.

This is most apparent in the graffiti that adorns the many monuments up and down the country. The etched names of various travelers from so many times annoys a little in that it spoils the epic beauty of the pieces but also humbles with the fact that so many have been humbled by these sights, right across time.

In Abu Simbel, deep deep out into the desert (4 hours by bus ride under armed guards) the legs of the 33 meter guardians of the temple are etched with the names of 19th Century travelers and you can only begin to think of the kind of journey they would have had to undertake to get this far from civilization.

I wonder who “L. Santoni – 1874” was and if he looked the same, in awe, up at this towering monument to just one man, 135 years ago.

The Colossi of Memnon, two 18 meter statues on the West Bank in Thebes, once stood at the gateway to a massive temple. Built for Amenhotep but stolen, stone by stone, over many successive reigns, these two statues are all that remains. During the time of the Greeks and even into the time of the Romans, one of the two statues became famous for singing every morning. The Greeks believed that this was Memnon, singing a greeting for his mother Eos* and inscribed in graffiti on the leg of the statue the story of Memnon and Eos. This inscription is still there today, Ancient Greek graffiti on an Ancient Egyptian statue.

*It is now believed that damage caused to the statue in an 27BC earthquake allowed the wind to cut through the statue each morning, creating the whistling or sining. It is also beleived that this ended after further damage caused in an AD 199 earthquake.

There is some really interesting further reading on this online:

“Travelers in Egypt” has a great article on Graffitti on Egyptian Monuments which gives a nice bit of history and I found this really interesting article (well, it’s more a collection of notes, but interesting none the less) on an Irish man called H.J. Curtin from Limerick who left his mark in the temple of Philae in May 1817.

For further reading on my adventures in Egypt, check out:

Standing at the Edge of the World

A Future Echo of Things to Come, Cairo, Egypt

also, for all you graffiti lovers:

European graffiti (Germany and Copenhagen)