With the recent coronavirus outbreak, many of us have cancelled our travel plans for the year. However, we can turn our time in isolation into a period of exploration. Harvard has teamed up with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to bring us five new virtual experiences. Each is a detailed 3D map that we can explore similar to Google Maps on street view.
Let’s take a look at what gems of Egypt we can explore right from the comfort of our home.
The Tomb Of Queen Meresankh III
Almost everyone is familiar with the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. However, there’s another Egyptian treasure waiting for you to explore nearby. The mastaba tomb of Queen Meresankh III is an overlooked piece of history you don’t want to miss.
Of our virtual tours in this list, this site is the oldest of them all. Harvard archaeologist George Andrew Reisner had initially discovered the tomb in 1927.
The virtual tour takes us inside to enjoy hieroglyphic inscriptions on walls as old as 5,000 years old. What’s impressive is that the carvings and paintings have stayed well-preserved. You can still see the remains of their original coloring and etching.
The first floor features ten statues of women, representing Meresankh III’s queenly relatives. As we go down to her sarcophagus on the first floor, we pass by statues depicting the queen and her mother. We see a reconstruction of the ancient coffin, as the real thing is at Cairo’s Egyptian Antiquities Museum.
Ben Ezra Synagogue
In Old Cairo stands the Ben Ezra synagogue. The site is famous as folklore says that it is here that the Pharaoh’s daughter discovered baby Moses. This site was originally a Coptic church, but the patriarch later sold it to a group of Jews.
No longer an official place of worship today, the synagogue now serves as a museum. The area has undergone several renovations to look like what it does now. Ten tall marble pillars hold the synagogue structure, which features a gold and blue interior.
Mosque-Madrassa Of Sultan Barquq
Another more colorful site to visit is the mosque-madrassa of Sultan Barquq. The site is a well-visited location due to its massive size and Islamic style of architecture. The structure dates back to the medieval period when Cairo was a center of trade.
The architectural design of the old school is one good reason to explore it. The intricate structure of the mosque stands on the site of an extravagant palace. You’ll be able to explore and appreciate these intricacies in the virtual tour.
The Red Monastery
To further showcase the religious diversity of Egypt is the Red Monastery near Souhag. The Coptic Orthodox site gets its name from the red bricks that form its exterior. We have yet to discover the history of the monastery, with experts only estimating it to be built by Saint Pishay in the fourth century AD. Inside, colorful frescos stand over the monastery’s white walls.
The Tomb Of Menna
Rounding out our virtual tours is the Tomb of Menna, dating back to the 18th dynasty of Egypt. It is a popular site that officials consider to be one of the “most visited” tombs of the era.
Compared to pharaohs, we know little about the ancient official. However, we can stand to discover what information there is by exploring his tomb. For instance, the site records all the titles he held, including Scribe of the Lord of the Two Lands. He was also Overseer of Fields of Amun. Menna’s position was unique as he held positions in both palace administration and temple.
The tomb showcases well-preserved paintings that depict Menna’s life. What’s interesting to note is that all depictions of the official are damaged, with the face scratched out. Ancient Egyptians believed that a person’s soul inhabited images such as these. Damage to these paintings would mean someone wanted to erase Menna from history.
The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown off many of our plans. “You probably won’t be going on vacation next month, but someday this will end — and eventually, this cabin fever will become a distant memory,” says Scott Bea, PsyD.
Until then, you can use up some of that free time to discover the beauty and wonder of Ancient Egypt. Five virtual tours await you. Discover the Tombs of Queen Meresankh III and Menna, the Ben Ezra synagogue, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq, and the Red Monastery.
This ancient world’s diverse and rich culture is sure to keep you sane and in awe during this quarantine. Experience Egypt while still staying safe at home.