Chinese Tourist Vandalizes Egyptian Temple, Pisses Off China

Teenager Caught Defacing Ancient Egyptian Temple A young tourist who scrawled his name on the almost 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple in Egypt has drawn the ire not of Egypt but his home country of China.

The graffiti, which translates roughly as “Ding Jinhao wuz here,” was etched onto the the Luxor’s wall engravings with a rock. A photo of the tag was taken by a different tourist and posted on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site.

The photo has caused outrage in China, where only last week Chinese visitors to foreign countries received an official admonition to straighten up and fly right. There is much hand-wringing in China over the image of the country abroad and the graffiti has been highlighted as an example of why China has such a poor reputation.

The rapid spread of the photo has prompted what is called in China a renrou suosou - a “human flesh search,” in which Chinese Internet users attempt to expose individuals to public humiliation for online content perceived as offensive. The search has prompted other individuals named Ding Jinhao to publicly declare or prove they have never been to Egypt in order to avoid repercussions.

Meanwhile, the real Ding Jinhao has reportedly been outed as a 15-year-old student in Nanjing, whose parents have apologized on his behalf, saying he was young at the time and just copying what he had seen done elsewhere.

Interestingly, the photographer’s tour guide in Egypt allegedly saw no reason to blame the boy, saying it was the tour guide’s responsibility to prevent vandalism.

Safety Of Hot-Air Balloon Rides Under Spotlight After Luxor Tragedy

For vacationers, a hot-air balloon ride is the ultimate way of taking in the landscape. Floating thousands of feet above ground, ballooners are afforded a dramatic bird’s-eye view of popular tourist sites. But this week’s ballooning disaster, where 19 people were killed during a hot-air balloon ride over the Egyptian city of Luxor, has brought the ballooning industry back to ground.

The tourists, who were mostly foreigners, died after canisters on their balloon exploded, causing it to plunge 1000 feet back to earth with everyone on board. While an investigation into the disaster is still underway, Egypt has temporarily suspended all balloon flights and the incident has prompted questions into the safety of the activity.So what should you know if you’re considering taking a hot-air balloon ride during your vacation?

According to CNN, ballooning experts believe that the biggest concern is when a fire breaks out on board the balloon. This is because the only way out of the life-threatening situation is to make a jump for it – and that in turn makes circumstances worse for the other passengers onboard. “If passengers are jumping the balloon is getting lighter – it’s climbing again. It’s getting in a more dangerous situation because the higher you go the more dangerous it is to jump out,” said the president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Ballooning Commission. Fires often occur when balloons run into power lines, which is what happened during a deadly accident in New Zealand last year that cost 11 people their lives.

Another concern is the lack of international regulation when it comes to hot-air balloon operators. This leaves each country to enforce guidelines and safety measure themselves.

Despite this, experts told CNN that ballooning is still a relatively safe activity, and that balloons can be brought down safely even when they run out of fuel.

[Photo credit: Flickr user dfbphotos]

Pyramids Discovered In Egypt And Sudan

pyramids
You’d think archaeologists would have found all the pyramids of Africa by now, but two recent discoveries show there’s a lot more discovering to be done.

A team of archaeologists working in Luxor, Egypt, have just announced they’ve discovered the pyramid of Khay, a powerful vizier of the Pharaoh Ramses II (ruled 1279-1212 B.C.). The pyramid was made of mudbrick and originally stood 49 feet high.

In the seventh and eighth century A.D. it was dismantled and turned into a Coptic Christian hermitage. Hieroglyphic writing on the surviving bricks told the archaeologists to whom the pyramid belonged.

Earlier this month, archaeologists announced they had found the bases of at least 35 broken pyramids at the site of Sedeinga in Sudan. They’re about 2,000 years old and belong to the kingdom of Kush, which lasted from c.1000 B.C. to 350 A.D. before finally being conquered by the Empire of Axum in Ethiopia. For almost a hundred years from 747-656 B.C., the Kushites ruled Egypt as the 25th dynasty.

The Sedeinga pyramids really just pyramid-shaped tombs. The largest measures 22 feet to a side, while the smallest is only 30 inches to a side. Others in Sudan, such as those at Meroë, are much more grandiose. Those at the pyramid field at Nuri, shown here courtesy Vít Hassan, are up to 150 feet tall.

Last year, a satellite survey conducted by Dr. Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama found 17 suspected pyramids.

So how could these pyramids go missing? Well, most pyramids were much smaller than the famous ones at Giza and Saqqara that we always see pictures of. Shifting sands and erosion helped hide them. In the case of the Sedeinga tombs, later people took stones from them to build other structures.

Even some sizable pyramids have all but disappeared because they were made of inferior materials. Some of the last pyramids of Egypt are barely visible today because of shoddy workmanship or having been made with mudbrick instead of stone.

Previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh discovered

Karnak, Egyptian pharaoh

Egyptologists have made a stunning discovery at the famous temple of Luxor: an inscription naming a previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh.

A French team restoring a temple of Amon Ra found hieroglyphs bearing the name “Nekht In Ra.” The inscription dates to the 17th dynasty, a relatively little-known dynasty from a murky period in Egyptian history.

The mysterious dynasty was the last of the Second Intermediate Period, a time when northern Egypt was ruled by Semitic invaders called the Hyksos and the rest of Egypt had fragmented into various factions. The 17th dynasty dated from around 1585 to 1550 BC and had their capital at Thebes, next to Luxor. Most of the dates of its rulers are not known for certain and in many cases it’s not even known how long they ruled or who was related to whom. Thus the discovery of a “new” pharaoh, while important, doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

It’s unclear just how Nekht In Ra fits into the king list of the ten previously known 17th dynasty pharaohs. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has called for further excavation at the discovery site to find more pieces to the puzzle.

While the 17th dynasty is obscure, it was hugely important to Egyptian history because the last two pharaohs waged war on the Hyksos and eventually defeated them, although both pharaohs appear to have died in battle. The 18th dynasty marked the beginning of the New Kingdom, a flowering of Egyptian culture and power that lasted five centuries.

Several interesting items survive from the 17th dynasty and are now on display. Check out the gallery for a sample.

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Photo of entrance into the Precinct of Amon-Re courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Egypt to reopen Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor

Egypt, Luxor
The Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim has announced that the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor will reopen in March after a long period of restoration.

Egypt, LuxorLuxor is a sprawling complex of temples and one of the greatest monuments of the ancient world. The Avenue of Sphinxes is a long road stretching 2.7 kilometers flanked by hundreds of sphinxes. It was built by the Pharaoh Nectanebo I (ruled 380-362 BC) to replace and earlier one built by Queen Hatshepsut (ruled 1502-1482 BC).

While some stretches of the avenue have always been visible, much of it was buried or destroyed over the centuries. Now the entire length is being restored as part of an ongoing project to improve the entire site.

The opening is planned to coincide with next year’s Berlin International Tourism Market. Egypt is anxious to draw tourists back to the country after the recent political instability. Considering the current protests in Cairo, the government has a lot of work to do before March.

Top image courtesy Przemyslaw “Blueshade” Idzkiewicz. Bottom image courtesy Dennis Jarvis.