Friday, January 11, 2013

The Luxor Obelisk

I recently had the most amazing journey to Egypt that has left me craving more. Our guide was Egypt's youngest Egyptologist (so he introduced himself), and was a well of information on our somewhat speedy trip down the Nile starting in Luxor.

Why am I talking about Egypt in a Paris blog you may ask? Well, you may have noticed during one of your trips to Paris that at the Place de la Concorde you have a giant obelisk that has now become part of the iconic landscape of Paris' architecture. But did you know that it's original home was at the temple of Luxor along the Nile. This is probably (at least to my knowledge), the oldest piece of art in Paris (not counting any of the works that are piled up in the museums of course). It is over 3000 years old.

The story of the obelisk is that Muhammad Ali Pasha (not an Egyptian), the then self-proclaimed Khedive of Egypt gifted the two obelisks that stood at the entrance of this great temple to France in 1829. The right, the Luxor obelisk has a twin brother. Can you imagine handing over 3000 years of history to a foreign nation as a gift? What was this guy thinking? The first of the two obelisks departed from Alexandria in 1833 and in 1836 King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of the Place de la Concorde. Luckily for Egypt only one made it to France but the other remained technically the property of France - I mean who takes a gift back right? But in the 1990s President Mitterrand officially renounced all French claims to the second obelisk in a symbolic gesture. We won't even get into the counterless other Egyptian treasures that have left its shores.

So if you can't make it to Egypt you can at least admire the one in Paris but believe me it's not quite the same experience. Take the time to admire the craftmanship and the hieroglyphs. A friend once said you had to see it at night to appreciate the writing.

On left Luxor Obelisk Paris. On the right Luxor obelisk Luxor, Egypt

sources: Wikipedia and my Egyptian guide Azazy
Photo credit: Yetunde Oshodi

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