Dispatch 8: This will be the final dispatch of Notes from Alex. Ellie Ga’s solo project at Grand Arts will open on Friday, September 6th, 2013. Stay tuned to Grand Arts’ UPCOMING page for more details.

                                                              

The hieroglyph for sail is found in words connoting the wind and the concept of breath. Materials as a refrain, an uneven refrain:

pink granite

alabaster

lead

sandstone

string

marble

bronze

plaster

light

granite closeup

PORTRAIT OF PINK GRANITE

Today, bats zig zag through the upper chambers of Qait Bey citadel and on the weekdays, young couples come here to hold hands, knowing they won’t run into their families. Inside, the one object on display is a model of the citadel itself but before the British bombardment in 1882 which almost completely destroyed the citadel. The citadel was built on the location of the Pharos lighthouse which had been standing for about 1500 years before it was reduced to rubble by a series of earthquakes in the 14th century. The stones which didn’t end up on the seabed were used to build the citadel, but the problem is that once the citadel in turn was destroyed and then reconstructed, those early accounts are vanquished into the realm of legend. The only stones that we can say with certainty are from the ancient lighthouse are those found in the small portion of the citadel that survived intact after the bombardment–the doorway of pink granite, made in part with the base of a statue turned upside down.

Shadows in the place of eyes.

shadows eyes

According to BRGM/RP-56218-FR-Final Report 3: Atlas of the Stones of the Alexandria Lighthouse, among the 66 stone samples collected from the monuments and artefacts of the lighthouse, fifty are granitoids. Forty-two are pinkish granites. The granite samples are coarse to very coarse (3 to 5 cm). The observable grains are coarse alkali fledspars (pinking to reddish color), plagioclases (milk-white), quartz (transluscent) and a few black spangles of biotite.

breakwater

The massive pink granite plinths that formed the door frome of Pharos lighthouse are still underwater–with one exception. Lying next to the coast guard is a long wide granite monolith, broken into two pieces . It is 6.5 meters long and 2 meters wide and 1.5 meters thick. Since it is so heavy, and there is nowhere else to put it, it ended up here on the breakwater. We sail by it often as we make our routine stop at the coast guard before each dive. The stop usual plays out the same way: my dive guide jumps onto the breakwater and takes a seat in one of the plastic chairs (as if to say he is willing to wait).  I wave to the two soldiers who can’t be more than 20 years old and they wave back enthusiastically and sometimes one of them jumps onto our boat to look around (for underwater cameras or stowaways: like the time he found the Egyptian guy who had slipped the guide a little money to come on board to drink beer and make out with his Russian girlfriend.) And with the machine gun dangling like jewellery around the young soldier’s neck, he wishes me good luck for the dive.


“I will teach the cat to be polite.”

A gasoline crisis cripples Upper Egypt and drivers of trucks and cars and taxis and micro-buses and tractors line up at 4 in the morning hoping to get served by 4pm the next day, unless the gasoline runs out–which it usually does. Theories ripple the surface of most conversations: that the crisis is intentional, strategically timed with the upcoming elections in order to distract the average person from politics or to make them realize how much better things used to be under the regime. Stories circulate of tankers hauling the petrol from the western desert being bribed into pouring out their precious cargo into the sand. Some say the stories have made it into the newspapers. On the ring road around Cairo young boys set up stands selling snacks, cold drinks and long, wooden club-like canes. Some of them are plain, some are wrapped in black tape. All of them are lined upright on the side of the road one at a time. Our companion says this new merchandise made its appearance after the revolution for people to carry in their cars for protection. He pulls over to ask the young man why he wants to sell these things— aren’t things bad enough? Do we need to encourage more violence? “They are in high demand,” the young man replies. Presidential campaign posters replace the faded ones of the parliamentary election, but the unique visual icon for each candidate hasn’t been assigned yet; the disqualification of several candidates last week has made some of these posters already obsolete.

Making the 10 hour drive through the Eastern Desert with a jerry can of gasoline in the trunk of the car, its smell seeping through to the passenger seat. Our companion stops at every station he finds to fill up just a little more as it takes two tanks to get from the south Red Sea coast to Alexandria. At one station a brawl starts with a group of men kicking a man in the behind, everyone abandoning their cars to chase the man through a vacant lot, the group swelling in numbers as people from the village join in the chase. “Since the revolution people have lost their patience”, our companion sighs. We pull out of the petrol station empty-handed, continuing our drive past the half-built resorts with names like Vista, Santa Claus, Siesta and Good Welcome. Punctuating the search for petrol is the lack of visibility as the Hamaseen winds kick up gales of sands from the desert, making driving an effort that wastes more petrol. The sea too is in turmoil— as are the tourists who have seen their carefully constructed plans for diving holidays dismantled because the Coast Guard has officially closed the sea.

The Egyptian Navy is doing drills in the water around Qait Bey so foreigners are prohibited from diving around the harbor for the next five days. In place of diving among the stones of the ancient Pharos lighthouse, I set myself the task of collecting every image of the lighthouse I encounter: plastered around town in numerous iterations and found in internet cafes, brightly painted murals, buses and university logos. I go to a silver shop to have a coin of the lighthouse made, using an image found on ancient Roman coins. After much discussion with the owner, he asks me what the image is suppose to be. I say rather off-handedly, “It’s a lighthouse.” Then, realizing I’m in Alexandria I add, “It’s Pharos.” His face lights up and he yells to a person tucked away in the back room. A teenage boy appears carrying the Pharos lighthouse, in pure silver, 2 kilos in weight, 60 centimeters high.

His face is beaming as he says, “I made it for, for, for…”

I expect him to say he made it for the French archaeological team that works on the Pharos site and I don’t anticipate the end of his sentence:

“I made it for…for…for Mubarak!”

Belief in divine will, or destiny, is contagious when living in Egypt and I can’t help but feel utterly grateful to the Egyptian Navy for putting a wrench in my diving plans which lead me to stumble upon this particular silver shop amid all the other silver shops in the area. Though I wish divine will had intervened by reminding me to pack my audio recorder that morning and I desperately want to press pause on our conversation, run home, get my recorder and the resume his story. My mind wanders to this possible scenario and I miss a bit of his story but I remember he said that the final silver Pharos sculpture for Mubarak was 90 centimeters high and what we are looking at now is the maquette.

Not wanting to second guess destiny, I figure leaving my recorder at home meant a second chance, a pre-meditated meeting and after a couple of days of hounding I get my companion, fluent in Arabic, to come with me to the silver store to get the story recorded. She remembers the shop as a child and mutters under her breath that the owner isn’t too friendly. She’s surprised that this is the man who I described as beaming in front of his creation the other day. After preliminary discussions about the progress of my coins I sheepishly say that my friend would very much like to see the Pharos. Again the call to the back room, again the teenage boy carries the statue on its wooden plinth and sets it down on the glass vitrines stuffed with silver amulets of eyes, palms and verses from the Quran etched onto pendants.

Naturally, the Arabic version of the silversmith’s story is elaborate and detailed. The main points being: the Egyptian Navy wanted to give a present to Mubarak and they decided on the lighthouse. The silversmith, not knowing what the lighthouse would have looked like, is given a picture–the classic Herman Thiersch image from 1908. The silversmith designed the sculpture as a hollow silver structure. Inside he inserted a red light to mimic the illumination of the lighthouse. The sculpture was housed in a small wooden closet and when the doors were open, the red light was suppose to emanate. Unfortunately, the electrical component of the the sculpture was cut, as governmental security did not allow presents for Mubarak containing electricity. My companion asks if he had known about the lighthouse before and he said “yes, but I did not know what it looked like. I have only heard about it.” He says he grew up in Tabia, an ancient quarter on the sea which is now, after thousands of years of changing sea levels, joined with what was once Pharos island. He remembers that as a boy, if they didn’t have electricity the lighthouse was so close to their window that it gave them light at night.

 I came prepared for this interview with my own sculpture of the lighthouse– consisting of three geometric shapes: a cylinder, octagon and square. Based on archaeological evidence, there isn’t much besides these shapes that we can be sure of. As I place my sculpture next to the ornate silver Pharos, I hear in my head the voice of the head archeologist-architect of the French mission who has for years been working on Pharos and whose proportions I used for my portable lighthouse sculpture. She said to me in an interview, “You know, if you think about it the lighthouse was really ugly. Really ugly.”

Placing my lighthouse next to the silver lighthouse brings an awkward, befuddled silence to what had seconds ago been an animated conversation involving everyone who works in the store. I have my companion explain why my lighthouse is the way it is and hearing that it has done nothing to overturn the prevailing silence, I hurriedly take a photo of the two sculptures side by side and shove my sculpture back into my bag.

Pharos Dives 1-4

#1

After being rowed from the dock to the boat, we motor over to our first stop in the harbor: an unmarked building where our dive-guide jumps out with copies of our passports. The tangle of colorful fishing boats around us usually have an eye painted at their sterns. Seen all through the Mediterranean, this is an ancient practice started perhaps to ward off the evil eye or to give boats extra sight in voyage. Here in Egypt the eyes are slightly different then elsewhere, they are painted like the eyes of Pharaohs. Despite being in wetsuit and hood, the sunny day is already turning cool. Our guide returns and we head to our next stop: the coast guard. The coast guard is a makeshift shack with carpets hanging over the entrance for shade and privacy. A plastic table and three chairs. A private ‘sheesa-teria,’ one of my companions remarks. Our guide hops off again and takes a seat in one of the chairs, signaling that it will be a while. Next to the coast guard shack are men with fishing poles resting against a six meter long pink-granite stone: part of the door jamb of the Pharos lighthouse, heaved up from the water during one of the archaeological campaigns.

After getting the final go ahead, we motor through the narrow entrance of the harbor formed by two breakwaters. We are now in the wave-ridden open sea, directly across from Qait Bey citadel. The waves are extremely choppy and it seems our small motor boat will tip over. Our guide is in a hurry for us to get out of the boat and straps us into our diving vests and pushes us into the sea. With no time to see if my regulator is working properly, I hit the water  forgetting both my camera and the fact that the water is cold. It’s not a shocking cold and gets absorbed quickly by the wetsuit. Being a little cold is a pleasant distraction from the mild seasickness seeping in. After much effort we make it to the yellow balloon, the rendezvous point for descending. There’s little visibility as we descend. Even though the site is shallow (a mere 6 meters) it seems we are in free-fall for quite some time before we land on a rock. There are thousands of stones strewn on the seafloor but today only one or two can be seen at a time. As we start the tour of the rocks, the swell has a dizzying effect—rhythmically jerking the body a meter back and then two meters forward. Our guide points to different stones using our pre-determined system of gestures: arms crossed in a v-shape with clenched fists means a Pharonic stone; one fist across the chest is a Roman stone; an extended hand turning from left to right means lighthouse; hands on top of a head signaling a crown: Ptolemaic. Two fists down on the thighs: a sphinx. It is hard to notice the difference between the stones as I’m distracted by the growing fear that I will throw-up into my regulator.

Dives #2 & #3

The sea is rough but not nearly as agitated today so I bring my brass lighthouse sculpture underwater for a photo shoot. As our dive-guide predicted, the visibility is really, really bad. Much worse than last time, which was also pretty bad. Again the wall of brown and green clouds and no visible bottom to swim towards. A meter of visibility at the most. Probably less. Luckily our guide is wearing yellow flippers and I’m able to follow him. We loose my companion almost instantly. My guide gestures emphatically that I am to hold onto this rock and not move. How long I wait at the rock I don’t know. Elapsed time is impossible to calculate underwater, perhaps because there is no horizon to measure time passing against. 5 minutes and 30 minutes are indistinguishable from one another.

On my rock, I  think about Honor Frost and Kamal Abu-Saadat, who in the 1960’s mapped this area by hand, using pre-GPS methods of triangulation and string. The accuracy of their maps is mind-boggling as the French archaeological mission of the 1990s discovered when they superimposed their computer-generated maps on top of the handmade ones. My artistic job today of assembling and filming my sculpture underwater is difficult enough, as it keeps toppling from the swell and the pieces fall into the cracks of the remnants of the actual lighthouse, in what becomes comical re-enactment of the real Pharos’ demise. After giving over my sculpture to the dive-guide who is enthusiastically taking over the project, I go shooting up to the surface. Without weight of the solid brass sculpture, I’m underweighted and I struggle to head down to the bottom again as my make-shift underwater production team is so engrossed in the filming, they haven’t noticed my disappearance.

Dive #4

When the sterns of the fishing boats point towards the harbor, this means the wind is coming from the west. The sea is almost flat today and after the routine round of stops and permissions, four hours later we motor past the two breakwaters into open sea. Today conditions are at their best with visibility at about 3 meters, maybe even more. It’ a perfect day to attempt to learn orientation by drawing maps underwater. Today I can differentiate between reefs and rubbish, between the fragments of the lighthouse and the large concrete blocks that were dumped on top to protect the citadel. I can see the full length of the door jamb of the lighthouse, similar in size to the one next to the coast guard shack. With the added visibility, the heaps of stones become forms with personalities: a headless sphinx, the base of a column, a donut, a butterfly.

Using both sides of two slates, I make four maps. My maps are incomprehensible as my wandering eye can’t focus on one stone at a time. Determining the distance between two objects underwater is as ineffable as estimating the time passing. As there are no boats in this area, I resurface every so often to see where I am in relation to the citadel. In the end I pack away my surveying aspirations, in favor of random doodles of rock formations.

Saviour among the Greeks, this watchman of Pharos, was set up, lord Proteus,
         by Sostratus the Cnidian, son of Dexiphanes.
 
Since in Egypt there are no lookout-points or mountains as on the islands,
         and the harbor stretches flat,
 
for that reason, cleaving the air sheer and steep,
         this tower shines forth across countless leagues
 
by day, and all night long the mariner running with the wave
         will see the great fire blazing from its peak,
 
and though he may run to the Bull’s Horn itself, he would not miss
         Zeus the Savior, O Proteus, in sailing hither.
                       
                           —Inscription attributed to Pharos Lighthouse, epigram of Posidippus, 3rd century BCE

 

When the great Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria was built in the 3rd century BCE, it was only 10 meters shorter than the great pyramids at Giza—scraping the sky at about 110 meters. It was practically not a lighthouse at all in the modern sense because in most cases the function of a lighthouse is to guide ships away from danger. A lighthouse as big as Pharos really isn’t necessary. However, in ancient times lighthouses were guiding ships towards certain areas. Especially in Alexandria, because the northern coast of Africa is flat and featureless. Without mountains or high coastlines, a sailor would practically have to be on the land to see the land. Yet even if a ship followed the beacon of this soaring tower, its safety from the rocks and the shallows was not guaranteed, as the number of Hellenistic shipwrecks in the area attest to.

To hug the coast while sailing was a dangerous and time-consuming way to travel so ancient mariners had to rely on environmental navigation to sail in open seas.  They developed a keen eye for observing natural phenomena—such as the changes in sea color, the variety of seabirds and patterns of the wind. The wind was the most important natural force in ancient seafaring and it has marooned my attempts this week to dive among the submerged remains of the Pharos Lighthouse.

There are eight general wind directions in the Mediterranean and there are also local winds associated with certain regions. The Hamseen winds (Arabic for fifty) come from the south, from the desert, blowing sporadically for 40 or 50 days. An ancient seafarer could utilize the Hamseen wind to sail north from Egypt. He could start a little before the beginning of the Hamseen and the wind would blow him all the way to Turkey and he’d be happy and then he would wait until the Hamseen wind subsided, at which point he could take the Etesian wind back to Egypt.

I’m told the Hamseen wind will arrive soon and that it will be very warm and everything will be covered in sand. Sometimes the sand during this period can travel as far as England. Usually, the predominant winds in Alexandria are the Etesian winds from the northwest. These winds dominate the summer months, bringing the murky, dirty water from the western coast. Marine archaeologists avoid diving in Alexandria’s harbor during this period. The ideal time for diving will be soon with the arrival of the northeast winds that clean the harbor of the muck. I’m told that the southern wind is also very good for diving though I’m not sure why.

ohh I couldn’t sleep from the wind last night, it is a southern wind…helas..have a good day.

The wind has been blowing very hard here for the past few days. Today it seems to be coming from all directions as women struggle to keep their hijaabs in place, as the waves leap over the wall of the Corniche. A street vendor’s plastic turquoise rubbish bin blows into the street, momentarily stopping the torrential traffic on Sharia Fouad–no small feat. There’s a joke that the few traffic lights in the city are mere decoration as police men in wooden booths manually operate the lights on their whims.  In the car with two companions, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 30s, they recall the first 18 days of the the revolution—how people spontaneously took to the streets to direct traffic and young school children no more than 10 years old acted as crossing guards in front of their schools. They agree that the traffic moved much better during this time. Engrossed in telling the story, my older companion rather appropriately runs a red light. Pulling over, he tells us to wait in the car while he goes to give the officer some money. My younger companion dissuades him, saying he can’t do that anymore, not since the revolution. The old man dismisses her with his hand as he walks over to the police officer who is waiting with arms crossed. The old driver says, “I’m so sorry I didn’t see the light please take 5 pounds for yourself, please.” “I want 10,” the police man says.

Even after the winds subside, a few days will be needed before any attempts at diving. Sun, clear skies and a calm sea can be misleading as it is the swell under the surface that effects diving around the Pharos Lighthouse site. The swell is said to have a mind of its own as it lingers long after the winds and the waves have changed direction. The swell can march great distances. It can cross an ocean. It tells us that a storm has blown somewhere at some point. It’s the messenger of what happened before. An aftercast.

Between literature and the monuments: Alkali Feldspars, Black Spangles of Biotite, Milk White Plagioclases. The city without a shadow, three handbreadths apart. Peace of the golden hand in the shipyards. Better to see it as if through the eyes of aliens. The Islamic and Christian calendar will coincide on 1 May 20874. We don’t know anything about them except their spelling habits. Everything is forbidden. The west is marked by a falcon and a feather, to sleep is an open eye. The hieroglyph for sail is also found in words connoting the concept of breath. Centre for the Sale of Prints and Reproductions. Chapel of the Sacred Boat. The past had a smell. Athens is burning. In order to remember indefinite articles, Arabic letters are divided into two categories: moon letters and sun letters. Words like the moon (el-qamar) take the indefinite article ‘el’. Words such as the sun (es-sams) are irregular like the sun in England. When the waves don’t eat the rocks, then you can go diving. It’s not what you have, it’s who you have. We live on a series of islands, ferrying from land to land, never entering the sea. The sound of a lone horse galloping in the street on Friday morning. Must have beens.

 

The surface landscape of the city is of weather-beaten campaign posters pasted to the walls. Each candidate had a unique visual icon in order to identify themselves to the public—perhaps a combination of widespread illiteracy and  the sheer number of candidates running for election. Being illiterate here myself, I collect photographs of the different icons wondering how much emotional reactions to the icons comes into the selection process as the icons rarely seem neutral to me.

orange

basketball

eye

theatre stage

audio cassette

VCR

electric heater

construction crane

diamond

hat

crocodile

peach

flashlight

hand

lightbulb

piano

bookcase

CD

carpet

fighter jet

open book

pipe

killer whale

apple

ping pong paddle

television

clock

My companion says she voted for basketball and orange; “I can’t remember all their names.”

Alexandria, a strip of land between desert and sea. This city of 4 million people hemmed in by Lake Mareotis to the south and the Mediterranean to the north.

The Cornish, Le Corniche, El-Geish Road.

The seaside road. It starts in the west at the Qait Bey fortress (former site of the ancient Pharos lighthouse) and unravels over the course of about 20 miles. It is the elongated center of the city. Here the force of the city comes to a halt. Here begins the territory of the marine archaeologists. Here young couples find refuge below the rocks and official condemnations of such behavior are written in formal script on the pylons.

Gaining Power over the Water

If you say to taxi drivers that you are studying archeology they laugh and say over and over “dahab dahab dahab”…gold gold gold. The underwater archaeological sites in the harbor are divided into three zones: one for the French entrepreneur, one for the Greek-Alexandrian with an unfinished dissertation on the tomb of Alexander the Great and one zone for the French scholar. There are no permits for an Egyptian mission. A large stretch of the harbor to the west of Qait Bey Citadel is a military zone. These waters are off limits to everyone except for the few local divers who are friends with the soldiers.

Qait Bey Citadel

My first glimpse of the former site of the Pharos lighthouse, where Qait Bey citadel now stands, was a sideways glance while hopping into a mini-van: the most efficient and cheapest way to get around. My second day we stop short of the goal—a young sailor picks up a conversation with us as we are walking on the Corniche. He takes us out for ice cream near the lighthouse site. The walls of the ice cream parlor are lined with the pixelated photographs of young people killed in the revolution, illuminated by light-boxes. By the time we are done it is sunset and the citadel is closed.

On the third day we enter the citadel. Understanding the geology of the building materials is often the only guide to piecing together the past. By reading the surface of the fort one finds incongruous bits of red granite wedged into the white limestone building: these are stones from the ancient lighthouse, one of the ancient wonders of the world. In an alcove are some of the remnants, unmarked.

A model inside the fort shows what it looked like before British bombardment. What’s missing now: a soaring minaret, once the tallest mosque in the world.

A Hole to See the Past Through (Mosque el-Nabi Daniel)

Sharia Mataba is the site of the new Library of Alexandria, translated as “Bookshop Street” in English on the street sign. This would be a more appropriate title for Sharia el-Nabi Daniel (Street of the Prophet Daniel), the ancient north-south running street today lined with stalls of book vendors. Originally called by the Greeks Soma, or the road of the body.

Alexandria is one of the few places in Egypt where the modern city is built directly on top of the ancient one. The high-rises are slanting as the weak limestone foundation of the new city sags under the exorbitant weight. In front of the Mosque el-Nabi Daniel is a massive cavity in the ground from the removal of a collapsed building. Archaeologists hope to obtain the permits to dig here before a new building takes its place. In a city with a constant need to house its soaring population, archaeologists are lucky if they even get a permit to do salvage excavations before the site vanishes forever.  As European archaeological missions are trying to piece together the remains of Alexandria’s Greco-Roman past, cynics say that since the discoveries are not related to the Islamic history of the city, there is little public interest in saving it.

As the 19th century buildings are being demolished, they are replaced with tower blocks and basement garages that slice through all the archaeological layers. Whereas the foundations of the older buildings were lighter and shallower and instead of destroying the archaeological layer these buildings did quite the opposite: sealing and preserving time. People stop to watch us photograph from the precipice of the cavity. I assume it is because we are foreigners photographing trash and rubble. Sometimes people will dissuade us from photographing debris or they will say no outright, like when my companion tries to photograph a discarded campaign poster for the Muslim Brotherhood with the two candidates eyes’ poked out. But as we stand in front of this gaping hole we are joined by people who point down to it as well.

 

A typical Egyptian joke: whenever there is a construction site in the city a passerby will look down into the hole and say to the workers, “Hey did you find Alexander the Great?”

Behind this cavity is the Mosque el-Nabi Daniel which houses a famous rumor: the location of the tomb of Alexander the Great. One of the most famous proponents of this theory was Heinrich Schliemann who, after rediscovering the remains of Troy, came to Alexandria with the intentions of finding the tomb of the city’s founder. And indeed upon entering we are lead to a recessed room where slender Greek corinthian columns meld into the mixture of sheetrock and marble of the present-day building. From this room lacquered wooden stairs lead to an underground chamber of vaulted ceilings and Roman arches. A small hole leads straight into blackness. My companion, in a combination of Arabic and pantomime, asks if anyone has ever crawled through the hole. A response comes in a gesture that mimics the effect of climbing down and suffocating to death.

The location of the tomb of Alexander still eludes archaeologists, and the Graeco-Roman Museum counts 139 attempts over the past century to rediscover it—including a Greek waiter who for three decades held up traffic in his spare time as he dug in the streets looking for the tomb. Nowadays, archaeologists are looking further to the east of the city in the present-day Roman-Catholic cemetery.  As finding the body of Alexander becomes one of the holy grails for archaeologists and the uncertainty of whether the Prophet Daniel is even buried at the mosque to which he lends his name (he is thought to be buried in many places), we can make a list of scattered holy bodies that spans Egypt’s civilizations: Osiris, Alexander, Saint Mark, Prophet Daniel.

Across from the Mosque el-Nabi Daniel is Alwafai mosque. We crane our heads to see in the courtyard a lone roman column like a decapitated tree.

KOM EL-DIKKA

Here at Kom el-Dikka, The Mound of Rubble, is a Greco-Roman lecture hall and stadium with mosaics, theaters and graffiti praising Greek chariot warriors scratched into the walls. Standing on the ancient ground of the city you can crane your neck high to see the foundation of the present city with a cross section of  red brick foundation of the Byzantine period sandwiched between the two.

Lining the excavation crater is an avenue of artifacts pulled up from waters; the submerged ancient city and Pharos lighthouse. 26 pieces are on display here: sphinxes of coarse pinkish granite, dark grey granodiorites, yellowish siliceous sandstone, dark greywacke and white marble. A white stone fragment with its accompanying informational panel is fortuitously still in place. It reads: this could very well be part of the inscription from the lighthouse because within the hollows of the letters are fixing holes for the incrustation of metal letters, confirming descriptions made by early Arab travelers. This small fragment of 115 x 100 x 26 cm weighs an astounding 41 tons.

Archaeology and speculation. Fictional recreations. The infamous ‘door’ of Cleopatra’s submerged palace stands under a street lamp in Kom el-Dikka. It was pulled from the water by the Greek excavation. My companion is skeptical: “a door for lilliputians, perhaps.”

 

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