Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing.
My First Dose of Egyptian History
The first trip to Egypt I took was to get away from the norm. I had just recovered from a close call with death and wanted to see and feel history incase another encounter occurred and I ended up not seeing many of the world’s wonders.
In Cairo, the first place I visited was the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square and the artifacts displayed were just breathtaking. Finally, after much intrigue from reading National Geographic’s articles and seeing astounding photographs, I got to see with my own eyes, some of the items that actually accompanied Tutankhamun in his tomb.
Following many narrations of Egyptian history, the most fascinating Pharoah I found was Ramses II, who just adored his wife Nefertari, built monuments galore in Luxor, Karnak and the great temple in Abu Simbel, all with her as his consort. I marveled at the craftsmanship of such magnitude, hand done with such finesse and precise mathematical calculations, without modern technical equipment. What history of this civilization reveals!
an odd tourist event
When walking the streets, I saw the usual tourist business style almost amounting to harassment: sale of t-shirts, plastic obelisks, papyrus paintings, you-name-it … but when my friends and I stopped at a tea-shop, an elderly man, whom I thought was a vendor of knick-knacks, approached and paused at our table. He looked at all of us (me and 5 friends) and smiled. I could see friends’ hands waving “no” and heads moving left to right. With so much signaling going on, I felt there was no need for my contribution so I just sat there, smiling, very tempted to invite him to a cup of tea.
Mr. Ancient walked right to my side and place a tiny little blue ‘thing’ right by my teacup. He smiled and said “For you”. I simply followed with “How much?”
He simply shook his head and waved “Free.” I was so stunned, all I could say was “Thank you very much, er… what is it?”
“Khepri, good for you.” And with that, he walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
I tucked that little blue ‘thing’ into my shirt pocket and totally forgot all about it, until a few days later when I decided to send that shirt to the hotel’s laundry. It then got put in my wallet’s coin purse.
I got Curious
“Khepri” was mentioned many times by tour guides and museum docents but I never had a chance to ask specifically, what that gift I got signified. Upon my return home, as I unpacked, that tiny little blue ‘thing’ appeared again. This time, with travel notes and brochures brought back, I decided to look up what that little blue ‘thing’ was all about.
Scarab Beetle amulets are what those blue ‘things’ are. Also called “Khepri”, one of the most famous insect gods, these amulets were usually placed over the hearts of the dead before mummification. They were popular with common people and pharaohs (yes, even Ramses II had these amulets with him in his tomb) depicting rebirth, the power of life over death.
By feel, I thought it was some kind of ceramic and upon researching further, I found out it was made of Egyptian faience, ceramic without clay, but instead holds glass components, like silica. So there I was with this little thing called “Khepri”, which had a hole through it making it a nice little choker pendant, is actually an Egyptian Scarab Beetle charm.
“Khepri” also means “rising from, come into being itself, to change”. In hieroglyphics it looks like:
In reality, scarab beetles lay their eggs in dung and then roll that dung to form a dung-ball, representing the sun, then when hatched, little baby scarabs emerge from the ball representing the emergence of life.
(Can this be a reason why I’m such a dung lover? Always sourcing for dung for my garden?)
That little blue thing has, over the last 20 years, become my lucky charm. It has traveled with me, globally. I have returned to that specific cafe in Cairo twice but Mr Ancient has not re-appeared.
To date, that lucky charm which is chained to and tucked in my wallet’s coin pocket, has given me incidents of fluke and windfall. Many a time when genuine needs arise, like needing a flight seat because of a missed connection, I have touched the charm and gotten a seat because a passenger did not show up. Once I needed gas and all charge card systems were down, I had just gone supplies’ shopping and was out of cash. Desperately looking through my wallet’s different sections, I touched the ‘thing’ and 3 seconds later found a crumpled $10 note tucked in a charge-card section.
I know, I know, many will attribute it all to coincidences of life. It may be one of my idiosyncrasies but my “Khepri” has added so much relief to thorny issues of my life (not inessential self-indulgences) that I actually treat it with value and respect.
(On a side-note, I think my Longform is long enough; don’t you?)