Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Travelling along on the bookshelf

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Once upon a time and not so long ago, which is to say 60-odd years ago when the monarchy sailed away and the Free Officers took over, there were only two guidebooks on the market. One was the famous Baedeker guide to sites all over Egypt and Nubia; the other my own, Jill Kamil's guides to Luxor, Saqqara and Upper Egypt. Mine long held sway because they were up to date and covered archaeological work in progress. But they, like Baedeker's, eventually became dated, especially after the 1960s when the international missions ended their work on the Nubia Salvage operations and were granted concessions in Egypt. As soon as it was realised that the higher average water table of the River Nile -- one of the disadvantages of the High Dam -- was causing seepage and damage to surviving archaeological sites, excavations were set on motion all over the country of pharaonic, Christian and Islamic sites, not to mention burial grounds.

For a time Nagel's Egypt and the Blue Guide held the market; the latter, in translation, still does. However, with the surge in tourism following the exhibition of Tutankhamon's treasures abroad and the new Son et Lumiere shows at the pyramids; and with a further surge following the successful promotion of "Sun and Sea" coastal holidays alongside "Cultural and Recreational" tourism, with new facilities provided, and transport improved, there was an increased demand for all kinds of books on Egypt, especially guidebooks. The choice is enormous: there are illustrated guides, practical guides, pocket guides and specialised guides.

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