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Snowing, raining and running late  this morning, I decided to take a cab to the train station. On the way I asked the cab driver of his ethnicity. He said that he was Egyptian. I couldn’t resist telling him a story of my experience with Egyptian art… so hang on, and if you can bear it out, here it is:  At about the age of 10 or earlier my parents went to see a 16 mm film that a doctor & his wife had made about their tour of Egypt. My mom and dad brought me along. I can remember sitting in the Hayward High School (CA) auditorium looking over shoulders to see the film. Most of it I can’t remember, however one scene vividly remains to this day…

Abu Simbel Temple, Aswan Egypt

Across the silver screen spread an intense river of manganese and cerulean blue. It was the Nile. A large white yacht, moving very slow, with orange shellac masts glistening, was centered in the afternoon light. Looking across the expansive river to its distant edge, carved into red sandstone cliffs appeared four huge magnificent statues rising into the cobalt sky.  A close up shot of the sculpted statues blew me away.  Ramses II, who ruled 67 years in 13th century BC,  built two temples on the lower Nile. This was Abu Simbel, near the Sudanese border, where today is the Aswan High Dam. When the dam was completed in 1963, it was the last time one could see temples in that region … they would be submerged forever. Having studied Egyptian and Grecian art and architecture I was excited to witness these treasures of  beauty and scale. The Parthenon in Athens Greece was a favorite… I did a thesis on it at Hayward High. In the Fall of 1963 the father of a friend of mine called my father and said his son was in London and asked if I would be interested in traveling with him. Well, I had no money, but had worked with my father for years. He said he would finance the trip and bought me an “around the world” airline ticket. After traveling with my friend throughout Europe and the Scandinavian countries our last stop in Europe would be Athens, then to Alexandra Egypt and a ride in a mail boat down the Nile to Aswan. His parents were visiting us in Rome when I got a call from my father that my sister was getting married and that he could no longer fund the trip. Well you can only imagine what was going in my mind… the next stop would be Athens then Egypt. Disappointed that it would be the last time ever to see these Egyptian temples of the Aswan region, I flew to New York and back to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan to resume my studies in Sculpture with just enough money from the unused airline ticket to cover my tuition. Between 1964 and 1966, a project sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Egyptian government, both temples were dissembled and reconstructed  on top of the cliff 200 feet above the original site. I have yet to see the temples and the colossal 67 foot statues of red sandstone… I haven’t given up that dream… That cabbie got a good tip, he listened intently and said; ” You must go there” … to Egypt and the Aswan High Dam.

Gene  3/24/11