2005 Mathematics May Seminar

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The Aswan Dam

The first Aswan dam, built to help regulate the flooding of the Nile, was finished in 1889 and then later added on to in 1912 and 1933. These two additions seemed to not be sufficient for in 1946 the flood water peaked near the top of the dam, so they decided to built a new dam about 4 miles upstream. This new Aswan High Dam was finished in 1970 after 18 years of work and almost US$ 1 billion. The Aswan High Dam forms Lake Nasser, which was named after the Egyptian president who died in 1970, and is the world’s third largest reservoir.

The benefits of the dam are that it has helped to prevent damage by regulating the annual floodwaters, has been used to generate electrical energy, and has improved navigation on the Nile. It has also had its negative impacts as well. It has disrupted an ecosystem that has evolved around the annual flooding, lowered the average annual temperature in the region surrounding the reservoir, and farmers are forced to use chemical fertilizers due to a lack of sediment deposited in the river valley.

The Mohammad Ali (Alabaster) Mosque

The Mohammad Ali Mosque is located in The Citadel, overlooking Cairo. It was built during 1830-1848 and was designed in an Ottoman style by the Greek architect Yussuf Bushnaq. Mohammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Egypt at the time, who was born in Albanian, and founded the country’s last dynasty of Khedives and Kings, started the building of the mosque. His tomb is located in the mosque. Originally, the mosque was covered in oriental alabaster or marble, lending it the name the Alabaster Mosque. Currently, only the bottom 40 feet of the façade is alabaster, the rest having been stripped off and used for the palaces of Abbas I.

Some features of the Mohammad Ali Mosque include a 170-foot ottoman-style dome, which is situated over the prayer hall, two 270-foot minarets, which are unusual for the city of Cairo, and a French clock given to Mohammad Ali Pasha by Louis Philippe in 1845. In return, Louis Philippe was gifted an Egyptian obelisk by Mohammad Ali, which currently stands in the Place de la Concorde In Paris.

Luxor (Thebes) Jennifer Rutt


The Luxor area of Upper Egypt was the Thebes of the ancient Egyptians – the capital of Egypt during the Middle (2040-1759 BC) and New Kingdoms (1539-1075 BC). Today it is famous for its temples and the nearby Valley of the Kings.

On the east bank is the modern town of Luxor. Running alongside part of the riverbank and separated from it by the corniche is the Luxor Temple. Modified over many centuries, its main pylons, or gates, are on the northern end. In front of them is one obelisk – it companion was given to France and taken to Paris were it was erected in Place de la Concorde on October 25, 1863.

Just south of the temple is the Old Winter Palace Hotel-used early this century by Lord Carnavon as work proceeded on the West Bank excavations and preliminary work on the tomb of Tutankhamun.

At the northern end of town is the sprawling Karnak complex of temples built over a span of about 1500 years. It is famous for its main Hypostyle Hall with 134 massive columns. Starting at the first pylon, one walks back through time to the earlier constructions to the rear.

Located about halfway between Luxor and Karnak temples is one of the best museums in Egypt – the Luxor museums.

The West bank was the domain of the deceased and mortuary temples and hundreds of tombs dominate it.

The major temples include Ramesseum – the famous mortuary temple of the 19th-dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II. This was the site from which Belzoni removed the famous bust now in the British Museum. Belzoni’s signature can still be seen carved into the stone in a couple of places within the Ramesseum, along with those of other well-known personalities of 19th-century Egypt.

Medinet Habu was Ramesses III’s attempt to copy his ancestor. The complex was added to over the centuries following, but it is most impressive. The artisans from the nearby town of Deir el-Medina moved into the compound when things got unsafe and the construction of Royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings came to a halt.

The mortuary temple of 18th-dynasty Queen Hatshepsut is a masterpiece of design and has been under restoration for about a century. It is built into a natural amphitheater in the cliffs and doesn’t look out of place in the 20th century, even though it was constructed during the early 15th century BC.

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