Having just traveled through Egypt (and visited the Egyptian wing of the British Museum), I couldn’t not make a pilgrimage to the Met Museum’s famous Egyptian collection.
In particular, I wanted to see the Temple of Dendur. I remembered feeling awed by it when I visited years ago, and I wanted to see it again having now been to the place where it formerly stood. (The temple is one of the 20 temples that were completely relocated in the 1960s to escape flooding by the creation of the Aswan Dam. Most were reconstructed on alternate sites in Egypt, but this one was gifted to the US in acknowledgement of the US’s significant financial contributions to the effort.)
It’s a beautiful little temple. Much less ancient than I had remembered, it was built toward the end of the “ancient” history during the Roman occupation. Caesar Augustus ordered its construction, and it depicts Caesar as pharaoh and descendant of the god Horus (similar to how Alexander the Great had depicted himself in temples after conquering Egypt 300+ years earlier).
It’s a lovely, small temple. It was strange to see it indoors and surrounded by protective glass and cordoned off — in Egypt we could walk through and touch and explore. I missed the heat and sand and expanse of desert and Nile that gave context to the other temples. I’m glad the temple was saved, and that it’s here to be seen by the many people who may never go to Egypt. But seeing it felt a bit like watching a magnificent animal in a zoo. I wanted to release it back into the wild.
Outside in Central Park, just behind the museum, I found Cleopatra’s Needle. Originally erected 3,500 years ago in Heliopolis, the Romans found it toppled over and moved it to Alexandria. There it stood until the 1880s, when it was gifted to New York (its twin went to London). It now stands amidst a cloud of pink and white flowering magnolia trees. On this drizzly wet afternoon, surrounded by lush flora, I was struck by just how opposite this climate is from its original!