If you can’t go to Egypt, go to Paris! The first stop of the new, long-awaited exhibit of underwater Egyptian archaeology is Paris, at the World Arab Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) in the Latin Quarter. For the past couple of decades, archaeologists and treasure hunters have been exploring the Nile delta and the Egyptian coast. They have found relics from Cleopatra’s Alexandria, from much earlier Pharaonic times, and even from Napoleon’s invasion and defeat at Aboukir Bay. The exhibit includes 250 relics from many eras and sites (Canopus, Heraklion, Aboukir), some of which have never left Egypt. There will be audioguides, movies, travelogues, and the wonder that is and remains Egypt.
The exhibit follows the processional path of the annual Osiris ritual, with its secret rites and sacred temples. (Osiris – dismembered and tossed into the Nile by his red-headed brother Set; saved and reconstructed by Isis (wife/sister), and resurrected to sit in judgment on the dead.) It will be amazing.
Also, some of the proceeds will benefit the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, which desperately needs funding to restore the buildings blasted by terrorist attacks, conserve damaged artifacts, protect sites, and continue its work. The loss of tourist revenue has weakened the Ministry at a time when its work is more essential than ever.
The Institut du Monde Arabe and the Exhibit have produced several images, one of which is shown on the right:
I’m guessing this will be a very popular and crowded exhibit, but they are scheduling access in half-hour blocks to reduce crowding.
Dates: September 8, 2015 through January 30, 2016
Cost: 17,30 euros
Go on-line, select your day and time, and reserve now at:
And while you are at the IMA, explore the whole building. It’s 9 stories tall and is a magnificent collection of information and artifacts from throughout the long history of the Arab world. It also showcases plays, music, dance, recitals, lectures, and such, for example: “Hip Hop: From the Bronx to the Arab Streets”, the Arab World Literature Prize, and so on. The building itself is located on the Seine. The river side is curved, while the city-side is a strict, sharp-edged rectangle with a spectacular glass curtain wall. Behind the glass wall, there is a metallic screen with moving geometric motifs that resemble the designs of the Alhambra and of the many window screens and ornamental facades featured in Arab architecture world-wide. These motifs are 240 photo-sensitive motor-controlled apertures, or shutters. They automatically open and close to control the amount of light and heat entering the building from the sun. The mechanism creates beautiful filtered light, modernizing traditional Islamic architecture which was designed to cope with blazing sun and heat. I loved it. BTW, the building received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
And, of course, no visit to any museum or cultural center is complete without food. The IMA has 3 restaurants, from the quick and tasty to the expensive and sublime. The cuisine is Lebanese, an ideal choice, as it fuses Middle Eastern with French. One of my favorite restaurants from years ago was Le Petit Liban, in Marin County. Before it was wounded by sectarian violence, Lebanon was a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan paradise. Thanks to IMA and Noura, however, we can enjoy its food and hope for peace and a return to prosperity and joy. The 3 options are:
1. Café Litteraire: One can either grab a quick bite or relax over a nice meal, including wine, at this lovely retreat.
2. Self: This restaurant offers a menu of small plates and pieces, rather like a Middle-Eastern sushi bar from the description. It includes desserts! Self closes around 3:30.
3. And, finally, the sublime: Le Zyriab, located on the 9th floor with a panoramic view of Paris and beautiful settings. Le Zyriab is costly (about 65 E for a prix fix dinner), but it looks amazing. It is open for lunch, tea, and dinner, except for Mondays. Dinner service runs from 7:30 to (I think) midnight, except for Sunday.
The view from the 9th floor terrace is astonishing and access to the terrace is free, so if you cannot afford a fancy lunch or tea, you can still enjoy the view and go to the various tea houses in the Latin Quarter instead.
The IMA is located at 1 rue des Fosses Saint Bernard 75005 Paris.
Metro 7: Jussieu, Sully-Morland
Metro 10: Cardinal Lemoine
Hours: Tues –Thursday: 10 am to 7 pm; Friday: 10 – 9:30 pm; Saturday & Sunday: 10 – 8 pm
There’s always something wonderful in Paris.