Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93
Penn Alumni Travel visited Egypt in January 2010. Given the Penn Museum’s strong collection in Egyptian antiquities, coupled with leading researchers and professors, we wanted to include Penn professors on our program. We were lucky to have the husband-wife team of Penn Egyptologists Jennifer Houser Wegner , Ph.D., C’91, and Joe Wegner, Ph.D., G’89, and their son Alexander join us. Joe is Associate Curator, Egyptian Section, Penn Museum and Associate Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Jen is Associate Curator, Egyptian Section, Penn Museum and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. They gave lectures during the trip and provided additional insight as we visited the ancient sites.
Our group had a wonderful time exploring the ancient antiquities of Egypt, and we were fortunate to also have a local alumna meet us in Karnak when we toured the temple there. She showed us some closed to the public areas and explained how they are trying to preserve and put the temple back together (large portions of it are just piles of rocks).
At the end of our trip, when we were back in Cairo, we met with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Ph.D., G’93, GR’87. Dr. Hawass at the time was the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council on Antiquities.
When the revolution happened in Egypt earlier this year, our group was very concerned about our guide and her family. I remember during the trip when she was asked about politics and government she would tell us that no one really pays attention because “nothing will change.” Mubarak’s son was being groomed to take over for him and things would continue as they are. What a difference a year makes! As the news developed, we all sent her messages, worried about her and her family living in Cairo. Her first message to us sounded desperate and fearful about what was happening. Then a few weeks later when Mubarak had stepped down, her tone was much more jubilant and hopeful.
Hopefully, we will be able to return to Egypt one day and explore once again its many wonders, but this time with a democratic government.