Book Review: An enlightening look into the birth of Egyptology

This travelogue also reveals the stark reality awaiting the traveler in the 19th century. (Supplied)
Updated 24 July 2019

Book Review: An enlightening look into the birth of Egyptology

BEIRUT: Alessandro Ricci’s travels to Egypt and Sudan took place a few years before the birth of Egyptology in 1822, the year Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs. His work, a detailed account of his journeys enriched with beautiful drawings of ancient monuments, was never published in his lifetime. Ricci is little known today yet his contemporaries, including Champollion, unanimously acknowledged the artistic qualities of his work, essentially epigraphic copies of reliefs, temple decorations and inscriptions.

In 2009, the author unexpectedly found a typescript of Ricci’s lost travel account in the Dar Al-Watha’iq al Qawmiya (National Archives of Egypt in Cairo). This was a great find: “The importance of Ricci’s Travels did not allow waiting for the discovery of the original manuscript for its publication,” Daniele Salvoldi wrote. AUC Press has once again published an exquisite book, a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptology.

In the captivating introduction to “From Siena to Nubia: Alessandro Ricci in Egypt and Sudan, 1817-1822,” released earlier this year, author Daniele Salvoldi sheds light on how easy it was in the time of Ricci to remove antiquities from Egypt and ship them abroad with the simple approval of local authorities in exchange for money. This explains Champollion’s decision to travel to Italy in 1825 to buy hieroglyphic inscriptions. The decipherer chose Tuscany for obvious reasons. “Egyptian antiquities for sale filled the dockside warehouse of Livorno; in the Gardens of Boboli, Florence, he could admire the obelisk of Ramesses II; while in the grand ducal galleries there were many Egyptian antiquities,” Salvoldi wrote. It was only in 1835 that Muhammad Ali issued a law forbidding the destruction of ancient buildings and the export of antiquities. He also established the first antiquities museum in Egypt.

“From Siena to Nubia” abounds with botanical and geographical remarks as well as historical and ethnographic observations. This travelogue also reveals the stark reality awaiting the traveler in the 19th century.


Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

Photo supplied
Updated 20 August 2019

Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

  • Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain

A Saudi bakery and restaurant business specializing in pastries is finding its way into Saudi hearts with a delectable selection of fine Italian, French, and Swiss foods.
Ahmad Essam, 28, a self-taught baker and chef, left a productive family business to create what is now one of the most prestigious bakeries in Alkhobar.
Essam set up his bakery and restaurant while working as a production engineer, selling tarts and cakes to his friends.
He was overwhelmed by the encouragement he received, and little by little Essam, his dream of running his own company emerged.
Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain.
Baking French pastries such as croissants, macarons, mille-feuille, eclairs and tarts require a true artisan. Essam described the glory he feels when he bakes, saying: “Dealing with precise tips to get the real essence of French pastries and reaching a level to bake without recipes is a matter of experience and good knowledge. Being a real baker requires a lot of learning as it’s not only about mixing water and flour; its trick lies behind the process of fermentation that sometimes lasts for days.’’
Every once in a while, the young man distributes membership books to loyal customers. “On Valentine’s Day, we distributed 3,000 roses,” he added.
Essam is very passionate, and dreams of opening a cooking academy in Saudi Arabia so he can inspire other amateur bakers; he told Arab News about his future 12,000-square-meters cooking village project that he is aiming to create in Riyadh, “including a library that collects all cookbooks, a seasonal spice shop, a great lake garden, a pizzeria, glossary shop and more, all of which falls under one theme: Cooking.”
For him, business is an obsession and profession. “Chefs have their egos. They are dealing with a tricky job and they know what they are doing exactly. They do not accept comments or advice from other chefs,” he explained.
You can follow him for more information on White Mountain on Instagram: @wm.bakery.