Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The pharaoh’s library

While Tutankhamun was promoting reading at the Isola Del Libro Trasimeno Festival in Italy, Nevine El-Aref tagged along

The pharaoh’s library
The pharaoh’s library
Al-Ahram Weekly

It seems the magic of the golden king Tutankhamun will never end. Last week, the Maggiore Island on Trasimeno Lake in Umbria, central Italy, fell under the spell of the boy king. Posters depicting his iconic gold funerary mask decorated the walls of several edifices on the island; and even the ice cream shop had two posters, one in black and white and one in colour.

“Tutankhamun and the mystery that has always accompanied him through history is featured in the fourth season of the Isola Del Libro Trasimeno Festival (or the Trasimeno Book Island Festival),” publisher and festival organiser Italo Marri told me. He went on to say that talking about the discovery of Tutankahmun’s lineage, health and the reasons behind his early death through scientific studies, examination of his mummy and DNA tests, is “an honour for us. It took us on an adventure through history to explore the life and death of one of the most mysterious kings of ancient Egypt”.

Marri explains that the first season of this festival took place in the summer of 2013 – an attempt to promote reading through transforming the island into “book village” where 14 “literary cafés” were organised every weekend for the three months of summer, featuring meetings with significant Italian and European authors – politicians, physicians, archaeologists, artists and journalists as well as writers, musical concerts as well as painting and photograph exhibitions. The event would include diaologue and discussion, sometimes on very practical topics like stamina medicine, which is recorder to be screened on TV.
“Isola Del Libro was adopted from ’the book villages’ created in some European countries and in particular Redu in Belgium,” Marri said, describing it as a dream to come true. He added that it is a signal honour to be hostingan Egyptian author for the first time: the renowned Egyptologist and former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass, who will be discussing his book The Legend of Tutankhamun. Hawass, Marri said, was selected not only to explain to Italians the reality and myth in the life and death of Tutankhamun but to bring to those who have never set foot in Egypt the ambience of a this enigmatic civilisation. “In his two-hour speech, Hawass attracted more that 300 attendees, a number that has never been reached before,” Marri asserted.

The book speaks of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s family through the scientific studies of CT-scans and DNA tests which gave clues to the king’s health condition, his life and the causes of his death. There are also a number of fascinating episodes on the infamous “curse of Tutankhamun” and so-called Tutmania. An introduction by George Herbert, Earl of Carnarvon, and an essay on Egyptomania in ancient and modern times by Italian archaeologists Stefano De Angeli, Riccardo Fusco, and Roberto Buongarzone are also included. The book is dedicated to Mrs Jihan Sadat for the love she has shown for Egypt.

The narration is accompanied by amazing photographs taken by Italian photographer Sandro Vannini, and carefully selected to allow the viewers to see the treasures of the king as never before.  “It leaves readers spellbound by the sublime craftsmanship of the ancient Egyptians,” Marri said. “In my opinion, this is the definitive book on King Tut.” Hawass recounts the story of Tutankhamun, adding a new flavour to the narration. New characters, discoveries and fascinating anecdotes come together in this extraordinary work, taking the reader through a sensational journey, filled with unique insights into the life, death and legacy of the young pharaoh.

Hawass did not loose such an opportunity to promote Egypt in his campaign to bolster up the country’s tourism industry. During his speech, he called on all Italians to come to visit Egypt and enjoy a wonderful journey within the magic of its great old civilisations. “Egypt is safe,” he asserted, adding that they should restart trips to Egypt not only to restore the country’s economy but also to help in providing funds needed to maintain archaeological sites and construct museums.

“This is a great success,” Marri told  me. “You will never get used to the vastness of the stories heard and experiences revealed in this festival. This is the magic of the book and why the island was born. In my opinion,“ he continued, ”the festival is an excellent opportunity for both publishers and readers because it represents a distinguished hub that combines culture through its main instrument ’the book’ with the select authors and offers the adventure of exploring the nature of such a charming place on the lake as well as its historical and artistic zones.”

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