Richard Gabriel with Judith Elter 2009  All rights reserved

                            

 

 

 

Then taken Blind, to see another Massive Illegal Dig in Old Cairo

 

You enter the front door, its paint peeling from ages of use and neglect; you turn left and there is a short wider hallway with 2 doors off to the right. About 12 feet in front - facing you, there is a old wooden clothes closet which lost its shine a long time ago. To the left of the closet there is a table scattered with various tea-making trappings Egyptian style.  

Off to the right the corridor continues briefly to give access to the second right hand door.

There is a heavy musty earthy smell; and the sounds of children from the far room.

 

Hands appear to grapple with the closet. Its ease of movement betrays the fact that it is just an empty disguise for what is hidden behind it  ...and it is shuffled out of the way.

Now there is a dirty red curtain that would hide the doorway behind it but for the spillage of earth at its threshold like dirty lava frozen in its flow.

 

The curtain is drawn back in a sweep that catches it high on one of the nails to hold it in place. Somewhere someone has flicked a switch. The light from the feeble bulb hanging from a cable thread over the centre of the room struggles to illuminate the scene.

 

The room is now suppressed from the sounds of family and children making life over the decades. All vestages of that are gone. As eyes become adjusted, the approximate walls of a 20x20 feet room reach down to disappear behind the slopes of soil and rock which are banked up against them. In the centre,  all that happened in the past has disappeared for a huge hole that sweeps out to the banked earth above. It is only below the rim of the hole that we can see the rough edges of the floor concrete where they were smashed to make way for the excavation.

 

Too rough to be termed a shaft ...the hole of about 6 feet across, disappears deep deep deep down into the rock-soil in a corkscrew. A few feet below the top level of the hole, its side wall hollows into a hewn tunnel. The children playing in the rooms above cannot be heard here. A closer look reveals a drop down into  void and darkness. From around the opening, giant cockroaches scurry to escape the light.

 

 

From the Depths

 

One of the assembly takes our cameras and he is tied around the waist with frayed safety rope. He gingerly begins to climb down the hole as if this was the first time. Every now and then he looks back and we are blinded for a second by the camera flash. We see the flash later, along with his muffled conversation with others who are working beyond sight.

 

We are told the hole has a dead end branch at one point which was abandoned as fruitless.

We are told that the main hole sweeps as if away from the hallway at our level, and has broken into catacombes with many amazing artifacts. But these are not going to be allowed to our direct sight - as 'they' are to be the source of reward soon for the alleged two years of labour to reach them. We are told the neighbour is an ancient mosque, but this is told in a whisper which we are not to repeat.

 

Later our cameras are returned and we are told of other dangers the men have faced. Many unwelcome insect types have been encountered. Our man on a rope tells us of one which was hiding behind its silk house on the wall, but the camera captured it. He pulls a container from his pocket and asks us to draw close to see. He carefully opens the lid and we all jump back in alarm as a big poisonous black spider rears up in defense from within it. The creature was exposed for only a second and even the brave look from the wizened man showing it - turned to serious relief when he snapped the lid back again.

 

We would see more. We would see it all... but only if we would agree to become cash sponsors for the operation. Much is promised from the deep. We are told there are wonderful things down there, and there was much more digging to do. Our sincerity is believed when we naturally promise to try and help.

 

More than adequate backsheesh returns their mood from angry Egyptian babble and insistances to a friendly tone again. They are satisfied of a glowing pocket for now and a promise for the future, and the table springs into action for the obligitory sweet tea before the stealth departure. This is somewhat balanced at the roadside by the farewell from the host group of the hole and the host group of our visit. Perhaps by now they have struck water, or gold !?   .....See now some of the captured pictures yourself.

 

Looking Up

 

 

Looking down

 

 

Looking up

 

 

Spoil

 

 

Over the edge

 

 

Branching out

 

 

Side Hole

 

 

Dropping down

 

 

Side branch

 

 

Getting deeper

 

 

Wall Spider Webs

 

 

The Spiders

 

 

We learned the excavation was from a house next to an old Mosque. The excavation had finally broken through to ancient sealed catacombes deep in the earth. We understood the excavators wished to begin tunneling from the lowest level and needed serious cash funding ! Unfortunately we believe that at least two of the people who took us to see this site, were amongs the 6 men who met with terrible deaths below ground at the corner of Nazlet el-Samaan village, so it may be ever difficult to learn what became of this dig.

 

 

 

 

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