As many of you know we have regular guest lecturers and one of our most entertaining is Dr Karen Exell, an Egyptologist who has cruised with us previously in the Middle East. I saw Karen speak on her first cruise in 2010, where she gave a lecture on how film and TV has influenced our perceptions of the ancient Egyptian culture. At times like this I wish we recorded our lectures for Youtube as it was excellent! Here is her latest blog from our recent Asia to Europe cruise, as well a few more of Kevin Dean’s wonderful paintings, this time of Muscat, Oman.
Muscat, Oman © Kevin Dean
“I was very pleased when I heard that the Aegean Odyssey would be stopping off in my part of the world as it cruised all the way from Mumbai to the Mediterranean. I moved to Qatar 18 months ago, and joined the Aegean Odyssey for the third time at the end of March, in Salalah, the second city of Oman, just in time for the four days at sea as the ship cruised around the Arabian Peninsula to Egypt. Oman is a beautiful country, my favourite in the region for a weekend getaway. The ship stopped in Muscat, the capital city, and Salalah in the south, famous for the natural landscapes, including beaches, frankincense and its geological blowholes.
I joined the Aegean Odyssey with two other lecturers, Martin Bell and Sandy Gall – eminent company indeed! In addition, we had the artist, Kevin Dean, giving daily art classes (so popular that Sandy Gall was sent away when he tried to join one!), Karen Solomon, an amazing singer and musician, as well as the Fantasia Trio – brilliant musicians from Romania. All this, perfect weather, delicious food, facials and massages in the spa, and champagne cocktails with the Captain – and all of us looked after brilliantly by the Cruise Coordinator, Alison Lewin. It was once again a wonderful experience.
Muscat from on board the Aegean Odyssey © Kevin Dean
Martin and Sandy gave lectures on their careers reporting from all over the world, everything from walking through war zones to surviving incarceration in distant prisons. As I announced at my first lecture, I felt like the amuse bouche between these two heavy weights… My first talk was about what it was like to live in Doha, the capital of Qatar, currently the wealthiest country in the world and undergoing rapid development. It’s a fascinating place to live, and I was happy to take people behind the scenes of this little-known – but getting better-known all the time – country.
My other lectures introduced people to some aspects of ancient Egypt that they were about to visit – the Valley of the Kings, the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun – and in my last lecture I brought the subject up to date, discussing the complex nature of heritage and politics, with both a small and large P, in Egypt today, in the wake of the January 25th revolution.
The highlight for me was Martin Bell’s book of poetry, For Whom the Bell Tolls: Light and Dark Verse by Martin Bell (Icon Books 2011), from which he gave some readings. At his final lecture, he came up with a limerick about me:
“There once was a girl called Exell
Who lived up to her name rather well
And in her four lectures
On old architectures
She had us all under her spell”
- What an honour!
All in all, it was a wonderful few days and I was once again sad to disembark in Safaga, Egypt, and make my way back home to Doha. The Aegean Odyssey continued through the Suez Canal, to Limassol and Istanbul – imagine waking up in that magical city…?”
Karen Exell is Lecturer in Museum Studies at UCL Qatar, based in Doha. She has worked for over 15 years in museums, heritage organisations and universities in the UK and Egypt before moving to Doha, Qatar, in 2011. She has a BA in Egyptology from Oxford University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies from the University of St Andrews and a PhD in Egyptology from Durham University.
She has been based predominantly in university museums in the UK, curating Egyptology and associated collections at the universities of Durham and Manchester as well as teaching Egyptology, Archaeology and Museology at these universities. Karen’s research interests include the reception and perception of Egypt in the West, museums and the creation of knowledge in relation to archaeology, heritage and identity, and the impact of museums on cultural identity. Widening the focus from Egyptian archaeology and cultural heritage, she is currently developing a number of Gulf-focussed research projects that explore the complex multiple heritages and heritage practices in Qatar and the Gulf and their relationship to the construction of a national heritage discourse; and researching intercultural performance in Western and non-Western museums, with a focus on the Islamic world.