Friday, February 27, 2009

Wadi al-Hitan

Thoroughly impressed with myself, I am also infinitely sleepy for having started my morning at 6:45. Yes, that's ante meridian, believe it or not. I joined my friend Edward, a Middle East Studies grad student, and a busload of other AUC students, mostly Egyptian, for a trip to Wadi al-Hitan in Egypt's Western Desert. Along the way to the UNESCO world heritage site, we passed Lake Qarun in Fayoum, the closest oasis to Cairo. Perhaps because I didn't really look at the route, I hadn't expected a huge expanse of water complete with boats and wind-whipped waves to suddenly appear in the middle of the desert, but it's by far one of the coolest things I've seen in Egypt. Wadi al-Hitan (lit. "The Valley of the Whales") itself was pretty fascinating for its scientific value. We saw whale fossils that were millions of years old and played an important role in piecing a transcontinental puzzle about the development of marine mammals over time. A German-Egyptian biology professor from AUC brought the story and the scenery to her life with her effervescent enthusiasm and descriptions and explanations. The professor and the others that Edward and I met made the day as much as the trip as much as the breathtaking scenery. It was a fun departure from the norm that hearkened back to the days of biology field trips. It was good to work some geology, evolutionary biology, and pre-history into my other wise social sciences-dominated brain.

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