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Field Notes
Photograph by TBD
John Galvin

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I stayed at the dig house, a white plaster building in the middle of a dry riverbed and fairly close to the dig site. Almost every day I would climb a primitive ladder to the roof of the house. Around six the sun would begin to dip below the western horizon and gradually change from blinding yellow to blood orange to pale shades of pink and blue. The town was to the east, and as the sun went down the muezzins began their chants, calling the faithful to the mosque for sunset prayer. The different chants collided and overlapped, which started the donkeys braying and the dogs howling. The place went from absolute silence to cacophony. Even so, it was very peaceful up there, and it was a moment of the day I always looked forward to.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

After a month of absolutely no health problems I was struck with King Tut's Revenge, if you know what I mean, and it hit me halfway through my flight home. Worst of all, I was in a middle seat next to a teenage girl who was sneezing all over me, and I kept having to bolt to the restroom. It was the worst flight you can imagine.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

One Friday I went with a couple of people to visit the Valley of the Kings. We headed out very early because it's a big tourist spot. The throngs were arriving as we were leaving, and I noticed this young man selling various newspapers and magazines from around the world. I watched him for a moment and noticed that as all of these people—mainly Europeans—walked by, he would call to them in whatever language they spoke. He could tell by little quirks of style and dress what nationality they were. He would call to the Germans, offering the latest Der Spiegel. For the Spaniards he would offer up the current edition of El País. He hawked La Repubblica to the Italians and Le Monde to the French. It was an amazing skill. He could distinguish a Spaniard from an Italian a hundred yards (90 meters) off. He knew how to sell in about ten different languages. Egyptians are incredible businessmen, but this skill really struck me because he was doing what I do for a living: observing people.