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  Field Notes From
Pharaohs of the Sun

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From Author

Rick Gore

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From Photographer

Kenneth Garrett

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Todd James (top) and Kenneth Garrett

image: stones
In the Land of Pharaohs

Field Notes From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett
Modern-day archaeology allows us to practically read the diaries of these people who lived 3,300 years ago. It’s fascinating to look into a very narrow window of 17 years, the extent of Akhenaten’s reign, and see all the palace intrigue, the royal family tree, and what the pharaoh hoped to achieve by changing the kingdom’s entire religious system. Akhenaten’s ancient city of Akhetaten is now the modern-day town of Amarna in the state of Minya, and it’s very close to the center of Islamic fundamentalists in Asyût. After the shooting of a large group of Japanese tourists a couple of years ago, Egypt became a big police state. The country doesn’t want to lose any more tourists to violence, especially high-profile journalists. So to get to Amarna, you have to use a tourist police escort.
When I left Cairo, I had to inform the tourist police. Then my driver and I had to stop at one checkpoint after another, where an armored vehicle with a crew of soldiers escorted us to the next checkpoint down the highway. What should have been a three-hour drive turned into eight hours. I had to have a police escort with me at all times, even when I went out to shoot sunrises. If I couldn’t wake the policeman to go with me, I would lose an entire morning. It was a royal pain in the neck, but with all the security we didn’t have any problems. And for now, the terrorism threat seems to have been neutralized.
For years Rick Gore and I had hoped to do a story together on Akhenaten. We finally got it approved, but, because of our conflicting schedules, we worked one day together in Egypt. Then we traveled from Egypt to London and spent one day at Cambridge with the principal scientist studying Amarna and with Chris Sloan, the magazine’s art director. The next day we flew home. So our long-awaited work as a team essentially boiled down to two days on an airplane and two days in the field.

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