There are a few places where the floors, ceilings, and even the walls can be just as fascinating as the pieces of art or furniture that are in them. The Vatican Museums are definitely such a place where no matter which way you look there seem to be beautiful geometric patterns or murals painted directly onto the ceiling. Obviously there is the Sistine Chapel, but just within the Vatican Museums themselves there is much to see beyond the famous artwork that is housed there. There are certainly many other palaces that we’ve visited that have very ornate floors and ceilings, but these are definitely some of the most interesting and beautiful. It isn’t often that you find yourself taking photographs of a floor, but just because it is beneath your feet doesn’t mean it can’t be art. It is certainly a reminder to not only look left and right, but to also look up and down as well.
Everyone brings back something from their travels, whether that is simply memories and photographs, or something more. During our early days of traveling, which was all within the United States, we used to collect coffee mugs from everyplace we visited. We even bought special coffee mug racks to display all of our mugs with colorful pictures depicting what is unique about each location. While they were fun to look at, it very quickly became too much to display as the number of coffee mugs grew year after year. Since those days, we have gone with a different approach for finding things that we want to bring home with us to remind us of the places that we’ve visited.
Walk through any tourist shop and you will find many of the common things that people collect during their travels. Keychains, refrigerator magnets, shot glasses, coffee mugs, snow-globes, and pens are all among the items that you can usually find in almost any city around the world. Although we used to collect some of those items, now we try to find things that are more unique and often hand-made by local artisans. We love to get inexpensive paintings or small works of art from the different places that we’ve visited. When we buy a painting, we will purchase unframed so that it can be rolled up and protected during our flight back home. We keep them on display and can fondly remember where we found each of the individual items. Some items are very indicative of the city or country, others we simply found intriguing and we still make a connection to the country where we found it.
In addition to bringing back pieces of art or other unique items, we also bring back money from the places that we visit as well as tourist maps. It is our intention to one day make a collage out of all of the unique tourists maps that proudly display the top tourist attractions within the city. We also intend to someday display that currency that we’ve collected throughout our travels. And even though we purchase them prior to visiting different locations, we also collect the travel books that we use to plan our trips. Perhaps we’re a little weird, but we have a lot of travel items that we’ve collected on display throughout our home. We also have digital frames that rotate through photographs from our travels as well. Is there anything that you collect during your journeys and do you display them for others to see?
One of the things that Luxor, and Egypt in general, is known for is alabaster and our guide made sure to take to one of the alabaster factories. At the factory, you can find two types of products, those that are machine-made and those that are hand-made. The differences are fairly obvious as the machine-made products are thinner, lighter, and don’t have tool markings on them while the hand-made are heavier and have distinct tool marks. Alabaster comes in three colors, dark green, tannish-yellow, and white. One of the reasons that alabaster is prized is due to its translucence and the effect of the light passing through the soft stone.
Before going into the store with all of the various products made out of alabaster, we were treated to a demonstration of how the artisans made vases from the stones. It is a three or four step process depending on the product being created. In the first step, the stone is chiseled into the basic shape of the design of the object being created. Next, if it is to be a vase or candle holder, a kind of drill is used to hollow out the stone. Afterwards, the outside of the stone is filed and sanded to make it completely smooth to the touch. Finally, if the artisan desires, images are carved into the surface such as hieroglyphs, scarabs, or an ankh.
Once the workers demonstrated the tools to us, it was our turn to take a turn chiseling and drilling into the alabaster. Although not complicated, it was actually tiring work, so one could only imagine spending a full day of shaping the alabaster. After spending time learning about the process, we went into the store to decide if we wanted to purchase any of the alabaster products. Having seen the process, we focused on those that were hand-made and eventually chose a couple of alabaster vases that we now put on display, lighting candles inside of them to show off their color and semi-transparency.
Going to an alabaster factory while in Egypt is definitely worthwhile and certainly a must if you are in Luxor. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting a machine-made alabaster product as they are uniformly shaped, extremely smooth, and sometimes allow more light to pass through. Every time we see our hand-made alabaster vases, we are reminded of our day in Luxor.