egyptians.jpgThis weekend is the King Tut Festival at the St. Antonius Coptic Church in Hayward. The festival features Egyptian food, picture taking in ancient Egyptian costumes, having your name written in hieroglyphs, Egyptian jewelry and souvenirs and other cool things to buy and a tour of the church. There is a park next door where kids can play. My kids went last night and had a very good time – we are going back today for them to have their picture taken ($20).
I hadn’t thought much about the Copts and Coptic for quite a while. I learned the language twice and forgot it twice. It’s one of the easiest languages to learn, I’m not sure why, though perhaps it was my (now lost) background on Ancient Egyptian that made it so. But both times, I had no problems learning it – just to unlearn it within a year or so. As a language, it’s not particularly useful – nobody speaks it anymore, though it still forms part of some Coptic liturgy. I was trying to see if I remembered any words in Coptic, but I can’t even remember the alphabet 🙁 (except, strangely, for the letter for “sh”). The Copts wrote in the Greek alphabet, to which they added a number of signs to express sounds that did not exist in Greek. The language, derived from Ancient Egyptian, has a very simple grammar. Most of the texts we have in Coptic are religious in nature. I took out my Coptic textbook, almost 20 years old and seemingly untouched. I must have lost the one I actually used and bought a new one that I then never opened. I’m tempted to spend a little time doing the first lessons – perhaps at least the pronunciation of the letters and diphthongs will come back to me. But I have so little free time as it is. I guess I could blog less 🙂
A couple of years ago, thinking I could save enough money to go to Egypt for my 40th birthday (it didn’t happen), I got a copy of Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar – the textbook I used to learn Middle Egyptian – hoping I would go through it again. I imagine that there are better textbooks now, even back then there was an attempt to teach Ancient Egyptian from a Semitic perspective (and indeed, Egyptian made much more sense to me after learning some Arabic), but it’s easier to go back to what is comfortable and familiar. Still, I only did one lesson before I abandoned the book. Yes, it’s tempting to go back – but what for? I can’t relieve my youth no matter how much I try.
Perhaps for that reason, and not just for the cost, I’ve decided not to go to see the King Tut exhibit which is touring the country. It’s painful to see something once so familiar and now so foreign – to not be able to read the inscriptions, to not remember the details of the religion, to have forgotten the whole history. To be old.
Still, I’m thrilled that Mika, my 7-year old, is so into Egyptology now (after reading the Theodosia books). Perhaps that is reason enough to reacquaint myself with the culture.