Saturday, 29 August 2009

Up and down the Nile

A Victorian tripper

Old Buckenham Women’s Institute held an open meeting in August and invited friends, neighbours and relatives to join them to follow the journey of an intrepid Victorian explorer down the Nile.
Lorna Oakes was the speaker for the evening and she has an impressive CV. Lorna is an expert Egyptologist who lectures at Birkbeck College in London. Lorna is a friend of one of the members and was asked to present a talk whilst visiting her friends in the country.
The subject of Lorna’s talk was a feisty and wealthy Victorian lady, who, not content with a life of domesticity embarked upon an adventure. Amelia Edwards set out to be a tourist in Egypt in 1872 when few people ever travelled further than the local market town. There was no tourist information office to organise her trip so everything had to be arranged locally by herself and her travelling companion. They charted a local vessel, hired help and set off on a thousand mile journey along the Nile.
Amelia recorded every incident in her diary and made sketches of all she saw. Many of the antiquities of ancient Egypt had already been plundered or spoilt by French and British tourists or by local poor inhabitants hoping to make a little money. It appeared that no one in authority was taking care of the treasures and this gave Amelia an idea.
On her return to England Amelia published her Nile memoirs ‘A Thousand Miles Up the Nile’ and gave lectures and talks both here and abroad, particularly in America. With the money she earned Amelia began the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882. Now archaeologists could be sent to Egypt to help record, excavate and preserve the sites that had so enthralled Amelia.
Amelia donated £2,500 to found the first English chair of Egyptology at the University of London. This Chair is still in existence today. On her death in 1892 she left much of her collection of Egyptian artefacts to the University of London and much of her library to Somerville College, Cambridge.
Amelia Edwards was a determined woman with a passion for Egyptology. Her perseverance and thirst for knowledge is very much a role model for the WI member today.
After the talk and slide show, members and their guests enjoyed the hospitality of catering team and everyone was encouraged to visit the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ table’. Here members were encouraged to donate unwanted items of food, still in date and fit for consumption, so that these items could then be purchased by other members. The money raised is then donated to the charity ACWW which helps women in developing countries.
The meeting concluded with the President reminding everyone of forthcoming events. September promises to be a very busy month for Old Buckenham WI members with the village fete and the village Produce Show being two of the main local items.

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