Chapter One – Arrival in Egypt
Molly Zealander looked out the window of the big jet. The sand below them screamed past. She thought she could see the Great Pyramids in the distance. The eleven hour and fourteen minute flight had passed quickly thanks to the Millwrights and Mechanics Guide that Cyril had given her in New York City. The gigantic, fierce looking nanny had a soft spot for his charges and knew them well. Thankfully her brother Monte had slept most of the way.
The pilot’s voice came on over the intercom. “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for flying Egyptair. The temperature at Cairo International Airport of ninety-six degrees Farenheit or thirty-six degrees Celsius. It’s a sunny day and we hope that you enjoy your stay.”
The landing was smooth and Monte leaned over her lap so he could see the runway. She didn’t have the heart to push him back” The wheels squelched as they met the black top and the sudden slowing of the plane made her stomach do a little flip. It took forever for everyone to get out of their seats and get off of the airplane. She tucked her book into the tan messenger bag daddy had given her for Christmas last year. It also held her journal, a collection of pens, and a set of archaeological tools that she hoped she’d get to use; dental picks, paint brushes, and a small trowel.
Monte huffed. “When are we going to get to see the pyramids? I’m hungry. Can we get some lunch.”
“Calm down.” Cyril rumbled to the boy. “We’ll get to see them this afternoon. Your Mum and Dad made arrangements for a private tour this afternoon. There will be lunch for us in the car.”
The trio made their way through the airport. Monte wanted to stop at one of the junk shops and at a juice shop, but Cyril kept him corralled. The air smelled different here. Molly loved that about each new place they visited. Once they got outside she could really tell they were in a new place. The heat hit her like running into a wall. A man with skin nearly the color of his black suit waited near an old car with a sign that had their last name on it.
Monte smiled at the fancy car. “We get to ride in that? I call window seat!”
The driver nodded at Cyril and the children and opened the door for them. There were two bench seats in the back facing each other. The man sitting in the seat closest to the driver looked like he belonged in a museum. He smiled at Monte as he bounced across the seat opposite and pressed his nose against the window. “Welcome to Cairo. I am Doctor Badawy and I’ll be showing you around my city. Your parents wish that they could be here, but you will see them this evening at the hotel.”
Molly nodded at Doctor Badawy . “It’s a pleasure to meet you sir.” She missed Mum and Dad, but she was used to not seeing them as much as she liked. They were always so busy.
Monte pulled his nose away from the glass and turned to shake Doctor Badawy’s hand. “Glad to meet you. When do we get to see the mummies?”
Doctor Badawy smiled. “We will see one when we get to the museum. Sadly you won’t get to see any at the pyramids. They’ve all been moved out long ago.”
Monte frowned. “I was hoping we could dig one up.”
Cyril patted him on the knee. “While we’re here you’ll have a chance to do some digging. Who knows what you’ll find?”
The car pulled into the crowded streets of Cairo and made its way slowly towards the museum.
Chapter Two – Meeting with an egyptologist
The Museum was a huge rose colored building with arches and a beautiful fountain in front. Doctor Badawy led the children through the front door and past a variety of sculptures and glass cases. Molly was mildly disappointed, but she knew that they would have time to take a look at them more closely over the next week. They climbed the stairs and Monte’s jaw dropped at the beautiful golden masks and jeweled artifacts.
“Is that stuff real gold?” Monte’s voice cracked a little on the word real.
Doctor Badawy nodded. “They are valuable not only for what they are made of, but also because of the history behind them. It’s actually that history that makes them more valuable.” He took them through a very plain wooden door. “This is my office.”
The small space was crammed with boxes. His rolltop desk was covered in packages and papers. Shelves held pottery, statuettes of cats, and books in more languages than Molly had ever heard of.
Monte squealed over a glass case containing a mummified cat. “Did you find this? Why did they make cat mummies?”
Doctor Badawy steepled his fingers. “People felt just as strongly about their pets back then as we do today. There were also some people who held religious beliefs about cats, the way some people do today when it comes to cows.”
Molly rolled her eyes over the discussion and her brother’s excitement, but inside she was just as curious. She noticed that every time Monte got a little too close to something the doctor’s long fingers twitched a little.
“So, children, your parents want me to show you a current dig, take you to the pyramids and show you how the ancient people of Egypt buried their dead. Doesn’t that sound interesting?”
Monte turned from examining the shelves. “That sounds awesome! Will we get to see real mummies? Can we touch them? Are they all gross and stuff?”
Cyril patted him on the shoulder. How he’d managed to even fit in the office without disturbing anything was anyone’s guess. “Sit. Listen.”
Monte sat with his elbows on his knees. He pouted, but his eyes still smiled.
Doctor Badawy shook his head. “No, no, and no. Sadly the mummies themselves are in various museums around the world. Those that are still intact.”
Molly narrowed her eyes. “I heard that a lot of them got damaged or stolen not long after they were buried. Is that true?”
Doctor Badawy nodded. “Indeed it is, young lady. Sadly, as many things as we do have here, we don’t have as many artifacts as we would like. Thanks to the money that your family donated to us, we can continue the search. Before we go, do you have any questions?”
Monte raised his hands. “Can mummies really come back to life?”
Doctor Badawy chuckled. “No. Before they are wrapped up their organs are removed and put into jars. Their bodies are dried out and wrapped in linen. There would be no way for them to come back to life as they do in the movies. My ancestors did believe that they went on to a kind of afterlife and that is why they did these things.”
Monte’s pout deepened a little at the truth.
Molly spoke up next. “I heard somewhere that the pyramids have traps and curses. Has anyone ever been killed?”
“Digs can be very dangerous places. You shouldn’t worry about a curse, but like any modern construction site there are places where collapsing walls and other similar dangers are possible. Where we’re going that isn’t a concern.”
It was Molly’s turn to pout.
Doctor Badawy looked out the window. He grabbed a stack of papers. “Well, we’d best get on our way.” He handed each of them an envelope. “Here is all of the necessary paperwork you’ll need signifying that you are here as official guests of the museum. This will allow you access that the general public does not have. Use it wisely.” He extended a hand to the door. “Shall we go to the car and make our way to the dig site?”
Chapter Three – Arrival at the pyramids
Monte pulled the door shut, more firmly than he should have. Doctor Badawy frowned, but motioned for the driver to start up.
“I’m excited that you children will be able to see this new project. We have reason to believe that we’ve discovered a new pharoah’s pyramid.”
“Will we get to see his pyramid?” Monte practically bounced in his seat.
Doctor Badawy shook his head. “We won’t see a mummy today. We still have quite a bit of digging to do. But you will get to see the outside of the pyramid and perhaps the inside of another building nearby.”
Molly looked up from her book. “Will the building be a pyramid?”
Doctor Badawy shook his head again. “This will be workers’ quarters.”
“Did they use slaves to build the pyramids?” Monte was, as usual, full of questions.
“The current thinking is that the men used to build the pyramids were paid workers. The beautiful thing about archaeology is that we get to discover how things really were and sometimes that changes everything we thought we knew.” Doctor Badawy tapped his temple. “As a scientist one should always keep an open mind. Whatever kind of science that may be.”
After another twenty minutes of driving, Molly felt the car pull over. Just before it stopped, Monte shoved open the door and drew his wooden sword. He ran around whooping and hollering, no longer able to contain his energy. She watched his display, careful not to let him see her smile lest he take it as a sign of approval.
The pyramid wasn’t as magestic as the great pyramids. Truthfully it looked a little less than three storeys tall. Some of them, like the great pyramid of Giza were over four hundred feet tall. She tried to hide her disappointment.
Cyril clapped her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, my child. You will get to see the big ones while we’re here.”
Molly turned and smiled at Cyril. “I know.” She looked back at the pyramid and noticed that Monte appeared to be winding down. It was hot and the sunlight glinted off of his glasses. “Come get a drink of water.” She waved a bottle she’d taken from her bag.
He walked up and took the bottle. “Thanks, Sis!” He unscrewed the top and took three long pulls. He smacked his lips and handed her back the bottle. “I can’t imagine how hard building this was. All they had were ropes and wooden tools. Unless there really were flying saucers.”
Doctor Badawy strolled over, drinking water from his own bottle. “No aliens needed to build these magnificent structures. Just sweat, long hours, and human ingenuity.” He held out a hand. “Shall we have a look around?”
Monte didn’t need to be told twice. Molly patted her bag and decided to leave her heavy book in the car. She moved her bag around to her back and sprinted off after him, on a collision course with one of the more sensitive areas if the yellow caution tape was any indication.