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Monday, November 26, 2012


Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty known as the New Kingdom. His name means “Living Image of Aten”, although he is popularly known as “King Tut”. He was the son of Akhenaten and one of Akhenaten’s sisters. He ascended the throne in 11333 BC at the age of nine or ten. When he became king, he married his half-sister. They had two daughters, both stillborn.

There is some believe that because Tutankhamun was the result of an incestuous relationship he may have suffered some several genetic defects that contributed to his early death. He was slight of build and about 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) tall. Research showed that he had a slight cleft palate and possibly a mild case of scoliosis. He died at the age of 19. For years, scientists have tried to unravel clues as to why the boy king died. There were several theories, one that he was killed by a blow to his head, another that his death was caused by a broken leg.  There was also the possibility of various diseases including sickle cell disease.

There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun’s final days. There was some speculation that he might have been assassinated but the general consensus is that his death ws accidental.  He was buried in a tomb that was small considering his status. Perhaps his death was unexpected before they could complete a grander royal tomb.  He faded from public interest in Ancient Egypt within a short time after his death and remained virtually unknown until the 1920’s when his tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb was found by explorers Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon in     1922.  Although it had likely been robbed at least twice in antiquity, probably soon after the initial burial, the tomb was filled with priceless treasures.

Tutankhamun’s mummy rested in his tomb i the Valley of the Kings until November 4, 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter’s discovery, when it went on display inthe underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climbate-controlled glass box designed to prevent decomposition caused by humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.  His tomb is among the best preserved. Relics from the tomb are among the most traveled artifacts in the world.
Jewelled scarab
Last month I travelled to Seattle WA to see them for myself, on display at the Pacific Science Center. It was a huge thrill to step into history and see this grand exhibition.  The exhibition features more than 100 objects from King Tut’s tomb and other ancient sites that represent some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Many of the object had never been seen before in North America and include a 10 foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. There were displays of jewelry, furniture and ceremonial items including the boy king’s golden sandals which had been created specifically for the afterlife and still covered his feet when his mummified remains were discovered by Carter back in 1922.
King Tut's bed

Following the tour of the artifacts, there was an IMAX film, “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs” that followed researchers and explorers as they pieced together the archaeological and genetic clues of Egyptian mummies.

The exhibition is open until January 6, 2013. Tickets are available on-line and include entrance to the Pacific Science Centre exhibits.

Just this past week there was news that a copy of Tut’s original tomb is being built for tourists to view, in order to protect and preserve the original tomb. You can see a you-tube video about it here:

Note: No photos are allowed in the King Tut exhibit. Photos included here are from internet sources.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


One of my main reasons to visiting Seattle WA was to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Pacific Science Centre.  I’ve been to Science World here in Vancouver but I had never visited this Centre.  Nor have I been so close to the Seattle Space Needle since it first opened back in the ‘60’s. The Science Center is located on Denny Way right beside the Space Needle and the Chihuly Glass Garden so you can make a whole afternoon of enjoyable activities. If you want to dine on the top of the Space Needle you should make a reservation first.  There is a cafe in Building 1 of the Science Center.

The Science Centre has more than 300 interactive exhibits, two IMAX theatres and acres of hands-on fun indoors and out. 

Taryn by the pool

Prehistoric animals

Ornamental tortoises and heron

My friend, Taryn, and I spent most of the afternoon browsing around the various areas.  We loved the bug and crustacean displays!
Eek! A giant praying mantis!
A scary scorpion!
There’s only one word to describe the dinosaur displays: Awesome!  They give a real perspective of the size of these prehistoric critters and their environs.
Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Yes! He was BIG!)
Probably our favorite display was the Butterfly room with thousands of pretty butterflies flitting about the flowers and shrubbery, some of them feeding on plates of fruit.

A butterfly lands on Taryn's hand
Resting on a lily pad
They are so ‘tame’ they will land on you so when you exit the room you must be checked over carefully to make sure none are hitching a ride out. You also have to be careful where you walk, in case they are underfoot.  In the IMAX there was a movie about the  butterflies (Flight of the Butterflies) but we were going to the King Tut movie about the Mummies, so we missed this one.

I’d highly recommend visiting the Pacific Science Centre if you’re spending a weekend in Seattle. It’s fun for young and old, indoor and outside.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The pergola, Pioneer Square

Down under the streets of Seattle near Pioneer Square, as we wander through a warren of tunnels an amusing and informative guide tells us of the city's early history. In the mid 19th century these 'streets' and passageways were ground level but after the streets were elevated they fell into disuse and are now a major tourist attraction. Pioneer Square is the city's oldest neighborhood.  The lovely wrought-iron pergoa was built in 1909 and underground there was a fancy bathroom which is now closed since the Seattle earthquake a few years ago. The term "Skid Row" was coined to describe the Square where huge logs shoved from the highlands west of town skidded downhill to the waterfront. There is a memorial at the Square for Chief Seattle whose people once lived on that land.

Chief Seattle
The tour groups meet in an old bar at the coffeeshop and ticket office of the Underground Tours. A guide tells the history of the city in a most entertaining way, preparing us for the tour.  Then we are divided into small groups and assigned another guide for our adventure under the streets of the city.

The old bar room
Entrance to the underground
When Seattle was first built up in the 1800's all the buildings were wooden. On June 6, 1889 a fire was accidentally ignited by an overturned glue pot and the fire bread so rapidly the core of the city was destroyed. To insure against a similar disaster, in future all streets had to be graded and new buildings had to be of stone or brick and only one to two stories high.
Touring the underground
Pioneer Square had been built on land-fill in the tideland's and as a consequence it often flooded. Flush toilets had to be installed that funnelled into Elliott Bay and made so that sewage didn't back up at high tide as it had before. When the new buildings were constructed, the ground floor would eventually be underground and the next floor up,was the new ground floor.

Brick arches provided the ceiling for the underground corridors and supported the sidewalks above. Streets were lined with concrete walls forming narrow alleyways between the walls and buildings.  Pedestrians had to climb ladders to go between street levels and the sidewalks in front of the building entrances. Skylights with small panes of clear glass were installed creating the area now known as the Seattle Underground.

The Underground was condemned in 1907 for fear of bubonic plague. The basements were left to deteriorate or were used as storage. Some became flophouses of the homeless, speakeasies and opium dens.

In 1965 a local citizen, Bill Speidel, established "Bill Speidel's Underground Tour", realizing there might be an interest in the underground ruins. Over the years this tour has become more popular and the underground structures have been refurbished.

Items in the Underground Museum
Printing press and typewriter
Copy of the original "Crapper" (named for the man who invented the first flush toilet)

There is also an adults-only Underworld Tour.  At one census report at the turn of the century there were reportedly 10,000 loggers living in Seattle and 2500 'seamstresses'.  These women, were of course prostitutes.  The most famous Madam in Seattle was Lou Graham. She had a bevy of 'seamstreses' working out of her house and ran a money-lending operation as well.  When she died in the early 1900s she bequeathed all her money to the Seattle school board.
Madam Graham is on the left and her four favorite girls (the prize one is in black)
In the Underground Museum you'll see a photo of Madam Graham and four of her most popular girls. There's a secret to this photo:  the one dressed in black was the most popular of the girls but clients had to know that in order to choose her for her special services.

Lou Graham's house of ill repute at Washington and 3rd Ave.

The daily tours start on the hour from Pioneer Square, from 10 -7  May- Sept and 11 - 6 Oct-April.
The Underworld Tours is daily May - Sept 8 & 9 pm and October-April Thursday-Sat. at 7 & 8 pm.
608 First Avenue. Tickets at  or at the Underground Tour meeting place.

NEXT: The Pacific Science Centre and The Wonders of King Tut's Tomb.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

MY WEEKEND IN SEATTLE: PART IV: A Fun Evening at Pike Brewery and Pub

Pike Brewery & Pub
The first night I arrived in Seattle I went out for a neighbourhood walk and was delighted to come across the Pike Brewery & Pub just a block up the street. I decided to stop for a pint and have a look around as it looked like a pretty happening place, packed full of merrymaking folk enjoying the lively pub atmosphere.

Pike's Pub serves all the brews made by the Pike Brewery which is also part of the premises.  It's said to be Seattle's 'classic shrine to beer'. It reminded me somewhat of a British pub, but much larger than most British pubs would be, with various areas for sitting with a beer or dining. There's even a Beer Museum. It features ales and beers brewed on the premises as well as local wines, cheeses and a temping pub-meal menu reasonably priced.
Cute wall mural
The bar was crowded with drinkers and diners so I had to wait for a little while to get a seat for dinner, although I could have sat at the bar area.  As it was my first night in town I wanted to treat myself to something special so I ordered a plate of fresh clams stewed in a delicious savory coconut sauce complimented by a tall glass of Pike's Indian Pale Ale.

I went back the following day to look around and sample another pint of ale.  I discovered the Beer Museum in the back room and spent some time browsing there, looking at pictures and write-ups explaining the history of beer from Egyptian times on.  There's an interesting collection of beer bottles and various types of steins on display as well.

The pub is open 11 am to midnight daily.  PIKE PLACE MARKET AREA
1415 First Ave. Seattle WA

NEXT: MY SEATTLE WEEKEND Part V: Exploring Seattle's Underground

MY SEATTLE WEEKEND: PART III: Browsing around Pike Market

Pike Place Market

One of the great things about the hotel I stayed in (The Four Seasons) was that it was right in the midst of all the downtown action. I only had to walk a short block to arrive at the legendary Pike Place Market which is a farmer's market extraordinaire. The vibrant atmosphere, the crowds of people some come to shop, other (like me) just to browse, make it one of Seattle's most popular destinations. Some even say it's the 'soul' of Seattle!

I'd heard about the zany fish-mongers at the market so I headed straight for the Pike Fish Market right near the entrance.  A crowd had gathered to watch the antics of the fish handler's as the banter and show up their wares, acting up while they do it. It's worth taking time to stand there and gawk awhile. They sell 120 varieties of seafood from shellfish to salmon.

The fish is kept smothered under ice to keep it fresh.
Besides the entertaining guys at the fish store, you can interact with other farmers and merchants all through the market area which stretches for quite a long way and includes various levels. Peruse the fresh farm vegetables, stalls selling honey, home-made chocolate, herbs, and many other food items. There's even some entertaining curio shops in the downstairs area.

Lots of crafts to choose from.

Or browse along the colourful tables of craft items and other shops. You'll find almost every kind of craft there from candles to ornaments carved out of the ash left from the Mount St. Helen's volcanic explosion. There's more than sixty places to eat as well as live music to entertain you.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
When the market first opened in 1906 there were only eight farmers displaying their wares. Now there's more than 200 businesses, 190 craftsmen, and approximately 100 farmers. The Market is one of the most popular places in Seattle for both locals and tourists. I could have spent much longer there than I did but in the time it took me to wander around I think I saw most of it. Another time I'd like to make it a shopping trip. This time I was just a curious tourist.  But I did stop by one of the Japanese food booths and have a delicious chicken teriyaki on a skewer for my lunch. Just $3.75! Then I headed down to pay a visit to Pike Place Brewery for a cold Indian Pale Ale.
NEXT: Part IV: An Entertaining Evening at the Pike Brewing Company and Pub