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DR. SALIMA IKRAM - Egyptologist

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Author Topic: DR. SALIMA IKRAM - Egyptologist  (Read 4892 times)
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« on: March 04, 2009, 07:56:43 pm »

                                        An Inside Look at the Life of a South Asian Egyptologist

by zahra_nawaz

Imagine if a normal day at work involved crawling on your stomach through a foot and half wide opening into a wall of darkness. Now imagine shimmying through the opening while an unidentifiable and stinky muck seeped into your clothing and skin. No, this is not a scene from Indiana Jones; if you are Dr. Salima Ikram, this is normal day in the field. The world-renown Egyptologist does what is necessary to get into a tomb of Egyptian Goddess Isis Mummies. It seems highly appropriate that she is the one to retrieve these treasures. Isis is considered to be the patron of women after all. But, Dr. Ikram’s success in archeology is not due to divine power--it comes down to a passion and years of hard work.

At the early age of nine, the Ikrams were on a family trip to North Africa when young Salima was blown away by the archeological wonders of Ancient Egypt. From that point on everything she did in her education was pointed towards her passion for this subject. But, she is the first to admit that even a passion can falter at times. While she was on the path to her current position as professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo, she had moments of feeling her academic studies ‘were a bit useless.’ This is, no doubt, a mildly comforting thought to students and adults seeking out their own passions. But, even with reservations, Dr. Ikram’s love for the field triumphed over her worries.

She embarked on a stellar career that has included teaching at the University of Cairo, working in the field, major media appearances including the Discovery Channel, and writing wildly successful academic and children’s books. And, though field work can be laborious, it has offered her thrilling adventures. Dr. Ikram was the first person to go into an undisturbed tomb in Sudan, not a feat for the faint of heart or claustrophobic. And, while working in the famed and scorching Valley of the Kings, Ikram was head of opening the entire collection of unearthed ancient jars in Tomb 63; the first tomb to be discovered there since the early 20th century. The detective work involved piecing together what the jars meant and who they belonged to. Patience, a steady hand, and the ability to draw upon years of academic study all came into play in this historic process.

Dr. Ikram’s college days at Bryn Mawr helped prepare her for her future career. Her double major in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and History laid the foundation for further MPhil and PhD study at Cambridge University. But, it was the culture at undergrad that propelled her forward with a deep sense of confidence to apply what she learned. “I was very fortunate at Bryn Mawr, since it was all women…the idea that a woman can’t do something, never crossed my mind.”

Still, once in the field Ikram acknowledges that no where in the world are people really on truly equal footing. She said there are women who get along with other women in the field, and of course there are personalities that do not. So, like other careers, archeology has its own share of politics. But, she passes on the wisdom that [gender] biases are only noticeable if you pay attention to them. Egypt may seem like a male-dominated society, but Ikram is the first to admit, that sometimes, being a woman is a major asset. “Working with men in Egypt, for the most part, people are willing to be helpful because you are female.”

With her solid academic and field training it’s hard to see who would not turn to Dr. Salima Ikram for her expertise. Her positive attitude towards her work is contagious, but personally, we think it is best to leave maneuvering through pitch-black ancient tombs to the experts for now.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2009, 07:57:47 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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