Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose

Today, we decided to check out the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose.

The museum is not very large, but it houses a lot of original artifacts from ancient Egypt.
The buildings look very new and well decorated.

Inside the museum, both Alex and Inna got to touch some ancient Egyptian artifacts, including stones from the Pyramid of Djoser -  first Egyptian pyramid (over 5,000+ years old) and an ancient storage vase.

There all kinds of statues, sarcophogi, papyrus, and other ancient items on display.

Here is a small size replica of the first Egyptian pyramid - the Pyramid of Djoser, built during 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by Imhotep.

There is a full size replica of Tutankhamun Sarcophogus.

Egyptians mummified their pets and favorite animals, including cats.

We got to explore a replica of an Egyptian tomb. Inside, it's very dark and there are multiple levels.

At the very bottom, where the sarcophogus is buried, there are a lot of pictures on the wall, describing the deceased patron's life.

There is a nice pictorial on the walls of the tomb of the "Weighing of the Heart".
According to Wikipedia:
The Weighing of the Heart was a ritual of judgement from the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead describes how, after death, a person would enter the Duat, or underworld, and deal with many challenges there. At some point in their journey through the Duat, the deceased would be led by the god Anubis into the 'Hall of the Two Ma'ats'. There he would recite the 'Negative Confession' in the presence of a number of divine judges, pleading his innocence of up to 42 sins. After this confession, the deceased's heart—representing their intellect and personality—would be weighed against the goddess Ma'at, representing truth and justice, and often represented by her symbol of a feather. If the scales balanced, this meant the deceased had led a good life. Anubis would take them to Osiris and they would find their place in the afterlife, becoming maa-kheru, meaning "vindicated" or "true of voice".[1] If the heart was out of balance with Ma'at, then another fearsome beast called Ammit, the Devourer, stood ready to eat it and put the dead person's afterlife to an early and unpleasant end

The person awaiting judgement had to answer "No" to the following 42 questions, in order to be admitted to the afterlife:
  1. I have not committed sin.
  2. I have not committed robbery with violence.
  3. I have not stolen.
  4. I have not slain men and women.
  5. I have not stolen grain.
  6. I have not purloined offerings.
  7. I have not stolen the property of the god.
  8. I have not uttered lies.
  9. I have not carried away food.
  10. I have not uttered curses.
  11. I have not committed adultery.
  12. I have not lain with men.
  13. I have made none to weep.
  14. I have not eaten the heart [i.e I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
  15. I have not attacked any man.
  16. I am not a man of deceit.
  17. I have not stolen cultivated land.
  18. I have not been an eavesdropper.
  19. I have slandered [no man].
  20. I have not been angry without just cause(?).
  21. I have not debauched the wife of any man.
  22. I have not polluted myself.
  23. I have terrorised none.
  24. I have not transgressed [the Law].
  25. I have not been wroth.
  26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
  27. I have not blasphemed.
  28. I am not a man of violence.
  29. I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
  30. I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
  31. I have not pried into matters.
  32. I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
  33. I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
  34. I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
  35. I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
  36. I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
  37. I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
  38. I have not acted with arrogance(?).
  39. I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
  40. I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
  41. I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
  42. I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.[3]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Xcaret, Cancun, Mexico

Today, we took the hotel shuttle from Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe Hotel in Riviera Maya to Xcaret ecopark in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

According to Wikipedia:
Xcaret is a Maya civilization archaeological site located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the modern-day state of Quintana Roo in Mexico. The site was occupied by thepre-Columbian Maya and functioned as a port for navigation and an important Maya trading center. Some of the site's original structures are contained within a modern-day tourism development, the privately owned Xcaret Eco Park.
Xcaret means "small inlet" in Mayan.[2] Its name comes from its situation next to a small inlet that in the past served as a strategic location for navigation and commerce for the Maya. The original name of the site was p'ole', from the root p'ol that means "merchandise" or "deal of merchants", which gives an idea of the economical relevance of the site. 

According to our guide book, the Butterfly Pavilion should be viewed in early morning, so we decided to head there. While on the way there, we got a bit lost and ended up in the Mayan Village. There were many caves, streams, and rocks with not too many signs as to where to go next.

There are a few narrow underground rivers for snorkeling.

We also saw a number of colorful parrots and underground animals, mostly raccoons. Inna even saw a small  snake (but I missed it).

There are some traditional Mayan burial places with skulls and skeletons lying around. Just charming. Not!

And here is a picture of the Mayan Village from the outside.

Is this skeleton face supposed to frighten me?

A few of the snorkelers were swimming nearby.

From the Mayan Village, we ran right into the Mexican Cemetery. It looked a lot happier than I expected. Mexicans view death as a transition into a happier afterlife.

I can't say that I ever enjoyed going to a cemetery, until this one.

Yes, this is still a cemetery and not an art museum.

This Mexican Cemetery features 7 levels (one for each day of the week) and 365 plots (one for each day of the year). It's quite elaborate.

From the cemetery, we walked to the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel. It's an outdoor chapel, made out of wood.

As we neared the Butterfly Pavilion, we ran right into Jaguar Island, where large cats roam.

Good little kitty.

Eventually, we made it to the Butterfly Pavilion. It was really nice, we saw many hundreds of butterflies.

There are lots of butterflies flying around.

Here is a short video of various butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion.

After visiting the Butterfly Pavilion, we walked back to our lockers. On the way there, we ran into the Stained Glass Plaza and some interesting cenotes.

While we walked to our lockers, we ran into a few interesting animals, including iguanas, tapirs, pink flamingos, raccoons, and spider monkeys.

We saw so many iguanas that we no longer paid attention to them. They are everywhere.

Here is a hungry Tapir. We saw a few being fed.

The raccoon was excited to see people around. However, he was quickly bored when he saw that we did not bring any food.

The spider monkeys were quite fast climbers and seemed human like.

There were also ancient Mayan Ruins all around. I am not sure what these buildings were supposed to be during the Mayan times.

We stowed our bags and picked up our snorkeling gear. There are two branches to the underground river at Xcaret and we snorkeled both braches.

There were many different cenotes and caverns to explore. There were also some brightly colored fish to see.

There are some interesting mangroves to explore here.

The underground river looks treacherous in places but is really safe and not very deep at all.

At the end of the river was the beach with an outlook to the Caribbean Sea. We decided to take a short break and rest.

Alex and Inna enjoyed the cool shade and swinging in the hammocks.

There is a neat sign with directions to most countries and cities of the world.

The Beach of Xcaret - overlooking the Caribbean Sea - has some water holes where geysers shoot up. During heavy seas, the spray can be seen going up quite high.

After swimming on both branches of the underground river, we decided to get lunch at "La Cocina" Mexican restaurant that was recommended by our bus driver. The food there turned out to be the best Mexican we've ever had (despite being a buffet). All of the food was freshly prepared and delicious! It was definitely one of the highlights of Xcaret.

After lunch, we walked back to the Orchid Pavilion. There were not too many flowers in bloom, so we were a bit disappointed.

Afterwards, we decided to see the famous Papantla Flying Men - a troop of Mayans who fly around a pole in order to ask the sun god for rain and a good harvest. Their performance started at 3:00pm and we sat down on the benches.

Afterwards, we went to lounge around the beach. Alex decided to try rafting on a small ocean inlet.

He then climbed all over the canoes.

We spent the rest of our day lounging and resting on the beach.

Our Xcaret Espactacular show was scheduled for 7:00pm, so we changed our clothes and hurried for dinner. The dinner was not very good and the service was extremely slow. I would not purchase the dinner again.

The building housing the show is quite nice and has waterfalls.

The show was not bad overall. There were over 300 performers with elaborate costumes.

The first part of the show tells of ancient Mayans, their ball game, and the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors.

After the intermission, the second part of the show illustrates various Mexican federated states.

When the show ended at around 9:00pm, we walked back to our bus, for our short tide to Barcelo Maya Palace. We had a great day at Xcaret and hope to be back.