sábado, 19 de enero de 2013

Cleopatra's Needle: past and present of London

(Spanish version here) *To my English readers: I apologize for every mistake. Please be aware I am a Spanish writer who translates what you have asked for

Sometimes they came as a result of a looting and other times they arrived by donation to the British, German, French, Spanish or Italian rulers of their times. That is the reason why nowadays we can find an Egyptian obelisk, a pyramid or even a sphinx standing by a column in almost every European capital of the old colonial empires.

Cleopatra's Needle is almost 3.500
years old (Thames, London).
Paris, Rome and Madrid have many interesting Roman, Greek and Egyptian treasures in their streets, gardens and, of course, inside their museums of art. As for London, it is famous for its Egyptian antiquities, one of which is placed along the Thames Embankment: Cleopatra's Needle (although it has very little to do with the Queen Cleopatra at all). This obelisk was built in Egypt for the Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1460 BC, so it is already almost 3.500 years old. Being named after Cleopatra, the magnificent stone was brought to London from Alexandria, the royal city of the mythical Queen.
The obelisk was offered as a present to the UK government in 1819 by the contemporary ruler of Egypt and Sudan, Muhammad Ali. Although the British government did accept the gift, it denied paying for the transportation bill, so the obelisk did remain in Alexandria until 1877, when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson (1809-1884) offered himself for sponsoring the journey of the monumental stone to London. He paid 10.000 pounds for it.

Inscriptions of the Cleopatra's
Needle (London).
Finally, Cleopatra’s Needle arrived to London in 1878 after a stormy journey by sea (in October 14th 1877, the ship that carried the obelisk was in severe danger of sinking in the waters off the west coast of France and the Bay of Biscay). The Needle was inched into position on the Thames Embankment in September 1878, to the delight of the London inhabitants. As usual, they buried a time capsule in front of the pedestal containing these items: twelve pictures of the prettiest women of the time; a few toys; some cigars; some pieces of cable that were used to build the obelisk; coins; a portrait of Queen Victoria; copies of the Bible in various languages; a street plan of London and ten papers of that date.

One of the two bronze sphinxes that lie next
to the Cleopatra's Needle.
Two large bronze sphinxes lie on either side of the Needle. These are Victorian versions (19th century) of the traditional Egyptian originals. There are also four plaques around the base of the obelisk giving a brief history of the Needle and its journey to London. Behind the sphinx, the modern London Eye (another symbol of this milenarian city settled by the Romans) catch today the tourists gazes when crossing to the South of London. But, after all those years, the beauty of the large Egyptian obelisk still remains. As purer as always.