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Underwater study provides evidence of much older city July 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Hellenic Light Africa.
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Large community predated Alexandria

alexandria.jpg  Two Egyptian fishermen try their luck in the calm sea of Alexandria harbor on October 2, 2001, as the Alexandria Library appears shining in the background.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a $200 million project, sponsored by the UN cultural body UNESCO, is an imposing cylindrical structure that stands like a huge shining beacon on the shores of Alexandria’s coastline.

Alexander the Great founded Alexandria to immortalize his name on his way to conquer the world, but this may not have been the first city on the famed site of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. A Smithsonian team has now uncovered the first underwater evidence pointing to an urban settlement dating back seven centuries before Alexander showed up in 331 BC.

The city he founded, Alexandria, has long been a source of intrigue and wonder, renowned for its library, once the largest in the world, and the 396-foot (119-meter) lighthouse on the island of Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But little was known about the site in pre-Alexander times, other than that a fishing village by the name of Rhakotis was located there.

Coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History said the work by him and his colleagues suggested there had been a much larger community than had previously been believed. The discoveries, reported in the August issue of GSA Today, the journal of the Geological Society of America, came by accident when his team drilled underwater in Alexandria’s harbor, Stanley said.

Their project was part of a 2007 Smithsonian-funded study of the subsiding Nile Delta and involved extracting 3-inch-wide sticks of core sediment some 18 feet long (5.5 meters), from up to 20 feet (6.5 meters) under the seabed. Egypt’s antiquities department and a French offshore group were involved in the project.

The goal was to understand what happened to cause later structures, from the Greek and Roman eras, to become submerged. “One of the ways you do this is by taking sediment cores and examining core structures,” he told The Associated Press by phone from Washington. “This often happens in science. We were not searching for an ancient city,” said Stanley, who has been working in the Delta region for 20 years. When his team opened the cores, what they saw were “little ceramic fragments that were indicative of human activity.”

But there was no immediate cause for excitement. Then, more and more rock fragments, ceramic shards from Middle and Upper Egypt, a lot of organic matter plant matter and heavy minerals were found. All the materials were found by radiocarbon dating to be from around 1000 BC. The scientists then analyzed concentration of lead isotopes found in the cores and saw that they too matched the dates of around 3,000 years ago.

“This was proof that there was significant metallurgy and human activity going on back 1,000 years BC,” Stanley said. “Alexandria did not just grow out from a barren desert, but was built atop an active town. We had five well-defined components that fit, and we had the story. And the story was that Alexander the Great did not come first to set up Alexandria, there was already something there.” Stanley could not say how big the community was, only that it appeared more developed than the small fishing village long believed to be at the site.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsud, an Alexandria expert from Egypt’s Council of Antiquities, was cautious and said the work on uncovering Rhakotis was only in the early stages. “We can’t give a wealth of information out now, we are still working,” Maqsud said. “There are signs of a flourishing settlement, going back to Pharaonic times, but it’s too early to say anything about it.”

Stanley hopes that a study of Rhakotis may one day prove as inspiring as other recent offshore discoveries, such as finds by marine archaeologists of the 2,500-year-old ruins of the cities of Herakleion, Canopus and Menouthis, Pharaonic cities built on different parts of the coast near present-day Alexandria. “There is an awful lot more of history to know,” Stanley said, adding that geologists would have to drill more intensely on land, around the shores, and in Alexandria itself to shed more light on the ancient world. “I’m sure they will find artifacts of Rhakotis someday,” he said. “And we will know more about the people who lived there.”

The opening of Patriarchal School in Alexandria, Egypt June 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Africa, Religion & Faith.
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Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, in charge of matters involving Hellenes abroad, Theodore Kassimis, departed for Egypt today for a three-day visit.

During that time, he will meet with the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Theodore II and the President of the Council for Hellenes Abroad, Stephanos Tamvakis. He will also have contacts with the Greek community and Greek-Egyptian organisations in Alexandria.

On Sunday, June 17, Mr. Kassimis will officially inaugurate the Patriarchal School, “Megas Athanasios” together with Greek Education Minister Marietta Yannakou.

Meanwhile, CHA assists the work of Alexandria Patriarchate. The President of the Council for Hellenes Abroad, Stephanos Tamvakis, has assured the Alexandria Patriarchate of the CHA’s constant support for its work. He was speaking at the official welcoming ceremony for the Church of Greece delegation which arrived in Egypt for the opening of the Saint Nicholas cathedral in Cairo.

Melina Mercouri > the last Greek Goddess May 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Africa.
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An exhibition titled “Melina Mercouri, the Last Greek Goddess” dedicated to the celebrated Greek actress, singer and politician, opened at the Alexandria Library in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria, on Thursday May 24th.

The exhibition highlights Mercouri’s life and the history of Greek cinema. The show displays artifacts and objects that marked the life of the world acclaimed Greek actress, also a former Culture Minister during the then socialist government. The exhibits include a “Golden Palm” awarded to Melina Mercouri in 1960 for her role in the popular film, “Never on Sunday”. Among the exhibits is also the dress, designed by Guy Laroche, which she wore at the closing of the 1960 Cannes Festival when she was awarded the Golden Palm.

The exhibition will be officially opened on June 4, by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni. The exhibition at the Alexandria Library will run from May 24 to June 10.

Greek myth brought to life May 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Africa.
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The Tshwane University of Technology, Department of Drama and Film Studies, South Africa, is producing an innovative performance: Atalanta.

The show will premiere at the National Arts Festival this year. Prior to this, rehearsals will be staged at the Rostrum Theatre, Arts Campus, 24 Du Toit Street (corner Du Toit & Struben), Pretoria from Thursday to Saturday, which will be open to the public.

Inspiration has been taken from the Greek myth, Atalanta. Atalanta was one of the first women who took on men at their own game. Not only could she hunt as well as any man, she could also beat them in a foot race, many a man’s head rolled as proof .

The show highlights the psychosexual elements already inherent in Greek mythological characters, bringing them into the 21st century.

It has been devised and directed by Janine Lewis and will be presented as a post-modern Live Art exploration. It forms an inventive installation in and around which the action takes place. Texts from John Goddard and Antjie Krog have been included.

For more info and bookings for this week, contact Cathy Steynfaardt at 012-382-6150. 

How to throw a party Greek-style in Zambia April 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Africa.
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It was a veritable invasion and the Le Soleil staff are still reeling. The Greeks came and went and launched Le Soleil’s International Food Festival with gusto, verve and style.

Master of Ceremonies  Nick Lostrom didn’t pull any punches when he challenged festival guests who were unlucky enough not to be born in Greece to “Beat this!” Bedecked in blue and white flags Le Soleil was bursting at the seams; despite a new verandah extension and the hiring of a huge marquee there was just not enough room for the 230 guests and tables were hastily placed on the lawns. Waiters were run off their feet taking list length orders and wondering why they were all being called “Ela!” by the Greeks.  “Ela!” in Greek means “Come Here”, which in this case, is how you can call a waiter to come and take an order.

Traditional Greek food in a range of receptacles arrived by means fair and foul flooding the Le Soleil kitchens. But despite chaos in the kitchen the buffet tables were soon garnished with all the dishes that Greeks are famous for;  Moussaka, made with mince, eggplant and béchamel, a thick white cheese sauce. Fasolada, a bean soup, Tzatziki, with cucumber, thick yoghurt and lots of garlic, a summer favourite in the Med; Dolmades, vine leaf wrapped mince and rice, Kleftiko, lamb dish cooked in an earth oven, Stifado, rabbit cooked in onions and red wine, Ovelias, a delicious lamb-on-a-spit. Desserts included the crumbly and more-ish  pastried  Baklava. Compliments to chefs  Olga, Eleni, Mandy, Fifi, Angelos, Kathryn, Marie and Sophia.

But for the Greeks its ‘dance before dinner’ and Zambian Greek kids choreographed by dynamo Eleni Nicolandos performed a range of costumed traditional dances from the  Kalamatianos and Tsamikos to the Pentozali and the Zeimbekiko, ably led by Paul Georgitsis who alternately staggered, fell and danced a procession around the pool.

And alcohol flowed, plates got smashed, the disco took over and dinner was danced off as more alcohol flowed. Still shell-shocked the Le Soleil staff are now girding themselves for the next onslaught : the South Africans.

A very big thank you to Olga Georgitsis and Eleni Nicolandos for making it all happen as well as it did.

Event marks 50th anniversary of Kazantzakis death January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek, Hellenic Light Africa.
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International events marking the 50th anniversary of the death of celebrated writer Nikos Kazantzakis began on Saturday night in Alexandria, the ancient port city frequently lauded in the Cretan author’s works.

The event, held at the Greek Cultural Foundation of Alexandria, Egypt, centred on Kazantzakis’ “searching spirit”, as he travelled almost everywhere in world.

Council of Overseas Hellenism President Stefanos Tamvakis and Greek Ambassador to Egypt Panayiotis Vlassopoulos, among others, were present at the event.

Greek to be an option at South African schools September 29, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Africa, Learn To Speak Greek.
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Greek will be introduced as an optional matric subject in South Africa from next year.

This is according to the Greek Ambassador in South Africa, Aristidis Sandis, who was on his first official visit to Durban. Sandis had discussions with the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, S’bu Ndebele, and the Mayor of Durban, Obed Mlaba, as well as attending several other functions. 

Sandis said the Greek community in South Africa, and especially personnel at the Saheti School in Johannesburg, had worked hard to get the language on the matric subject list.

“We are all thrilled that the Department of Education has agreed to it. Greek will be offered as an optional matric subject from 2007 with the first matric examination being written in 2009. There are about 40 teachers throughout South Africa who are qualified to teach Greek at matric level. If that is not sufficient we will investigate bringing in more tutors from Greece.”

There are about 60 000 people of Greek extraction living in South Africa.

Sandis, who was the Greek Consul in Cape Town about 20 years ago and took up his present post last year after a stint as ambassador in Austria, who said South Africa and Greece enjoyed “warm relations”.

Hellenic Aid in Greece was funding a R6 million development programme in South Africa to assist in the fight against Aids and to provide training in a variety of fields. Sandis encouraged South African authorities to have faith in their capabilities to produce an outstanding soccer World Cup tournament in 2010. “They must stick to their plans and work hard, just like Greece did with the last Olympics, and show the world what they are capable of.”