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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Finding Akhenaten in Sudan

Have you ever taken a trip  to follow a particular history? These three pillars may not look like much but when I tell you the history you may appreciate why we were so excited to visit this ruined temple at Sesibi in Sudan. 
If I had a favorite pharaoh (I don't admit to having one because I'm pretending not to be that geeky) it would probably be Akhenaten the husband of Nefertiti and the father of Tutankhamen. Akhenaten (d 1336 BCE) was a radical reformer who opposed the power of the priests of the god Amun, moved the capital from Thebes to Amarna and presided over a transformation of Egyptian art. He changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten (Aten is pleased) and unilaterally declared that there was only one god known as Aten, symbolized by the sun. Many say this was the birth of monotheism and I remember vividly learning about it at school.
The naturalistic quality of Egyptian art during Akhenaten reign is quite different from other periods of Egyptian art and we've sought out pieces from his reign in museums in London, New York and Berlin. Here are some wonderful Armarna period works from the Neues Museum in  Berlin. 
This small stone panel of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three daughters is stunning and was probably used as a home altar. Here you can see the solar disc representing Atun above what looks very much like later Christian representations of the Madonna. 
After Akhenaten's death, the priests of Amun regained their power and the new capital he had built at Amarna, along with all the temples dedicated to Aten were destroyed, or returned to the old pantheism. Here's where our three pillars come in! Sesibi was the  far southern edge of the Egyptian empire and here an Aten temple survived- making it the only one of its kind. This speaks to exactly how Egyptian power waxed and waned in this region and how the currents of history are different on the edges of power. For a geek like me that's reason enough to travel to the Sudan.
Below you can see Ayad pointing out the circular Aten and the various figures including Akenhaten.
Frankly this still feels like the middle of nowhere and as you can see it's not a hot tourist destination but for us it was a mesmerizing link in putting together Egyptian history in our heads.

If you haven't read my other Sudan posts you can find them here and as always our highest recommendation goes to our travel agent Waleed at Lendi Travel who made all of the ease we found in traveling in Sudan possible.