When I say, “I grew up in a museum,” as I did in my last post (Wow Place #210), the implication is that museums are clean, neat and well-organized places, with an emphasis on “Don’t Touch That!” And that’s true for most museums I’ve been to around the world. Exhibits are labeled. Protective glass has been Windexed. You have a clear notion that curators have been here, curating. But that’s not the feeling you get when visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – at least not when I was there 15-20 years ago. The Egyptian Museum feels like that last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when you’re walking through this vast warehouse of crated artifacts, all seemingly plopped down randomly wherever the fork lift operator decided to leave them. It’s essentially my Mom’s chaotic kitchen utility drawer – and I kind of love the museum for exactly this reason.

Here you find more mummies and sarcophagi than you can shake a selfie stick at. They’re in the main galleries. They’re in the hallways. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in the restrooms and the snack bar. Everywhere you look, mummies; it’s like a Lamaze class (for REALLY old mums). Some of the mummies are labeled, but most aren’t. I can imagine the curators receiving yet another shipment of sarcophagi from some recent excavation upcountry and saying, “Just toss it over there, buddy. I’ll get to it later.” As a result, a visit to the museum isn’t always an “educational” experience, per se. It can be fairly difficult to trace the history and chronology of all this stuff around you. But museum is a FUN place, in the way that exploring someone’s attic is fun. You just never know what you’re going to find in the next dusty corner.

All that being said, the King Tut gallery at the Egyptian Museum IS pretty spectacular. It’s like the curators realized “We have this one priceless gem – we better do a professional job with it.” And it IS priceless. Golden masks. Golden carriages. Golden necklaces. Gold, gold, gold and throw in a few precious jewels for good measure. It’s a truly gorgeous collection, and well worth the price of admission. But for my money, the fun of visiting the Egyptian Museum is simply wandering the halls and absorbing the sheer immensity of ancient artifacts unearthed in this country. Here you have this 5,000-year-old culture that dominated the world for millenia, which emphasized elaborate burial rituals, then combine that with a dry, desert climate that is perfect for preserving ruins and relics. And Voila – the Egyptian Museum, the world’s biggest mummy warehouse. It’s an awesome place.

(A close cousin to disorder is chaos. It’s what you experience when you step out of the airport in a place like New Delhi or Cairo: taxis and tuk tuks weaving in and out of traffic, jockeying for your attention. Totes imploring you to come stay at their hotel. Vendors insisting that you buy a hat or a fan to help with the heat. Even after you’ve traveled for a while and can see the order within the disorder, it can still be overwhelming. The trick is to take a breath and center yourself – to make yourself the calm eye of the storm. You may not be able to tame the chaos around you, but with practice, you can tame your own breath, you can create a calm bubble of serenity amidst the madness all around you. That’s where a meditation practice becomes such a necessary tool. Whether you’re navigating the busiest market in Timbuktu or trying to stay on top of your office workload, the only thing you can really control…is you.)