Egypt On The Potomac

5:49 AM, Oct 9, 2008   |    comments
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  • WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) ---A local tour of Washington lets you in on the secret.

    "Egypt on the Potomac" offers tourists and Washingtonians alike, an uncommon "educational field trip" of the nation's capital.

    The chartered bus tour makes connections between Egyptian architecture and Washington's own landmarks and buildings.

    "We have driven past the Washington Monument not really understanding its true historical significance," says Anthony Browder, the founder of the trip.

    He explains, the monument is known as a "tekhen." A tekhen is a structure on the outside of a temple honoring the first king of Egypt. The Western world more commonly refers to the structure as an "obelisk," a Greek term.

    "I was in Africa. You see the same theme in Africa also," says tourist, Moniel Verhoven. "It's very precise. A lot of connections between what you already know from the history and other kinds of foundation of American history."

    "To this day, I have yet to find someone who may challenge those facts. They may not agree with it for philosophical reasons, but for historical reasons, they cannot disagree with the facts I present," says Browder.

    DC historian Don Alexander Hawkins offers a different explanation. Hawkins says the facts on the design origins are correct. However, the city's architects did not have a direct intention of borrowing Egyptian designs in 1791.

    "I would discount Egyptianism as a source [of inspiration] at the beginnings of the city...The beginning of the city, Egypt and Egyptian mythology and history were only known the way of the Bible," Hawkins says.

    Still, Browder has been sharing his knowledge for over 20 years in the District. Browder is a self-taught historian who has traveled to Egypt 41 times and authored several books. He decided to visit Egypt for the first time in 1980 on a journey for self-discovery.

    After his virgin quest, he launched "Egypt on the Potomac" in 1986. The tour begins and ends at the Thurgood Marshall Center in northwest Washington.

    Browder claims the Founding Fathers drew heavy inspiration from Africa while building the District.

    "These men attempted to replicate elements of ancient Egyptian history, mythology, architecture and symbolism in the layout and design of what has become the capital of the wealthiest, most powerful nation in human history," says Browder.

    He serves as the curator deciphering the unknown symbolism at each stop on the trip. In Meridian Hill Park, Browder points out every tekhen. The park is located on 16th Street, the meridian line dividing the District into two halves.

    Hawkins concedes the Park’s designers may have purposefully incorporated Egyptian works into the landscape. Knowledge of the pyramid and tekhen gained popularity in years later.

    "Meridian Hill Park, I don't doubt that it was a sophisticated Park. It was 100 years later [after the District was built]," Hawkins says.

    He also points out a hidden view of the Washington Monument and a "steps pyramid" structure located above one of the buildings in the foreground.

    Several participants took copious notes during the three-hour excursion into familiar and not so familiar places.

    "A lot of the time, I pass a lot of these very same buildings. I have never ever made the same associations of this," says Patrice Philips, a math teacher from Laurel, Maryland.

    "The history books does no justice to the history that we're here to see," she says.

    "Being an African American, you become very angry because some of the information has been hidden from you. But listening to Mr. Browder, I feel more empowered than angry," says Philips. She traveled to Egypt before coming on the trip.

    "I think [everyone] should either read his books and come on the field trip or read his book and go to Egypt, because it's not just African American history, it's everyone’s history" Philips adds.

    The tour also includes stops at two Masonic temples on 16th street. Each building's artwork contains Egyptian symbols.

    Browder quotes President Truman: "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."

    Members on the trip echo the same feeling.

    "It's very refreshing to know that [Africans] have such a great role in the actual creation of societies," says Wendell Atkinson. He brought his three young children on the trip.


    Reported by: Elizabeth Jia

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