Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Consul, the Elephant and the Sarcophagus

This is a story that features an elephant, an Egyptian sarcophagus, and a man that walked the fine line between academia and being an adventurer, all the while serving the French government and his own interests (not necessarily in this order).

DrovettiI’m putting together the special contents for the SuperDeLuxe Edition of AMARNA, and because of this, and because of an article I’ve written for a Turin-based magazine, I did some digging about Bernardino Drovetti.
Drovetti’s work in Egypt and in Luxor in particular is a central element in the backstory of my serial, and the guy was certainly a character.
You’ll probably remember we had last met him, here on Karavansara, when he sent his men to harass and try to kill Giovanni Battista Belzoni, the archaeologist and adventurer.

But things get a lot more interesting than that, and following Drovetti’s tracks, I stumbled on a number of weird things. Continue reading


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Mister and Miss Belzoni

I was absolutely sure I had done a post about The Great Belzoni, but I was unable to find it.
It’s becoming unnerving, this thing that I get an idea for a post, plan it and write it in my mind, and then forget about actually writing it. I am damn scared of Alzheiner, you know…

Portrait_of_Giovanni_Belzoni_by_Jan_Adam_Kruseman,_1824Anyway, here’s the guy, portrayed in all his barbaric style and Oriental mystery.
Giovanni Battista Belzoni was born in Padua in 1778, but his family was from Rome, and in Rome he studied hydraulics. He flirted with the idea of joining a monastery, fled when Napoleon conquered the city and ended up as a barber in the Netherlands.
From there he moved to London, met and married a woman named Sarah Bane, and they both joined a circus – Belzoni was 6 foot 7 inches, and got a gig as a strongman, but he later got into phantasmagorias and light shows.
During a tour of southern Europe in the early 1810s, Belzoni became acquainted with Muhammad Ali, and went to Egypt to demonstrate a hydraulic machine of his own devising, that would be used to pump water from the Nile.
The machine worked but he was not hired, and therefore he found himself in Egypt, and without a job.
Someone suggested he should look into the local antiques. Continue reading