Marisa Castello Branco is a native of Rio de Janeiro who lives with her head in Egypt. It all began in grade school, when she heard about Ancient Egypt for the first time. Since then she has not stopped researching the matter.
Graduated in philosophy, Marisa considers herself a self-taught Egyptologist. After all, apart from reading very much on the matter, she has already been to the country 28 times and is getting ready for her 29th trip in January.
To organize such trips, Marisa associated herself to travel agency Abbatour, and developed her own travel route. "We travel from Cairo to the border of Sudan. Part of the route is a cruise on the Nile," stated Marisa.
The first trip took place in 1985. Since then, she no longer stopped. "I believe I have already taken over 1,000 people there. All kinds of people come, from kids aged 12 who preferred Egypt to Disney to 80-year-olds," said the enthusiastic Egyptologist.
The Brazilian Indiana Jones explains that surprises are part of the trips after the lost civilization. Once, on their way to Tel El-Amarna, the group that was travelling by tractor got stuck in the middle of the desert and spent five hours waiting for help. "Amarna is an adventure. It is therefore an optional trip in the package," explained the guide.
In Cairo, apart from the traditional pyramids that are in the outskirts of the capital, Marisa makes a point of taking the group to the Church of Abu Serga (St. Sergius), which was supposedly built on a cave where the Holy Family rested while in Egypt.
In Abu Simbel, in turn, in the south of the country, the tourists visit an archaeological complex built at the command of Ramesses II, in honor of himself and his favorite wife, Nefertari.
The trip takes 12 days and usually attracts people who, like Marisa, are in love with the country. "Egypt is magic, its images are strong. After travelling there, people come back changed," she believes.
On the route, mainly on the stretches covered by bus, Marisa tells stories that the local guides do not tell. "They stick to the facts: when and for whom the construction was erected. I talk about the symbolism, about what it represented to the ancient Egyptians," she explained. The trips cost, on average, US$ 3,500 per person.
Apart from the thematic trips, Marisa organizes a talk about Egyptology. In November, she will promote symposiums in Brazilian capital Brasília, on the 21st, and in São Paulo, on the 25th. There will be two talks and a slide show.
Marisa is going to discuss the beauty of Egyptian women. Her theme will be: "Nefertiti, the icon of beauty, and Nefertari, the beloved queen". "Women played a very different part in Ancient Egypt, they had a privileged position," explained Marisa.
After her talk, archaeologist Luiz Octávio Louro Gomes will discuss the papyrus and its importance in Ancient Egypt. Finally, there will be a slide show accompanied by dramatized reading called "Thebes of the 100 doors," recorded in a studio by Marisa herself and other participants.
Marisa has already also written a book. "From the Millenary Egypt to eternity", released in 2001. In that book, she discusses how the ancient Egyptians denied death by betting on the idea of eternity. "All of their culture was built on this center point. They were born and died believing in eternal life."
At the age of 74 – "well lived", she says – Marisa is going to have, for the first time, a relative participating in her trip. Her eldest granddaughter, aged 26, is going to participate in granny Jones’ adventure in 2007.
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