Nothing slaps you about the face better than God’s wrath in 3-D. I’m a sucker for a Hollywood style Biblical epic, particularly as the fairy tales of the Old Testament lend themselves to stunning special effects. So when Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ was released, I was front of the queue. For the most part, the movie delivers on spectacle, making up in drama what it lacks in depth. The plagues sequence is particularly delicious as the God of Moses teaches Rameses a thing or two about divine power. The film has dumped the preachy gravitas of the Cecil B Mille’s 1956 ‘The Ten Commandments’. Christian Bale’s doubting Moses is much grittier than Charlton Heston’s pulpit-style rendition and is better suited to today’s more secular age. Depicting God as a ten year old boy is either inspired or daft (I’m still not sure which). Having the child resemble Damien from ‘The Omen’ is masterly.
According to the BBC, the film has been banned in Eqypt because of ‘historical inaccuracies’ (sorry?) – partly because the movie depicts the Hebrews slaving over a pair of pyramids (the construction of which ceased centuries before the alleged great escape). I’m glad to see that the religious censors are on the ball and standing up for the truth.
Our second day in Istanbul was spent meandering through the piazzas and pavilions of the splendid Topkapı Palace, epicentre of the imperial Ottoman court for 400 years. The unheralded highlight was chancing upon relics of the Prophet (yes, The Prophet). We gazed incredulously upon bits of His beard, tooth, sword, bow, a heap of soil used for ritual ablution and a clay impression of His foot – all allegedly genuine. Slightly less credible are the rod of Moses (of the plagues of Egypt fame), King David’s skull, Abraham’s cookware, and Joseph’s turban (though sadly not his coat of many colours). We were most disappointed not to see the Ark of the Covenant and a charred twig from the Burning Bush. Naturally we remained suitably deferential to avoid stoning by the Faithful. I suppose it’s no less fantastic than the implausible holy artefacts revered by the old ladies of Christendom.
In the extensive grounds we encountered the phenomenon known as ‘Islamic Chic’. Gaggles of giggling girls wandering about their Ottoman heritage adorned in exquisitely tailored dark hued, figure-hugging maxi coats garnished with sumptuous silk scarves of vivid primary colours. The head coverings, moulded at the forehead into a shallow peek as if hiding a baseball cap beneath, framed their painted faces. Modest and modern, I suspect the look is more a sign of wealth and status than of piety. We finished the day with a flourish by ambling around the excellent archeological museum.
Ol’ Constantinople is simply sublime and just gets better each time I visit. We travelled home that evening wanting more and vowing to return.