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Attorneys explore Egyptian culture, history

Rebecca Berfanger
April 28, 2010
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After spending countless hours in an office, some attorneys seem to crave vacations that will take them out of their comfort zones.

So maybe it's no surprise that nine out of 38 people on a trip to Egypt in late March were Indianapolis attorneys. The trip was co-sponsored by Wabash College and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

"Those of us on the trip are all frustrated archeologists, Egyptologists, history buffs, and photographers," said Indianapolis attorney Patricia Polis McCrory. She added other Indianapolis attorneys she knew, including George Plews and Lloyd Milliken had also traveled to Egypt recently.

McCrory said she had never been to Egypt before but had always wanted to go. She and her husband, Michael K. McCrory, also an attorney, traveled to Egypt in late March, adding to their list of other adventures, including trips to Mayan ruins and scuba diving.

Other attorneys on the trip included Zeff Weiss, Zoe Weiss, Ronald Gifford, Kathleen Gifford, N. Clay Robbins, Brian Williams, and Catherine Lemmer.

Williams, vice president of development for The Children's Museum, helped organize the trip.

"It was just by chance that we had so many lawyers," he said. But it wasn't just luck that travelers were able to get an in depth look at the history, culture, and people of Egypt past and present. The Indianapolis museum has built up its relationships in Egypt in the past few years, including similar group trips in 2007 and 2008. Among those connections are their tour guide, Fadel Gad, and his classmate, archeologist Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Mummy Project, who were both available to members of the tour group.

Because of the connection, the group had access to places that were not open to the general public. This included sites on which Hawass has been working, including a dig near the homes of the workers who built the pyramids.

The Indianapolis museum also has been working with the Madame Mubarak Children's Museum in Cairo by helping the new museum develop exhibits. Jeff Patchen, the Indianapolis museum's CEO, traveled with the group and discussed the connections between the two children's museums.

Williams called the trip itself "Egypt 101." The group visited many destinations in Cairo, Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings.

Among the spots they visited were colorful marketplaces, the Aswan dam, famous and infamous temples and tombs, the Sphinx, the Nile River via a cruise to Luxor, and an archeological dig that was in progress in Karnak, where 2,400-yearold granite door had been discovered while the travelers were there.

Other highlights, said Williams and McCrory, were camel rides and a trip to an orphanage.

While at the orphanage the children were shy at first, McCrory said, they ultimately warmed up to the tourists. The group brought various donations, including crayons and toys to the group of boys age 7 to 15, and a cash donation to help the orphanage educate the children who live there.

The children also assigned nicknames to the tourists. McCrory said she was "Photo Pat" because she kept taking pictures.

Zeff Weiss, who brought his 15-year-old son Marty, said "those are always difficult trips because we like to think that almost anyone would do a first-rate job of taking care of their children," he said. "I've been to group homes and orphanages in the United States and in other countries. ... It's a difficult environment in which they grow up, but they did seem to be pretty happy to see us. It might have been tougher on us as visitors because we recognized that they don't have the same things we do."

Like McCrory, Weiss and his wife and children have been to other developing countries and traveled around the world, including New Zealand, Italy, and Machu Picchu.

"It has been enlightening and enriching for my son," he added. "Clearly he recognizes most children here in the United States have a better environment than some of the places we have traveled."

McCrory said the group walked about six miles a day, often in heat above 100 degrees - something she and her husband prepared for ahead of time.

She and Williams said they were especially impressed by an 85-year-old who climbed one of the pyramids.

The journey up the pyramid included plank steps, knotches, a metal ladder, and parts that required one to "duck walk" because the ceiling was at a "10-year-old's height," McCrory said.

She and her husband said their son didn't want to go with them, but for the couples who did bring their children there was the added benefit of spending time with their kids.

"Working in a firm, there is pressure to keep producing and not a lot of time to spend with family," she said.

Williams and his wife brought their daughter, who he said had a good time.

McCrory said she and the other attorneys were also able to stay in touch with their offices via cell phone and e-mail, when needed.

Weiss said the trip exceeded his expectations.

"It was a wonderful trip," he said. "It was pleasant to travel with a large group of lawyers while not talking about the law. It was a lot of fun. ... My wife has been pushing travel to exotic places, and this trip exceeded my expectations by far."

As far as why she likes to travel, McCrory said, "There are a group of lawyers who would never do this. But there's also a group of adventuresome attorneys who would jump at the chance."

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