Nubiana

253 MY DAYS AT ABU SIMBEL When we set off for Egypt I was twenty-six years old, the youngest member of the team working on the project to rescue the temples of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam. I’m now seventy-eight, and few of those who shared that great adventure are still alive. An event that is still impressed indelibly on my memory is the morning I was walk- ing along Via Roma, Carrara’s main street, when I was stopped by an engineer from Impregilo, now known as Salini Impregilo. He asked me if I knew of anyone willing to set off for Egypt right away. A few days later, I was boarding a plane with four other Carrara marble workers faced with an extremely delicate task: to cut the temples into blocks, so that they could be dis- mantled and reassembled elsewhere. It was early October when we left for Egypt. Apart from the five of us from Carr- ara, there were the same number from Garfagnana and others from Vicenza. All were experts at cutting marble. We had gained our experience working in the quarries and this made us among the most highly skilled stone-cutters in the world. I started working in the quarries when I was thirteen and at fourteen I already had my first work card. As youngsters, our job was to take water to the workers and prepare the materials, but that was where I got my first training in the craft. In Egypt I remember the desert, an endless desert, and the heat. It was incredibly hot and it never rained. And then I remember the Nile. It was there below us and we were overawed by its sheer size. But our life was almost completely confined to the worksite and the village built for all the workers involved in the task. There was even a soccer field, a volleyball court and a court for bocce , the Italian version of bowls. In the morning we would get up at 6:30 and go to work. We toiled all day, taking a lunch break during the hottest hours. Cutting the blocks of the temples was a complex job requiring meticulous precision, because we had pieces of history in our hands. I remember that we used a Novello, a machine equipped with a 35 cm blade and diamond teeth. We used it to cut the blocks, taking care they didn’t break. We were paid to cut 30 blocks a month and when we delivered more we got a bonus. My days at Abu Simbel LUCIANO PAOL I SHARES H I S EXPER I ENCE AS AN EXPERT STONECUTTER I N NUB IA

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