To the west of the Met Museum, directly up the hill as seen from the Petrie Court Café therein, rises the 70’ obelisk named ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’, the lonely twin of its sibling living in London (on a bank of the Thames) and the cousin of the more famous third, in Paris (at Place de la Concorde).
The twins were crafted around 3,500 years ago each from a single piece of more than 200 tons of Aswan red granite, similar in colour to the sarcophagi in Grant’s Tomb.
Following their repositioning cruise down the Nile thousands of years later, their second purpose was to honour Caesar Augustus,; others claim the rogue Marc Antony; more others, Julius Caesar. Who knew?
Then, about 140 years ago, with much hoo-ha, one was moved from Egypt to New York where it was re-erected in Central Park. Large crowds gathered. Commemorative objects were created. It was a big tsimmes.
Recently, in response to an official complaint made by an Egyptian official to then billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg over its wasted condition, privately raised funds of $500, 000 were spent to clean the obelisk using laser beams. It is thought that work will have a lifespan of 500 years, moving forward. Sounds like a plan dreamed up by Dr Evil.
Its vertical balance is assured by four supporting 900 pound bronze crabs, replacements for the originals which live inside the museum beside the Temple of Dendur.
It all adds up to a lovely situation, slightly off any beaten path, worth visiting and contemplating.