The might of Egypt at the apex of the Middle Kingdom is reflected in the story of Sinuhe who, welcomed and ennobled by his hosts in exile in Canaan, returns to be feted at home. By contrast, Wenamun, a priestly official despatched to Lebanon to collect a consignment of cedarwood, in the dying embers of the 20th Dynasty, stumbles haplessly from one humiliation to another. He is robbed by his own crew, refused compensation by the local potentate in the Port of Dor, and when he reaches his destination, Tyre, is sent packing because he lacks appropriate documentation and gifts. After further misadventures, he is almost killed in Cyprus. Sadly, the denouement is missing. The darkly comic tale shows how the New Kingdom, soon to collapse into another of Egypt’s periodic interludes of internecine warfare, had lost the ability to project its power and protect its emissaries abroad.
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