Giovanni Belzoni - Episode Synopses
Episode Three – The Pharaoh and the Showman
Belzoni fails to please Pasha Ali of Egypt and his new career in 'water mechanics' fails. He is penniless and stranded in Cairo without work.
Just 16 years after the invasion by Napoleon, the enthusiasm of Europeans for all things Egyptian is growing and there is intense rivalry between explorers and collectors - the rivalry is particularly intense between the French and the British.
In Cairo, Belzoni meets two men who will change his life for ever.
The first is John Lewis Burkhardt, who, disguised as an Arab, has travelled to unknown Egyptian temples that have remained lost from the world for centuries.
The other is Henry Salt, the British Counsel General, keen to make his name as a collector.
Inspired by the tales of Burkhardt, Salt offers Belzoni a job: to travel down the Nile to Thebes to collect a giant seven-ton granite bust named the 'Younger Memnon' from an Egyptian temple.
The French have tried and failed to lift it, so Anglophile Belzoni rises to the challenge in order to bring it back for the British Museum.
At the time, nobody can yet read hieroglyphics but the 'Youger Memon' is, in fact, the likeness of Ramesses II, the greatest of all Pharaohs.
Belzoni discovers he has the perfect skills for the job: vast strength, engineering knowledge, maverick intelligence and wit combined with bravery and cunning, and the head of Ramesses II is soon on its way to Henry Salt back in Cairo.
Flushed with success, Belzoni and his crew decide to travel further down the Nile to search for more collectable artefacts for Salt.
Near the border with modern-day Sudan, they arrive at an amazing temple carved directly out of the mountain – unbeknown to them, they have found Ramesses the Great's Temple at Abu Simbel.
However, to Belzoni's frustration, he cannot find the entrance as most of the temple is covered in tons of sand. Intrigued and fascinated, Belzoni vows to return…
In parallel with Belzoni's story, the programme tells that of Ramesses II: how he came from a military dynasty and went on to reign for an incredible 67 years, fathering over 100 children and erecting some of Ancient Egypt's most impressive monuments.
Episode Four – The Temple Of The Sands
The Great Belzoni, actor, strongman, and engineer, has now turned all his attentions to becoming a famous adventurer. In episode four of Egypt, Belzoni makes some of his greatest discoveries, and uncovers the entrance to The Temple Of Ramesses at Abu Simbel.
Belzoni's new ambition is to be the greatest collector in history, but in the fashion of all good swashbuckling tales, he has a rival.
Drovetti, the tenacious French collector, is waiting to thwart him at his every turn.
Henry Salt asks Belzoni to go back to Thebes and Philae to find more artefacts for the British Museum. However, Belzoni doesn't realise that Salt is using him to furnish his own collection and sell artefacts to the highest bidder.
Belzoni is only a few miles down the Nile when he runs into Drovetti's men, who are also on their way to Thebes. A race across the desert then follows as Belzoni tries to prevent Drovetti's men from stealing his precious collections at Thebes.
But when he arrives, Belzoni finds he is too late and Drovetti is well advanced in the process of removing everything he can from the great temples.
This setback only firms Belzoni's resolve and he finds another beautiful and colossal statue.
Infuriated, Drovetti threatens Belzoni so, under the cover of darkness, he slips anchor and heads south.
On reaching Abu Simbel, Belzoni has the problem of shifting the tons of sand surrounding the opening to the temple.
It proves an impossible task; every time they try to dig a hole, more sand flows in to fill it. Soon, the labourers lose patience and leave.
Then Belzoni has an idea. To make the sand easier to dig he wets it with water from the Nile, and then builds a palm tree fence around the opening of the temple to prevent sand from flowing in.
Eventually, they break through the top of the temple's doorway and slip inside. The interior of the temple is spectacular, featuring colossal statues of Ramesses II which support the ceiling, and fabulous reliefs telling the story of his life.
Spurred by the discovery, a triumphant Belzoni goes on to thwart his arch-enemy Drovetti, discovering many lost tombs such as those of Seti I, father of Ramesses II.
In parallel with Belzoni's story, the programme tells how Ramesses II secured his position in history as the greatest Pharaoh – a warrior and diplomat who became a god.