At this point we were virtually “templed out” as they all seemed to be omnipresent !! First stop was Dendera – another vast complex smothered in intricate carvings to which ever deities it was built to celebrate:
Then onto Abydos for more of the same – these ones built for worship of Sety 1 ( a bad guy/god) and our old mate Rameses ll and dedicated to the cult of Osiris.
Historical Note: The reason that many of the statues and carving are badly defaced (especially facially) is that after 2-3000 years the Copts arrived in Egypt (Christians to you and me) and set about painstakingly chipping off the features of any one/thing that was not remotely Christian. They also lived in many of the temples lighting bonfires, much to the detriment of the 2000 year old paintwork. Vandalism on an industrial scale – but then the Coptic Christians were like that. They also built a large number of large monasteries along the “route”, many dedicated the “Flight into Egypt” by Mary, Jo & what’s his name and most of which claim to have been patronised by them on their way through. More on the Copts later………………
Don’t worry if you are starting to suffer from Temple fatigue: we move onto tombs next – In vast numbers with the occasional temple and or complex thrown in !!!
Linked by a 2Km avenue of sphinxes to the Temple of Luxor, the Karnak Complex of Temples and Sanctuaries is vast and needs several days to explore thoroughly. Every Inch of stonework be it columns, pylons, walls or cenotaphs are carved, inscribed and/or smothered in Hieroglyphics and painted. Statues and Sphinxes everywhere !!
How they managed to construct and install so many HUGE structures in close proximity to each other with no machinery apart from human labour, ingenuity and brute force beggars belief !!! And of course no frigging Health & Safety to deal with, so the death and injury toll must have been extensive !!
Then back on the boat for a short trip downriver for more Temples & Tombs…
Most of the Day was spent sailing down the river towards Luxor. Navigating the Lock was just an excuse for the locals continuing to try to sell us stuff !
Arrived in Luxor in time to Main Temple “by Night”. Quite mindblowing..
Especially as it had spent most of the last couple of thousand years buried in sand & rubble until the Muslims build a mosque and minaret on top of it and someone decided to have a look and see what was underneath.
Then onto the Winter Palace Hotel for cocktails and a determined and successful mission to buy cotton shirts made from Egyptian cotton rather than the omnipresent Chinese variety !!
Next morning, off to the Valleys of The Kings & Queens with their various tombs and temples. Starting with Hatshepsut’s Temple
And a couple of huge statues of Ramses
Onto the Valley of The Kings and an assortment of empty tombs, all covered in amazing carvings, paintings and hieroglyphs. The contents having been stolen way back though mostly have found their way into the worlds great museums. More of that later !
Back to the ship for lunch before an afternoon visit to the Temples of Karnak.
Originally carved out of the rock on the banks of The Nile during the reign of Ramses ll to glorify “himself”, with the slightly smaller adjacent temple dedicated to his favorite wife Nefertari. Built 3000 years ago it is an incredible feat of construction and engineering. The main facade with its four statues of – yes you’ve got it – Ramses, is 38 meters wide and 31 meters high. Apart from the inevitable tomb robbers it lay virtually undisturbed until it was “rediscovered” by a Swiss historian in 1813 virtually buried by a thick blanket of sand.
It was excavated by a series of European Archaeologists during the 19th century exposing its amazing carvings, hieroglyphs and inscriptions.
What makes it even more extraordinary, is that when threatened by the rising waters of Lake Nasser, following the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, and after a global campaign, it was dismantled and reconstructed in all its former glory, at a site 90 meters higher to where it is today.
Back on the bus for the trip back to Aswan where we were back on the boat in time for lunch (yes we had to get up extremely early to avoid the midday sun etc !). Even so the temperature and humidity inside the temples made for a very soggy bunch of tourists !! That’s me holding the key of life which appears everywhere…….
After lunch we finally set sail downstream towards the riverside Temple at Kom Ombo:
Spot the stacks of mothballed or abandoned cruise ships !
The ancient Egyptian believed firmly in the afterlife and it it moved they mummified and buried it ! Kom Ombo was the center of the cult dedicated to Sobek, a man with the head of a crocodile, so a lot of mummified crocs……..
There was also a confrontation in front of the temple with 3 slithery Cobras who were definitely not mummified, and completely freaked me out so no photos I’m afraid !!!
Back to the boat for a soothing bottle of red and then we headed down river towards Luxor.
While there is no disputing that the wonders of Ancient Egypt are absolutely amazing and well worth the trip: Modern Egypt leaves a lot to be desired.
The Egyptians rely (or used to anyway) on tourism as one one of their primary sources of income. Their tourist industry is currently in ruins and the banks of the Nile are lined with hundreds of decommissioned, mothballed or abandoned cruise ships. Pollution is unregulated and appalling, and everywhere you look (or where we looked anyway) was a rubbish tip.
Following various “terrorist attacks” on tourist sites during the past few decades they have increased security for all sites, and anywhere that tourists might want to go, to absurdly paranoid and sometimes stifling proportions. Everywhere we went we were accompanied by a combination of police, military, special forces and swat teams. There was usually at least one police boat shadowing our progress down The Nile and we were shepherded around in a highly conspicuous and indiscreet “bubble”.
We were constantly assured that there was no problem or threat. Not very convincing when surrounded by a bunch of bickering heavily armed personnel in various levels of combat uniform with enough armaments (some in shambolic condition) to start a small war !!
All meals were served on board and not once during the 12 days “exploring” Egypt were we allowed out of the bubble and into a local restaurant. Even shopping was controlled and regulated and of course compulsory !!
Anyway rant over for now (may come back to it later !) and off on a 5 hr (each way) bus-ride across the Western Sahara to see the wonders of Abu Simbel. Well worth the ride and the umpteen check points that we had to negotiate on route.
As many of you may be aware, the non-existence of Internet Access in Egypt, let alone Wi-Fi, prevented me from publishing my blog as we went along. Anyway I have been home for a few weeks now and sorted through all my photos and am now ready to post a selection for your delectation.
Set off for Aswan via Heathrow & Cairo and arrived after a very cramped journey (Egyptair – not great !!). Boarded the MS Darakum which was to be “home”
for the next 12 nights.
The first morning was off to view the Aswan Dams and the first of many Temples that had to be relocated and reconstructed in order to get them above the rising water of Lake Nasser.
In case there was any doubt we have definitely arrived in Africa..
A lot of Nubians selling the same tat and not best pleased that almost their entire homeland is now under water !!
First stop was the High Dam, which is just that, and supplies electricity and controls irrigation to the Nile Valley and most of Egypt.
Then a short boat ride to the Island Temple of Philae – one of the first to be moved for the lake-bed and relocated to keep its feet dry.
Then an afternoon visiting Kitchener Island (Botanical Gardens & Stuff) followed by a couple of mind-blowing hours cruising around the First Cataracts observing the amazing selection of bird-life that live along the banks. Never saw myself as a bird watcher but this was pretty special !!
Then a view of some riverside tombs (the first of many !!) and a visit to the Nubian Museum with some amazing sculptures and artifacts rescued from the towns and temples now inundated by Lake Nasser.
Coming up next a quick whinge and any amazing day trip to Abu Simbel…..