|Subject: Egypt trip, part 4 of 6|
I've been lazy about finishing typing my Egyptian journal but have now finished. At the end of the 3rd episode we had just arrived in Luxor, got on the Nile Jewel which will be our home for 3 nights & are ready to meet our guide to tour Karnak & Luxor temples.
We toured Karnak with Ayman & a British couple living in Dubai, Jane teaches Arab women & James is writing curriculum. There were really mobs of people which is the 1st time in a week that we#d seen so many tourists. The temple is very interesting & so old. There are so many wall reliefs & statues & obelisks & pylons which commemorate achievements of the New Kingdom Pharoahs & honor the gods & themselves. Visitors enter through an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes which was the sacred animal of the god, Amun. Through the 2nd pylon, you enter the Great Hypostyle Hall containing 134 columns, each 23 meters tall, covering an area of 5,000 square meters. There is a sacred lake where priests performed purifying ceremonies. We spent a little time at the Luxor temple which is much small but equally as crowded. We opted not to see the Sound & Light show at Karnak although it is said to be the best one in Egypt. Valley of the Kings is tomorrow & we must be up by 5:15am & on our way by 6:30am. It will be a busy morning. Dinner tonight & an early bedtime.
Tuesday, January 27#Afternoon, it is so calm & quiet as sit on the deck of the Nile cruise boat & steam along. The boat is cruising to Edfu & we will go through the locks 1st. We were up at 5:15am to have breakfast & meet Ayman for our trip to the Valley of the Kings & Hatshepsut#s temple & the Colossi of Memnon. In the Valley of the Kings, we took a small train to the gate & then walked to the tombs of Ramses IX, III, & VI, 20th dynasty, New Kingdom. The murals here are protected behind glass. There are many colorful wall drawings & many people! The guides talk to their charges outside the tombs, tell them what to look for, & then the tourists go in alone. Because it#s so crowded & the guides would slowdown the sightseeing, they are banned from going inside many of the temples & monuments. In the Theban hills, the most well-known cemetery of great pharaohs of the New Kingdom, the pharaohs wanted security for their graves & possessions that they needed for their next life. The tradition of the pharaohs was that for the soul to be content in the afterlife, the body needed to be preserved (mummification) & in peace so that the soul could return to it. This small valley was to be their secure solution but almost all the tombs were robbed in the 1st generation after burial. The tomb of Ramses IX, 3rd chamber, the burial chamber, has Nut on the ceiling & wonderful funerary murals on the walls. Nut is shown swallowing the sun at dusk & giving rebirth in the morning to show the cycles of both earth & of life. Ramses III#s tomb shows scenes of fishing, farming, & boats. There is a well-known depiction of 2 harpists playing for the gods. Ramses VI#s tomb shielded Tut#s tomb. It was originally constructed by Ramses V & was taken over by Ramses VI. The murals give an explanation of how to proceed through the underworld.
Hatshepsut#s temple, a short ride from the Valley of the Kings, has beauty & grace & a unique design. Rather than the pylons & hypostyle halls, it has multi-leveled terraces linked by ramps. Hatshepsut was the only Egyptian female pharaoh. To help make herself legitimate she portrayed herself as a man complete with beard. She also concocted a story about her divine birth to show a direct genetic link to the god, Amun, as his #son.#
The Colossi of Memnon proved to be 2 huge statues sitting in a field & was worthy of a short picture stop. There was originally a temple but the stones were taken many years ago to make a sugar cane factory.
We stopped at a small alabaster factory where all alabaster is worked by hand. The same family has worked the alabaster for 1,000 years. The owner showed us the cave where his grandfather lived. I bought a vase & a small bowl. They are so beautiful & so thin that the light shows through. The owner#s son is a tour guide, too, & a friend of Ayman#s.
We will have lunch & spend the afternoon on the boat. Tonight we#ll dock at Edfu. Ayman is with us for our entire cruise as our private guide. I guess we will go through the locks this evening as we are tied up now waiting our turn. It is lovely to have an afternoon to reflect on our trip & to enjoy the beauty of Egypt & the life-giving Nile River. It is a welcome respite from the fast-paced touring. Life flows on around us, women washing clothes in the Nile & fishermen going about their livelihood, farmers tilling the fields. Much of this rural society looks like it hasn#t changed for thousands of years.
Wednesday, January 28#The temple of Horus at Edfu honors Horus, the hawk-headed god & was built during the Ptolemeic or Greek era, 237-35BC. It is exceptionally well-preserved because it is situated above the annual flood line of the Nile. We went from the boat to the temple by hantour or horse buggy. Going through the streets was a real Egyptian village mob scene with lots of tourists, townfolks, horse & buggies, motorized vehicles such as trucks & motorcoaches on the narrow streets lined with open souvenir stands. Noise & confusion! Three vehicles, 2 open trucks & a canopied small pickup was going round & round the streets. Ayman said the young men were celebrating with flags, horns, & yelling the fact that one of the young men was going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The others were giving him a send-off. Security was everywhere & appeared very alert. There were many, manned pillboxes & guard towers on the street & above the temple on the hills.
Cruising the Nile is a really relaxing way to travel. The day is beautiful, getting cloudy, but lots of blue sky & no pollution, temperature about 60-65. Ayman is waiting to hear our schedule tomorrow, Thursday, in Aswan.
The Kom Ombo temple is located on a bend in the Nile river North of Aswan. It was built by the Greek Ptolemies in dedication to the crocodile deity, Sobek, & to Horus the elder, the hawk-headed god. We docked about 5pm & walked to the temple overlooking the river. It was dark before we finished touring the temple. Lots of people but a good outing anyway. An impressive temple, even though the Greeks #didn#t get it!# The Egyptians would never built a temple dedicated to two, really disparate gods, normally, only one at a time!
After our Kom Ombo tour & dinner, Ayman went over our Thursday schedule with us. Dinner was all Egyptian food & quite delicious. Ayman said that we were only to tip 30 LE each, about $5.00 for the entire 3 night cruise. The Egyptian government has decided that#s a fair amount. Sounds very small to me. On to our morning schedule: We will go to Abu Simbel at 5am! So we must leave the boat at 4:30! Aren#t we on vacation? Why do we always have to tour at dawn? He will pick us up from the airport after our Abu Simbel tour but is not scheduled to go with us. He will then give us a tour of Aswan , Philae, the High Dam, & more. He#ll put us on the train at 9 or 10pm & we#ll arrive in Cairo in the morning after sleeping, I hope. At the boat#s shop with Ayman#s help, I purchased 8 handpainted, papyrus prints for $15 each#.so beautiful & colors are so vivid. I picked out some of the most famous scenes I#ve seen here in Egypt & in books in the past. I also purchased a gold Nefertiti charm with lapis on one side & turquoise on the other & lotus charm, both will make wonderful earrings & be fine memories of the trip. I also purchased a gold cartouche which will be engraved with my name in hieroglyphics & be ready for me at 4:30 in the morning. (It was & is truly breath-taking!) Perhaps I could have gotten these items cheaper if I#d bargained in the souks but I know these are authenic & I#m getting tired. It has been an amazing journey, awe-inspiring sights & friendly people. So few Americans but many Europeans#French, German, Spanish, Russian. I#m packed, catching up on my journaling, & ready to sleep fast!
Tuesday, February 2#Salema, Portugal# overlooking the beautiful, peaceful Algarve beach. How neglectful I#ve been on my journal writing & so much has happened. We just finished breakfast in our little Casa Herminia. We had scrambled eggs with weiss wurst (mild, German white sausage) & cheese, toast an orange, wonderful brewed coffee! We#ve both had lovely, hot showers & are ready for adventures here in Portugal.
Back to Thursday, January 29#Our last day in Egypt was a very long day! We were up at 3:30am,(oops, an hour earlier than promised!) transferred to the Aswan airport by 4:30am with breakfast box in hand. The ½ hour flight to Abu Simbel left at 5am. Most people were in a tour group with just Margo & I on our own. Because we took a flight to Abu Simbell, instead of land transportation, Ayman, our private guide didn#t go with us. He explained the process & we were fine. We were given the 36LE per person for admission & told to find an English-speaking guide. Actually she found us & asked us to join her group. At the Abu Simbel airport, which is very small, we took a motor coach to the site, & saw the sun come up over Lake Nasser#breath-taking! Abu Simbel sits at the edge of the lake. My tour book suggests that the temple ranks along with the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids of Giza, & Ankor Wat as one of the world#s spectacular monuments. It is, indeed, impressive! UNESCO rescued & relocated the monuments in the 1960#s from the rising waters of Lake Nasser behind the Aswan dam. This monumental undertaking resulted in spectacular results of the complex, containing 2 temples built by Ramses II, the most famous builder in Egypt. The 1st temple is dedicated to gods, Ru Harakhte (a form of Horus) & to Amun Ra, but mostly shows the god-likeness of Ramses II, himself. Also the 2nd temple is built in honor of Hathor, but really is meant to glorify Ramses II#s chief queen, Nefertari. The temples were build between 1290 & 1224 BC. There are 4 colossi, statues of Ramses II at the front of his temple, unblinkingly gazing over Lake Nasser. Each statue towers more than 20 meters, wears the crowns of both Upper & Lower Egypt & each has the king cartouche. Smaller statues of his wife, Nefertari, & also his mother are by the feet of the larger Ramses statues. Inside the hypostyle hall is the account of Ramses defeating the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh, even through treachery, winning in the end & becoming deified. The very well preserved murals show soldiers eating, getting treated by doctors, Ramses meeting with officers & torturing prisoners for information. Awe-inspiring!
The temple of Nefertari, was built by Ramses in honor of his favorite wife. The temple murals show Nefertari being crowned by Hathor & Isis. That scene is very popular & is one of the scenes painted on papyrus which I purchased on the boat. We had a wonderful 2 hours wandering around the site, then enjoying tea which we purchased to have with our box breakfast.
We really enjoyed our visit to Abu Simbel & glad we included it in our Egyptian tour. Next comes our day of problems & bad faith on Milano Travel's part.
Carol Bailey Sunny here in N. Idaho