01.10.2010 - 01.10.2010 45 °C
Having set sail from Luxor, we headed south to the village of Edfu, which is about half-way between Luxor and Aswan. Here we visited the Temple of Horus, which is the best preserved and the second largest in Egypt. It was built later than most other temples by a series of Greek rulers, who imitated the pharaonic culture and architecture. Ptolemy lll began the construction in 237 BC and it was only completed by Ptolemy Xlll in 57 BC.
The falcon-headed Horus was originally the sky god, whose eyes were the sun and moon. He was later assimilated into the popular myth of Isis and Osiris as the divine couple's child. Raised by Isis and Hathor after Osiris' murder by his brother Seth, Horus avenged his father's death in a great battle at Edfu. Seth was exiled and Horus took the throne, Osiris reigning through him from the underworld. Thus all pharoahs claimed to be the incarnation of Horus, the "living king."
The Temple of Edfu was abandoned after the Roman Empire became Christian and paganism was outlawed in 391 AD. It lay buried up to its lintels in sand, with homes built over the top, until it was excavated in the 1860s. The sand protected the monument over the years, leaving it very well preserved today. Mud bricks are used for construction throughout Egypt, and were used in the construction of temples then, as we would use scaffolding today, to build the higher parts. When the construction was complete, the mud bricks were removed.
The pylon stands 37m tall and was one of the last features to be added to the temple.
Beyond it one finds the Courtyard of Offerings, surrounded by columns, where worshippers brought gifts to honour Horus.
The inner sanctuary, which was the first part to be built, contains a black granite shrine, which originally housed a gilded statue of Horus. In front of it is a replica of the barque upon which the image of Horus was carried during festivals.
The Festival of the Beautiful Meeting was celebrated every summer, when the image of goddess Hathor was brought up the river from Dendera to spend some intimate time with her husband Horus in the sanctuary.
The Hypostyle Hall is like the entrance hall to the inner temple.
and its roof is supported by 12 impressive pillars, capped by ornate capitals.
Through the doorway one finds the Festival Hall and a warren of small rooms with highly decorated walls. Each room had a purpose e.g. linen room, storage of offerings, or laboratory where ointments and perfumes were prepared. The recipes and instructions to the priests are depicted on the walls.
In the outer corridor there are scenes depicting Horus slaying a hippo, which represents Seth. Many of the images have been defaced by the Coptic Christians when pagan worship was banned.
Other important symbols which are found in every temple are scarab beetles. These are dung beetles and were associated with the sun god Ra. The emergence of the baby dung beetles from the ball of dung seemingly represented creation, regeneration and resurrection, thus the scarabs became responsible for resurrecting the sun every morning! They came to represent the after-life, and thus became popular good-luck talismans.
The ankh and the was are symbols carried by gods and pharaohs, and are ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian culture. The ankh is the hieroglyphic symbol for eternal life, health and creation. It also represents the Nile and the unification of Egypt. The was is a staff with the head and tail of the animal god Set and signifies power.
Here Osiris carries the flail and the crook, also symbols of power.
The cartouche is an identity label, affixed to every image of a pharaoh, to ensure that the gods will recognise him or her. Most modern Egyptians wear a cartouche in gold or silver on their body for the same reason.
Hapi is the god of the Nile, and has male and female aspects, shown as a pregnant belly.
Driving back to the boat we passed through the village of Edfu, and would have loved to explore this market.