A Travellerspoint blog

Egypt

UP, UP AND AWAY ...... A BALLOON RIDE OVER THE NILE

sunny 35 °C

On our last day in Egypt, we rose again at 03:30, and were taken to boats for crossing of the Nile to the Westbank. Even though it was only a short trip, we were kindly offered tea on board.
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With mounting anticipation we arrived at the launch site, to see about 10 enormous balloons laid out on the ground, and starting to inflate. The carnival colours in the pre-dawn dark, the bright flames, and hissing gasses was quite a surreal experience - and we hadn't even boarded our ballon yet. This candy-striped one was ours, and the bright colours glowing in the dark were a thrilling sight!
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The ground crew helped each of us into the basket, which held 16 plus the pilot.
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We were reassured that the pilot was fully qualified and experienced. He gave us brief instruction on how to brace for landing, before we lifted gently into the cool morning air.
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Interestingly, we experienced no fear or discomfort, looking over the edge of the basket, so we could relax and enjoy the scenery stretching out before us. It was silent up there, except when the pilot fired up the burner periodically to gain some height, which made one heck of a racket and was head-scorchingly hot to boot! We could clearly hear donkeys braying and roosters crowing as the sky lightened with dawn. It was entrancing! While we drank it all in, the pilot gave us fascinating insights into Egyptian life, and interesting facts about the temples we were sailing over.
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.


The Valley of the Kings lies behind the temple.

The Valley of the Kings lies behind the temple.


Green, fertile lands on the Westbank, with Luxor on the other side of the river.

Green, fertile lands on the Westbank, with Luxor on the other side of the river.


The ruins of the Temple of Ramses ll, called the Ramesseum.

The ruins of the Temple of Ramses ll, called the Ramesseum.


One can clearly see where the fertile land ends and the desert begins.

One can clearly see where the fertile land ends and the desert begins.


The Temple of Ramses lll.

The Temple of Ramses lll.

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The irrigation canals, which run parallel to the Nile from Aswan to Cairo.

The irrigation canals, which run parallel to the Nile from Aswan to Cairo.

Our pilot then homed in on a village, and we sailed low over it. It made us feel like peeping-toms as we could see how the local people really live, but they cheerily waved to us from their cool and airy beds on the rooftops. Many houses seemed to lack roofs altogether!
IMG_4420.jpgIMG_4429.jpgIMG_4440.jpgOne can clearly see the second floors, in their unfinished states.

One can clearly see the second floors, in their unfinished states.


A flock of goats being herded down the road.

A flock of goats being herded down the road.


By now the sun was rising over the desert.

By now the sun was rising over the desert.


People still in bed, with their animals in the yard.

People still in bed, with their animals in the yard.


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Many slept in the streets!

Many slept in the streets!


IMG_4457.jpgIMG_4458.jpgCrops drying on the roof.

Crops drying on the roof.


IMG_4466.jpgIMG_4472.jpgWe then swept down even lower, brushing the tops of the sugar cane.  This was testament to the pilot's skill, as he also managed to reach the greatest height, and kept us up the longest, with his skilful use of the air currents.

We then swept down even lower, brushing the tops of the sugar cane. This was testament to the pilot's skill, as he also managed to reach the greatest height, and kept us up the longest, with his skilful use of the air currents.

All of a sudden it was over; we received the command to brace, and without any further warning, landed with several hard jolts on a narrow road. The ground crew was there to meet us, and quickly packed up the deflated balloon. Tips all round! We were each presented with a personalised Certificate of Flight!
Heading back to Luxor in time for breakfast.

Heading back to Luxor in time for breakfast.

This ride, and the Nile trip, was our 30th wedding anniversary to ourselves, and we loved every minute of it. The balloon ride was definitely the cherry on the top! The hour spent in the dawn sky was worth every penny of the 75 pounds [sterling] we each paid. In fact it was so awesome, we hardly spoke for a while afterwards, just savouring the incredible experience of floating in the sky like a flamboyant bird of paradise.

All that remained was for us to pack up, dish out the week's tips to the staff on board, and fly back to Manchester. We picked up the van late that night from the long-stay carpark, and set off back "home" to Livingston aka Hotel Bernie and Estrelita. At about 02:30 we stopped for fuel. To our shock, David's debit card was rejected, and so was his credit card! We now had a full tank of diesel, no cash, and an unsympathetic garage attendant! Rather stressful, but the situation was resolved by waking Bernie, who once again came to the rescue, by giving us her debit card details, with which to complete the transaction. Phew!

Posted by davidsandi 10:41 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

A DAY TRIP TO CAIRO

sunny 43 °C

We decided that we could not leave Egypt without seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx, so at the start of the trip we booked a day-excursion to Cairo, not realising how full our regular daily schedule would be. We had to get up at 03:30, were given tea and cake and a rather stodgy and dull packed breakfast of white rolls, cheese, meat, and water, and driven to the airport for our flight. The only others from our group who chose this excursion were a lovely couple, Lynn and Gary, from Wigan near Manchester.
We flew with Egyptair, which has the head of Horus as its insignia.

We flew with Egyptair, which has the head of Horus as its insignia.


A new guide met the four of us, and several others who joined from different ships, and we were driven by coach for 90 minutes through Cairo to the Pyramids - in silence. We could not believe this young guide/Egyptologist missed so many opportunities to tell us about the buildings we passed or about culture and life in Cairo! So different to Sahar, who used every opportunity to enlighten us about her country and culture, in the most enthralling way.
The traffic is hectic, especially as there are no lanes marked on the roads.

The traffic is hectic, especially as there are no lanes marked on the roads.


We passed the Citadel on top of a hill, which was built in 1176 by Saladin.  Next to it is the Alabaster Mosque built 150 years ago.

We passed the Citadel on top of a hill, which was built in 1176 by Saladin. Next to it is the Alabaster Mosque built 150 years ago.


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We passed this ancient quarry, where red sandstone was mined in antiquity, and from where the stone for the Collossi of Memnon came.
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Our first glimpse of the pyramids.

Our first glimpse of the pyramids.


The great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.

The great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.


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The second biggest pyramid, that of Kafhre.  At the top one can see the remains of the polished limestone covering, which originally smoothed the surface of all the pyramids.

The second biggest pyramid, that of Kafhre. At the top one can see the remains of the polished limestone covering, which originally smoothed the surface of all the pyramids.


Close-up of the pyramid building blocks, showing how the sandstone has eroded.

Close-up of the pyramid building blocks, showing how the sandstone has eroded.


A perspective on the middle pyramid, which is the one we could enter.

A perspective on the middle pyramid, which is the one we could enter.


The subterranean entrance to the middle pyramd.

The subterranean entrance to the middle pyramd.


We had to leave our cameras behind, and descend in a stooped position along a passage for 75m to get to the central burial chamber. All there was to see in the sarcophagus chamber was some graffitti by Belzoni, an antiquities dealer 200 years ago.
Sandi took her life in her hands by snapping this picture of one of the Tourist Police. They get very upset if they see you taking pictures of them.

Sandi took her life in her hands by snapping this picture of one of the Tourist Police. They get very upset if they see you taking pictures of them.


The pyramid of Menkaura is the smallest of the three.

The pyramid of Menkaura is the smallest of the three.


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Next to it the pharaoh built 3 tiny pyramids for his wife, mother and daughter.

From the official viewpoint, one can see all three pyramids on the Giza Plateau.
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Sandi and Lynn.

Sandi and Lynn.

Crowned with a pyramid.  We had to capture this for an amusing perspective on having a "pointy-head"!

Crowned with a pyramid. We had to capture this for an amusing perspective on having a "pointy-head"!

Nearby the camels rested, waiting patiently for tourists to ride them.
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We then moved down the hill to the Sphinx, which at first impression, was smaller than we had imagined!
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Close-up, one appreciates how big it is, especially considering that it was carved out of a single block of bedrock!
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The one has a nose, and the other not!

The one has a nose, and the other not!


Most of the body was buried beneath the desert sand, and one can see scaffolding at the rear, indicating on-going restoration work.

Most of the body was buried beneath the desert sand, and one can see scaffolding at the rear, indicating on-going restoration work.


Gary and Lynn.

Gary and Lynn.


It was fun trying to deceive one's perspective!

It was fun trying to deceive one's perspective!

In front of the Sphinx lies the ruins of the Sphinx Temple, which may have never been completed. Next to it is the Valley Temple of Kafhre, built at the same time as the Sphinx, and built of the same easily-eroded sandstone. The walls were originally dressed with red granite from Aswan, and the floors paved with alabaster. The cut-outs in the floor originally held 24 statues, one for each hour of the day.
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By this time, we were ready for lunch, so were driven to a restaurant [TGI Fridays] on a ship moored on the Nile, for an utterly vile meal. Even though hungry, since the breakfast wasn't very palatable, Sandi found it impossible to eat the grilled chicken meal, which was cremated - not grilled - and David managed to choke his down with glugs of over-priced beer! Several folk complained, but the guide couldn't do anything about it, and the restaurant staff wouldn't, and couldn't give a damn into the bargain. What a disappointing experience - certainly not up to Thomson Travel standards - particularly as the excursion was at significant extra cost.

We passed many blocks of apartments in the city, studded with thousands of satellite dishes.
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The afternoon was spent at the Cairo Egyptian Museum, where we joined throngs of tourists, all milling and flapping around the rather shabby and tired displays.
IMG_4366.jpgStatues and ancient artifacts are dotted about the gardens.

Statues and ancient artifacts are dotted about the gardens.


The pond contains both lotus and papyrus plants, representing the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.

The pond contains both lotus and papyrus plants, representing the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.

It was so difficult to hear our guide inside the museum, that we eventually wandered off on our own to explore the treasures of Tutankh-amun. This small, enclosed exhibition was utterly spectacular. The famous burial mask and triple coffins made of solid gold and beautifully adorned, are truly breathtaking! We could only gasp in wonder at the intricate engravings on the coffins and the perfectly preserved jewellery. What a civilization!
One of the three coffins in which his mummy was encased.

One of the three coffins in which his mummy was encased.


The iconic burial mask from the side, showing a false "beard".  Egyptian men were clean-shaven, and beards were sacred to the gods.  Pharaohs were endowed with a beard to signify god-like qualities.

The iconic burial mask from the side, showing a false "beard". Egyptian men were clean-shaven, and beards were sacred to the gods. Pharaohs were endowed with a beard to signify god-like qualities.


Tutankh-amun's scarab pectoral, encrusted with precious stones, and worn on the chest.

Tutankh-amun's scarab pectoral, encrusted with precious stones, and worn on the chest.


One of Tutankh-amun's pendants, displaying goddess Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, and the wings and eye of Horus.

One of Tutankh-amun's pendants, displaying goddess Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, and the wings and eye of Horus.

Unfortunately we couldn't take photos inside the museum, as one of the cabinets in King Tut's room had an ancient condom on display, which would have made a rather unusual photo for the blog.

After a hectic, but very interesting day, we boarded our plane for the flight back to Luxor, arriving back on the ship at 22:00 - to two plates of yet more bread rolls and cheese, as we had missed dinner. A considerate gesture, but too much refined white glue for our constitutions, so we munched some fresh pomegranate seeds instead. On checking the schedule for our special 30th Anniversary excursion next morning, we could only laugh when we saw that we would have to be up again at 03:30! Obviously, sleep is not a priority on this trip!

Posted by davidsandi 10:19 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

LUXOR TEMPLE

sunny 42 °C

The last temple that we visited in Egypt was the one right in the middle of Luxor. It was begun by Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmosis lll in 1400 BC, and also dedicated to the triad of Amun, Mut and their son, Khonsu.
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The large entrance pylon built by Ramses ll.

The large entrance pylon built by Ramses ll.


Two remaining large statues of Ramses ll. Four others were never found. Note the crevices in the pylon wall which would have held cedarwood masts, flying pennants.

Two remaining large statues of Ramses ll. Four others were never found. Note the crevices in the pylon wall which would have held cedarwood masts, flying pennants.


The side of his throne.

The side of his throne.


Just to show how big his toes are!

Just to show how big his toes are!


Ramses ll placed two red granite obelisks at the entrance.  They were given to France in 1830, but as they weighed 250 tons each, only one was transported and now stands on Place de la Concorde, and the other one remains here at Luxor.

Ramses ll placed two red granite obelisks at the entrance. They were given to France in 1830, but as they weighed 250 tons each, only one was transported and now stands on Place de la Concorde, and the other one remains here at Luxor.


Looking through to the Peristyle Court of Ramses.

Looking through to the Peristyle Court of Ramses.


Columns in the Court, topped with papyrus buds.

Columns in the Court, topped with papyrus buds.


This mosque was unwittingly built over the temple before it was excavated, and remains an active place of worship today.

This mosque was unwittingly built over the temple before it was excavated, and remains an active place of worship today.


The Court is surrounded by statues of Ramses lll.

The Court is surrounded by statues of Ramses lll.

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Statues of Amun and Mut.

Statues of Amun and Mut.


Workers restoring the columns in the Colonnade built by Amenhotep lll.

Workers restoring the columns in the Colonnade built by Amenhotep lll.


The Sun Court of Amenhotep lll.

The Sun Court of Amenhotep lll.


Beyond the two courtyards, we found plenty of carved pictures on the walls.
IMG_4215.jpgIMG_4224.jpgTefnout the lioness goddess.

Tefnout the lioness goddess.

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The inner sanctuary towards the back had been modified by the occupying Roman legion so that they could worship their imperial cult. The walls here are painted over with typical Roman scenes.
IMG_4227.jpgMany building blocks had been moved around and reused, and as one can see, not always placed the right way up!

Many building blocks had been moved around and reused, and as one can see, not always placed the right way up!

On returning to the front entrance, we now had a chance to get a closer look at the Avenue of Sphinxes. Note that these have human heads, in contrast to the ones discovered at the Karnak end, which have the heads of rams.
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Posted by davidsandi 00:22 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

THE GRAND TEMPLE COMPLEX AT KARNAK

sunny 42 °C

The Karnak temple complex is the largest religious complex in the world, covering 200 acres and includes a large sacred lake, which was used for ritual navigation of images of the gods during festivals. It is a city of temples built over 2000 years and dedicated to the Theben triad of Amun, his wife Mut and son Khonsu. Building commenced in 1300 BC and was added to by 30 different pharaohs.
A model of the central Temple of Amun, which is the only part open to the public, and showing the sacred lake to the right.  This great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls.

A model of the central Temple of Amun, which is the only part open to the public, and showing the sacred lake to the right. This great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls.

This derelict complex is still capable of overshadowing many of the wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe inspiring.
There is a regular pattern to New Kingdom temples [such as this and the ones at Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae and Luxor]. First a monumental pylon leading to an open court, surrounded by colonnades. Then a roofed hypostyle hall followed by smaller rooms leading to the sanctuary in which the image of the god was housed. They were called festival temples and were arranged to suit the processional ceremonies that were held within their walls.
In their day the temples were brightly coloured and probably looked something like this.
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There is a long avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leading up to the large pylon at the entrance. This originally connected with the processional avenue of human-headed sphinxes leading to Luxor temple 2 miles away. Amun was originally represented as a goose, but as he grew in importance he was represented as a ram.
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Images of chariots seem to abound on the walls of the pylon.
IMG_4156.jpgIMG_4157.jpgA procession bearing gifts.

A procession bearing gifts.


The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life.

In the courtyard, there is a large statue of Pinedjem l, who reigned over Egypt from 1000 BC as the High Priest of Amun.
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Two of the columns in the courtyard are still unfinished.
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A mini sphinx.

A mini sphinx.

The Hypostyle Hall is impressive; with its 134 columns, it is still the largest room of any religious building in the world.
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Close-up of a cartouche on the ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall, which retains its original colouring.

Close-up of a cartouche on the ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall, which retains its original colouring.


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The capstones resting on the columns weigh 70 tons each, and it is thought that the builders used a ramp of mud-bricks to drag the slabs into position.
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Around the main sanctuary, lie hundreds of stones, all waiting to find a place in the puzzle of reconstruction.
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A worker sifting through the sand.

A worker sifting through the sand.


Aother one chiselling away at the wall; hope he knows what he is doing!

Aother one chiselling away at the wall; hope he knows what he is doing!


It gets very hot working on the columns!

It gets very hot working on the columns!

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God Amun with his crown of two feathers; a remnant of his goose connection.

God Amun with his crown of two feathers; a remnant of his goose connection.


Column with Lotus flowers.

Column with Lotus flowers.

Column with Papyrus flowers.

Column with Papyrus flowers.


Sandi with Mandy and Gillian in front of the obelisk.

Sandi with Mandy and Gillian in front of the obelisk.


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A fallen obelisk.

A fallen obelisk.


These carvings were so deep, they were meant to last!

These carvings were so deep, they were meant to last!


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Near the sacred lake, is this statue of a large scarab beetle. The legend says that if you run around it 7 times in each direction, your wishes will be granted. So we held hands and ran around it!
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Near the entrance, but 500m from the bank of the Nile, is this excavated quayside where ships would have docked in ancient times.

Near the entrance, but 500m from the bank of the Nile, is this excavated quayside where ships would have docked in ancient times.

We would love to know what these black fruits and fragrant flowers might be!
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Posted by davidsandi 00:11 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

LUXOR aka THEBES

sunny 40 °C

Luxor is the city into which we flew, where we boarded our ship and from where we departed. Most of the shops and businesses are situated on the East bank of the Nile.
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Today, it appears run-down and dilapidated, but in ancient times it was known as Thebes and was the religious and cultural capital of Egypt for centuries until the Greek period. The main god of the city was Amon, who became linked to the sun god Ra, thus creating the new 'king of gods' Amon-Ra. His great temple, at Karnak just north of Thebes, was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity.

Luxor is becoming known as the world's greatest open-air museum, as new archaeological discoveries are being made daily.
The excavations of the Avenue of Sphinxes are carving through the centre of the town, to reveal the full 3km Avenue, which runs from the Temple of Luxor to the Temples of Karnak.  The avenue was built in 350 BC, but was only discovered recently, and of the original 1300 sphinxes, over 600 have been discovered beneath the desert sand.

The excavations of the Avenue of Sphinxes are carving through the centre of the town, to reveal the full 3km Avenue, which runs from the Temple of Luxor to the Temples of Karnak. The avenue was built in 350 BC, but was only discovered recently, and of the original 1300 sphinxes, over 600 have been discovered beneath the desert sand.


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Sadly, 800 families have been forcibly bought out, and their homes and other important buildings are being demolished in the centre, to expose the full extent of this processional avenue. A cartouche of Cleopatra has been discovered along the avenue, proving that she once visited the place.

The Egyptians are generally poor, but seem contented. The government has guaranteed jobs for all, which means that there are often many people employed to do the same job, but this also means that wages are low. We were astounded to learn that our erudite guide, who has a Masters in Egyptology, earns a paltry LE 60 a day (= ZAR 60, = £5 Sterling). Hence the importance placed on receiving tips as a means to supplement one's income; every bus ride, boat ride, photo opportunity, etc. was not without the expectation of a tip. Tipping is a fundamental way of life in Egypt - it's not offensive [to us], but was a bit expensive [for us as South Africans], since our currency parallels the Egyptian pound. It really saddened us to observe how often many of our fellow cruisers refused to hand over a bit of dosh e.g. to coach drivers - and volubly complained about the tipping culture to anyone within earshot. It seems that the annoyance factor generally exceeded the compassion factor - even though tourists have so much more ready cash than these poor folk will ever have. Sandi kept muttering "mean spirits"!!

Many of the houses are made of mud bricks and the second and third levels seem to remain in an unfinished state. This is apparently a provision for the sons [when they marry] and their families to build and complete each level, in which to live.
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Many of the side streets are narrow and dusty, and side-walks don't exist!
The public buses are more like converted bakkies, and if you cannot afford the bus fare you are allowed to hang on at the back!
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Donkeys are also an important and affordable means of transport.
Sugar cane transporters, mama donkey and her foal.

Sugar cane transporters, mama donkey and her foal.

Sometimes the donkeys are lucky enough to get a ride too!

Sometimes the donkeys are lucky enough to get a ride too!


The caleches are for the tourists, and the drivers constantly good-naturedly hassle one for a ride when one is seen walking. Notice the loads of orbs on this photo. "How dare you walk when you can see I need a fare?"
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There are very few traffic lights in the city, perhaps due to great resistance to their introduction, by the drivers. They showed such great impatience in waiting for them to change, that the lights actually show how many seconds until the change!
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On the river, the main form of local transport is the faluca.
Falucas moored in front of the Winter Palace hotel.

Falucas moored in front of the Winter Palace hotel.

The tourist markets, or souks, have a variety of goods, which can be bought at reasonable prices, as long as one barters earnestly. Bartering is as fundamental to Egyptian tourist life as tipping!
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Sandi herself became a regular item for whom the men were keen to barter. The Egyptian men were full of admiration for my beautiful wife. When the first one asked how much I wanted for her, I replied modestly "a hundred camels." Very quickly the price rose with successive traders to "five thousand camels, three pyramids, and a Mercedes Benz" to a final best price of "a million camels, half of Egypt, and the Luxor Temple". Sandi reckons it is fantastic for a gal's self-esteem! Of course, she is more valuable than the best offer, so I still have her!

On the other hand, the shops for the locals are very different to the tourist ones.
The local butcher.

The local butcher.


A woman making sun-dried bread for sale, down a side-street.

A woman making sun-dried bread for sale, down a side-street.


Breakfast falafel on the streets.

Breakfast falafel on the streets.


Water vessels in front of houses with free cool water for anyone passing by.

Water vessels in front of houses with free cool water for anyone passing by.

We passed this colourful mosque on the outskirts of the city.
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National elections were coming up soon, with many female candidates, demonstrating the government's gender equity drive.

National elections were coming up soon, with many female candidates, demonstrating the government's gender equity drive.


Pedestrians are "shielded" from the dangers of this construction site by gay cloths hanging in front of it.

Pedestrians are "shielded" from the dangers of this construction site by gay cloths hanging in front of it.

The West Bank of Luxor is far less populous, but boasts the Valley of the Kings, the two temples of Ramses ll and lll and the Collossi of Memnon.
Looking across to the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings behind the hills.

Looking across to the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings behind the hills.

Posted by davidsandi 23:53 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

DE-NYES AND DE-NILE

WE ARE SAILING......

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Cruising on the Nile is obviously a very popular pastime, attested to by the large numbers of ships we saw, often berthed three abreast at major stops.
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Our cabin was air-conditioned and comfortable, with a large picture window through which we could watch life along the banks slipping by.
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Typical mud-brick houses

Typical mud-brick houses


Palm trees loaded with dates

Palm trees loaded with dates

Felucas on the river

Felucas on the river

On our first evening we found the beds had been turned down, and a sculpture of towel-art on our bed!
Day 1 towel-art.

Day 1 towel-art.


Thereafter, the cabin stewards created a new one every evening, and hung about in the passage waiting to revel in our exclamations of surprise and delight. We soon discovered that whatever was left on the dressing table became fair game for their creative outlets - as the rest of the towel art will show further down. They could hardly speak a word of English, but appreciated our admiration!
Day 2 towel-art.

Day 2 towel-art.

In the dining room, we enjoyed buffet-style meals; but with only small daily variations it tended to become monotonous (There are only so many different ways one can prepare so-called sea bass!) We were allocated to a table for the whole time, and became friendly with our table companions, Mandy and Gillian.
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The Egyptian waiters could speak a little English, but had a great sense of fun, often pretending to drop one's plate, and would demonstrate tricks with matches after supper.
On the top deck, which was open, there is a bar and a plunge-pool. Many of the English passengers lay about all day, cooking like sausages in the sun, but we found the heat stifling until it eased a little after dark.
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Drinks on board are very expensive, and we had been advised to pay for an all-inclusive drinks package. Sandi ordered a Bloody Mary at the bar one evening, which threw the barman into a quiet flap! After eventually getting Sahar to translate the word "tomato", he disappeared for the third time. We had almost given up waiting, when he appeared, proudly bearing her drink, then stood back for her appreciation. The drink looked rather anaemic, but Sandi took a gulp and spluttered! He had gone down 3 levels to the kitchen, pulverised some fresh tomatoes, added loads of water and a shot of vodka! Try as she might, Sandi couldn't even pretend to like it, as it was beyond vile. Rather strange to put a cocktail on the drinks menu when no-one knew what it was! Maybe it was just another bit of quirky Egyptian humour.

The locals seem to do everything in the river; washing themselves, clothes, and their livestock.
Water buffalo cooling off.

Water buffalo cooling off.


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Donkeys really are beasts of burden in Egypt!

Donkeys really are beasts of burden in Egypt!


The belt of agricultural land on either side of the river is irrigated with water pumps like this.
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Boarding The Crown Prince after visiting Edfu Temple.

Boarding The Crown Prince after visiting Edfu Temple.


As we left Edfu, we noted the buildings were colourful, in contrast to the usual mud-brick houses. This is probably due to Nubian influence in the southern region.
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Sunset over the river was spectacular every day.
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Another evening revealed another towel-art creation!
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David took the opportunity to tour the workings of the ship and kitchens, and was impressed with the triple filtration system in place for treating the water. Here is our skipper on the bridge. We learnt that they get to know the river intimately from a young age, as an apprentice for many years, then pass some exams to become a skipper, with little formal education.
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The Nubian dancers, who entertained us while berthed at Aswan, performed a series of unsophisticated, but colourful dances. They also brought on a witchdoctor and a horse, which went around intimidating the passengers!
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Day 4 towel-art

Day 4 towel-art


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The high-light of the week was the much-publicised Galabeya Evening. A galabeya is the dress-like garment worn by traditional Egyptian men and women. Most of the English passengers on our tour group bought galabeyas and got into the party spirit, but the German tour group declined to take part!
Sandi, Mandy, David, Gillian and Sahar

Sandi, Mandy, David, Gillian and Sahar

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With our table waiter, Mahmoud

With our table waiter, Mahmoud


It was a fun evening, and several of us were chosen to play silly games.
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We won two bottles of beer on a raffle, which was a bit wasted on us as we had unlimited drinks on board!
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Day 5 towel-art

Day 5 towel-art

Interesting brick-work on this building in Aswan.

Interesting brick-work on this building in Aswan.

We noticed that the crew had to flatten most of the sun umbrellas on the sun deck, before passing under this low bridge at night. Again, we see plenty of those mysterious orbs; what could they signify?

We noticed that the crew had to flatten most of the sun umbrellas on the sun deck, before passing under this low bridge at night. Again, we see plenty of those mysterious orbs; what could they signify?

Day 6 towel-art

Day 6 towel-art


And the final piece-de-resistance; Day 7 towel-art

And the final piece-de-resistance; Day 7 towel-art

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Sunset on the second last day.
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Posted by davidsandi 10:25 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

ASWAN AND THE TEMPLE THAT MOVED

sunny 43 °C

During the night we sailed further south, passing through a large lock on the way. On arrival at Aswan in the morning, we disembarked to explore the local market. The city lies just below the large Aswan dam, which was built to regulate the seasonal flow of the Nile.
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A group of us piled into two taxis, which were more like rusty jalopies, to get to the market. Baskets of dates

Baskets of dates


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Sahar arranged a visit to a spice shop, where we were entertained by the owner's colourful explanation of his wares.
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Sandi and I found a papyrus shop selling painted papyri, and asked Sahar for guidance about prices. She wasted no time in berating the trader for selling fake papyri made of banana leaves, which unleased a torrent of curses and insults to her! We felt embarrassed for her, even though we couldn't understand a word, but she was unfazed. We scurried off to explore different shops.
IMG_3939.jpgA charming young boy making sand pictures in bottles.

A charming young boy making sand pictures in bottles.


IMG_3944.jpgNote the basket of tamarind balls in the centre.

Note the basket of tamarind balls in the centre.


A group of uniformed schoolgirls on lunch break.

A group of uniformed schoolgirls on lunch break.


Men at work; playing games and smoking hubbly-bubbly on the sidewalk!

Men at work; playing games and smoking hubbly-bubbly on the sidewalk!


Many of the English tourists are terrified of the constant "hassling" by the traders, and headed back to the safety of the boat rather than explore the market! We found the Egyptian men have a wonderful sense of humour, and love nothing better than to have a really tough bargaining session. Sometimes we really did not want a particular item, but the price would get so low we eventually gave in. Suddenly you became his best friend and he may have added in a little gift! They genuinely are disappointed if you do not haggle, as, at the end of the day, they are keen to sell their goods.
The sign does not always mean what it says!

The sign does not always mean what it says!


This is a caleche, of which there are hundreds in every town. They are often very decorative, and popular with the tourists for a ride around town.
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In the evening we had booked an excursion to the Light and Sound show at Philae temple. We took a boat ride to the temple which is situated on an island in the Nile. As we approached the island, the temple was illuminated and shone like a beacon in the dark. The show consisted of a narration about Isis, to whom the temple is dedicated, and Osiris, while the lights played on the walls and pillars.
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That evening, back on board the ship, we were entertained by some Nubian dancers, dressed in gaily coloured costumes.
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On Sunday morning we visited the Aswan High dam wall, which was built in 1970 to replace the old dam wall built in 1902. The dam enables the Egyptians to control the annual flooding of the Nile, and also generates hydro-electric power. Unfortunately, it also deprives the farmland downstream of millions of tons of valuable, fertile silt deposits. The Lake Nasser it created is 550km long, and extends right into Sudan. We spotted a couple of crocs swimming near the dam wall.
IMG_4006.jpgIMG_4009.jpgThe lotus-shaped visitor centre.

The lotus-shaped visitor centre.

Looking up from inside the lotus.

Looking up from inside the lotus.

Detail on the inside of the petals.

Detail on the inside of the petals.

Our next stop was a genuine papyrus factory shop, where we were shown how papyrus is made.
IMG_4019.jpgIMG_4021.jpgSome examples of beautiful papyrus paintings.

Some examples of beautiful papyrus paintings.

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We drove past the modern Coptic Cathedral in the city, but did not have the opportunity of visiting it.
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We then returned to Philae temple for a guided tour with Sahar. The temple is situated on a small lake between the Old and New dam walls. As it was now daytime we could appreciate the boat ride to the temple island, situated among many other islands.
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The original Philae island was situated high above cataracts on the river, but after the first dam wall was built, it became partially submerged every year between December and March. When the High dam wall was completed, the temple was completely submerged. With international aid, a coffer dam was built around the island, and the water drained out. Over the next 8 years, about 20 000tons of blocks and artifacts were dismantled and reassembled on the nearby island of Agilkia, where the temple now stands in its fully restored glory.
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Sahar pointed out to us how the impressive columns in temples were shaped. They are erected into position as rough-hewn blocks, before being rounded and carved in situ as seen here by comparing an unfinished column with a finished one.
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Note the ornate papyrus flowers on the capital here. The papyrus represented the Kingdom of Lower Egypt.
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Here we saw evidence of the presence of early Coptic Christians, who had carved their crosses on top of the obliterated heathen murals.
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This is an early Christian altar, situated in a corner of the temple.
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The Sun god Ra with a king on the right.

The Sun god Ra with a king on the right.

This tiny carving depicts Hapi the god of the Nile.

This tiny carving depicts Hapi the god of the Nile.


Sahar, with her heat-beating equipment; a fan and a parasol.

Sahar, with her heat-beating equipment; a fan and a parasol.


Carving of the lotus flower,which is the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt.

Carving of the lotus flower,which is the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt.

Isis suckling her son Osiris.

Isis suckling her son Osiris.


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An interesting mud-brick storeroom near the temple.

An interesting mud-brick storeroom near the temple.

Our last excursion for the day took us on a scenic boat ride around the islands on the Nile below both dams.
The famous Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile was set.

The famous Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile was set.


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The Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the sand-dunes of the west bank.

The Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the sand-dunes of the west bank.


Kitchener's Island where he created formal botanical gardens.

Kitchener's Island where he created formal botanical gardens.

Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank.

Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank.


Returning to the city of Aswan on the east bank.

Returning to the city of Aswan on the east bank.

Posted by davidsandi 06:17 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

THE CROCODILE TEMPLE AT KOM OMBO

sunny 40 °C

We sailed further up the Nile towards Aswan in the south. In the late afternoon we arrived at the Temple of Kom Ombo, situated on a dune above the Nile.
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On the quay we had to dodge a gauntlet of market stalls to avoid being hounded by intimidating traders.

On the quay we had to dodge a gauntlet of market stalls to avoid being hounded by intimidating traders.


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The temple was also built by one of the Ptolemies in the 2nd century BC, and is unusual in that it consists of two temples, one of which is dedicated to Sobek the crocodile-headed god.
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In ancient times, many sacred crocodiles basked on the river banks here, and many have been mummified. One does still see crocs around, so swimming is best done in the pool on deck!
The other temple is dedicated to Haroeris (sometimes called Horus the Elder) who was the falcon-headed sky god.
Here Sobek is sitting behind Haroeris.

Here Sobek is sitting behind Haroeris.


Sometimes Horus is represented, as here, as a full falcon.

Sometimes Horus is represented, as here, as a full falcon.


Much of the original structure of the temple had been destroyed by Coptic Christians, and builders needing stone for other projects. The Nile also played a role and here we see an example of a Nilometer, with which the priests could monitor the level of the river.
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Foundations are all that remains of the main pylon; these dovetails were cut into the stones for drawing heavy stones tightly together, using wood and water.
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The capitals of the hypostyle hall are adorned with carvings of papyrus.

The capitals of the hypostyle hall are adorned with carvings of papyrus.


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While we were still exploring the temple the sun was setting over the Nile.
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Scenes depicting purification of the king.

Scenes depicting purification of the king.


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On the back wall of the temple there is a rare engraved image of what is thought to be the first representation of medical instruments for performing surgery, including scalpels, curettes, forceps, dilator, scissors and medicine bottles dating from the days of Roman Egypt. To the left are scenes depicting goddesses giving birth in birthing stools.
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Another view of a Birthing
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In the side chapel there is also a festival calendar, which would have been used by the ancient Egyptians to diarise all the religious events occuring throughout the year.
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A panel of repeated was and ankh symbols.

A panel of repeated was and ankh symbols.


Sahar, our guide, unravelling an ancient mystery.

Sahar, our guide, unravelling an ancient mystery.


In this panel one sees the right Eye of Horus, which is commonly depicted on jewellery, on sarcophagi and in temples. The right eye was said to represent the sun, while the left eye represents the moon.
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An ancient myth describes a battle between Horus and Set in which Horus´ right eye was torn out and Set lost his testicles! Thoth magically restored Horus´ eye, at which point it was given the name "Wadjet" (meaning "whole" or "healthy").

The Eye of Horus was believed to have healing and protective power, and it was used as a protective amulet. It was also used as a notation of measurement, particularly for measuring the ingredients in medicines and pigments. The symbol was divided into six parts, representing the shattering of Horus´ eye into six pieces. Each piece was associated with one of the six senses and a specific fraction.
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It is interesting to note that if the pieces are added together the total is 63/64 not 1. Some suggest that the remaining 1/64 represents the magic used by Thoth to restore the eye, while others consider that the missing piece represented the fact that perfection was not possible. However, it is equally likely that they appreciated the simplicity of the system which allowed them to deal with common fractions quickly.
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The symbol of Rx for a prescription is intriguing; in general, the accepted definition of Rx is an abbreviation of the Latin word recipe, take. However, Charles Rice writing in New Remedies 1877 'an American pharmaceutical journal', suggests Rx is a corruption of the alchemist sign 4 denoting Jupiter, the father of gods and men, whose blessing was to be evoked on the prescription.
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Another researcher describes how the Egyptians weighed prescriptions carefully. She illustrates from hieroglyphs how fractions were expressed by dissecting the eye of the god Horus and suggests Rx designates the word 'prescription'. Perhaps Rx is a continuing cultural symbol from the eye of Horus once torn to fractions and miraculously restored.

In the ancient world Jupiter or Horus would both be powerful deities to enhance the efficacy of prescribing.

By now the sun had long set, although the air was still hot, and the crush caused by masses of other tourists was also dwindling.
There is much controversy surrounding the origin of these orbs seen on photos such as this. Are they representative of spirits or long-gone souls, or merely photographic blemishes?

There is much controversy surrounding the origin of these orbs seen on photos such as this. Are they representative of spirits or long-gone souls, or merely photographic blemishes?


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Posted by davidsandi 03:29 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

TEMPLE OF HORUS AT EDFU

sunny 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.
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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."
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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.
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Sandi befriends a temple kitty.

Sandi befriends a temple kitty.

The pylon stands 37m tall and was one of the last features to be added to the temple.
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Beyond it one finds the Courtyard of Offerings, surrounded by columns, where worshippers brought gifts to honour Horus.
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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.
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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.
A royal cuddle.

A royal cuddle.


The Hypostyle Hall is like the entrance hall to the inner temple.
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and its roof is supported by 12 impressive pillars, capped by ornate capitals.
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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.
Perfume jars

Perfume jars

Gifts to the Pharoah

Gifts to the Pharoah

Libations

Libations

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.
IMG_3807.jpgHorus is usually depicted wearing a double crown to signify the unification of Egypt: the red and the white crowns represent upper and lower Egypt.

Horus is usually depicted wearing a double crown to signify the unification of Egypt: the red and the white crowns represent upper and lower Egypt.

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.
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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.
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Here Osiris carries the flail and the crook, also symbols of power.
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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.
"Cartouche" was so named by French soldiers as it resembled a rifle cartridge, with its oblong shape and straight line at one end.

"Cartouche" was so named by French soldiers as it resembled a rifle cartridge, with its oblong shape and straight line at one end.

Hapi is the god of the Nile, and has male and female aspects, shown as a pregnant belly.
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Horus, ram-headed god Khnoum (creator of humans) and god Amun, whose crown has 2 feathers.

Horus, ram-headed god Khnoum (creator of humans) and god Amun, whose crown has 2 feathers.


IMG_3845.jpgLoved this snake!

Loved this snake!

Carving of boat rope, which shows great attention to detail.

Carving of boat rope, which shows great attention to detail.

Baboons were part of ancient Egyptian mythology.

Baboons were part of ancient Egyptian mythology.

Graffiti will out!

Graffiti will out!

Driving back to the boat we passed through the village of Edfu, and would have loved to explore this market.
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Posted by davidsandi 09:43 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

VALLEY OF THE KINGS

LUXOR

sunny 45 °C

While staying with Bernie and Estralita in Scotland, we decided to find out what excursions were available, highly desirable and within our limited budget. A week later we found ourselves on the way to Egypt for a week-long cruise on the Nile. We decided this would be a wonderful way to celebrate our 30 years of Wedded Bliss! We had to fly from Manchester airport with Thomson Tours, which entailed a rather chilly, pre-dawn 4-hour drive getting there, and parking the van at the airport for the week. We stopped overnight on the way down with Jamie and Simon's godparents, Sue and Kev Bracchi, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We had a wonderful evening catching up with them and their lovely sons, Matthew and Michael. There's not much that beats old friends!

We arrived in Luxor in the afternoon, and were greeted by the intense desert heat - quite a shock to the system after frosty Scottish weather. It remained between 40-45 degrees all week! Luxor is the modern name for the ancient city of Thebes.
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We were greeted by a Thomson rep and escorted by coach through Luxor to our ship, the Crown Prince, which was berthed three abreast on the Nile. It was a relatively new experience being met and escorted everywhere, and we found it quite relaxing not to have to think too much for ourselves!
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The Crown Prince on a rare occasion when she was berthed alone

The Crown Prince on a rare occasion when she was berthed alone

After settling into our simple, but air-conditioned cabin, with a large picture window out onto the Nile, we met for an introductory talk, followed by a buffet dinner.

The next morning we set off early [to beat as much of the heat as possible] to visit the temple of Hatshepsut on the West Bank. These houses are some of many in this area, which are being bought out and demolished to make way for archeological excavations, which are ongoing activities in these parts of Egypt.
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Queen Hatshepsut ruled Egypt 1503-1482 BC, and was one of the earliest and most famous female pharaohs. The temple is built on three terraces, with the upper one being right up against the limestone cliffs. We hopped onto a trolley bus to take us up the long approach.
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Our guide for the week was a fantastic erudite lady, Sahar, who has a Masters in Egyptology, and is in our opinion, a national treasure who should be cloned! She told us fascinating stories about the gods and pharaohs of ancient Egypt, as well as many insights into Egyptian culture and life today. Here she is showing us the remnant of a Myrrh tree, which Hatshepsut imported from the Land of Punt [Somalia], to provide shade on the terraces.
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In order to legitimise her powerful reign, she had herself depicted with the pharaoh's kilt and beard, as seen in these statues.
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After Hatshepsut's death, Tuthmosis III her step-son, became pharaoh. Perhaps fearing a challenge to his legitimacy as a successor, he immediately chiseled all images of Hatshepsut off temples, monuments and obelisks, consigning her remarkable reign to oblivion until its rediscovery by modern archaeologists.

In more recent history, tragedy struck in November 1997 when 58 tourists and four guards were killed by terrorists on the Middle Terrace. All the sites in Egypt are now heavily guarded with fences and security checkpoints, and there are Tourist Police with machine guns around every corner. Since that time there have been no further incidents, so it must be working, even though it is a bit eery.

Everywhere you go in Egypt people want tips for everything, and this man was no exception! He pointed out some murals and posed for pictures, then put his hand out. In spite of having to hand over constant tips, we enjoyed the quirky sense of humour of the Egyptians we met.
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Not sure whether this lovely head is that of Hatshepsut, or of Atum, the chief god

Not sure whether this lovely head is that of Hatshepsut, or of Atum, the chief god


Our first glimpse of hieroglyphics in the Middle Terrace

Our first glimpse of hieroglyphics in the Middle Terrace

The vulture-headed goddess Nekhbet carrying the Shen ring symbol of eternity in her claws. This mural is still displaying the original colours

The vulture-headed goddess Nekhbet carrying the Shen ring symbol of eternity in her claws. This mural is still displaying the original colours


Tuthmosis III offering wine to Sokaris, god of burials

Tuthmosis III offering wine to Sokaris, god of burials


This flying creature we found on many murals in the temples, and have yet to discover its relevance

This flying creature we found on many murals in the temples, and have yet to discover its relevance


IMG_3735.jpgThousands of graves of lesser mortals are scattered in the surrounding hills

Thousands of graves of lesser mortals are scattered in the surrounding hills

We then stopped at one of many alabaster factories to be found in the area.
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After welcoming us to his establishment, the owner with his 4 workers, put on a very comedic demonstration of how the vases are carved out of solid alabaster rock. His assistants sung in unison like well-rehearsed parrots, which we found hilarious! Such consummate showmen.
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The finished products are so thin they are translucent and highly prized. When Sahar told him about our anniversary, he presented us with a small scarab beetle each, which is really a good marketing tool to ensure that we buy [which we did!]. We just hope our delicate little green alabaster vase makes it home intact.

The next stop was at the famous Valley of the Kings. This valley is the one behind Hatshepsut's temple, and in fact her tomb was burrowed out beneath the mountain, and is aligned directly below her temple. The entrance to her tomb is in the Valley of the Kings, which means a feat of incredibly precise engineering. Tutankh-amen's tomb is the most famous tomb discovered in the valley, but the treasures it contained, we were to see later in the Egyptian Museum.
The entrance to the Valley, with the Valley stretching into the hills behind it.

The entrance to the Valley, with the Valley stretching into the hills behind it.

Unfortunately we had to leave our cameras on the bus, as photos were not allowed, so the following pictures are from postcards. We could choose three tombs to visit and explore. The first was that of Tausert and Setnakht. This large tomb was built by Queen Tausert in 1187BC for her own royal burial. For yet undiscovered reasons, Ramses lll decided to usurp the tomb and had his father Setnakht buried there. This is the decorated passage leading down to the first chamber.
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To get into the tomb of Tuthmosis lll, we had to climb up a steep scaffold stairway to the entrance, where a "guide" offered us a well-used piece of cardboard to use as a fan because he said it was hot inside. We declined the "fan" as it would have meant another tip, but found that it was indeed suffocatingly hot inside. We had to climb down a steep narrow tunnel and through several chambers before finding the main sarcophagus. The walls were covered in painted carvings with the stone sarcophagus in the middle. By the time we made our way out again, we found the outside air, even at 45 degrees, refreshing! How the workers digging and sifting on the site cope with the intense heat each day is a testimony to their endurance because the heat is truly incapacitating - so much so that one chap in our group fainted!
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The last tomb we chose was that of Ramses lX. He had also built the one next door with 150 burial chambers, for his many sons! On the roof of his burial chamber we found a beautiful painting of the goddess Nut, who is ruler of the sky, and who is displayed with her body in heaven and her feet and hands on earth.
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The colours are all original and their vibrancy is due to their protection from the elements.

The colours are all original and their vibrancy is due to their protection from the elements.

On the way back to the ship for lunch, we stopped briefly at the Collossi of Memnon, which are 20m tall and weigh 1000 tons each. Amenhotep lll built a mortuary temple in Thebes that was guarded by these two gigantic statues on the outer gates. Due to an earthquake in 27 BC, these statues became known for a bell-like tone that usually occurred in the morning due to rising temperatures and humidity, and visitors came from miles around to hear the music. Thus they were equated by the early Greek travelers with the figure of Memnon, the son of Aurora, whose mother Eos, was the goddess of dawn. The Roman emperor Septimius Severus, seeking to repair the statues in 199 AD, inadvertently silenced them forever.

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Later in the same week we heard that an important statue had just been unearthed in this vicinity. It is so exciting that archeological discoveries are still being made!

Posted by davidsandi 05:31 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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