Cairo – last day

Morning view of the pyramids. My last view of them.

Our last tour. The Museum of Egyptian Civilization was so worth it, and most know I don’t usually do museums.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is a large museum in the ancient city of Fustat, now part of Cairo, Egypt. The museum partially opened in February 2017 and displays a collection of 50,000 artefacts, presenting Egyptian civilization from prehistoric times to the present day.

 What makes it different is the mummies. Since the mummies were previously in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir square, people wonder what’s new about having them here.

As recently as 2020, a ceremonious procession moved 22 mummies from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square to their new permanent home. This grouping included 18 kings and four queens, and was known as The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.

This large collection of royal mummies includes the likes of King Ramses II, the most famous pharaoh of the New Kingdom, and Queen Hatshepsut, who came to rule at a time when women did not become pharaohs.

Here, they are displayed in a way that’s completely different from the way they were displayed before. When entering the Royal Mummies’ Hall, the whole mood, the lighting, and even the decorations give off the feeling that you’re entering a tomb. For starters, the dimly lit hall is located below ground, and visitors are instructed not to take photos or cause too much noise to respect the sanctity of the display. The entire ambience in the hall is very somber, and observing the mummies up-close helps put the entire Pharaonic civilization in perspective: these were normal human beings who built an entire legacy based on their ability to innovate.
The Roman Capula Leg was believed to be the first prosthetic limb made in history, however, the artificial toes created in the Pharaonic era precede it by hundreds of years – and one of them is on display at the NMEC. 

vats used for dyeing fabrics
The Baldachin of Princess “Isetemkheb II” – notice the hand stitching

The ancient Egyptians used to make tents made of mats, leather and thick linen cloth as a temporary means of residence since the Pre-dynastic Period. This unique tent was found in 1881 buried in one of Deir el-Bahari (Valley of the Kings) cache corridors and was still preserving its bright colors as it was made entirely of applique colored leather, and decorated with carefully cut-out leather ornaments and texts fixed on a different color piece of leather. This is supposed to be the only remaining tent from ancient Egypt until now. It was made between 1046 – 1037 BC for the funerary purification of “Isetemkheb II” who was the daughter of the army general and High priest of Amun “Masaherta” and the chantress of Amun “Tayuheret”, and the granddaughter of king “Pinudjem I” of the 21st dynasty.

Dush Treasure

This treasure was found in 1989 inside a pottery vessel that was hidden in the walls of a Roman fort that includes a temple of the gods Serapis, Isis, and Harpocrates in Dush, Kharga Oasis. The treasure includes a golden wreath with the image of the god Serapis at its center, two bracelets, and two gold necklaces made of 187 golden plaques. (Roman period, AD 2nd century)

Near the entrance to the mummies

Then it was to the Coptic corner to a church – St Sergius. We walked down old streets that were very narrow as they didn’t have camels back then. As we descended we got close to where the street level would have been during the time Mary and Joseph would have traveled. But with the blowing sand, the silt from the flooding Nile it has raised the ground level by many feet. I vaguely heard a number but until I can verify let’s not use one.

Coptic Cross
looking inside St Sergius church (service was going on so we stayed outside)
The hanging Church

The Hanging Church is also referred to as the Suspended Church. It is called the Hanging Church because it was built on the southern gate of the Roman Fortress. Logs of palm trees and layers of stones were constructed above the ruins of the Roman fortress to be used as a fundament. The Hanging Church is a unique church and has a wooden roof in the shape of Noah’s ark. From the 7th century to the 13th century, the Hanging Church served as the residence of the Coptic Patriarch.

We then went to have lunch on one of the river boats – no sailing, just lunch

and then back to hotel for people to pack. We have our farewell dinner at 7 in the Lebanese restaurant in the building. ( I wasn’t thrilled with the welcome dinner there, but that’s just me) others liked the dips etc.

Last evening. I have to leave at 12:20 am to go to the airport for a 4:40 flight to Frankfurt and then flight home. So no sleeping until Florida.

Our guides in Egypt. Ours was Sherif on the right.

I am back home (well weeks ago). Sorry that I couldn’t post while on the trip itself, but I have caught up only 17 days after my return. There is one thing that covid did – it reduced the crowds. We were places where I should not have been able to get a clear image without throngs of people, but due to many countries just opening back up and fewer people traveling, we were able to see and spend more time in the various temples. Of course, that meant restrictions on how many people could eat together on the ship and mask requirements in a number of places. We got in and out of Israel in between the conflict issues without incident. And finally, we managed to get through Egypt’s southernmost temples in temperatures that were hot, but survivable. I definitely would not go to Egypt later than mid-April.

Hope you enjoyed the trip.


Yesterday was a travel day. We left our ship in Aswan and flew back to Cairo on a private charter plane. On our way to the airport, we drove to the Aswan High Dam. There was too much dust flying around that day, so I didn’t get off the bus. Upon arriving back in Cairo, we checked back into the Intercontinental Hotel that we stayed in for the first part of the tour.

Here is the view of the pool from my room.
Sunset on the Nile.

The next morning we went to see the last Wonder of the World – the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest Egyptian pyramid and tomb of Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu. Built in the 26th century BC during a period of around 27 years, it is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

Initially standing at 481 feet, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Over time, most of the smooth white limestone casing was removed, which lowered the pyramid’s height to the present 454.4 ft. What is seen today is the underlying core structure. The base was measured to be about 755.6 ft square, giving a volume of roughly 92 million cubic feet, which includes an internal hillock.

The dimensions of the pyramid were 481.4 ft high, a base length of 756.4 ft, with a  slope of 51°50’40”.

The Great Pyramid was built by quarrying an estimated 2.3 million large blocks weighing 6 million tons in total. The majority of stones are not uniform in size or shape and are only roughly dressed.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest was cut into the bedrock, upon which the pyramid was built, but remained unfinished. The so-called Queen’s Chamber and King’s Chamber, that contains a granite sarcophagus, are higher up, within the pyramid structure. 

The funerary complex around the pyramid consisted of two mortuary temples connected by a causeway (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), tombs for the immediate family and court of Khufu, including three smaller pyramids for Khufu’s wives, an even smaller “satellite pyramid” and five buried solar barges.

The middle pyramid was built for Khafre, the fourth of the eight kings of the 4th dynasty; the structure measures 707.75 feet on each side and was originally 471 feet high. The southernmost and last pyramid to be built was that of Menkaure, the fifth king of the 4th dynasty; each side measures 356.5 feet , and the structure’s completed height was 218 feet. The pyramids have been almost entirely stripped of their outer casings of smooth white limestone; that of Khafre pyramid still retains the outer limestone casing only at its topmost portion. 

Bear in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu
a horse cart determined it is done
this was taken with the cell phone to get all the pyramid in the image even with a 24mm lens.
Karen, Adrianne, Grace and myself
these blocks are not small – taller than I am
standing at base looking up
standing at the corner and looking up

You could go into the great pyramid through about a 400 ft tunnel used by the grave robbers. They don’t recommend if you have knee, back, or are claustrophobic as it is maybe 3.5 to 4 ft high and you need to squat as you go through it, with small openings to let the other people pass you to go back out. This leads to the “burial chamber”, but nothing was found there.

We drove around to the back side for the Kodak moment and for some of our group to ride a camel. Since they don’t go to the pyramids and you can’t really see them from our vantage point, they had to tip their camel driver to take their photo with the pyramid behind them.

One of the smaller mortuary pyramids
from the back side
Khafre closest and the Great Pyramid Khufu to the left. Because of the hillside elevation it makes it look like Khafre is larger.
you could go for a camel ride – but not near the pyramids
Karen, Gwen, and then Victoria on lead camel
Grace enjoying herself on her camel ride
Oh the classic shot. How could I not take it.

Afterwards we drove to the Sphinx. It was around on the other side behind the building they used for the mummification process.
To the south of the Great Pyramid near Khafre’s valley temple lies the Great Sphinx. Carved out of limestone, the Sphinx has the facial features of a man but the body of a recumbent lion; it is approximately 240 feet long and 66 feet high.

The winged sphinx of Boeotian Thebes, the most famous in legend, was said to have terrorized the people by demanding the answer to a riddle taught her by the Muses—What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?—and devouring a man each time the riddle was answered incorrectly. Eventually Oedipus gave the proper answer: man, who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two feet when grown, and leans on a staff in old age. The sphinx thereupon killed herself. From this tale apparently grew the legend that the sphinx was omniscient, and even today the wisdom of the sphinx is proverbial.

Afterwards we went to the Mena House, a Marriott hotel for lunch. Great view from there. The Mena House was once the hunting palace of King Farouk, is set in 40 acres of jasmine-scented gardens with the pyramids towering above. In December 1977, Egypt and Israel sat down together at Mena House in a quest for a peace settlement (also attending were American and United Nations representatives). The results of this Mena House Conference were to lead to the Camp David Agreement, which restored Egypt’s sovereignty over the Sinai peninsula.

Mena House

On to a papyrus place. Apparently, they had lost the process for making paper. They have since recreated the process. You need to be careful because the Chinese have created fake looking ones from banana or sugarcane. We got our demo on how they make it and then we were able to shop for some with ancient style paintings or more modern. They are done with vegetable dyes mostly but some have some paint. I picked up a small one for my grandson of King Tuts and his wife having a picnic on the Nile with the fish below them. (For when he is older – til then I’m sure my son will take care of it for him).

Showing us how they make paper from papyrus

Then back to the hotel and a last sighting of the pyramid in the distance.

and to the 18th floor for a relaxing drink. This is tea – Shebo is not here so no more smoothies

One more full day.

One more half day of sightseeing, covid testing, papers to fill out, etc. Our flight leaves at 4:20 am Friday.

Abu Simbel

Currently driving across the Sahara desert towards Abu Simbel. Off in the distance are not pyramids but natural erosion leaving behind sediment rock.

It’s a 4 hr drive and to avoid the heat during the worst of the day we left at 6 am.

View crossing the lower Aswan dam looking north
The Sahara Desert. Not what I expected. The sand has blown away leaving the mounds you see.

After a midway stop to stretch our legs, we arrived at Abu Simbel. We are just 12 miles from the Sudan border. It is hot. Did I mention it is hot. I will mention it again just in case.

Because of the heat, I decided to pay to take a golf cart around to the entrances of the two temples.

Abu Simbel is an ancient temple complex, originally cut into a solid rock cliff. The two temples which comprise the site were created during the reign of Ramesses II. It is certain, based upon the extensive artwork throughout the interior of the Great Temple, that the structures were created, at least in part, to celebrate Ramesses’ victory over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE.

It is agreed that it took twenty years to create the complex and that the temples are dedicated to the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, and the deified Ramesses II (The Great Temple) and the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, Ramesses’ favorite wife (The Small Temple). While it is assumed that the name, `Abu Simbel’, was the designation for the complex in antiquity, this is not so. Allegedly, the Swiss explorer Burckhardt was led to the site by a boy named Abu Simbel in 1813 CE and the site was then named after him. Burckhardt, however, was unable to uncover the site, which was buried in sand up to the necks of the grand colossi and later mentioned this experience to his friend and fellow explorer Giovanni Belzoni. It was Belzoni who uncovered and first excavated (or looted) Abu Simbel in 1817 CE and it is considered likely that it was he, not Burckhardt, who was led to the site by the young boy and who named the complex after him. As with other aspects regarding Abu Simbel, the truth of either version of the story is open to interpretation and all that is known is that the original name for the complex, if it had a specific designation, has been lost.

The Great Temple as I approached.
The smaller temple

I started with the smaller temple as there were less people heading into that one.

The Small Temple stands nearby at a height of 40 feet and 92 feet long. This temple is also adorned by colossi across the front façade, three on either side of the doorway, depicting Ramesses and his queen Nefertari (four statues of the king and two of the queen) at a height of 32 feet. The prestige of the queen is apparent in that, usually, a female is represented on a much smaller scale than the Pharaoh while, at Abu Simbel, Nefertari is rendered the same size as Ramesses. The Small Temple is also notable in that it is the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a ruler dedicated a temple to his wife (the first time being the Pharaoh Akhenaton, 1353-1336 BCE, who dedicated a temple to his queen Nefertiti). The walls of this temple are dedicated to images of Ramesses and Nefertari making offerings to the gods and to depictions of the goddess Hathor.

Notice the smaller figurines next to the legs of the colossus statues – representing the princes and princesses
Face of Hathor, the goddess of motherhood, love, fertility and music
Scene of Nefertari making an offering to Hathor
Walking back to the Great Temple
Notice the Baboon carvings above the heads of the statues of Ramses at the Great Temple

The Great Temple stands 98 feet high and 115 feet long with four seated colossi flanking the entrance, two to each side, depicting Ramesses II on his throne; each one 65 feet tall. Beneath these giant figures are smaller statues (still larger than life-sized) depicting Ramesses’ conquered enemies, the Nubians, Libyans, and Hittites. Further statues represent his family members and various protecting gods and symbols of power. Passing between the colossi, through the central entrance, the interior of the temple is decorated with engravings showing Ramesses and Nefertari paying homage to the gods. Ramesses’ great victory at Kadesh (considered by modern scholars to be more of a draw than an Egyptian triumph) is also depicted in detail across the north wall of the Hypostyle Hall. 

Abu Simbel temple, four statues of divinities inside the inner sanctuary,

The location of the site was sacred to Hathor long before the temples were built there and, it is thought, was carefully chosen by Ramesses for this very reason. In both temples, Ramesses is recognized as a god among other gods and his choice of an already sacred locale would have strengthened this impression among the people. The temples are also aligned with the east so that, twice a year, on 21 February and 21 October, the sun shines directly into the sanctuary of The Great Temple to illuminate the statues of Ramesses and Amun. The dates are thought to correspond to Ramesses’ birthday and coronation. The alignment of sacred structures with the rising or setting sun, or with the position of the sun at the solstices, was common throughout the ancient world (best known at New Grange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Scotland but the sanctuary of The Great Temple differs from these other sites in that the statue of the god Ptah, who stands among the others, is carefully positioned so that it is never illuminated at any time. As Ptah was associated with the Egyptian underworld, his image was kept in perpetual darkness.

It also contains a number of paths and rooms. Scripts could be found written on the walls about Ramses’ II military victories, his personal life alongside portrayals of Ancient Egyptian gods.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some $40 million at the time (equal to $300 million in 2017 dollars). Under the supervision of a Polish archaeologist, Kazimierz Michałowski, from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir was the new site, positioning the two temples in the same orientation as the originals. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 213 feet higher and 656 feet back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history. The faces on the outside were cut in one piece to preserve the faces. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser.

Did I tell you it was hot? I can tell you it was hotter than……I can’t imagine this place in summer. I took the golf cart to ride in and back. Glad I did or there would have been an evaporated puddle of me on that walk. We were told on the bus ride back that it had reached 125°F at Abu Simbel.

We stopped for lunch at a resort. Nice views and nice lunch.

Now the 4 hour drive back to the ship.

Wow – its the Philae Temple off in the distance
tons and tons of little boats

And what could be better than a smoothie from Shebo after that very, very hot and exhausting day trip.

and that evening we were entertained with a little show by the crew, which included one of the men doing a belly dance. He was better than the pro they brought in a few nights before. Sorry I only have video of him.

But here is Shebo – my smoothie king.

Aswan – Philae Temple

This morning is Easter and our ship’s crew let us know that they understood we were missing our holiday.

They colored eggs – though not in a manner that would allow them to be eaten.
And had chocolates for us. Hmm its breakfast, I’ll wait.

This morning after our Easter breakfast, we headed out via motorcoach and then boat to the Philae Temple. We are in Aswan. This temple was going to be under water when the Aswan high dam was to be built. They decided this one would also be saved. (As was Abu Simbel). So they built walls around it and pumped the water out, then built another wall outside the first and pumped the water out and filled between the two with sand. They then started to cut this temple apart. The original was on an island and they picked another island and leveled the top for the reconstruction of the temple. What we are seeing is the reconstruct Edfu temple. We could see across to the pilings that were used to build the walls around the previous location. Those were 60 ft high and you see about 6 to 10 ft above the water level.

Philae Temple from the water

Ptolemy II (285-246 BC) started construction of the main Temple of Isis. temple to her consort, Osiris, was built on a neighboring island, Bigeh (only a portal of which remains). Their son Horus, had a temple of his own on Philae. Other structures on the island included a small temple to Imhotep, builder of Zoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, who was later deified as a god of medicine, and temples to two Nubian deities: Mandolis and Arhesnoter.

The Kiosk of Trajan is rectangular in shape and surrounded by fourteen columns with floral capitals. These support blocks that carry the architraves and cornice. The blocks were undoubtedly planned to be carved into sistrum capitals, but they were left unfinished, as were other parts of the structure. The emperor Trajan (AD 98-117) is depicted burning incense in front of Osiris and Isis and offering wine to Isis and Horus. This is possibly the most graceful of the many elegant buildings on the island, and the one for which Philae is most remembered.
Entrance Pylon

The huge Entrance Pylon lies ahead. It is 59 feet high and 147.6 feet wide. Each of the two towers is decorated with mighty figures of Neos Dionysos, Ptolemy XII, depicted as pharaoh and wearing the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. He clasps enemies by the hair and raises his club above their heads to smite them in the presence of Egypt’s best loved deities: Isis and Nephthys, Horus and Hathor. Thus did the Ptolemaic kings give themselves credit for suppressing Egypt’s traditional enemies and honoring local traditions.

Two granite lions guard the entrance; they are of late Roman times and reflect Byzantine influence. On the lintel of the gateway between the two towers of the pylon is a representation of the pharaoh Nektanebos I in a dancing attitude in front of Osiris, Isis, Khnum and Hathor. Much of the dignity and austerity of the divine pharaoh as the powerful and unapproachable ‘Son of the Sun-god’, was lost during the Late Period, when representations tended to show informal attitudes.

Passing through the gateway, we come to the Great Court (g). To the right is a colonnade and priests’ quarters. To the left is the Birth House (which may also be approached from a doorway at the centre of the left-hand tower of the entrance pylon.

Coptic Cross
See the Coptic Cross on the wall.

This hall was converted into a church in the Christian Period

From a Greek inscription in the seclusion of the Osiris shrine above the sanctuary of the temple of Isis, we learn that in AD 453 the goddess Isis was still worshipped by the Blemmys and their priests. This was long after the edict of Theodosius declared that pagan temples should be closed.

They missed defacing the face on one side of a column

Our temple security
There were too many of us, so security called for back-up
Notice the French GPS notation
Graffiti from 1841
the laughing dwarf-deity Bes, playing a tambourine and a harp

The first Aswan Dam was built between 1898-1902. This was when Philae was first threatened. Between 1907-1912 the dam was heightened, and fears for the remains of all Nubia were voiced. The Egyptian Government set aside funds to survey, record and, whenever possible, excavate the endangered areas. At this time Philae was inundated for part of each year, from December to August. When it did emerge from the waters of the Nile, it appeared sorrowfully shorn of its vegetation.

Between 1929-34 the Aswan Dam was raised another 32 feet, to a height of 145 feet. Philae was now inundated for most of the year. Only the high pylon of the temple of Isis, and the kiosk of Trajan, situated at its highest point, could be seen. Small boats could, with difficulty, sail beneath the great architraves. The capitals of the Tolty columns alone hinted at what architectural treasures lay beneath the water. Being constructed of sandstone, submersion caused no lasting damage. In fact, the monuments strengthened from contact with water. And the silt which packed against the reliefs, though stripping them of color, actually protected them.

The decision to build the High Dam in 1960 caused attention to be focused once again on the fate of Philae. For now, with the constant high level of the water, the monuments would be totally inaccessible. Moreover, the swirling currents from the High Dam that was built south of the island and the existing Aswan Dam to the north would cause them irreparable harm, if not bring about their total collapse.

The final decision was to dismantle the monuments and re-erect them on another island: Agilkai, slightly to the north of Philae.

An Italian contracting company was chosen to carry out the work. They started with the construction of a coffer dam in 1977. The water was then pumped out, and when the greyish-green blocks were exposed they were dissected, stone by precious stone (forty-seven thousand in number), cleaned, treated, marked and stored.

During the dismantling operations, many blocks of earlier monuments were found to have been reused, especially in the foundations of the buildings. For example, a kiosk dating from the 26th Dynasty during the reign of the pharaoh Psamtik II (594-588 BC) was found dismantled and reused on the western part of the island. Beneath the flagstones of the hypostyle hall of the temple of Isis, another temple, also dating from the 26th Dynasty, was brought to light. Nektanebos, the first ruler of the last, zoth Dynasty (387-361 BC) had reused granite and sandstone blocks inscribed with the names of Amenhotep II, III and Thutmose III for his own constructions on the island, but these had come from temples elsewhere since Herodotus made no mention of Philae when he visited Aswan in the mid-filth century BC.

While dismantling operations continued, the Egyptian High Dam Company blasted 15,891,600 cubic feet of granite off the top of Agilkai island. They used some of this to enlarge part of the island to resemble the shape of Philae in order to contain the monuments without distortion. The stones from the dismembered temples were then transported to their new home, and, in a record of thirty months, have been re-erected in an even more perfect condition than before, for many of the reused or fallen blocks that were located were used to reconstruct the original temples. It was opened to the public in March, 1980.

We then took a drive to town to the market. I bought some Egyptian saffron. Way cheaper than we can get at home. Then walked back to the ship for lunch and for me time in the pool.

One more look at the food we were served on our ship

Our view across the river – I believe this is the Aga Khan Mausoleum.

Tomorrow is our last full day on the boat. We go to Abu Simbel tomorrow and Tuesday we fly back to Cairo. We still have to see the great pyramids. Trip is winding down as we fly home Friday.

Edfu – Temple of Horus and Temple of Kom Ombo

This morning we made port in Edfu. I saw some men fishing. We took a horse and cart ride to the Edfu Temple. This temple is to Horus, the falcon.

I felt so sorry for these horses. Many seemed undernourished.

When I mentioned how I felt to our guide, I was told, that the horses are feed first because they bring the income, which just made me feel worse as I could not imagine how the rest of the family was fed.

Arriving at the temple complex, there is the gauntlet of stalls with the men trying to sell you everything. But I saw this sign – so which way is exit?

The Temple of Edfu was buried under centuries of sand and silt until the nineteenth century, when French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette rediscovered the site. 

The temple was built on top of much older ruins dating back to Ramses III, and was constructed over the course of 180 years under a variety of rulers during the Ptolemaic period in Egypt. This period represented a time of Greek rule; each pharaoh was a descendent of Ptolemy, a general in the army of Alexander the Great who took control of the region a few centuries prior to the construction of the temple. However, the temple embodies the traditional architecture of ancient Egypt and is largely free of Hellenistic influence. The temple itself is dedicated to the worship of the Egyptian god Horus, who was frequently merged with the Greek god Apollo. In fact, the city of Edfu was renamed Apollonopolis Magna during Greco-Roman rule in Egypt.

Several of the inscriptions found at the temple of Edfu describe what is known as the “Sacred Drama.” The story describes the conflict between Horus, the deity of the fertile Egyptian lands near the Nile, and Seth, the deity of the surrounding Egyptian desert, as Horus seeks revenge for the murder of his father, Osiris. This story was ceremoniously reenacted by the ancient Egyptians each year at the temple complex.

Enter through the imposing, monumental gateway, which stands over 118 feet tall and is flanked on either side by granite statues of Horus in his falcon form. On the gate itself, towering reliefs depict Ptolemy XII Auletes as smiting his enemies while Horus looks on. 

Step through the pylon and into the great courtyard, where 32 columns line three sides of an open space that would once have been used for religious ceremonies. More reliefs decorate the walls of the courtyard, with one of particular interest showing the annual meeting of Horus and his wife, Hathor, who came to visit from her temple at Dendera. On the other side of the courtyard, a second entrance leads into the outer and inner hypostyle halls. Unlike most of Egypt’s older temples, these halls’ ceilings are still intact, adding an incredible sense of atmosphere to the experience of stepping inside. 

Twelve columns support both hypostyle halls. The outer hall includes two chambers to the left and right, one of which served as a library for religious manuscripts and the other of which was the Hall of Consecrations. One of the chambers leading off the inner hypostyle hall would have served as a laboratory for preparing incenses and ritual perfumes. Beyond the hypostyle halls lie the first and second antechambers, where temple priests would have left Horus’s offerings. The holiest place in the temple, the sanctuary, is accessed through these antechambers and still houses the polished granite shrine upon which the gold cult statue of Horus would once have stood. 
The wooden barque (used to carry the statue during festivals) is a replica of the original, now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. 
I had too – the first flip flop
Sherif pointing out some of the important pieces on the walls outside the temple
This was so interesting – look in the middle at the reddish line to the left of one of the grooved cuts. The design was drawn on the wall, with the red line being the first concept, but then a black line would be drawn where the actual cuts would be made. This one showed a mistake by the person drawing the first concept and here it is thousand of years later.
taking advantage of a spot to make a nest
After we finished walking around the Temple of Horus, it was our carriage ride back to the ship. Here is the street in Edfu, part of it was dug up for maintenance and not as yet repaved.
Dessert at lunch – oh yummy

We set sail for Kom Ombo, south of Edfu but north of Aswan.

The temple at Kom Ombo is about 30 miles north of Aswan and was built during the Graeco-Roman period (332 BC AD 395). There was an earlier structure from the 18th dynasty but little remains.

The temple is unique because it is in fact a double temple, dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon-headed god. The layout combines two temples in one with each side having its own gateways and chapels.

Sobek is associated with the wicked god Seth, the enemy of Horus. In the Horus myth the allies of Seth made their escape by changing themselves into crocodiles.

Sobek’s chief sanctuary was at Kom Ombo, where there were once huge numbers of crocodiles. Until recent times the Egyptian Nile was infested with these ferocious animals, who would lay on the riverbank and devour animals and humans alike. So it is not surprising that the local inhabitants went in fear.

They believed that as a totem animal, and object of worship, it would not attack them. Captive crocodiles were kept within the temple and many mummified crocodiles have been found in cemeteries, some of which can be seen in the temple sanctuary today.
While much of Kom Ombo temple has been destroyed over the millennia, it has been reconstructed in part, and it is still home to a number of well-preserved and fascinating reliefs, including some intricately carved columns and friezes divided between the two gods.

We docked right outside the Kom Ombo temple complex.

So you can see where we are – and where we are going. In the evening they light up the temple which is why we went after 5 pm to view it.
Kom Ombo Temple is known as “House of the Crocodile” and the “Castle of the Falcon”.

The temple is divided in half, with left half for Harwer (the falcon) and the right half for Sobek (crocodile). Each has its own entrance, its own half of hypostyle halls, and its own sanctuary. The temple has been damaged by time, earthquakes and Nile floods.

Here is a piece of wood used to join the two huge blocks of stone.
This wall depicts the instruments used for the woman giving birth. Scary.
Notice two right feet, the hips are facing you along with the chest to illustrate how broad the shoulders but the head is turned to the side so you can see the profile. Notice the calf muscles.

Sun has set and the light are coming on.
The calendar is the numerical representation that the Egyptians used to represent their days, months and years. Its discovery was very important to know the Egyptian calendar.
The calendar is divided into three seasons: Flood, sowing, and harvest. Each season has 4 months and each month 3 weeks of 10 days. The 30 weeks for 12 months add up to a total of 360 days. The 5 missing days until arriving at the 365 that the year has are the calls forgotten days that correspond to the 4 main gods, Isis, Osiris, Seth and Nephthys, and to the god Horus.
It should be noted that this scene in the temple of Kom Ombo served to understand what was their number system and hence its importance in the Egyptian world.
There is a Crocodile Museum located near the Kom Ombo temple where twenty two crocodile mummies are on public display. There are also crocodile eggs, wooden sarcophagi and crocodile fetuses to be viewed. These are a few of the 300 mummified crocodiles that are well over 2000 years old.

As we walked back to the ship, I saw the full moon over the Temple.

Kom Ombo Temple
Kom Ombo Temple at night

I included a couple pictures of our Egyptian dinner tonight, which consisted of marinated lamb, rice, and others got okra. They nicely gave me potatoes instead. Following dinner there was a Galabeya party for those who bought them.

Shebo – my smoothie maker showing us how to dance

Luxor – Valley of the Kings

We headed back across the river so we could drive to the Valley of the King’s and explore some tombs.

Collossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, which stand at the front of the ruined Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III, the largest temple in the Theban Necropolis. They have stood since 1350 BCE, and were well known to ancient Greeks and Romans. The statues contain 107 Roman-era inscriptions in Greek and Latin, dated to between 20-250CE; many of these inscriptions on the northern most statue make reference to the Greek mythological king Memnon, whom the statue was then – erroneously – thought to represent.

The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (14th century BCE) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards (actually ESE in modern bearings) towards the river. Two shorter figures are carved into the front throne alongside his legs: these are his wife Tiye and mother Mutemwiya. The side panels depict the Nile god Hapi.

The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) and transported 420 mi overland to Thebes (Luxor). The stones are believed to be too heavy to have been transported upstream on the Nile. The blocks used by later Roman engineers to reconstruct the northern colossus may have come from Edfu. Including the stone platforms on which they stand – themselves about 13 ft – the colossi reach 60 ft in height and weigh an estimated 720 tons each. The two figures are about 50 ft apart.

Both statues are quite damaged, with the features above the waist virtually unrecognizable. The southern statue comprises a single piece of stone, but the northern figure has a large extensive crack in the lower half and above the waist consists of 5 tiers of stone. These upper levels consist of a different type of sandstone, and are the result of a later reconstruction attempt.  It is believed that originally the two statues were identical to each other, although inscriptions and minor art may have varied.

The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple: a massive construct built during the pharaoh’s lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world. In its day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Ancient Egypt. Covering a total of 86 acres, even later rivals such as Ramesses II’s Ramesseum or Ramesses III’s Medinet Habu were unable to match it in area; even the Temple of Karnak, as it stood in Amenhotep’s time, was smaller. With the exception of the Colossi, however, very little remains today of Amenhotep’s temple. 

From the visitor center at Valley of the Kings – showing how the tombs were designed
A plastic model showing how the tombs reached down into the earth below
Our first view into the Valley’s tombs. The covered area on the right and ahead on the left – are near an opening to a tomb.
A description of the tomb KV5 – the Sons of Rameses II
Walking back up to the entrance of a tomb
But we started first with the actual tomb of King Tut

King Tut – the boy king

We got to go inside King Tuts tomb. The boy king was returned to his tomb due to mold growing on him from his mummified remains being removed. So he is back in his resting place.

The walls around where his sarcophagus was located.
The detail is amazing
The walks into the tombs is not flat – but very steep slopes with wooden ramps.
Walking back to other tombs

We visited a couple of different Rameses tombs to see how well the colors have survived about 4000 years. It was amazing. Then over to see the queen Hatshepsut’s temple and tomb. This was huge and it wasn’t buried.

The model from the visitor center as to how it used to look

We took a golf cart to get back here. It is quite a walk.

Among the duties of any Egyptian monarch was the construction of monumental building projects to honor the gods and preserve the memory of their reigns for eternity. These building projects were not just some grandiose gesture on the part of the king to appease the ego but were central to the foundation and development of a unified state. Building projects ensured work for the peasant farmers during the period of the Nile’s inundation, encouraged unity through a collective effort, pride in one’s contribution to the project, and provided opportunities for the expression of ma’at (harmony/balance), the central value of the culture, through communal – and national – effort.

Contrary to the view so often held, the great monuments of Egypt were not built by Hebrew slaves nor by slave labor of any kind. Skilled and unskilled Egyptian workers built the palaces, temples, pyramids, monuments, and raised the obelisks as paid workers. 

There are many examples of these great monuments and temples throughout Egypt from the pyramid complex at Giza in the north to the temple at Karnak in the south. Among these, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) at Deir el-Bahri stands out as one of the most impressive.

The building was modeled after the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE), the great Theban prince who founded the 11th Dynasty and initiated the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). Mentuhotep II was considered a ‘second Menes’ by his contemporaries, a reference to the legendary king of the First Dynasty of Egypt, and he continued to be venerated highly throughout the rest of Egypt’s history. The temple of Mentuhotep II was built during his reign across the river from Thebes at Deir el-Bahri, the first structure to be raised there. It was a completely innovative concept in that it would serve as both tomb and temple.

The king would not actually be buried in the complex but in a tomb cut into the rock of the cliffs behind it. The entire structure was designed to blend organically with the surrounding landscape and the towering cliffs and was the most striking tomb complex raised in Upper Egypt and the most elaborate created since the Old Kingdom.

Hatshepsut, an admirer of Mentuhotep II’s temple had her own designed to mirror it but on a much grander scale and, just in case anyone should miss the comparison, ordered it built right next to the older temple. Hatshepsut was always keenly aware of ways in which to elevate her public image and immortalize her name; the mortuary temple achieved both ends. It would be an homage to the ‘second Menes’ but, more importantly, link Hatshepsut to the grandeur of the past while, at the same time, surpassing previous monumental works in every respect. As a woman in a traditionally male position of power, Hatshepsut understood she needed to establish her authority and the legitimacy of her reign in much more obvious ways that her predecessors and the scale and elegance of her temple is evidence of this.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) by his Great Wife Ahmose. Thutmose I also fathered Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) by his secondary wife Mutnofret. In keeping with Egyptian royal tradition, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old. During this same time, Hatshepsut was elevated to the position of God’s Wife of Amun, the highest honor a woman could attain in Egypt after the position of queen and one which would become increasingly political and important.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, Neferu-Ra, while Thutmose II fathered a son with his lesser wife Isis. This son was Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who was named his father’s successor. Thutmose II died while Thutmose III was still a child and so Hatshepsut became regent, controlling the affairs of state until he came of age. In the seventh year of her regency, though, she broke with tradition and had herself crowned pharaoh of Egypt. Her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history. There is evidence that she commissioned military expeditions early on and she certainly kept the army at peak efficiency but, for the most part, her time as pharaoh is characterized by successful trade, a booming economy, and her many public works projects which employed laborers from across the nation.

She commissioned her mortuary temple at some point soon after coming to power in 1479 BCE and had it designed to tell the story of her life and reign and surpass any other in elegance and grandeur. The temple was designed by Hatshepsut’s steward and confidante Senenmut, who was also tutor to Neferu-Ra and, possibly, Hatshepsut’s lover. Senenmut modeled it carefully on that of Mentuhotep II but took every aspect of the earlier building and made it larger, longer, and more elaborate. Mentuhotep II’s temple featured a large stone ramp from the first courtyard to the second level; Hatshepsut’s second level was reached by a much longer and even more elaborate ramp one reached by passing through lush gardens and an elaborate entrance pylon flanked by towering obelisks.

Walking through the first courtyard (ground level), one could go directly through the archways on either side (which led down alleys to small ramps up to the second level) or stroll up the central ramp, whose entrance was flanked by statues of lions. On the second level, there were two reflecting pools and sphinxes lining the pathway to another ramp which brought a visitor up to the third level.

The first, second, and third levels of the temple all featured colonnade and elaborate reliefs, paintings, and statuary. The second courtyard would house the tomb of Senenmut to the right of the ramp leading up to the third level; an appropriately opulent tomb placed beneath the second courtyard with no outward features in order to preserve symmetry. All three levels exemplified the traditional Egyptian value of symmetry and, as there was no structure to the left of the ramp, there could be no apparent tomb on its right.

On the right side of the ramp leading to the third level was the Birth Colonnade, and on the left the Punt Colonnade. The Birth Colonnade told the story of Hatshepsut’s divine creation with Amun as her true father. Hatshepsut had the night of her conception inscribed on the walls relating how the god came to mate with her mother:

He [Amun] in the incarnation of the Majesty of her husband, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt [Thutmose I] found her sleeping in the beauty of her palace. She awoke at the divine fragrance and turned towards his Majesty. He went to her immediately, he was aroused by her, and he imposed his desire upon her. He allowed her to see him in his form of a god and she rejoiced at the sight of his beauty after he had come before her. His love passed into her body. The palace was flooded with divine fragrance. (van de Mieroop, 173)

As the daughter of the most powerful and popular god in Egypt at the time, Hatshepsut was claiming for herself special privilege to rule the country as a man would. She established her special relationship with Amun early on, possibly before taking the throne, in order to neutralize criticism of her reign on account of her gender.

How and when Hatshepsut died was unknown until quite recently. She was not buried in her mortuary temple but in a tomb in the nearby Valley of the Kings (KV60). Egyptologist Zahi Hawass located her mummy in the Cairo museum’s holdings in 2006 CE and proved her identity by matching a loose tooth from a box of hers to the mummy. An examination of that mummy shows that she died in her fifties from an abscess following this tooth’s extraction.

Although later Egyptian rulers did not know her name, her mortuary temple and other monuments preserved her legacy. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri was considered so magnificent that later kings had their own built in the same vicinity and, as noted, were so impressed with this temple and her other works that they claimed them as their own. There is, in fact, no other Egyptian monarch except Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE) who erected as many impressive monuments as Hatshepsut. Although unknown for most of history, in the past 100 years her accomplishments have achieved global recognition. In the present day, she is a commanding presence in Egyptian – and world – history and stands as the very role model for women that Thutmose III may have tried so hard to erase from time and memory.

Myself, Karen and Gwen

Back to our boat the MS Nefertiti for lunch and start our sail down river.

I then hit the pool. There is a shallow area of about 5 inches of water and then a rectangular area that is about 4.5 ftt deep. Temp is hot in sun and in a wet bathing suit in the shade because of the breeze, you feel cold. Very interesting.

Busy day. Up early, lots of walking. So feeling a bit tired. One other point, walking around w the camera, it got extremely hot. Going to have to watch that.

We are sailing down the river. Lots of boats…river cruisers.

Hot Air Ballooning over Valley of the Kings

I am going to split today’s post into two parts, first the early morning hot air ballooning over the Valley of the Kings and a second post of our visit to the Valley of the Kings. There were just tooooooo many images of the hot air balloons with the views of the valley and then the actual King’s tombs to try to cram them into one post.

Today was an early, early day. We were up for coffee and tea at 3:30, left the boat at 4 to take a little boat across to the west side of the Nile for our drive to the hot air balloon launch. This is nothing like the hot air balloons in the US. The baskets are divided into little quadrants and the put 4 people in each, for a total of 28 passengers and a pilot. We launched just before dawn for our flight over the Valley of the King’s. It was tight but we managed to try to let everyone their photos. No cameras allowed, but cell phones ok. So you know I was pissed. And then there was a videographer who kept sticking his camera with lights in my face. Since I couldn’t use my camera, he should be taking mine.
Enjoy the views from colorful balloons over Luxor’s Valley of the Kings.

as we drove up they were getting balloons ready
Light it up
Not sunrise yet but some balloons are up and the sky is starting to light up
Love the “balloon glow”
We are up.

Oh well, up we go. As you can see there were lots of balloons…about 24. We flew over the tombs of many Rameses and the long rectangular building is the tomb of queen Hatshepsut, who was the fifth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. She was the second confirmed female pharaoh. Quite a temple.

Oh dear – first view of Hatshepshut Temple. It almost doesn’t look real.
Another view of the Hatshepshut Temple and surrounding ruins
Not everyone was up just yet – more to come
Sunrise is starting
Got some horse riders as well.
A better look at the complex that is the Hatshepsut Temple
Never looked down on a hot air balloon before
We got some elevation going
It’s officially sunrise over the Nile
These are big baskets below the balloons. I have not seen baskets this large in the US.
The balloons spread out over quite some distances.
Time for our photos
We needed some more height to get back towards the landing zone
We were heading for the river – and needed to get back more to the west.
Heading down – so last view of Temple from up high
Heading down a bit too soon – an alfalfa field below
so up we go
oh dang short again – well here comes the ground crew
We made it back to the landing zone – with the help of the crew dragging us along just above the crops.
time to deflate
Here is the size of the baskets below these balloons.
More down and deflating.

We headed back to our ship for breakfast and to join with the rest of the groups to make a trip over to see the Valley of the Kings.

Qena, Temple of Dendera

This morning after breakfast we took a tour of Dendera Temple in Qena. This is why we sailed north from Luxor last evening. It contains the Temple of Hathor and is one of the best preserved temples. It covers over 9.88 acres and is surrounded by a mud brick wall. It dates back to 54 BC and was completed by the Roman emperor Tiberius, but it rests on the foundations of earlier buildings dating back to Khufu (2613 – 2494 BC).

fishing on the Nile River
“Gate of Domitian and Trajan northern entrance of the Temple of Hathor

Dendera one of the best sights in Luxor, originally called Tentyris, was one of the most important religious centers in ancient Egypt. It is situated on the west bank of the Nile, south of Qena in Egypt. The city was rendered sacred by three sanctuaries: the Sanctuary of Horus, the god of the sky and protector of the pharaohs, the Sanctuary of Ihy, the young sistrum-playing son of Horus, and the Sanctuary of Hathor. Only the latter has survived practically intact, while no more than a few traces remain of the other two.

Since the most ancient times, Dendera must have had a sanctuary, which was destroyed and rebuilt several times; however, the present complex dates from the late Ptolemaic and Roman periods. This explains the prevalence of a magnificently scenic style, less severe than that of the oldest Egyptian temples.

The temples of Dendera does not feature the pylon usually present in sacred Egyptian architecture; the front of the building is formed by a massive structure measuring 139 feet wide by 60 feet high, with six columns on the façade on which an impressive cornice rests. The intercolumniations are occupied as far as the halfway up by panels covered with hieroglyphic texts and bas-reliefs, while the entrance opens in the center, forming a high, empty space wider than the adjacent ones.

Inside, 18 more columns stand in three rows; all the capitals reproduced the features of the patron goddess of the place. As it is higher than the rest of the temple, this hypostyle room, added under Tiberius, to some extent acts as the missing Pylon.
The temple of Dendera, built by Ptolemy IX Soter II, stands in the middle of a huge area bounded by a wall of air-dried bricks, almost entirely ruined, whose sides are between 925 and 990 feet long; on the north and east sides are two magnificent portals built during the period of Roman rule. Apart from the great sanctuary, some outstanding monuments stand in the sacred enclosure. Not far from the rear façade of the great temple are the badly damaged remains of a small sanctuary dedicated to the birth of Isis; the surviving reliefs portray Nut, goddess of the sky, giving birth while sitting on a stool in accordance with the ancient local custom.
Nearby, to the west, is a deep rectangular hollow enclosed by a boundary wall; this is all that remains of the sacred lake typical of all Egyptian sanctuaries, where the priests had to perform their ritual ablutions several times a day. The most interesting remains, including a well, a sanatorium dating from the Roman period, a Coptic church and two mammisi, one Ptolemaic and the other Roman, are scattered along the western wall and in the northwest corner of the Temple of Hathor.
Mammisi, whose name means birth chapel, are small temples typical of the Early Period in which the pharaohs’ children were honored on the pretext of worshipping the birth of the gods. Their children, considered to be on a par with living deities, could only be born within the sacred precincts of the temple. The first building of this king was erected at Dendera by Nectanebo I between 378 and 360 BC, while the adjacent one was built by the order of Augustus.

Temple of Hathor, Dendera
“Gate of Domitian and Trajan” northern entrance of the Temple of Hathor – even the ceiling was decorated/carved
The back side of the entrance arch
the side wall of mud brick
Statue of the ancient Egyptian god Bes.

Bes, a minor god of ancient Egypt, represented as a dwarf with large head, goggle eyes, protruding tongue, bowlegs, bushy tail, and usually a crown of feathers. The name Bes is now used to designate a group of deities of similar appearance with a wide variety of ancient names.

Faces removed to prevent people making them into deities. Temple of Hathor
Facing the Nile, the sanctuary layout is classical Egyptian, containing stunning examples of Ptolemaic Egyptian artwork including depictions of Cleopatra and her son, fathered by Julius Caesar. The temple itself was built to worship the Ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, who personified feminine love, healing, and motherhood. Imposing columns have been carved to bear the face of the goddess, complete with the cow horns she is typically shown to bear. Though the entire temple is magnificent, it is the ceiling that remains the true masterpiece.
There are ruins of both houses, a Coptic church and a small chapel dedicated to Isis.
The Christians hid in this complex from the Roman’s. They are currently trying to remove the soot from the walls, columns and ceilings where the Christians had made fires to cook and the smoke and soot stained everything. Their process is working and up can see some of the original colors.
Nut, in Egyptian religion, a goddess of the sky, vault of the heavens, often depicted as a woman arched over the earth god Geb. Most cultures of regions where there is rain personify the sky as masculine, the rain being the seed which fructifies Mother Earth.
one of the side walls with the southern gate
A fake version of the Dendera zodiac

The sculptured Dendera zodiac is a widely known relief found in a late Greco-Roman temple, containing images of Taurus (the bull) and the Libra (Balance). A sketch was made of it during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. The Dendera zodiac came to be seen as one of the most important surviving documents of antiquity, and it is not surprising that eventually someone decided to try to cash in on its value. In 1822 an antiquities thief name Claude Lelorrain used explosives to remove the Zodiac from its matrix in Dendera, and he brought it back to France, where it was purchased by the King, for the considerable price of 150,000 francs, and put on public display.  There is controversy as to whether they were granted permission by Egypt’s ruler, Muhammad Ali Pasha, to do so, or whether they stole it. The real one is now in the Louvre.

graffiti from 1820

Coming down from the roof and seeing the zodiac was a very narrow sloped hallway

Reliefs of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion at the Dendera Temple
Ever wondered how they kept these walls together without cement? they would soak wood and put them in these grooves and they would expand when they dried holding the joint.
From the outer rear wall of the Temple of Hathor.
Lion headed gargoyle on the rear wall of the temple of Hathor

After walking around for an hour and a half, we headed back to our ship, so we could sail back to Luxor. This afternoon sail and afternoon tea.

what our room steward created for us

Some scenes as we sailed south back to Luxor

I think the river won on this one
Pied Kingfisher floating on the Nile River
father and child fishing
harvested wheat drying on the shoreline and kids playing
a felucca

Tonight is a show after dinner – a belly dancer and a whirling dervish. While I had heard the term “whirling dervish” I can say I had no idea what it was or why. So I looked it up.

Sufi whirling  (Turkish: Semazen borrowed from Persian Sama-zan, Sama, meaning listening, from Arabic, and zan, meaning doer, from Persian) is a form of physically active meditation which originated among certain Sufi groups, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order and other orders such as the Rifa’i-Marufi. It is a customary meditation practice performed within the sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes aim to reach the source of all perfection, or karma. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, ego or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.

The Mevlevi practice gave rise to an Egyptian form, tanoura, distinguished by the use of a multicolored skirt. This has also developed into a performance dance by non-Sufis, including dancers outside the Islamic world.

First, a beautiful presentation on our dessert
He is spinning the top layer of his skirt above his head. What an outfit! And I am so dizzy. I have this on video, but that doesn’t fit in wordpress.

Time to get some sleep as we need to leave extremely early for the hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings.

Luxor and Al Bairat – Day in the Life

Today, after breakfast on our ship, we left for a short ride across the Nile to Al Bairat to experience a Day in the Life of an Egyptian farm house.

The little boats that criss-cross the Nile
The little boats all lined up on the dock
All decorated
Our boat was the New Titanic. No icebergs here. It’s hot and its only 9:30 AM
Karen, Gwen and Adrianne on our Titantic – also our guide Sherif
We arrived safely – walking the plank.

We walked around the town and our host, who is also the mayor, explained about the houses and how they farm. The area where the wheat that was drying will be under water in 2 weeks. During this time, the Nile rises dramatically. It is the release of water from the Aswan dam. So, the farmers know they need to get their last harvest in before the rising waters. Their homes are set back on higher ground to be safe from the water.

Wheat drying
Our host explaining the impacts of the river
So cute, I couldn’t pass it up (taking a photo) as we are going to have lunch with our host family
Our host explaining the use of the buds
Camels in the village – owned by his cousin
boys being boys – having fun with the tourists
Looking across the wheat to be harvested – in 2 weeks or less this are will be under water
Some of the host’s family – his grandmother (the cook), his brother and his brother’s son
okra in tomato sauce, beef in tomato sauce, potatoes in tomato sauce and rice, along with homemade bread. Other than the beef, everything came from his farm.

He makes furniture and he showed us how without using nails or glue. Some people went with him to plant okra seeds.

Making rope using the coconut “hair”
One of his tables

Then we walked to the back of his house to see the oven where they bake their own bread.

The oven he uses to bake his bread

Afterwards we took a felucca back across the Nile. Unfortunately, there was no wind so they towed us.

Grace and Evelyn on our Felucca – Nefertiti
Our ship the Nefertiti waiting across the river – sitting next to Luxor ruins

Once back on the Luxor side we took our bus to Luxor to tour the site. I was amazed at the size of the statues and I had never heard of the avenue of sphinxes, so that was a sight to see.

The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes, the City of a Hundred Gates. It was the capital of Egypt from the twelfth dynasty on (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom.

It was from here that Thutmose III planned his campaigns, Akhenaten first contemplated the nature of god, and Rameses II set out his ambitious building program. Only Memphis could compare in size and splendor but today there is nothing left of Memphis: It was pillaged for its masonry to build new cities and little remains.

Although the mud-brick houses and palaces of Thebes have disappeared, its stone temples have survived. The most beautiful of these is the temple of Luxor. It is close to the Nile and laid out parallel to the riverbank.

The temple was built by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and then added to by Rameses II (1279-13 BC). Toward the rear is a granite shrine dedicated to Alexander the Great (332-305 BC).

The temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. During the Christian era, the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west. Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was carefully preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today.

Before the building works by Rameses II the northern end of the court was originally the entrance to the temple. It was an enclosed colonnade of seven pairs of 52-foot high open-flower papyrus columns. It was begun by Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamun and still support its huge architrave blocks.

The Court leads into a Hypostyle Hall, which has thirty-two columns. At the rear of the hall are four small rooms and an antechamber leading to the birth room, the chapel of Alexander the Great, and the sanctuary.

Two 80 ft obelisks once stood here. One remains the other stands in Paris. Pylon of Ramses II – Two towers 78 feet high, 213 feet wide and carved in sunken relief
Sun was just in the perfect spot behind the Obelisk
Amenhotep III Colonnade – Seven pairs of 52 foot high open-flower papyrus columns.
Court of Rameses II – 188 feet long, 168 feet wide and surrounded with 74 papyrus columns
Court of Amonhotep III
Avenue of Sphinxes

Avenue of Sphinxes or The King’s Festivities Road, also known as Rams Road is a 1.7 mi long avenue which connects Karnak Temple with Luxor Temple having been uncovered in the ancient city of Thebes (modern Luxor), with sphinxes and ram-headed statues lined up on both flanks.

Construction of the Avenue of Sphinxes began during the New Kingdom era and was completed during the Late period during the reign of 30th Dynasty ruler Nectanebo I (380-362 B.C.), the road was later buried under layers of sand over the centuries.

In Description de L’Egypte (1809) the Avenue of Sphinxes is described as 2,000 meters long, lined with over 600 sphinxes.

George Daressy reported in 1893 that at Luxor the road is buried and couldn’t be excavated because it lied below the groundwater level, whereas at Karnak nearly a kilometer of it is visible.

The first trace of the avenue at Luxor was found in 1949 when Egyptian archaeologist Mohammed Zakaria Ghoneim discovered eight statues near the Luxor Temple with 17 more statues uncovered from 1958 to 1961 and 55 unearthed from 1961 to 1964 all within a perimeter of 250 meters. From 1984 to 2000, the entire route of the walkway was finally determined, leaving it to excavators to uncover the road. The original 1,057 statues are along the way, and they are divided into three shapes:

  • The first shape is a lion’s body with a ram’s head erected on an area of approximately 1,000 feet between the Karnak temple and the Precinct of Mut during the reign of the ruler of the New Kingdom Tutankhamun.
  • The second shape is a full ram statue, built in a remote area during the eighteenth dynasty of Amenhotep III, before being transferred later to the Karnak complex.
  • The third shape which includes the largest part of the statues is a statue of the Sphinx (body of a lion and head of a human), the statues extend over a mile to Luxor Temple.
Imagine almost 2 miles of this road – with sphinxes. It was something to see the sections I did get to witness.

After walking around Luxor, we took the bus back to the ship (even though we are just docked right across the street). Remember I said crossing streets in Egypt is an art-form. So better safe than sorry.

A view of all the columns as we drove back around Luxor

Back on the ship, we set sail – north. Overseas Adventure Travel are the only cruise ship to sail north from Luxor as part of their tour.
I went to the pool for a refreshing dip. I was amazed at how cool the pool was considering the sun had been beating down on it for hours.
Here is a shot of a family fishing along the river as we sailed.

Dinner on the ship – oh my. Food was amazing – salad, soup, entrée and dessert. I’m stuffed.

Final images of the day – sunset on the Nile.

Luxor – Karnak Temples

Today we flew on a private plane from Cairo to Luxor. Once we landed, we took the bus to the ship, where they took our luggage off the bus but we stayed on board as we headed to Karnak Temples.

The Avenue of Sphinx as we drive by
Quick view of Luxor as we drive by – our ship is docked across the street from this
A model of the Karnak Temple complex

Karnak, which has given its name to the northern half of the ruins of Thebes on the east bank of the Nile River, including the ruins of the Great Temple of Amon. Excavations in the 20th century pushed the history of the site back to the Gerzean period (c. 3400–c. 3100 BCE), when a small settlement was founded on the wide eastern bank of the Nile floodplain. Karnak contains the northern group of the Theban city temples, called in ancient times Ipet-Isut, “Chosen of Places.” The ruins cover a considerable area and are still impressive, though nothing remains of the houses, palaces, and gardens that must have surrounded the temple precinct in ancient times. The most northerly temple is the Temple of Mont, the war god, of which little now remains but the foundations. The southern temple, which has a horseshoe-shaped sacred lake, was devoted to the goddess Mut, wife of Amon; this also is much ruined. Both temples were built during the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–53), whose architect was commemorated by statues in the Temple of Mut.

Between these two precincts lay the largest temple complex in Egypt, and one of the largest in the world, the great metropolitan temple of the state god, Amon-Re. The complex was added to and altered at many periods and, in consequence, lacks a systematic plan. It has been called a great historical document in stone: in it are reflected the fluctuating fortunes of the Egyptian empire. There are no fewer than 10 pylons, separated by courts and halls and nowadays numbered for convenience, number one being the latest addition. Pylons one through six form the main east-west axis leading toward the Nile. The seventh and eighth pylons were erected in the 15th century BCE by Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut, respectively, and the ninth and tenth during Horemheb’s reign (1319–1292). These pylons formed a series of processional gateways at right angles to the main axis, linking the temple with that of Mut to the south and, farther, by way of the avenue of sphinxes, with the temple at Luxor 2 miles away.

The most striking feature of the temple at Karnak is the hypostyle hall, which occupies the space between the third and second pylons. The area of this vast hall, one of the wonders of antiquity, is about 54,000 square feet. It was decorated by Seti I (reigned 1290–79) and Ramses II (reigned 1279–13), to whom much of the construction must be due. Twelve enormous columns, nearly 80 feet high, supported the roofing slabs of the central nave above the level of the rest so that light and air could enter through a clerestory. Seven lateral aisles on either side brought the number of pillars to 134.

Ramses III (reigned 1187–56) built a small temple to Amon outside the Ramesside pylon across from a triple shrine erected by Seti II (reigned 1204–1198). The Bubastite Gate at the southeast corner of this court commemorates the victories won by Sheshonk I (reigned 945–924), the biblical Shishak, in Palestine. The Kushite (Nubian) pharaoh Taharqa (reigned 690–664) erected a tall colonnade, of which one pillar still stands. 

notice the column on the right. This is how they would have built it, unfinished and then carved it down like the column on the left.
Huge colonnade
They decorated everything including the ceiling.
This room of columns – all were engraved.
The famous Obelisks
the top of another Obelisk that had fallen – they have restored this part and raised it upright.
statues in various states

After about 2 hours of walking around with barely seeing a small fraction, it was time to head to the ship.

Our ship – first floor front room is mine
On the wall where our ship was docked.
Bear getting settled in
My favorite person on the ship – Shebo made me smoothies after I returned each day – this was a mango, strawberry one to get me started. HMMMMMM.
Some of the ladies on our trip. Elaine, Barbara, Gwen, Grace and myself.

We had our port talk, and our safety talk. A wonderful welcome dinner on board and then to relax and unpack as we are on-board for the next few nights.

This is the view at night across the Nile – to the Valley of the Kings.