>Pharaonic Journeys Day 6 (phew!)

>Ok, now we’re actually coming to the tail end of this little sojourn of mine and this time I just had so many pictures that I’m gonna have more pics then text! (Comparatively…)
So we spent the day following the last outing floating down the Nile and enjoying the beautiful views and vistas that just blow you away. I read and ruminated and consumed several cold Egyptian beers – which I like quite a lot actually – and made friends with the various passengers on the boat with me. From a goofy South African teenager on vacation with his grandpa to a lesbian couple who were actually really sweet and fun, albeit I think a little self conscious amongst the other folk and in this Muslim country in general. There was even a group of American old folks who were very spry and jovial, but a little too upbeat and p-c chatty for my taste…
In any case, I spent a large part of the time trying to politely avoid the rest of the boat since they tended to damage my calm and ruin the moment (through no bad intentions on their part though…) I took a few pictures here and there when something caught my eye, but this one in particular I wanted to share with you as it epitomises (to me) Egypt in many ways. You can see the River with the setting sun shining on this massive water body and then in the distance the dense foliage at the rivers edge, fading not too much further away into the desert that we all think of when the name Egypt is brought up.

The following morning we made our way from the boat to the temple of Horus, one of the most popular and well known of the Egyptian deity’s, known as the Edfu Temple. Now this, like most Egyptian temples, was a homage to the gods – a place to show them tribute and honour them so that they would give their blessings and bring them good fortune in war and peace. This picture is actually a composite of four (Its too huge!) and there’s one that was a little off in the zoom so there’s a teeny mismatch in the middle somewhere, so forgive that… In any case, this is the main entrance to the temple and what is of interest here is the carving on the right side – it shows the pharaoh holding a representation of Egypt’s enemies (looks a bit like the Indian mythological figures with he multiple arms and all don’t it!) by the hair before Horus as if offering them up as a sacrifice for his glory. Just looking at the sheer magnitude of the carvings on these already gigantic walls makes me wonder what happened to a civilisation that was capable of so much! It was a sad loss the day ancient Egypt fell…
Point of interest, this particular carving of the enemies being offered up is something that is seen in one form or another in many Egyptian temples, but none that I know of that are this massive in scale.
In an effort to cut down the number of pictures I put here (I needed to badly!) I’ve had to leave out the inner foyer into the temple, but don’t worry, there’s nothing you’re missing, what I have put up is far more worth seeing.
What’s truly saddening is the fact that this temple was used by several different groups of people such as the early Christians as shelter after the empire fell and it was yet unburied – and these people in their superstitious fears began to chisel and deface many of the amazing carvings as you can see in this shot, because they believed that they were demons that would haunt and harm them if they let them be. As a result many of the magnificent carvings and art have been damaged beyond repair.
The temple itself is just this huge space with several dozen rooms/chambers in every wall, somewhat like a college hostel, and each room has separate themes and carvings that detail that theme. There’s different types of representations and I’m gonna try to provide a broad sampling of it here:

There are offerings being made to the Gods as can be seen in the first one, and the different carvings show different items from food to clothing to drinks and such being offered to them. Then you have the various hieroglyphics and the cartouches (like in the centre pic – which is how they wrote down names), this particular cartouche I think was representing Alexander the Great actually, though I may be mixing them up – don’t think so, will change the pic if I have! Lastly you have the Gods themselves in different situations, such as the last pic which shows the pantheon all together before the pharoah – You can see the similarity in the poses of Horus and his father Osiris, this was normally one specially for Osiris alone, but here we can see Horus moving up in the hierarchy and eventually he did become more prominent. I’ve spoken on how the deity’s merged and change before, click here if you need a quick recap.

Moving along – the temple is a massive complex as I’ve already said and has several layers and tiers, many of which no longer have a ceiling or were meant to be uncovered. One of these corridors had a smaller (slightly) version of the carving I was talking about earlier and I waited for quite a while for the flood of tourists to ebb enough to almost lie down on the cool stone floor and take this shot that I’m actually quite proud of! And there was the temple top, which sadly they wouldn’t let anyone on to, but I got this killer shot of the stairway leading to it. Notice the priests carved on the walls the entire way up…
After this, we returned to the boat and floated a little further down the river and docked near the temple of the crocodile God – Sobek. Now for those that know this, ignore it. The rest – the Nile was the most sacred thing in Egypt, it was the well-spring without which all life would fail and become nothing. Now to be true, this seems superstitious but it holds true nonetheless.
This was the temple dedicated to the God who represented the deadly and much revered Nile crocodile. Originally the river itself had been much higher up, with the dams that have been built and other changes over time, the level has dropped noticeably. If I may digress for a moment – All the dam building and progress being made in this regard is actually not working out as well as might have been hoped, you see it seems that the natural flow of the river allow for certain nutrients, minerals and such to travel along its path, it shifts the soil and a host of other things that made the Nile valley the paradise it was. Now all the progress is just slowly killing it, further proof that we need to be more respectful of nature and not think that we are always right and have a right to interfere with the natural course of things as is our tendency.
Now! The temple was originally lower and closer to the rivers edge and as such used to have a slab/altar on which sacrifices were placed for the croc’s. There’s no altar there anymore, just some remnants. There are even a few mummified crocodiles here, but they were none too photogenic so I’m not going to put the pics up. Like all Egyptian temples, this one is covered in every conceivable spot with carvings for all purposes. One in particular that caught my eye was this little carving on the base of a pillar, of a scarab with wings. Now as I’ve already mentioned earlier, the scarab was considered good luck, and as you’ll notice, the main entrance to the temple above has scarabs on top of it. Another thing for which this temple is particularly well known is the only known medical carvings. As you might note in this picture here, it’s a layout with instructions of medical implements and their uses. On the left side of the picture you can see several seated figures, these too were a part of this diagram and in fact there’s one (didn’t fit…), which shows birthing positions. This along with other things showed the level of advancement of the ancient Egyptians. Another thing that is of note here is one section of ceiling that has survived till today with full pigmentation intact. The colours are so vivid and noticeable even today, it boggles the mind to imagine what an entire ceiling like this would have looked like! Then there’s the rest of the pictures I have for you here, theres the God Sobek himself, standing tall and proud.

There’s the Gods blessing the pharaoh, which if you look closely at the second picture which is a close up, shows that the stuff they are pouring on him is a river of Ankh’s, which in ancient Egypt symbolised life and strength.

So, I stayed here till after the sunset, basking in the lost majesty and the grandeur of it all – imagining the different parts of the temple as they would have been at their peak, the full walls, the carvings, paintings, the priests walking around to their tasks, the sacrifice to the crocodiles and imagining the feeling of watching them as they came for it. Sigh… What would life be without daydreams…?
After this there was the return to the boat and once again I found myself on my now familiar spot on the upper deck gazing out at a clear starlit sky and feeling more at peace then any time I can recall. In the meanwhile the others on the boat played drunken games like women mummifying their husbands in toilet paper, men tying potatoes with strings hanging obscenely down from their waists to push another potato by swinging it in a race (shudder!) and even old fashioned silliness like that paper dance game. Oh well, whatever rocks your boat, so long as you leave me to mine…

Cheers till the next one folks, and enjoy the pictures…

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Evil Spock says:

    >What was the temperature like during the days? In your next article, I’d like to know about the local cuisine, since I’m a big foodie. Is it like Moroccan/Middle Eastern fare?

  2. Renovatio says:

    >I’m curious about one thing, you mentioned a cartouche of Alexander the Great. Did you study hieroglyphs? Those pictures were absolutely amazing. I especially liked the stairway shot, it reminds me of something I read once, about stairways to the sky itself, and how those passages allowed sunlight to reflect of polished metal plates that bounced the light off each other and lit the whole place up. Lest I dissolve into the hollywood flick The Mummy, I’m going to try and find that book I read it in before saying any more.

  3. Anki says:

    >lovely pix..but why did u phtoshop the first two :(n the toilet paper mummyfying game sounded fun to me 😛

  4. The Dude says:

    >evil spock:surprisingly the temperature wasnt bad at all! In fact it was cooler then my hometown of delhi in cairo and you could walk around without any serious sweat issues and slept at night with just a fan. The only plac where you felt genuinely hot was when you were in more desert terrains like at the pyramids. and inside the temples was always comfy!as fars the food goes, well ill put a small bit next time, but egyptian food isnt really all that exciting.. im a foody myself and didnt find much to write home about 😀 sort of lebanese-ish but bland..renovatio:Im not expert on heiroglyphs, but in my zealous love for history (particularly egyptian) ive dabbled.. in this case i knew to keep an eye out as this temple had a lot to do with alexander.. dunno if you know, but all the ptolemy’s were descended from his general who proclaimed this part of alexanders dominion as his own after the great one died.. after that no pharaoh was truly ‘egyptian’..thanks, glad you liked the pics. and yeah that one shot is one i really like.. the stairway to heaven concept is one that appeals to me a lot and this was just an opportunity that presented itself.. a couple hours here and there and i might not have got it! such is life eh?anki:again, thanks. i photoshopped only the pic of the temple entrance, the rest are single shots. the thing is that as you can see in that shot theres like a fuck load of people there and not much space.. time was limited and so i had to take the shot from the most empty spot i could find.. sadly from there i couldnt fit the whole thing so this was the only way!im sure the game was fun, but a bunch of geriatrics doing cleopatra dances in cheesy egyptian garbs and all that isnt my cup of tea.. cheers..

  5. utopia says:

    >awesome description and i loved the pics. especially the one of the staircase. maybe the gateway to heaven looks like that :). did you hear any local folklore about the mummies? i remember reading how archaeologists and the labourers died en mass sometime in the 1920’s while excavating certain mummies.

  6. iamnasra says:

    >as we are having at LIP (www.livinginpoetry.blogspot.com) honoring the voice of Mystic Rose..please join us and share your thoughts on Mystic RoseThanks ..Nasra

  7. utopia says:

    >where have ya vanished?

  8. qual? says:

    >I love your photos and descriptions. I would like to ask you permission to use your hoto of the sacarabe carving on top of the main entrance to the temple of Horus. It would be very kind of you replying to hlsmaia@gmail.comThanking you in advance,Hernani Maia, Braga, Portugal

  9. The Dude says:

    >qual?Thanks Im glad you like my work here. I have no problem as such with you using my picture of the scarab but before you do I would like to know for what purpose do you want to use it before you do. Cheers..

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