Everyone was up early to check out of the hotel. Today would be the start of Nile cruise and we were looking forward to the experience with great anticipation. There were a couple of discrepancies on my bill, which the tour people quickly straightened out and it was on to the buses and to the airport for our flight to Luxor, then on to board the cruise ship. We breezed through airport security thanks to our tour guides and boarded a nice large Jet, which was full. The flight was uneventful and very quick. I think it only took about 45 minutes until we landed. Then it was all about gathering up our luggage, getting through security again, and loading up the buses to head out. Our flight to Luxor had been delayed at the start so we went straight to the Temple of Karnak of the God Amun Re’ for our first of many visits to ancient temples.
The temple, Karnak, Ipet Sut, or “the most hallowed of places” was designated the center of the world. Amun Re’ was the creator God in Egyptian mythology. It was here at Karnak where he created himself, all things, and then all living things. He was the creator of the Universe and the guarantor of its survival for his son Pharaoh. Amenhotep III started the complex (although other sources suggest that it was Senusret I) and all following Pharaohs added to it. What a spectacular place. It is one of the most awesome sights; a visual feast for anyone interested in archaeology. The statues of the God and the Pharaohs, carved from single pieces of granite and marble, tower over you in inspiring glory. The hand carved hieroglyphics, some with ancient paints still showing, show incredible skill. The immense columns that supported the roof soar into the sky. The vastness of the complex of was almost overpowering. At its height, 80,000 people worked in the religious complex. It is impossible to describe adequately; you just have to see it. Pictures and television shows do not give it the justice it deserves.
After the Temple, it was off to board our Cruise ship. WOW, we were treated to another great surprise. The rooms are large and well appointed. Mine contained a king sized bed with dresser, a table with two chairs, and a full bathroom with tub and shower. All cabins were on the outside and you got a huge window, which opened and allowed you to gaze on the banks of the Nile as you cruised. Up on deck was a nice wading/dipping pool to help cool off from the heat. It didn’t take us long to end up on the deck where we enjoyed a cold beer, took in the scenery, and baked in the sun. I have to admit that one of the most pleasurable parts of this trip was cruising on the Nile and watching everyday Egyptian life pass us by. They are a hard working people.
Naturally, we couldn’t help but think of the movie Death on the Nile starring such notables as Peter Ustinov, Betty Davis, Mia Farrow, Maggie Smith, David Niven, Angela Landesbury, and others. Just reworking my journal entry into this entry has made me want to see that movie again.
A nice dinner on board and it was off to bed as the ship cruised overnight to Dendara for another tour site.
I guess that early mornings are a way of life on board these ships. Showered and dressed I headed down to breakfast. We only had an hour before we were off to Dendera by bus. Dendera is a beautiful Temple dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor, one of the few temples that has the roof still remaining. “Re opened his eyes inside the lotus as it emerged from primorial chaos and his eyes began to weep and droplets fell to the ground: they were transformed into a beautiful woman who was named Gold of the Gods, Hathor the Great, Mistress of Dendera.” (from a translation by Sylvie Cauville). She was the Goddess of amorous pursuits, music, and dance. Inside, the colors of the painted columns and hieroglyphs are still in amazingly good condition. After we toured the inside of the temple, the guide took us to the roof where six small sanctuaries dedicated to the God Osiris still stand. The carved reliefs that cover this temple show a level of incredible skill. Simply look at the detail on the man’s skirt in one of the photos. One carving also shows a visit by Cleopatra XIII (the famous one). Another place so awe inspiring that there really are no words that can express the feeling of actually being there. To walk the path that the High Priests did to the inner most sanctum of the Goddess was remarkable.
After touring the site, it was back onto the bus and back to the ship to return to Luxor so that we could visit the Temple of Luxor. After we docked back in Luxor, horses and carriages took us in couples to the Temple itself. It was a nice way to see downtown Luxor. The ride took about twenty minutes. We arrived at the temple during photography’s golden evening hours, it was a perfect time to take perfect photos. This Temple was built and added to by a succession of Pharaohs, all dedicating their works to the God Amun. Once called Ipet Resyt, loosely translated as “Harem of the South,” it was a southern palace where the God resided attended by his servants and priests. It was connected to the Karnak Temple by a walkway that was 1½ miles long and lined with Ram headed Sphinxes, very impressive. The paved way to the other temple was completed by Nectanebo I. This Temple has not been completely excavated since a Mosque resides in the center of the complex. Work also had to be done on the site to drain ground water away since the building of the Aswan Dam. Although not as large as the Karnak complex, it still inspired a sense of awe and wonder.
Then it was back to the ship for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be a full day of more fun stuff.
Pre dawn breakfasts are a way of life on this cruise ship, and then it was off to the Valley of the Kings to see a few Pharaohnic burial tombs. It gets hot here early (surprise, surprise dummy you’re in the Sahara), thus the need to arrive as early as possible. Arriving by bus, we were ushered into the Valley by our guide. He gave us a great talk and suggested the three tombs that we should see. Apparently, due to the number of tourists and the damage done by having huge numbers of people visit a tomb, they are closing them on a rotating basis. So depending on the time of year that you are here, will determine which of the tombs are available for you to visit. A ticket will get you into three tombs, also – NO PHOTOS inside. We paid extra and got to go into Tutankamen’s Tomb as a fourth choice. We also saw Ramses I (founder of the 19th dynasty but only ruled for two years), Ramses III (interesting to note that his sarcophagus resides in the Lourve) and Ramses IV (although beautiful the decorations were more simplistic, probably because Egypt was in an economic decline during his reign.). The tombs were vast and hewn from solid rock. The wall paintings were unbelievable. The colors were intact and the scenes depicting the life of the Pharaoh in the afterlife were amazing and appeared as if they were done last week. King Tut’s Tomb was very small compared to the others but his Mummy had been returned to the tomb. Thus, we were able to say we hung out with King Tut for a while.
We left the Valley of the Kings and stopped at a Onyx factory. The artisans gave us a demonstration of how the jars were made here in ancient Egypt. Did I already comment on how hard working these guys are? I made a few buys here at the shop,
some statues of several Egyptian Gods and a few other trinkets for me.
Back on the bus and a few Egyptian pounds lighter, we made our way to the Temple of Hatshepsut. This place was carved out of the mountainside and was to be a temple to honor the Goddess Hathor and act as the funerary of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. The good part of this story is that Hatshepsut was a woman. She cajoled the High Priests at that time into giving her the “Divine” right to rule Egypt even though she was a woman. She wore the fake beard like the other Pharaohs. The faces of the statues of Hatshepsut have a definite feminine cast; yet they depict her in the regalia of a Pharaoh. Once again, the temple was a masterpiece of engineering and demonstrated her intelligence as a ruler. Her stepson, Thutmose II, had many of the statues and representation of her destroyed after he came to power. We also took time to remember the 67 people who were massacred at this archaeological wonder by terrorists attempting to ruin Egypt’s economy by scaring away tourists.
After spending some time visiting Hatshepsut’s Temple we boarded the bus to visit the Colossi of Memnon. These were not really statues of Memnon but of Amenhotep III the grandson of Hatsepshut. They were all that remained of a Temple complex that was built by him as a Funerary Temple. When the Greeks and Romans first came to visit this site, you could hear one of the statues crying or calling out. They thought the statues were of Memnon (the guy slain by Achilles in the Trojan War and son of the dawn Goddess Eos). They thought that the sound was Memnon calling out to his mother and that the dew was her tears from the loss of her son. The complex is almost completely gone, partially from the flooding of the Nile in ancient times, and partially from other Pharoahs taking structures from it and adding them to their own temples. After stopping here for some photo shots, we went back to the ship to set sail for Edfu.
The ship set a leisurely pace on the Nile as we headed to Edfu. It was another beautiful afternoon but as usual very very warm. A few beers, some lounging, and the next thing you knew we were at the locks preceding Edfu. Here boats containing two to three people approached the ship trying to sell their wares. People on the ship had a grand time haggling with them and tossing samples back and forth until they settled on a product and price. There must have been fifteen to twenty boats next to the ship, the oarsmen rowing their hearts out to keep up with the ship. It was quite an event and the one that I think the people on the boat enjoyed the most. After all sales (well maybe not all) were finalized, it was through the locks and on to Edfu where we docked for the night.