Monday, June 9, 2008

Egypt Trip: Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo

The Nile Beauty slipped her moorings while we had lunch and we spent all afternoon on deck admiring the scenery as the Nile slid by. We watched the sun go down and the dying rays were quite beautiful on the mountains in the desert. The orange of the sun hitting the orange of the sandy cliffs was captivating.

During dinner that evening there were two birthdays and one honeymoon to be celebrated. Cakes were paraded and the waiters walked around the dining room banging drums and shaking a tambourine, and singing a strange version of happy birthday. All great fun and we all joined in with the singing.

After dinner we went up on the top deck. There was a shout from below. We looked over the railings and there were two men in a small boat shouting up "You want galabiyahs?, good price". At that point a plastic bag came flying up and landed on deck. We opened the bag and took out a galabiyah. "Too small" I shouted and threw it down, amazingly it landed in the small boat. "No problem" and another one came winging up and landed on deck. We looked at it but it was difficult to see it properly in the dark so we threw it back down and shouted "No thanks". The men drifted off to find another victim on another cruise boat.

We were moored up at Esna, waiting our turn to go through the lock. It was quite late in the evening before we eventually went through the lock which raised us up 30ft. The lock was just big enough to take two boats. As we got through the lock we came out into what looked like an enclosed lake and we thought we were going to go through a second lock, but this second lock was fixed open to form just a narrow channel. No doubt it comes into operation when the river levels are different. We moored up here for the night.

The following morning we had a nice relaxing morning. As we drifted on up the Nile we watched the fishermen casting their nets in a semi circle and then with long poles, they beat the water to drive the fish into the nets.

Edfu Temple Egypt
We docked at Edfu in the late morning. As we left Nile Beauty on our way to Edfu Temple there was a line of horse drawn carriages drawn up waiting to transport us to the temple. I sat up with the driver and had great fun taking over the reins of our horse, Mustafa. He was very well mannered and gentle. To get Mustafa to go fast you had to yell like a wild west cowboy, which I duly did. I think the three in the carriage at times were having a bit of a rough ride as I failed to notice the pot holes in the road!

When we got to the temple Medhat told us all about the Ptolemy period. The whole structure of the temple as we see it now took more than 180 years to complete, this was because of wars in and around the area at that time. Many generations took part in its construction, yet its architecture and decoration have harmony and unity. Although its walls are covered with the cartouches of many Ptolemies, it is a pure Egyptian temple in style and reliefs, since the architects, draftsmen and sculptors strictly adhered to old Egyptian traditions. The temple had only twenty seven years of full use when, in 30 B.C. Augustus eliminated the last relics of Ptolemaic sovereignty, and brought Egypt firmly under the rule of Rome.

There were 13 Ptolemy pharaohs, Cleopatra being the 13th and the last. The Ptolemaic temple of Horus, the solar falcon-god and protector of the pharaohs at Edfu is the most completely preserved in Egypt and is in near perfect condition with its great pylon, exterior walls, courts, halls and sanctuary all in place. Its walls are a textbook of mythology and geopolitics.

We went into the Sanctuary. No one but the high priest or the king was admitted to the Sanctuary. It is a separate building within the temple building. The rear wall of the sanctuary is the point from which the huge proportions of the temple can be seen. It now has a vista throuugh all the halls out to the pylons; this would have been impossible when the temple was in us, since each court was shut off from its neighbours by great doors overlaid with bronze and gold. Access to the successive courts was progressively restricted until at last none but the high priest and the king (and not always the king!) dared to approach the sanctuary. We saw the shrine where the high priest dressed, perfumed and anointed the god five times a day. We also saw the sacred barque.

We found our driver and Mustafa and clambered once more into the carriage and with me once again yelling like a deranged cowboy we were soon back at the boat. We enjoyed the afternoon drifting up the Nile. We passed a sandstone quarry that was still being used. We saw lots of boats and fisherman. The young boys on the river bank were calling out to us and waving. As the cruise boats pass each other they sound their horns, and at night, they flash their lights. Medhat siad they do that to make sure they are still awake!

The next morning we visited Kom Ombo which was very near to where the boat was moored up and so within walking distance. The temple of Kom Ombo was built in the Ptolemaic times and embellished in the Roman period.

It seems that one of the reasons for the growth of Kom Ombo was the development by the Ptolermies of a number of military stations along the Red Sea, and the trade routes between these and the Nile Valley towns. Kom Ombo became an important trade depot for the riches coming from Africa. In spite of the decline of its city, the temple of Kom Ombo survived and still remains a well preserved example of Ptolemaic architecture.

The Crocodile God Sobek reigns here. The worship of the crocodile presents many perculiarities. In historical times Sobek was the supreme god of Middle Egypt to the exclusion of all other gods in that district. In Upper Egypt the crocodile was identified with the god Seth and when the cult of Seth aroused the enmity of the Osiris worshippers, the crocodile fell into disrepute as a god in many other parts of Egypt. There is a small room that has some mummified crocodiles in here.

The nature of the crocodile is sufficiently alarming to account for the respectful fear in which it was held. Its habit of lying on the banks of the river looking like a stranded log, its extreme quickness, its immense strength, and its armoured hide make it a formidable enemy. It is no wonder that it was feared and appeased by the early inhabitants of the Nile Valley. Until the introduction of steamers and the building of the Aswan Reservoir, the river was infested with crocodiles who levied a heavy toll on the lives of humans and animals alike. The abundance of crocodiles around Kom Ombo was remarkable. They were seen basking in great family groups, of all ages and sizes, on the sunny islands of sand in the centre of the river. In the myth of Horus, the allies of Seth changed themselves into crocodiles in order to escape their enemies.

The temple of Kom Ombo was dedicated to two deities. The god Sobek the crocodile and the god Horus the falcon. Each of these two gods had his own special worship ceremonies and festivals. The temple is bisected longitudinally by an imaginary line, each half having its own gateways, doorways and chapels. The east or right hand side is dedicated to Sobek, and the West or left side to Horus. Even though the temple is divided into two sections, the two great gods of the temple are found in scenes on both sides.

On the western end of the north wall, carved into the rock, is a table laden with medical instruments; tongs, tweezers, chisels, scalpels and scales, all carved i. There is an Egyptian calendar etched into the sandstone but some of it is missing. Apparently it was cut into pieces and different museums around the world have these pieces, the British Museum being one of these.

At lunch we were amused to read what was on the menu today 'Chicken Merry Land'.

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