Nile Cruise

Egypt: Nile Cruise - Page 2


This, the second page of our Egypt trip, focuses on the middle of our visit. Specifically, this includes the west bank of Luxor, sailing to Aswan, and part of Aswan itself.

I'll continue with some of the generalities here. The weather was mostly cool and breezy. This is apparently unseasonable, and surprised our guide. While we got to see the sun a lot, there were days when it was cloudy. And so we spent less time on the top deck of the ship than we would otherwise. This is just as well, because the ship gave off a lot of diesel exhaust. Not surprisingly, the Nile valley also has a lot of pollution.

So, the food, the food, the food. The ship had its own chef who prepared meals. (We saw them bring on raw vegetables and ingredients several times from land.) All meals (except one) were buffet style, which was good in that you could pick and choose. The dishes were almost all attempts at European dishes, and even looked like them. However they tasted very different. It is too bad because it was clear the staff was trying very hard and was very nice about it all.

Let's begin by saying that Westerners cannot drink the Nile River water. It causes them to get very sick. Being a desert, the only alternative is bottled water. Note also that water is used surprising often in cooking - as an ingredient, washing, boiling, steaming, etc. Now, does this sound like a recipe for trouble? I got sick midweek, and had trouble drinking bottle water, but recovered. Robin got sick near the end of the trip, and so did I (again). About half of our party got sick at some point!

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West Bank of Luxor

In general, there is a great deal of agriculture alongside the Nile. The water must be pumped up to the soil; otherwise the desert sucks everything dry. Without the pumping, the desert comes right up to the river. The main crops are sugar, wheat, and cotton. We took a big bus from the east bank to the west bank of the Nile to visit the hills shown.

 

The Colossi of Memnon face the river Nile, backed by the hills containing all the tombs. The Pharaoh Amenhotep III is enthroned. It is 60 feet tall, and used to guard a huge temple which was later plundered for building material. The statue on the right was a big tourist attraction in Roman times, because it was heard to sing during sun rise. This was probably due to whistling effect caused by damage sustained during an earthquake. The singing stopped when the monuments were repaired in 199 CE. In the background, you can see colorful Egyptian houses.

 

Valley of the Kings

This valley houses at least 67 Pharaonic tombs, including Howard Carter's 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen. That discovery was the most significant, since it was the only tomb not plundered. The most recent tomb was found in 2006. The reason this spot was chosen is because the mountain shown in the background appears to be a pyramid- a very holy symbol in ancient Egyptian culture.

 

Only a few of the tombs are open at any one time. Robin and I entered the burial tombs for Ramses IV and Ramses IX.

 

This is the entrance to a tomb, although this one is closed. Of course, the exterior is no impressive. The inside of the tombs we entered were carved with hieroglyphs, many with paint still. They usually consist of long corridors that occasionally open up into big rooms where treasure was stored. One had an enormous square sarcophagus, covered with magical texts and pictures of the gods. None of the tombs have any treasure now, and only one (Tutankhamen) still has the mummy remains.

 

Here I am, not feeling very good. After the Valley of the Kings, we went to an alabaster factory, where pottery is hand made. We did not go to the Valley of the Queens or Tombs of the nobles, but they are in this same area.

 

Hatshepsut Temple

Hatshepsut Temple is built against a cliff, very close to the Valley of the Kings. It is obviously very large, and has three big terraces. The dark area on the right is a cafe for tourists. Hatshepsut was an important female ruler of Egypt.

 

Originally on the left was a temple of Montuhotep II, who united Upper and Lower Egypt. There was also a Temple to Tuthmosis III. Within the Hatshepsut Temple is a chapel to the cow-headed goddess Hathor. Also, there is a chapel to the jackal-headed god Anubis, the god of mummification. The shrine of Amun, the sun god, was built into the cliff.

 

Tourists are allowed into the top two terraces. The bottom one is closed, probably because it supports so much weight. When Hatshepsut died, her brother defaced any statue or temple to her. The temple was later turned into a Christian monastery.

 

This is looking out at the Nile valley from Hatshepsut Temple.

 

These Statues of Hatshepsut depict her, as usual, as a male king with a beard! These have been reconstructed from fragments recently excavated.

 

We think these are tombs that stand in the valley where Hatshepsut temple exists. People were going up to these, but we didn't go.

 

Sailing to Edfu

So, Wednesday afternoon we set sail upstream on the Nile. The ship sailed very, very smoothly throughout our journey. Unfortunately, our ship produces a great deal of diesel exhaust, which runs up near the sides of the boat. As you can see, the weather turned cool and cloudy. We sailed to the Esna lock, and then waited our turn to go further upstream. We passed the lock in the middle of the night and did not see it in operation.

 

I got to know this very well since I was feeling increasingly sick. After a sleepless night and not eating for 2 days, I started to feel better. I'm sure it was something I ate, but what? Anyway, I mostly stayed in the cabin during this time and Robin took most of the rest of the pictures on this page. She also did the captions.

 

Edfu Temple

Thursday we visited Edfu Temple, dedicated to the falcon god Horus (or Haroeris). To get to Edfu Temple, you must take a horse-drawn carriage, just a bit different than the taxis you find in New York.

 

A replica of the sacred barque of Horus is in the sanctuary at Edfu Temple.

 

Notice the exotic archway.

 


Edfu temple was used about 50 years ago as a place that escaped prisoners would hide. The blackened ceilings comes from soot from their fires; not the ancient Egyptians.

 

Edfu Temple is a temple to Horus and this is his statue. The statue is carved from granite.

 

The missing areas are windows.

 

The mud brick wall in this picture surrounds the temple and is a part of the ruins.

 

The pylons at the entrance have extremely well preserved carvings of Horus and Pharaoh. The temple at Edfu is the best preserved Ptolemaic temple in all of Egypt.

 

So we set sail to Kom Ombo temple upstream. This is very, very common sight to see along the Nile.

 

Temple of Kom Ombo

We arrived at Kom Ombo temple after sundown on Thursday. The temple is perfectly symmetrical, with two entrances on opposite sides. One side is dedicated to the Falcon god Horus and the other side is dedicated to the local crocodile god Sobek. This famous hieroglyph shows medical tools in use by the Egyptians. You can see scissor-like objects and spoon-shaped instruments.

 

Feeling a little better, I ventured out for this temple. They keep several crocodile mummies from the nearby crocodile necropolis in the Chapel of Hathor, which was neat to see.

 

You can faintly see Kom Ombo temple above the bazaar. This shows how one must pass by the entire bazaar on the way from the ship to the temple, and the return trip also. I remember some running around here as we were all trying to find our ship, which had moved! Anyway, after everyone returned, the ship set sail again. We headed to Aswan, a large city on the Nile.

 

Aswan Quarry and the Unfinished Obelisk

On Friday morning, with Greg staying on the ship, some of the rest of us went on excursions around Aswan. Actually, about half the people in our 20 person group got sick (mostly the men). Looking at part of Aswan from the Quarry.

 

The ancient Egyptians carved their obelisks in the granite quarry and then transported them on the Nile to their final location. They cut the obelisk by drilling holes in all the necessary dimensions. They then put pieces of wood in the holes and soaked the wood forcing it to expand. They would repeat this process until the granite piece they were working with split away from the quarry wall.

 

This obelisk was begun, but the process was abandoned when a crack was discovered in the granite. It is believed that the obelisk was probably started during the reign of Ramses II.

 

Aswan Dam

Down stream from the High Dam at Aswan.

 

Lake Nassar; the biggest man-made lake in the world. It stretches for 500 kilometers.

 

This is the Lower Dam at Aswan. It was completed in 1906 by the British in attempt to control the flooding on the Nile. It didn't work. The High Dam was necessary to finish the job.

 

Temple of Philae

Philae Temple is on an island. It was moved from its original location because it kept ending up under water. The Egyptian government along with UNESCO moved the entire temple to this island.

 

This is one of the boats that you use to get to Philae.

 

Philae is a temple to Isis. The figures on the pylons were chiseled by Christians fleeing the Romans at about the same time as the temple was built. By defacing the carvings, the temple was not completed and could not be used for tax collection.

 

On the left, the Coptic cross; evidence that Christians used this temple as well. On the right; carved graffiti, in Greek; those people who paint their names on bridges didn't really invent anything new.

 

There is a smaller temple on the island dedicated to Hathor the goddess of mirth and joy.

 

It would have been a tropical paradise if it hadn't been so cold!

 

A view of the Nile from our ship docked in Aswan. We stayed in Aswan for several days.

 


 

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