Friday, November 07, 2008

Egypt - day 7 : Abu Simbel & Philae

The wake up call came at 2.5oam...and we were on holiday!! Quickly dressed and onto the boat for the river crossing to join the minivan at 3.30 and the massive convoy to take us to Abu Simbel just inside the border with Sudan - we counted at least 75 big coaches and many more minivans and private cars. We watched the sunrise and made a quick comfort stop in the desert during the 275km road trip, breakfasting on route on bananas etc arriving at 7.30 (we managed to get a few winks in the comfortable and very tastefully decorated minivan!)


On arrival people flooded out of the busses and through the security checks, we tried, unsuccessfully, to get a guide but got tickets and took in the views of Lake Nassar, the largest artifical lake in the world! Walking around the corner we saw the two awesome Ramses II temples, 4 huge figures sitting next to each other, the main temple entrance being right in the middle of these. Due to the flooding of the valley during the construction of Lake Nassar, the original Abu Simbel site was submerged, and thus the temples have infact been moved up some 50m, reconstructed stone by stone, even the statue which had collapsed as a result of the 25AD earthquake has been left as it was found. (When the temples were found, like many of the others they were mostly covered in desert sand.)

We joined the throngs of people heading into the 1st temple and marvelled at the interiors, catching snippets of information by overhearing other groups guides in spannish, french and the occassional british voices - this temple consisted of several rooms, culminating in the sanctuary, where there were 4 small statues, and on the birthday of Ramses II the sun would allegedly stream through the entrance falling on 3 of the statues (Amun, Ramses II & Ra Horakhi) but the 4th statue (Ptah) was always left in the dark - being the bad dude! The temple had several antichambers full of paintings of offerings, very richly decorated.

Heading back into the light we stood back and photographed the panorama before going across to the 2nd temple, that of Nefertari, Ramses II's wife. This temple is fronted by 6 statues, but again with the entrance in the middle. Each of the support columns in the main chamber was decorated with Athor, the cow god with big horns. There was a tiny sanctuary with the remains of a small statue and again all the walls were lavishly decorated the whole way round. It was only 9.30, but we were roasted and ready for a sit down, so we headed back to the van ready for the convoys departure at 10.00am where our driver kindly supplied coke and nibbles :-)


Once back in Aswan we took lunch on the Nile, fabulous tagine and finished off with cakes and full strength turkish coffee, Dougals hair stood on end for the rest of the holiday! - what a view from the panorama restuarant. Our afternoons guide met us as we were finishing up. With his special pointer walking stick we jumped in the car and headed off to another temple resurrected out of the great lake flooding - in 1970s UNESCO built a damn around the temple and dismantled the temple stone by stone and moved it 500m from the original site, to an island. It is now perhaps one of the best preserved temples in Egypt within sight of the original Aswan damn. We took a small boat out to the temple island and spending 1.1/2hrs walking around the temple dedicated to Isis, godess of fertility. Allegedly she found the left leg of Osiris here and hence decided to build the temple here - he had been cut into 14 pieces and spread around the whole of upper and lower Egypt. We saw the outer and inner open courts, then behind the 2nd philon we entered the roofed, pillared chamber, leading to the sacred, multiroomed Isis sanctuary, being extensively decorated. One particularly interesting depiction was that of the source of the Nile considered to have come from a hidden cateract near Aswan! After many more photos of the unfinished Hathor temple we jumped back onto the boat and back to the hotel for a quick swim, and a light dinner of soup and spaghetti before colapsing into bed.

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