We boarded our bus this morning to Waleed’s tantalizing words: “So we have seen the Pyramids, ridden camels, visited Alexandria and the Egyptian Museum. But Family, if this trip was a meal, that was only the appetizer. Now, our tour of the real Egypt starts, and we are moving to the main course.”
Our first stop was the massive Aswan High Dam, the second in the upper Nile’s history, completed in 1970. Like so many dams, it had upsides and downsides. Its upsides were production of about 20% of the country’s electrical power, irrigation and farming benefits, but the downsides were it caused the relocation of over 100,000 people and the sinking of several important archeological sites (a few were saved and relocated).
Next we headed down a walkway past a colourful market and boarded a motor boat, where handcrafted bracelets were for sale.
Our gentle ride took us to Philae Temple, on an island in the Nile.
This was one of the relocated temples, dismantled and relocated as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam. (One temple was purchase by Spain and is now in Madrid.)
The Philae obelisk had hieroglyphs which were compared with those of the Rosetta Stone, and it threw great light upon the Egyptian alphabet. Egyptologists believe that Philae was the last active site of the ancient Egyptian religion and that the last Egyptian hieroglyph was written here.
Since Philae was said to be the temple of Isis and one of the burying-places of her spouse, Osiris, it was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians (often referred to as “Ethiopians” in Greek) to the south. It was deemed profane for any but priests to dwell there.
I haven’t even introduced the gods in Egyptian history, a mere 2,000 of them, further complicating matters. Royal Heights kindly gave us a cheat sheet and I’ve attached it. If you like, open the link at the top of the blog, “Gods of Egypt” and click on the link “Egyptian Gods.” Most of the Pharaohs associated themselves with certains gods in hopes of ensuring their stability.
Starting with the Philae Temple, Waleed used us as stand-ins for the gods to try and explain their various roles and functions and their stories.
Views of the temple’s interior:
After exiting the temple, we had some more excellent views of the site, a little shopping and an excellent cappuccino.
Before siesta, we stoped briefly at another Aswan site, a huge obelisk. Or rather, should I call it a potential obelisk? Is it really an obelisk if it never stood up? An incredible 1,100 tons of stone in one piece, lying down because, after workers shaped the monolith, a construction worker tapped his chisel, and it cracked like an overdone egg. That must have been a terrible feeling, not alleviated when it became a museum, in situ.
Our dinner at Nubia promises to be special, so more later.