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Published: June 11th 2017
There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign. - Robert Louis Stevenson
I hope my last few blog entries were posted ok, the internet connection is very slow on the riverboat and it took a long time for the photos to upload.
This afternoon we arrived in Kom Ombo about 3:30 pm. The scenery from Luxor is really pretty. The land is cultivated on both sides of the Nile in a thin strip, and beyond is desert and rocky hills. There are lots of palm trees here too.
The temple of Kom Ombo is a short walk from where our river boat was docked. We left at 4:30 pm and it was still very hot outside. We ran the usual gauntlet of vendors and then entered the site. The difference between the vendors at the various sites we have been visiting and the Giza Pyramids is that the vendors are not allowed at the actual sites. They have stalls set up close by that you have to walk past, but they are not at the actual sites, so you can enjoy the temples and tombs in peace. At the Giza Pyramids the
vendors were right there, in your face, as you tried to take in the majesty of the Pyramids.
The Kom Ombo temple is very significant because it is the only temple in Egypt dedicated to two gods (Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus, the falcon headed god). Crocodiles usually represented evil in the ancient Egypt, but in this area crocodiles were worshipped. The temple is from the Ptolemaic period, and was built over a 200ish year period, from the first century BCE to the first century CE. The temple is divided in to two halves, one for Sobek and one for Horus and is almost identical on both sides. At the temple there is a Nilometer, which measured the height of the Nile. If it was high, then the priest set a high taxation rate, if it was low, then there would be a lower tax rate.
At the Temple there is also a crocodile museum, which was very interesting. It is a well designed little museum, which describes the importance of the crocodile god and has a collection of mummified crocodiles.
We walked back to the riverboat, and shared a Sakara Gold in our cabin. We
left Kom Ombo about 6 pm. We had much appreciated showers and then met some of our group for drinks in the lounge about 7. Susan and I enjoyed our gin and tonics, and then we went for dinner, which was all Egyptian food tonight. It was really excellent food. I wish the food was like that every night!
Several members of our group have been sick with gastrointestinal issues, but thankfully Susan and I have been ok. My stomach started churning this morning, and I thought, oh no, here it comes, but it went away and I've been fine. We've been slathering on the antiseptic gel and drink only bottled water (and use bottled water for brushing our teeth).
I'm going to add photos to the blog, then hit the hay. We have a crazy early start tomorrow morning, meeting the group at 3:30 am. We will join the convoy at 4 am for the drive to Abu Simbel. We can't drive by ourselves in a mini van, we have to be part of an armed convoy. It has been that way for years but I'm not sure why. We will have a boxed breakfast to have
on the drive. To be continued!
It's now the afternoon of the following day, and we have had another amazing day. Our alarm went off at 2:50 am and we woke up moored to the dock in Aswan. I opened the drapes to a view of a strange lighted structure (it turned out to be tombs on the other side of the Nile). We were all ready to leave at 3:30 am. We walked through the other two ships moored at the dock (luckily we are on the outside so have the Nile view). We hopped on our mini van and drove to the meeting point where all the mini vans and buses converge before heading off to Abu Simbel in a convoy. The convoy ended up being very spread out. Amr says the convey is not because of fear of terrorism but so everyone has assistance if needed during the drive across the desert.
Our breakfast boxes contained a guava juice box, 2 little bananas, and an assortment of buns (two small buns contained cheese). It wasn't great but was sufficient. The drive was actually pretty nice. The road is in excellent condition. We crossed the Aswan
Dam in the dark, and later watched the sun rise over the desert. The desert landscape was really varied, and rather beautiful despite its starkness. Some areas were sandy and other areas were more rocky. There were very long periods of just endless desert. On the way back we saw more of the scenery as it was light the whole way, and mirages shimmered in the distance. Often the road would shimmer in the distance and appear to disappear into the desert.
As we neared Abu Simbel there suddenly appeared, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, little villages. I believe these were built for the workers who were employed in the dismantling and reconstruction of the two Abu Simbel temples.
We got to Abu Simbel about 7:15ish and Amr gave us an orientation to the two temples (as with the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, guides are not allowed inside the temples). Photographs are also not allowed. This bothered me momentarily, but as I wandered around the temples I was pleased not to be taking photos. We sometimes focus too much on getting photos, and not enough on living the experience. We really enjoyed both temples,
Kom Ombo Temple
The sun was starting to go down and so the lighting was nice.
there seemed to be a peaceful feeling inside them, despite the crowds. There is no way to avoid the crowds at Abu Simbel because everyone gets there at the same time. Unless you stay at the hotel there, then you could, presumably, visit Abu Simbel whenever you wanted.
There are two temples at Abu Simbel, one to Ramses II (the Great Temple of Ramses II) and one to his main wife Nefertari (the Temple of Hathor). They were constructed in the mid 13th C BCE, so they are around 3370 years old! The Great Temple is fronted with four colossal statutes of Ramses II and were probably designed as a warning of the strength of the pharaoh, as people journeyed up the Nile from the south. Over millennia the Great Temple was almost entirely covered in desert sands until it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1813.
The carvings and wall paintings inside both of the temples are in excellent condition and it was really nice to explore them without tourists taking endless selfies and waving around their selfie sticks!
I particularly liked the Temple of Hathor. It is a really lovely temple, with many depictions
Kom Ombo Temple
Horus and Sobek
of the goddess Hathor. The front of the temple contains six statutes of Ramses and Nefertari (with some of their children). Nefertari is portrayed at the same height as her husband which was highly unusual. Usually wives were knee-height.
Of course there is another amazing thing about these temples. They both were dismantled (cut into large blocks) and moved from their original location due to the rising waters of Lake Nasser following the construction of the Aswan High Dam. They were reconstructed in their entirety in their current location a short distance away from their original location (65 metres higher and 200 metres back from Lake Nasser), by an international team. The process lasted from 1964 to 1968. The reconstructed temples were relocated to an artificial hill made from a domed structure. You can't see the cut marks, inside or outside the temple, and you would never know they are located on an artificial hill. This was a truly amazing feat of engineering, which saved these monuments for the world.
Was it worth it to drive for over 3 hours each way to spend a couple of hours at Abu Simbel? Absolutely!
It was hot at Abu
Kom Ombo Temple
This carving is enormous, and very deeply carved into the rock.
Simbel but pleasant because of the breeze off Lake Nasser. We had a bit of free time to explore on our own, and then we met the group at a small cafeteria, where Susan and I enjoyed an Arabic coffee. We left Abu Simbel about 10 am and got back to the boat about 1:30. We were dismayed to find that our boat was now the first at the dock and we had another boat moored up to us. So our great view was replaced a view of the side of another boat a few feet away. But, shortly after we got back from lunch, the boat left, so we have our amazing view back!
I picked up my silver chain (which was being shortened) and my beautiful ring. At 5 pm we walked with some of our group to the Old Cataract Hotel for a cocktail (Agatha Christie wrote part of Death on the Nile at this famous old hotel). We sat on the terrace and admired the beautiful view while enjoying a gin and tonic. The hotel is really fabulous and it sure would be something to stay there. The staff are all very nice as well.
And it had free wifi! If I had known I would have brought the ipad and posed this blog. We bought another internet card so I will post this shortly.
Tomorrow we check out of the river boat and head out to the Temple of Isis at Philae, at 8 am. Before that we have to pay our bar and internet bills - uh oh!
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