Overnight train to Aswan, Philae Temple Complex, and dinner at Nubian house.


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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Aswan
March 1st 2020
Published: March 1st 2020
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I am using someone’s hotspot so this entry will not have photos until I have better wifi.

Last night we got on the train for the overnight to Aswan. The compartments are small, bunkbed style. Caroline from Australia is my roommate. They served us a good chicken dinner, then to bed. The coach jerks around from time to time, but the motion of the train is good for sleeping.

We got to Aswan and brought our luggage to the hotel. The rooms weren’t ready yet so we dropped them off and went to the Philae Temple Complex.

Philae (/ˈfaɪliː/; Greek: Φιλαί, Arabic: فيله‎ Egyptian Arabic: , Egyptian: p3-jw-rķ' or 'pA-jw-rq; Coptic: ⲡⲓⲗⲁⲕ, ⲡⲓⲗⲁⲕⲭ) is an island in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Dam, downstream of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, Egypt. Philae was originally located near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile in Upper Egypt and was the site of an Egyptian temple complex. These rapids and the surrounding area have been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902. The temple complex was dismantled and moved to nearby Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam

Since Philae was said to be one of the burying-places of 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 and was accordingly sequestered and denominated "the Unapproachable" (Ancient Greek: ἄβατος). It was reported too that neither birds flew over it nor fish approached its shores. These indeed were the traditions of a remote period; since in the time of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, Philae was so much resorted to, partly by pilgrims to the tomb of Osiris, partly by persons on secular errands, that the priests petitioned Ptolemy VIII Physcon (170-117 BC) to prohibit public functionaries at least from coming there and living at their expense.

The most ancient was a temple for Isis, built in the reign of Nectanebo I during 380-362 BC, which was approached from the river through a double colonnade. Nekhtnebef was his ancient Egyptian royal titulary and he became the founding pharaoh of the Thirtieth and last native dynasty when he deposed and killed Nepherites II.

For the most part, the other ruins date from the Ptolemaic Kingdom, more especially with the reigns of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, and Ptolemy VI Philometor (282-145 BC), with many traces of Roman work in Philae dedicated to Ammon-Osiris.

In front of the propyla were two colossal lions in granite, behind which stood a pair of obelisks, each 13 metres (43 ft) high. The propyla were pyramidal in form and colossal in dimensions. One stood between the dromos and pronaos, another between the pronaos and the portico, while a smaller one led into the sekos or adyton. At each corner of the adytum stood a monolithic shrine, the cage of a sacred hawk. Of these shrines one is now in the Louvre, the other in the Museum at Florence.

Beyond the entrance into the principal court are small temples, one of which, dedicated to Isis, Hathor, and a wide range of deities related to midwifery, is covered with sculptures representing the birth of Ptolemy Philometor, under the figure of the god Horus. The story of Osiris is everywhere represented on the walls of this temple, and two of its inner chambers are particularly rich in symbolic imagery. Upon the two great propyla are Greek inscriptions intersected and partially destroyed by Egyptian figures cut across them.

The monuments in both islands indeed attested, beyond any others in the Nile valley, the survival of pure Egyptian art centuries after the last of the Pharaohs had ceased to reign. Great pains have been taken to mutilate the sculptures of this temple. The work of demolition is attributable, in the first instance, to the zeal of the early Christians, and afterward, to the policy of the Iconoclasts, who curried favour for themselves with the Byzantine court by the destruction of heathen images as well as Christian ones. It's notable that images/icons of Horus are often less mutilated than the other carvings. In some wall scenes, every figure and hieroglyphic text except that of Horus and his winged solar-disk representation have been meticulously scratched out by early Christians. This is presumably because the early Christians had some degree of respect for Horus or the legend of Horus - it may be because they saw parallels between the stories of Jesus and Horus (see Jesus in comparative mythology#Ancient Egypt).

In 1902, the Aswan Low Dam was completed on the Nile River by the British. This threatened to submerge many ancient landmarks, including the temple complex of Philae. The height of the dam was raised twice, from 1907–1912 and from 1929–1934, and the island of Philae was nearly always flooded. In fact, the only times that the complex was not underwater was when the dam's sluices were open from July to October.

The temples had been practically intact since the ancient days, but with each inundation the situation worsened and in the 1960s the island was submerged up to a third of the buildings all year round.

In 1960 UNESCO started a project to try to save the buildings on the island from the destructive effect of the ever-increasing waters of the Nile. First, building three dams and creating a separate lake with lower water levels was considered.

First of all, a large coffer dam was built, constructed of two rows of steel plates between which a 1 million cubic metres (35 million cubic feet) of sand was tipped. Any water that seeped through was pumped away.

Next the monuments were cleaned and measured, by using photogrammetry, a method that enables the exact reconstruction of the original size of the building blocks that were used by the ancients. Then every building was dismantled into about 40,000 units, and then transported to the nearby Island of Agilkia, situated on higher ground some 500 metres (1,600 ft) away.

In the evening we took a boat to an island that the Nubians live on. When the Aswan Dam was built it flooded 20 Nubian villages and they were all relocated. We had a terrific dinner starting with orange juice, then rice, lentil soup, salad, bread, moussaka, and chicken. A banana for desert and tea. Our leader Khaled described what a Nubian wedding celebration is like.

Nubians (/ˈnuːbiənz,ˈnjuː-/) are an ethno-linguistic group of people who inhabit the present-day Northern Sudan and southern Egypt. They originate from the early Sub Saharan African inhabitants of the central Nile valley, believed to be one of the earliest cradles of civilization. They speak Nubian languages, part of the Northern Eastern Sudanic languages.

Early Neolithic settlements from prehistoric Egypt have been found in the central Nubian region dating back to 7000 BC, with Wadi Halfa believed to be the oldest settlement in the central Nile valley. Parts of Nubia, such as Ta-Seti (the first nome or administrative region of ancient Egypt), were continuously a part of ancient Egypt throughout the dynastic era. Other parts of Nubia, particularly Lower or Upper Nubia, were at times a part of ancient Pharaonic Egypt and at other times a rival state representing parts of Meroë or the Kingdom of Kush. However, by the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, all of Nubia was united with Egypt, extending down to what is now Khartoum.


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Looking towards original location of TempleLooking towards original location of Temple
Looking towards original location of Temple

They put pilings in, then filled in with sand to slowly absorb the water before they could dismantle the Temple and move it. The pilings and some sand is still visible.


Tot: 0.123s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 10; qc: 46; dbt: 0.0111s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb