Egypt Tour

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Aswan, Temple of Philae and Kom Ombo

This morning (the 25th) we ate a light breakfast and took a bus out to the granite quarry where much of the pink statuary we have seen and will see was cut. There was the largest obelisk ever found - lying on its side, cracked and unfinished. Sal was scolded for hopping onto the obelisk by a guard - did he think Sal was going to break it some more? We rode down to the Aswan High Dam - quite a structure and a huge feat of engineering (but, hey, it's a dam).

Best of all, we went by small boat over to Agilkia Island to view the Ptolemeic Greco-Roman Temples of Philae. These structure were built in honor of Isis around 4 BC. First we come to a beautiful blend of Greek, Doric and Egyptian columns (32 of them – no two alike). There is a pylon (entry) to the pavilion of Nectanebo I (built to look like a giant sistrum) and decorated with reliefs of Isis and Horus or Osiris. The entries and ceilings depicted the sacred birds associated with Isis and the walls were carved in high relief. Trajan’s Pavilion was small but had ornate finials in the lotus design and a beautiful view of the lake. There were small offering type temples scattered around the site that really made it feel like it was an active village in the past.

After lunch we set sail for Kom Ombo. It was a wonderful trip, sailing along at a good clip, up on the top deck, having afternoon tea while watching the countryside and country lifestyle sliding by lazily. The shore is vibrantly green and lush. There were fishermen, lotus gatherers, shepherds, cattle and goats, small villages with women washing clothes and bright laundry on the line, children playing.

Kom Ombo is where the Nubians resettled after the High Dam was built - it is a pretty area with lots of sugar cane and the air is heavy with the scent of burnt sugar. We arrived as the sun was beginning its decent. Our first stop was to peek into a small Hathor chapel in which the mummified remains of crocodiles are kept. Primarily, the site has two temples – one for Sobek (the crocodile god of fertility and creator of the world) and the other for Horus (the falcon headed solar war god). The interior court has 13 columns that are decorated with bas-relief. The entry of the temples display the aten, snakes, and wings that represent pharaoh's power, and the ceilings are painted with the sacred vultures. The walls of the temples are especially interesting because they depict many surgical instruments and physicians. This was a place that people traveled to for medical advice and treatment. The most fascinating of these walls showed the entire conception and birthing process and had descriptive writings about such things as forceps and the birthing chair. This is quite unusual because sex per se was written about in only one papyrus - the subject was not for public discussion. A large mammisi or birthing chamber is just outside the temples but considered part of the complex.

An ankh shaped nilometer is still in excellent condition. It has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes now that the water level in this part of the Nile has been greatly lowered (High Dam impact). As the sun sank below the horizon leaving a deep cerulean blue skyline, we lingered on the temple steps to watch the fervent activity of the small bazaar below us.

We finished our day with a late dinner. All the staff dressed in local costume for this Egyptian feast - looking back it was the best dinner we had on the Nabila! Most of the passengers, us included, were dressed in galibeas or caftans. There were some very creative uses of veils. After dinner, we adjourned to the lounge for some Egyptian style music, party games, group photos, and enjoyed a cup of espresso.

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