Egypt Tour

Edfu and Esna

This March 26th morning tour took us by horse cart through the town of Edfu. It is very typical of small towns – interesting peeks through gates and doorways – some school girls, a mother with three small ones hanging laundry, the butcher shop, the souk with lots of oranges, fresh vegetables – tomatoes, onions and garlic are prominent.

We entered the Horus Temple through a side gate in the first court (the entry pylon was closed for some reinforcement work). The site is well preserved, mostly intact and showing good color because it had been buried under sand. The temple was four floors high which leaves a lot of wall space for reliefs and paintings. On either side of the first hypostyle hall (Wide Libation Court) there are huge black granite statues of Horus wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. We went in to the hall between them and walked through the second hall and the central hall to the sacrarium (where the image of the god was washed). The reliefs still show good color in many areas and the walls were richly inscribed. The rooms surrounding the sacrarium open off of the "corridor of mysteries" and showed a much more modest degree of decoration. The "sun bark" that was used to carry the god’s statue was tucked away in one of these.

The outside temple walls and the surrounding walls are also decorated with hieroglyphs and reliefs. A narrow hallway led us to some steps going in to an exquisite naos or monolithic tabernacle dedicated to the goddess Nut. Its perfect 12x12 foot ceiling held Nut in the typical posture – her back along one wall, her legs along another, and her arms along the third. Between her hands and feet and under her torso were hieroglyphs about her, the land and sea. She wore a midnight blue skirt covered with gold stars and had pale aqua green skin with sepia hair – quite a knockout. The cornices of the room were adorned with scarabs that still retained their blue, red and gold hues. The image was fascinating. Unfortunately, the room was too dark to take a photo without using a flash and that is strictly forbidden.

Lunch was served as we sailed on to Esna. From where we docked, it was a short walk of about 300 yards to view the Temple of Khnum (built in the second century BC). This was the first site that we had to climb down about 30 feet below street level to see. Since Esna’s market in cotton and general trade had flourished (it was the last stop between Nubia and Luxor), it was continuously inhabited. As houses around the temple fell apart, they were rebuilt on top of the rubble – in fact, when Napoleon’s soldiers discovered the temple, they could easily inscribe their names at the top of the columns.

Khnum was a ram headed god who made humans on his potter’s wheel (ergo the patron of potters). The temple remains consist of 24 hypostyle columns (6x4) that stand about 40 feet high, with composite tetralobe capitals (no two alike). The capitals depicted dates, grapes, cotton and other crops that were shipped through this area. Also of note were the Roman influenced astrological signs on the ceiling, and the names of Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius added in hieroglyphs as well as some Coptic symbols. There is a prominent panel of hieroglyphs that show the birth process – starting with the creation by Khnum of the Ka (spirit) on the birthing chair. At the rear of the temple is a large birthing stool and some stone benches.

The afternoon was spent sailing up the Nile – we sat on the top deck watching the countryside drift by and reading about our next stop and all that is to be seen in Luxor. We had to pass through the old (British) lock that allows only one boat through at a time. It serves no real purpose now because the High Dam changed the water level in this area. Because a major road connects the two sides of the Nile at this point, they only open it when there is a line up of boats. Soon after, we came to the new (Italian/Egyptian) lock that has much more modern technology. It allows two large vessels to enter and then drops or raises them a full 20 feet to continue up or down the Nile. Many of the passengers came to the top deck to watch this process and enjoyed tea, coffee and cookies in the late afternoon sun.

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