Friday, 3 April 2009

The Temples of the gods

All along the Nile the Egyptians built Temples dedicated to their gods. They were all built in the same style, with an 'H' shaped pylon as the entrance, a large open hippo style hall with many columns and several smaller covered chambers all leading to the 'holy of holies' - the alter - which was a small room in almost complete darkness.

The ordinary people who brought their offerings every day wouldn't be allowed in, they simply left them at the entrance. Some of the nobles would be invited into the hall but only the priests and the Pharaoh had access to the inner sanctums.

Each Temple was dedicated to a specific god, or in some cases 2 gods. The photo above is of the Temple of Horus, the falcon, the avenger. The figures carved relate to Horus and the Pharaoh of the day who had the temple built. The photo below is from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor which was built much later, after 300BC. Although it may not be obvious from the photos there is one striking difference in the carvings which makes them easy to date. The later ones are more 'voluptuous' and date from the time when the Greeks ruled Egypt - the Ptolomy's. Which included Cleopatra.
As we sailed down the Nile to Aswan we visited several of these Temples, all of them built in a position so that twice a year, when the Nile flooded, they would be blessed by the god of the Nile, Isis. These Egytpians were clever fellows !
They still are as a matter of fact, they never miss an opportunity to try and sell you something. One of the funniest things Ive ever seen was when we were waiting, along with several other cruise boats, to go through the lock at Esna, dozens of small rowing boats would pull along side with their wares on display - scarves, galabaias (Egyptian long 'dresses' for men) necklaces etc... These little boats would row furiously trying to catch up with the larger ones, the men on them shouting at us passengers, coming perilously close to being hit at times. We found that at all of the sites we visited we would have to run the gauntlet of street traders - and they could be very pushy and intimidating at times. Nothing is for free there - nothing. Even in public lavatories there will be someone outside selling loo roll - at 2 sheets per person. And everyone expects a tip - even for something as simple as pointing out a nice view to photograph. We soon learned to say 'La'a Shokrun' (which means No Thankyou!) very firmly.
The weather was hot, and got hotter as the week went on resulting in a sandstorm on the last night which was amazing. It was twilight and we could see a huge black cloud bearing down on us. It looked just like a storm cloud but when it hit it was just very high winds, and lots and lots of fine dusty sand. Next morning everthing was covered in this sand. It hardly ever rains in this area of Egypt - they get just 3 inches a year - but these sandstorms which originate in the Sahara are quite common.
As I said the weather was very hot whilst we were there averaging about 35 degrees and the sun is very powerful. Even with sunscreen I burnt quite badly on my feet and arms and discovered a new side effect of Sutent - you dont tan. You burn and then go back to white again. Martin, ofcourse, has come home a lovely shade of dark golden. Im still pale blue ! I mentioned this to Dr P when I had my 6 weekly MOT last week and he said its because Sutent affects the melonin in your skin - in the same way as it changes your hair colour. So from now on its sun block or covering up for me - and maybe some fake tan!
I found the week very strenuous what with the very early starts and the amount of walking we had to do, and I wasnt the only one - even Martin said how tired he was at the end. But I wouldnt have missed it for the world and would recommend it to anyone. Just dont go in the summer, the heat will be unbearable then. I will never forget standing where Pharaohs had been buried, touching the walls of temples where they worshiped, and learning a tiny bit about what life was like for them.


Andrew Petcher said...

Sounds like a fantastic holiday, glad you enjoyed it. I think I would find all that pushy selling a bit of a turn off!

Lori said...

I just spent a while reading about your trip and reviewing all the wonderful pictures you posted. What a wonderful vacation!