Exploring the Nile: Temples, Tombs and Pharoahs

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Oct 06, 2010

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Amarco II Cruise ship

Flag of Egypt  , Qinā,
Saturday, October 30, 2010

The trip along the Nile took us from Aswan (site of the "High Dam") to Luxor, a complex of ancient temples. Aswan is a short flight from Cairo and the cruise lasted four days.  We traveled back thousands of years to the reigns of Ramses II, Nefartari, Hatshepsut and Tutankhamen with visits to Temples, tombs and monuments built along the Nile for the Pharoahs, Kings, Queens and Gods.  Amazing and Fascinating! 

Our ship, Amarco II, was beautiful, spacious and delicious.  It holds 85 people but there were only 25 on our trip.  There are about 400 boats sailing the Nile, and we would highly recommend this one.  The cabins on the Amarco II were spacious, clean and comfortable, and the meals were delicious.  It was a first class trip.  And free internet in the cabin!  Following are short synopses of the major sites we encountered.

The Temple of Philae was drowned under hundreds of feet of water when the "old dam" at Aswan was built in 1902.  It was recovered in 1974 when the high dam was built, with funds from UNESCO.  It was cut into blocks, with each block being identified, and then lifted from the water, block by block.  A temporary causeway was built to transport the blocks to its current location on an island in the middle of the Nile.  The new island was leveled with dynamite in order to accommodate the Temple.  I have to tell you, knowing about the relocation is almost more amazing that the temple itself.

This was our first stop after leaving Aswan, and there were at least 30 cruise ships docked at Kom Ombo when we arrived.  We were told there are over 400 river boats cruising the Nile.  The number of tourists in the temple was astounding!  Hundreds of people were pushing and shoving to get inside the small temple and see the historic items, like the original Egyptian calendar chiseled on a wall.  This calendar in Kom Ombo is thought to be one of the original calculators of the days of the year for the Egyptians
. The temple was beautiful, but this particular calendar was incredible since it is the primary evidence of how the Egyptians calculated the days of the year.

and Karnak Temples are located about three kilometers from each other.  There was a road between the two temples, bordered on both sides by miniature sphinxes.  The road and sphinxes were buried over the millenniums.  The current Governor of Luxor is having the road and the sphinxes excavated so that the road will be accessible for walking between the temples.  To do this he had about 900 homes in Luxor taken by eminent domain and the owners re-settled.  About a quarter of the road has been excavated so far.

OMG.  What a mess.  This complex, a small city, was built over a two thousand year period and dedicated to the God Amun.  It was built near the Nile even though the river had catastrophic floods every ten years or so.  The Temple flooded up to 20 feet high some years.   And this continued until the Aswan "Low Dam" was built in 1902. The floods, along with a major earthquake around 700AD destroyed most of the 65 acre Temple, with some walls and columns remaining.  A lot of the collapsed ruins were piled into mounds centuries ago and remain in those mounds today.

Karnak was a huge and thriving Temple and city in its day.  The ruins that remain are absolutely amazing and precious.  The complex was built over a two thousand year period and dedicated to the God Amun. 

Luxor is a very small Temple, especially compared to Karnak.  Ramses II added several extraordinary statues of himself to guard the Temple and they are still there.  We visited in the evening and were able to get some amazing images of the Temple and the statues

The Temple was buried under sand over centuries (the same as Karnak).  A few hundred years ago Muslims built a Mosque on what they thought was the ground level foundation of the ruins of Karnak.  As it turned out, the mosque was built on the roof of Karnak.  When the Temple was excavated the Mosque was 30 feet above the current ground level.  The Mosque still exists and is an active temple in Luxor.  Access is via a stairway to the Mosque.

The West Bank is hard to describe.  It's an area of many miles and was used to bury the royalty since it was high ground and not subject to the flooding of the Nile.  The region is ten miles from the river and is the closest high ground that wouldn't flood.  One of the towns in the West Bank has been home to the diggers and builders of the tombs since ancient times.  This particular town is being razed by the current Governor in order to expand excavations for tombs not yet discovered.  The residents are being re-settled in a new town farther inside the desert. 

Amazing tombs are carved into the mountains throughout the region.  Hundreds of tombs were built for royalty and for nobles.  Less than 25% of the tombs have been found and excavated, and every one of those had been emptied by tomb robbers from prior civilizations.  Only one tomb was found intact by modern man. In 1922, King Tutankhamen’s tomb was excavated by the archaeologist Howard Carter and all of the treasures were found intact. 

 It has been theorized that many of the tombs were robbed within weeks or months after burial by the workers themselves.  King Tut’s tomb is open to visitors, but it is empty except for his mummy.  All of the treasures are now located at the Cairo Museum, so we chose not to go inside his tomb, especially since they charge an extra $20 for the privilege.

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