Driving to Dendara to visit the Temple of Hathor

Trip Start Jan 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Al Baḩr al Aḩmar,
Friday, February 5, 2010

Last night, the M.S.Medea was supposed to set sail for Dendara as written on our itinerary but unfortunately due to the Nile River being shallow in certain areas more north, the ship remained tied at the pier in Luxor along several other sister ships.

Around 2:30am, I was awakened by heavy footsteps above my floor.  People were hastily walking from one end of the top deck to the other one and then back.  Voices were also heard but nothing could be understood or made sense of.  Knowing that the Tourist Policemen were on board, it must have been them guarding the ship against any intruders.  But still, one always wonders.

It must have been around 8:00am when we left for our 60 kilometres bus ride from Luxor to Dendara which turned out to be quite comfortable.  The roads were nicely paved and beautiful flowers decorated the landscape along the way. 

Surprisingly, as we headed north to Dendara, we were not escorted by a convoy of policemen neither did we go in a caravan of buses as was normally the procedure in the past.  Instead, several checkpoints were installed along the road where security guards equipped with guns and everything else stopped every vehicle and buses ensuring the safety of us all. 

A new person had joined the group and sat with Akram at the front of the bus, right next to Michel and me.  Even though he looked quite westernized with his leather jacket and cool haircut, we knew exactly who he was and the reason of his presence.  He was an undercover cop who was disguised to look as a tourist but under his coat a hand gun was hidden.

The Temple of Hathor in Dendara covered some 40,000 square meters and was surrounded by a huge mud brick enclosed wall.  Due to its location being a little off the normal tourist trail and being isolated, this was probably the reason of the attack against tourists in the early 1990s.  However, here we were this morning heading towards its entrance feeling totally safe!

It is believed that the Temple of Hathor was constructed over a period of thirty-four years between 54 and 20 BC.  It was dedicated to Hathor and was very well preserved even though some damages probably made during the assault were quite evident on some of the walls and columns.  

Looking all around me, the original painted colors were still visible on most of columns and ceilings.  The Queen's face was engraved on all of the interior columns which decorated the huge room.  The story was that Hathor was the most beautiful woman is Egypt and was known as the Queen with the "cow ears".  How flattering!

After touring the entire interior of the temple, we made our way outside where a rare depiction of Cleopatra appeared with her son Caesarion, whose father was Julius Caesar, on one of the outer rear walls.   It was quite impressive to see the huge engravings especially knowing that this was the only one of Cleopatra that existed in all of Egypt. 

Once our tour with Akram was over, we were all given some time to ourselves to wander around the entire complex.  Michel and I explored more deeply our surroundings and with the help of a local man met at the temple’s entrance, we were led to the southwest corner of the structure where a sacred lake used to exist centuries ago.  We followed him down one of the flights of stairs descending from each corner of a stone-lined ceremonial basin.  It was empty of water and tall trees had grown within its wall, but the surroundings were magnificent.  He showed us a cave hidden in one of the corners and as we looked inside, underground water was seen.   This was the area where Cleopatra used to bathe he went on explaining to us in great details.  Was it truth or fiction as he later asked for a tip for all of his troubles!

While Michel headed to the bus, I went back inside the temple looking for the crypts.   After finally finding my way to the area, along with several other people from the group still inside the compound, we all descended down a narrow hole that brought us to the underground chamber which served as a burial place.  

I could easily walk standing up along several of the narrow passages.  The entire place was completely obscure being illuminated only by a few fluorescent lights.  The walls were extremely well preserved and contained several images of Egyptian mythology.  It was quite an experience to be able to explore these narrow passages and touch the ancient walls surrounding me.  I must have stayed inside the crypt for a good ten minutes after which I came out feeling totally shaken and happy at the same time for having seen such a great treasure.

Thankful for having walked inside a crypt!

Monique   :-)

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