Aswan - raiding the Tombs of the Nobles

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Mystery and I had a little more time in Aswan before our Felucca sailed downriver to new pastures, so we had to take the opportunity to see the most prominent sight in Aswan - the Tombs of the Nobles.

Unfortunately we'd missed them due to grounding of Feluccas on the river due to strong winds by the Tourist Police a few days before, so decided that a ferry might be the safer, more reliable option.

It certainly was cheaper but you do have to make sure that women sit at the front of the boat - segregated from the males...

Scenes on the water are very pleasant as usual and the view of the tombs as you approach are worth paying attention for. Once you get there, bypass the camel drivers and head over to the ticket booth (or you could be in for a very expensive 50m camel ride).

After a short climb you're amongst the tombs and have a great view of Aswan, Elephantine island and the Nile valley stretching off to the south. And there's an even higher point if you're really feeling fit and walk to the tiny mosque on the hill peak above. Either way, the only problem is fitting it all in to the picture!

From the top of the steps, if you turn right you will find the remains of a small Coptic chapel dating back probably 1,500 years. Lord knows why they built one in the middle of this pagan burial site but it seemed to be a reasonably common practice so I won't argue. A mural of the 11 apostles, with Jesus ascending to Heaven above, is still easily distinguishable and it makes a unexpected little bonus to the expedition.

Heading south though is where the action is (at least what was open for us) and a number of Old (circa 2,500BC) and Middle (circa 1,500BC) Kingdom burial tombs are located here.

For a little Baksheesh (kickback) money the friendly guard opened the tomb of Sarenput II, Overseer of the Prophets (1,786 BC) for us. In another remarkably well kept chamber, especially for one located in a pretty obvious position, we found a variety of very colourful paintings culminating in a very pretty piece in the altar alcove (above right).

Carvings of mummies still stand in wall niches and an intricately carved offering table is off to the right as you approach the stair to the alcove. Apparently the glyphs on this contain Sarenput's titles and achievements indicating he was a busy chap during his life.

Further along the cliff face (if it can be called that), we were also allowed into the double tomb of Mekhu and son Sabni. Mekhu was Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt during the Old Kingdom (sometime around 2200 BC) and lost his life on an expedition into equatorial Africa. Sabni, his son, went and recovered his father's body from the southern enemy after kicking some butt in battle.

The tomb (above centre and right) is smaller and more plainly decorated, but you can see the similarities in carved and painted work throughout the centuries. Interesting that tombs of nobles so far apart in time can be located right next to each other too.

We tried to get across to the 6th century St Simeon monastery (as seen from a distance in the initial Aswan entry) which was a little further down-river, but the camel and ferry boat drivers wanted to charge exorbitant rates to get us there, after which we would have had to pay even more exorbitant rates to get back to the east bank. Oh well, maybe in another life...

Next entry -> Cruising on the Nilus and the call of the donkeys.

Words from the wise #44

"The closer one gets to realising his destiny, the more that destiny becomes his reason for being."

Paulo Ciello - The Alchemist
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