Thursday, September 16, 2010

Luxor and Aswan 3 (9/12/10)

Today our wakeup call came at 6 am, so we could visit Edfu Temple, the second biggest temple (after Karnak) in all of Egypt. We got coffee or tea in the bar before we left, which was really nice, although probably a bad choice for me since I also had coffee at breakfast when we got back.
Edfu Temple was amazing, but I couldn't help wishing that our group was the only one there. It was by far the busiest place I've visited, loaded with tourists, mostly European. It took so long to even get our tickets that we had only 20 minutes to see the temple before we had to return to the ship, which was sailing at 8:00. Barely any of our group made it though the press of tourists t get a glimpse of the inner sanctum of the temple, which once held a golden statue of Horus (the falcon god) before it was 'discovered' and taken to the Louvre in the 18th century.
edfu temple, the pharaoh smiting someone
my gecko friend
We left the temple to meet our bus, which was ridiculously late, considering that it should have just waited 20 minutes for us to come back out. We got back to the boat by 8:20. Luckily, it hadn't left without us (we make up about half of the passengers) and it really didn't start to sail until we were all done with breakfast.
When Maggie and I got back to our room, we found the cleaning guys outside, and we offered to wait in the common room until they were finished, but the man insisted that they would come back later (with a huge grin on his face). It turned out that they had left another surprise for us: what we think was an elephant, made out of three towels and two pillows.
doesn't really look like an elephant, though...
We napped for a few hours and I finished reading my book just in time to go up on deck and see the ship pass through two of the locks (or 'loaks' as our itinerary called them) on the river.
the scenery from aswan to luxor
a very famous 'loak', or so i am told
Then the boat stopped and we disembarked and got on the bus, headed for the Valley of the Kings. We were already running at least an hour behind 'schedule' (remember - Egyptian time!) and the drive to the valley took longer than it was supposed to so we were way behind. It was boiling hot when we got off the bus, leaving our purses, cameras, and water bottles behind. [Edit to add: That's why this section is so boring - no pictures allowed] We received our tickets and got on the tram for the short ride up the valley he first tomb. Our tickets were good to see three tombs, excluding Tut's and Rameses II's, of course. If I remember correctly, we visited Rameses VII, IX, and someone else. The first two were both unfinished, but still beautiful. All of them were swelteringly hot. Since I couldn't take pictures, I'll describe my two favorite parts. First, the ceiling of the second tomb we saw: it was plastered and painted midnight blue and covered with thousands of white stars, all evenly spaced and identical. Second, being able to read a few of the hieroglyphs, like this one, which means 'the king of Upper and Lower Egypt':
'king of the sedge and the bee' [not my photo]
When our guide decided that we had suffered enough waiting in the hot sun for no real reason, he took us back to the tram and the bus. Then we were informed that our next stop was an alabaster factory where we could buy things. It seemed pretty interesting, but I didn't really care that much because I didn't want to pay 50 egp for a stone scarab beetle or 200 egp for a small vase. I think the guide must have gotten a commission for bringing us there, because he seemed to be selling just as hard as the shopkeepers.
At this point, you should know, it was about 5 o'clock and none of us had eaten since breakfast at 8 am. I hope that helps to se the mood, because here's a warning: there is some angst ahead.
When we left the alabaster factory, or RA gave us a choice: we could stay and visit Deir el-Bahari (the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut), or return to the boat, have lunch, and visit Luxor Temple later instead.
We had fallen so far behind in our schedule for no reason other than that we're in Egypt, we had to choose between two of the most famous and beautiful temples/sights in all of Egypt. Of course, when it was put to a vote, lunch wo, meaning we'd skip Hatshepsut, go directly to a late lunch on the boat and visit Luxor temple later. This is not the option I would have chosen.
[Here's the angst.]
I understand that things on this trip were mostly out of my control and that that's the price I'm paying for having other arrange things for me. But I wish things had worked out differently. Most people on this trip aren't archaeologist, arn't Egyptologists, havenever studied Ancient Egypt a day in their lives. And that's okay. Not everyone has to care about wheat I care about. But it does mean that they don't care that Hatshepsut was the only female to rule Egypt as a Pharaoh, not a queen. That after she died, her name was erased from history and her monuments were vandalized by her successors. That her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari is the finest example of its kind, dedicated to the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love and a protector of women. they don't know or care even about the silly things, like the thousands of 'model cucumbers' left at the temple as offerings to the fertility gods, or the 'naughty grotto' which hints strongly at an illicit relationship between Hatshepsut and her top advisor, the architect of her temple. Or the hidden scene on the wall of the temple's inner sanctum where her advisor is shown worshipping Hathor directly, taking a position that none but the king and his family should have, and which demonstrates the high esteem in which the Pharaoh Hatshepsut held him.
They don't care about all that, and that's their choice, and it's okay. But it means that I'm sitting on this cruise ship writing this now after an extremely unsatisfactor late uunch ,in stead of visiting the temple tht was one of the main reasons I came to Luxor in the first place.
I'm not saying I'llnever se it now, bccause I know I will, even if it cost me another $400 to do it. I'm just saying that I wihs things could have turned out differently.
a nile sunset
Luxor Temple actually ended up being well-worth a visit, so I didn't end the day too disappointed. The temple had been renovated and addd onto over and over agin thorgh the years by many different pharaohs, including Tutankhamun. It stretched back for the length of a few city blocks, each new area more enclosed and intricate than the last.
the temple at dusk
statue of the pharaoh
hypostyle hall

hours falcon with cobra, ankh, and double crown
After our visit to the temple, we returned to the boat for dinner and belly dancing show, which was fairly disappointing, since it didn't actually involve any belly dancers.
We packed adn said goodbye to our cruise ship, then left for the Luxor airport. We got to our destination early for once, and after passing through the ridiculous security at the airport (I got through with a 1.5 liter bottle of water in my hand), waited an hour to start boarding. Now we're on the plane and ought to be taking off soon. It's good to be going home.
[Endnote: what kind of symbol for international arrivals is this? International plane crashes seems more like it.]

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