The faces of Egypt: Part 2

Following the overnight train journey from Cairo,we checked in at the Steinberger Nile Palace hotel at about 9a.m. We needed a shower and a nap to prepare for the day ahead which included a trip to the Luxor Temple just after midday, a visit to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the kings followed, by  an evening tour back at the Luxor Temple.

Looking onto the Nile River

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One of my favourite Shakespeare plays was Antony and Cleopatra so while looking down the River Nile, I couldn’t help but picture Cleopatra sailing flamboyantly in her barge down the  River Nile. When we sailed on the river, I also couldn’t help but ponder the might and power of this ancient river.

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Not only was it a true jewel of ancient Egypt but it’s significance rests in it’s length – it is approximately 6650 Kilometres (4132 miles), making it the longest river not only in Africa but in the world. If not more equal or more important, it crosses from Egypt through : Kenya, Eritrea, Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia. What power there is in holding the source of water for 10 other countries.(North and South Sudan included)

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Luxor Temple

Temples were regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the residences of the gods while they were on earth. Egyptians believed that they could communicate with the souls of deities through cult statues that were in the temples. Egyptian temples were not public places of worship like churches and mosques. They were private sanctuaries. Only pharaohs or important priests could enter the shrine. Ordinary people prayed outside the temple and entered the courtyards to watch ceremonial events.

Luxor Temple (across the street from the Nile, next to the town of Luxor) was dedicated to the Amum, the god of fertility and growth, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. Probably built on the site of an earlier temple, Luxor temple was started and extensively built by 2,623 slaves under Amenhotep III and completed a century later by Ramses II. Other pharaohs, Alexander the Great and the Romans also contributed to the effort.

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The open courtyard above would have been the extent to which ordinary folk were permitted to gather if not worship in their own homes.

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These pictures above and below will give you a perspective of the number of inner sanctums, the importance of columns, courtyards and Obelisks held by Ancient Egyptians. Note the 25-meter obelisk which was one of the two originally erected and said to weigh over 150 tons (only one remains, the other was taken to Paris in 1833 and now sits in the Place de Concorde). I was fascinated by how engravings of such precision and detail were made on these granite obelisks. For those of you who have looked at the the story-telling depicted on tapestries in the French castles I’ve showcased,  the difference here is that story-telling and offerings to the Gods are depicted on rocks, walls and sculptures.

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Before the entrance  as depicted below, is a long stone dromos “a walkway and precession route sided by images of Rams

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The scarab below (modern dung beetle) had religious significance in Ancient and Middle Egypt. It is perceived as a lucky charm and there are many artifacts and amulets made from the scarab.

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Luxor Temple at night

The pictures below were taken during a night tour of the Luxor Temple, partly because it’s really beautiful to look at during the night but also because there is a phenomenal rise in temperature after noon.

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Symbolism of Art

Symbolism can be observed throughout Egyptian art and played an important role in establishing a sense of order. The pharaoh’s regalia, for example, represented his power to maintain order. Animals were also highly symbolic figures in Egyptian art. Some colors were expressive: blue or gold indicated divinity because of its unnatural appearance and association with precious materials, and the use of black for royal figures expressed the fertility of the Nile from which Egypt was born.EGYPT 2010 289_1024

Of course I was fascinated by the artwork below . I can’t recall the story precisely except that it was about “penis envy” with the idea of capturing some of the King’s power using a cup to capture sperm. I’ll not say more on this subject except that I noticed all figures of people carved on the walls had well toned bodies (Aint nobody got time for being overweight)

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Below is a depiction of the Nubians – a darker tribe who lived in their own empire on the banks of the River Nile between Egypt and Ethiopia.

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Hatshepsut’s Temple

Hatshepsut’s Temple (near Valley of the Kings) was built in 1480 B.C. by Queen Hatshepsut, arguably the most powerful female ruler of ancient Egypt. Dedicated to Amun and several other deities and reached by a long ramp, it is comprised of three terraces of colonnades, connected by massive ramps, and a small chamber tunneled deep into the rock. The last set of colonnades is set into the face of a towering red sandstone cliff on the eastern face of a Thebean mountain.

The Temple of Hatshepsut begins with the large first courtyard in front to the temple. A ramp sided by pillars leads to a second courtyard. At the back of this is a colonnade with walls and small enclosures with engravings and reliefs of episodes from the queen’s life and images of gods.

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The Valley of the Kings

We went into some of the tombs of the ancient pharoahs. Many were buried with lots of their treasures and other finery, hoping to take these with them into the afterlife. Even the walls within the tombs tell the stories of the lives they led and depicted symbols and offerings to the Gods. The snake is a recurring symbol of protection on this wall art.  Unfortunately, the kings could not foresee that bandits would enter their many intricate tunnels and steal much of their treasure. What has been salvaged through archeological finds is stored in the main Egyptian Museum where we were not allowed to take pictures of all the fine jewellery and other treasures. The thought crossed my mind that if some of us looked into old attics, there might be some precious stones amongst the rubble😀EGYPT 2010 127_1024

Just one of the pictures I took from within a tomb – remember, this was Ancient Egypt.

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I hope that you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me and I invite you to join me next week to a visit on the banks of the Nile in a Nubian village. Thanks for reading. Chevvy.