After spending a day in Cairo I’m up early (02:30) for an early flight to Aswan. The next four days are going to be pretty hectic as there’s a lot to see between Aswan and Luxor as we sail the Nile.
On arrival at Aswan I’m met by my guide, who’ll be with me for the duration of the trip, and immediately it’s off to the Aswan High Dam which is a controlled military installation with a small viewing area for tourists to walk about and take photographs.
Word of warning, photographing military personnel, installations or police is definitely going to get you in trouble so on the dam confine photographs to the Lake Nasser or the River Nile on the opposite side of the dam.
The Temple of Kalabsha, built around 30 BCE, during the early Roman period.
Originally the temple was located on the west bank of the River Nile in an area known as Nubia. Constructed during the reign of Augustus, the temple measures 76m by 22m but it was never finished.
There’s not much more to see here, so after a short talk about the dam and it’s construction we drove, passing through several military checkpoints, along the coast to catch a small ferry to a temple complex on an island downstream of the Aswan High Dam.
It’s only a short journey, around 15 minutes and on a hot day the breeze from the lake is quite cooling.
I asked our boatman if I could take his photograph, don’t assume, don’t be sneaky about it, just ask. If someone says no respect their choice.
The temple complex on the island of Philae was located near the First Nile Cataract in Upper Egypt. When the Aswan Low Dam was constructed in 1902 it caused problems, with the rapids and surrounding areas being flooded, including the temple complex.
1970 the temple complex was dismantled and rebuilt on nearby Agilkia Island before the completion of the Aswan High Dam.
The Temple of Philae complex has several temples but the oldest is a temple built for Isis during the period 380-362 BCE.
As is often the case there are temples within temples and once you walk through the entrance you come to a courtyard leading through to another temple.
Look closely at the carvings on the left hand side of each entrance. You can see that they are mutilated and this is attributed to the zeal of early Christians who destroyed evidence of heathen images. Often though images of Horus were less mutilated and it is presumed that this is because early Christians saw similarities between the stories of Jesus and Horus.
Over the years floods caused damage, mainly mud and water, to the hieroglyphics inside the temples. Hear you can see an area that has been cleaned.
The Philae Temple Complex has quite a large area to walk around. The good thing is you can generally keep out of the sun within the temples, but come outside and you start to heat up quite quickly. For a peelie wally Scot like me the order of the day is Factor 50 and lots of it.
By this time I took this it was just after 10 am in the morning and already I was starting to feel the heat. Part of it was done to having flown in from a wintry UK just a couple of days before and secondly a little bit of dehydration. We’d been on the go from early, early morning and I’d neglected to get enough fluid in me.
It’s important to drink plenty of water and seek shade as much as possible. Always buy the water from reputable sources and make sure the bottle cap is sealed. I don’t recommend local tap water, that’s an invitation for The Mummy to take it’s revenge.
Also relocated to the island is Trajan’s Kiosk, believed to have been built in the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan (98 to 117 CE), however some experts believe it was built during the reign of Augustus (68 BCE to 14 CE). Standing 15.85 metres high the temple measures 15 x 20 metres wide.
Inside the kiosk is a carving depicting the Emperor Trajan burning incense before Osiris and Isis.
It was time to leave the island and make our way back to the mainland with a nice pleasant sail across the lake. But boy oh boy when we got back to the mainland…
It was dodgem cars with boats and these boys weren’t taking any prisoners. The quicker they can get you in and off the quicker they can pick up another fare.
One last stop to make before we head to Aswan to join our ship for the cruise on the Nile. We’re off to see the unfinished obelisk believed to have been commissioned by Hatshepsut (1508–1458 BCE), who was the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh, the first being Sobekneferu.
When finished the obelisk would have been about one-third larger than any other Egyptian obelisk erected. It would have measured around 42 metres (138 ft) and would have weighed nearly 1,090 tonnes.
You can see marks on the granite from the ancient Egyptian stone working tools as well as lines marking were they were carving.
Wandering around the quarry is not for anyone who is unsteady on their feet. The stone is granite but it looks like sandstone due to the effects of erosion and sand. I was wearing boots but in places the granite has been polished by the passage of visitors to the quarry and the stone becomes quite slippery, but it’s not noticeable because of the sand until you step on it. It’s also baking hot in there.
My final photograph is of the Baladi dogs that inhabit the quarry and come to think of it can be seen anywhere in Egypt. Even in remote areas we visited.
In Arabic, “Baladi” means “of town” “local” “rural” comparable to English “folk” with a lower-class connotation – wikipedia.
Baladi is not a breed, more like a type of dog. They scavenge through trash and will climb on cars at night and then start howling.
Egyptian government estimates put them around 15 million throughout Egypt. Worryingly they bite around 200,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organisation, spreading rabies, one of the world’s most lethal diseases. Needless to say I gave them a wide berth whilst I was in the quarry.
Well that’s it for day one. I’m still sorting through photographs. As you can guess I took a few whilst I was away. But not only was I using my camera, I also have photographs on my phone that I need to catalogue and look at.
So until next time…..Mike