Destination: Egypt

0


The astounding power of its Pharaonic heritage has been attracting tourists to Egypt for generations.  We recently had the pleasure to be in Egypt for 13 days and although could not catch a glimpse of all the wonders that Egypt has to boast,  were lucky enough to see some of the places of interest in Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel,  Cairo,  Dahab, Sinai and Alexandria.  During our trip we have seen pyramids, tombs, mummies, temples, churches, mosques, museums and a synagogue, cruised the Nile on a felucca,   climbed mountains,  rode camels and horses,  met and mingled with people from different countries,  relished food that was new to us,   worn out a pair of sneakers,  taken more showers than we can count ?and collected a lifetime of memories.


Hope our dear readers will enjoy seeing Egypt through our eyes.  (This episode covers only LUXOR) :


""
Luxor ? The Luxor Temple


""
Aswan – Feluccas on the Nile


""
Cairo- The Sphinx & Pyramids 


""
Abu Simbel – The temple of Hathor


""
Sinai – The slopes of Mt. Sinai (Left); Alexandria – the Mediterranean sea (Right)


LUXOR


Luxor is a place often described as the world’s largest open-air museum.  The sheer size and the number of its wonderfully preserved monuments have made Luxor Egypt’s greatest attraction after the Pyramids.  The beauty of Luxor is spectacular, as on one side you can see the mysterious Theban escarpment dominating the landscape and on the other you can see the Nile flowing between the modern town and the former necropolis.   On the East Bank you can gaze in wonder at the temples of Luxor and Karnak, see the Mummification and Luxor museum and on the West Bank you can marvel at the Valley of Kings,  Valley of Queens, Deir Al-Bahri temple, the Ramesseum,  and Colossi of Memnon.


""
The first Pylon built by Ramses II is decorated with his military triumphs.


Luxor Temple :


The Luxor Temple built on the banks of the Nile is dedicated to the Theban triad of gods Amun, Mut and Khons.  Largely built by the new kingdom pharaoh Amenhotep (1390-1352 BC), it was further added to over the centuries by Tutankhamun, Ramses II, and various Romans. 


""


""
Eyeball the huge colossal statues of Ramses II (Left); Ramses II everywhere 😉


""
The pink granite obelisk is nearly 25 meters high and dotted with Hieroglyphs(Left); The Colonnade built by Amenhotep III ? a large corridor lined by 14  Columns(Right)


""
The Courtyard


""
The Avenue of Sphinxes, which originally ran all the way from the Luxor to the Karnak Temple


""
The Chapel of Serapis


KARNAK TEMPLE COMPLEX :


Wandering through this gigantic complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons, temples and obelisks helps you make some sense of the sometimes overwhelming jumble of ancient remains.  Huge statues and obelisks are everywhere and tourists are totally dwarfed amongst them.   About 30 pharaohs left their mark here thus you can get a fair idea in the evolution of ancient Egyptian artistic and architectural styles. Hieroglyphs and painted and carved reliefs cover nearly all the surfaces.   It is not hard to imagine how awe-inspiring the temple must have been to the Egyptians who worshipped here.


""
Avenue of Ram headed Sphinxes


THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS  & QUEENS :


The drive to the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank is  very beautiful.  As you drive past you see green waves of sugarcane fields swaying gently in the breeze, palm trees line the road and in the far distance you can see the blue waters of the Nile. 


As you approach the Valley of the Kings, all you can see is dry parched desert, white sand and cliffs and mountains.  Most of the New Kingdom pharaohs built their burial places in the Valley of the Kings.  They had realized that the Pyramids were too visible and accessible to thieves.   In spite of this, it is believed that thieves looted most of the tombs and stole the treasures buried with each king.


A total of 62 tombs have been discovered in the Valley.   The last discovered tomb was that of Tuntankhamun in 1922, who died around age 20 after a brief reign. The tomb is now bare and all its treasures are on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


""


Most of the tombs follow a similar pattern, three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. Every surface, even the ceiling is covered with paintings, drawings and hieroglyphs.  Vivid reds, yellows and blues –  all looking like they were recently painted.  Pictures inside the tombs are not allowed;  though I did manage to click a couple, followed by a stern warning by one of the guards.  You get an eerie and creepy feeling when you enter the tombs; especially after hearing about a curse of the Pharaoh’s which said that all those who disturb the tombs will meet with an early death. 


The Valley of Queens is the burial ground for the queens the princesses and princes.  They are beautiful too but pale in comparison to the tombs for the kings.


""


""
The inside of the tomb


COLOSSI OF MEMNON:


The massive pair of statues known as the Colossi of Memnon are the first monument that you see as you arrive on the West Bank.  Rising about 18 M from the plain, the enthroned, faceless statues are the only remains of a great funerary temple of Amenhotep III.  They are the statues of the legendary Memnon,  who was said to be the son of the dawn goddess Eos.  They are also called the ‘Singing Statues’ because each sunrise it would emit a haunting, musical sound, which was believed to be the voice of Memnon greeting his mother. 


""


Deir Al Bahri:


Rising out of the desert plain, the Deir Al-Bahri, merges with the sheer cliffs of the Theban mountains as if nature herself built this extraordinary monument.   It is a complex of mortuary temples and tombs  located on the west bank of the Nile.   This partly rock-cut, partly-free-standing structure, built by Hatshepsut,  was excavated in 1896.  Hatshepsut, was one of the first female pharaohs, and ruled for nearly 20 years.  She was married to her half-brother Tuthmosis II, and when he died,  his son by a minor wife was to be his successor.  As he was too young to become the Pharaohs,  Hatshepsut ruled, and she did so with an iron fist.  In some reliefs she has been shown in the regalia of a pharaoh, including a false beard.


""


The highlight of the Deir Al Bahri complex is the Djeser-Djeseru,  which is a colonnaded structure. The other salient features of the complex are the central court, the portico, the Chapel of Anubis, the Hathor Chapel, the Temple of Montuhotep and the temple of Tuthmosis III.


62  tourists were massacred in cold blood by Islamic terrorists on 17th November, 1997 at the Deir Al Bahri complex.    After this incident, tourists to this spot dwindled;  however on the day we visited,  tourists were pouring in large numbers,  proving that such incidents do not deter tourists who love traveling.


""


A Felucca Cruise on the River Nile :


A felucca is a small wooden boat with broad canvas sails.  Essentially, the craft is reliant on wind-power with no motor, and are dependent upon the wind factor to propel forward. It can comfortably carry 5-10 passengers and the deck is strewn with soft colorful cushions and rugs and equipped with a canopy that offers shade and protection from the elements.


""


Traveling down the Nile by felucca is a ‘must-do’ in Egypt. Our hotel organized a 4 hour felucca cruise on the Nile and it was an experience that we really cherished.   Our felucca captain, called himself ‘Moses’ and kept us entertained by singing, cracking jokes and catering us with a steady flow of sugarcane, bananas, oranges and of course the local ‘Jasmine’ tea. 


""
Sunset on the Nile is sheer bliss.


Author: Judith Serrao- UAE