When we left off, we had taken a our journey from Cairo to Memphis where Ramses lay in the place he was discovered, a statue of Hathor, and a granite sarcophagus with Thoth, Anubis, and Horus was engraved into granite all standing roughly where they were found. All in an open air museum. From here we traveled to Giza and the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, King Khufu’s solar boat, went on a sunset camel ride which turned into a bumpy yet romantic ride under a full moon, and finally to Saqqara to see Djoser’s Step Pyramids.
This article begins where we left off, we left Cairo and arrive in Luxor by plane. Here we met our guide at the airport who introduced himself as Tarek. He who would lead us around Upper Egypt for the next several days including the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and Queens before boarding our ship heading to Kom Ombo. Tarek met us again in Kom Ombo and took us around the sites for an evening tour under the lights.
‘The Sonesta St. George I – Our Ship’
Our ship, the Sonesta St. George I, is one of the newest and finest ships in the fleet of nearly 200 ships that sail the waters of the Nile River. This ship will served as our quarters four days and nights. The inside was like walking to a palace, small in terms of cruise ships, holding roughly 75 people. We were fortunate, for some reason, the stars aligned in our favor, and we ended up in the Presidential Suite. Life certainly did not suck.
While we spent little time in our room, it was nice to get back from a long excursion to a luxuriously shower and nice king sized bed. While on board, Lloyd and I spent most of our time on the upper deck, near the pool with a bottle of Egyptian Sparking wine. How Perfect is that?
We were very glad we chose a private tour. The trip kept getting better with each day. Tarek, we learned, was one of a few guides, fluent reading hieroglyphs and rather enthusiastic about his passion of Egypt and its antiquities. While It takes many years to learn the meaning of each hieroglyph at least we had a crash course and were able to name some of the important players of the ancient world. Trust me, they are complex. Merely looking at the walls of glyphs, one can gauge a sense of difficulty especially considering many are broken, missing parts or worn beyond recognition.
‘Statue at Karnak Temple’
The complex at Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is the second most visited historical site in Egypt, next to the Giza and the Pyramids. The tall statue at Karnak along with the obelisk serves as the gateway to the Temple. The long entrance to the Temple is of significant distance, the two sites, Karnak and Luxor, were once connected by an avenue of sphinxes, some of which are still present, others being restored. We observed Archaeologists and Egyptologists working on the restoration efforts which entails a large part of the gateway to relink the two temples again. When the temple was constructed, it was Egypt’s most sacred religious site. Both temples were dedicated to Amun who became Egypt’s principal deity during the twelfth Dynasty.
The complex at Karnak and ancient Thebes (Luxor) was completed around 1400 BCE and severed as the capital for several years. So great was this complex, it actually encompassed six temples at one time. Four temples on the left bank which are known as Goornah, Dayr-eh-Baharee, the Ramesseum, and Medinet Haboo which we didn’t see; and the two temples on the right bank are known as the Karnak and Luxor, which we saw. The structures were carved mostly out of Nubian sandstone from southern Egypt in Aswan. It seemed like an impossible task to move the stones and statues from where they were found or carved in Aswan, and transport them to Karnak, Luxor or where ever they would eventually be erected. Some of these stones weighed a ton a piece. While many of the statues were carved and erected at the site, many were moved from place to place. What a feat; it seems inconceivable that these large obelisks, statues, and blocks could be moved without the use of modern equipment. The ancient Egyptians moved the blocks almost with bare hands and antiquated equipment as if nothing. It is sad, to know the secrets have been lost forever. Buildings constructed today, seem to take forever. These statues are more complex and heavier than most of our modern buildings. Can you imagine how long it took to create these massive temples?
One of the many obelisks we saw. This one nearly 100 feet in height, the great ‘Obelisk at Karnak Temple‘.
The entrance is lined with lion-headed sphinxes. The bottom photos is a close up of one of the sphinxes.
Remains from the Temple of Karnak
‘The Scarab Statue,’ standing among the most significant restoration projects, being achieved by Egyptian restorers, is the consolidation and removal of Amenhotep III’s red granite scarab, which was relocated to the western side of the lake in order to make more room for tourists as they cue to enter the inside of the temple. Our guide Tarek, told me that if one walks around the scarab seven times, he or she will never again have love problems. Because of this one would see people walking around this statue seven times. I am guilty. I fell for this story. What can I say. I am a romantic at heart. Lloyd was off taking photos someplace. I walked around the scarabs seven times.
The largest free-standing column in existence. Whether true or not, we heard, one hundred men could stand on the top of the column.
Both the temple at Karnak and the Luxor temple contained many amazing structures and antiquities. Many similarities are seen between the two. I wondered what it was like to live in that era….
Some of the columns to the top.
The above image is a picture of Ramses the great shown striking down his enemy. Most all the carvings of Ramses is always shown as the victor. This is true of all the Pharaohs. They only carve remarkable stories on the walls. We learned that many times Ramses may have actually lost the battle but he had the workers depict him as the victor anyway.
The last photo includes a part of the great wall of Luxor and Karnak. There are pieces of this wall all over the ground which are ready for placement on this wall. It is like a work in progress. A puzzle. Archeologists/Egyptologists are in the process of solving the puzzle, putting pieces of the wall together. The blocks are quite large and weigh hundreds of pounds each. Hard work for any worker. Many of the blocks had small numbers written on them, a system in place to document where the blocks fit on the wall. And while there were cranes present in the cities, I don’t recall as having seen at any of the archeological sites. The men were lifting and moving the blocks apparently the way their ancestors had. Surely this wasn’t the case.
We decided it would be okay to have one last photo that day, as we were getting hot and tired. We were ready for some relaxation on board the ship, top side. Tarek was all about having our photos taken in front of all the important places. So, you will see most of them. So here we are standing in front of the great wall.
The entrance to the Luxor Temple.
The long corridor to the Luxor Temple. To the upper left center you can see the remnants of a Coptic church. The next image provides a black and white version of the Coptic Church.
This steeple is situated at the top of the above part of the Coptic Church. The Islāmic mosque called the Abu el-Haggag was actually constructed over temple. The Romans and Coptic’s took great efforts to deface much of the hieroglyphs by painting over the top of them as seen in the following image, or chiseling away the faces and bodies from the stone.
The Roman mural is still largely intact and the hieroglyphs quite visible. Luxor Temple was interesting as it depicted the influence and presence the Coptic Christians had on Egyptian customs and society. Basically the Coptic’s and Romans wanted to erase Egyptian culture and customs, documented by the mass defacing of many of the temples throughout Egypt. ‘The Prophets‘ image above is but one example there were many more, only we were not allowed in those areas.
The following image of ‘Ramses‘ you will note a blue color in the stone, is likely from the southern rock quarries where the stone is black to dark blue. This stone was used to carve these monster statues of Ramses.
From the base of Ramses, the structure stands at least 50 feet in height. The next two photos .
‘Two Ramses Unite’ above is the image carved at the base of Ramses. In our photo below we look like ants. Well not ants. You get my point. The statue was large.
The next photos are from our journey to the Valley of the Kings. We stopped at this famous location called the colossi of Memnon which are the temple remains depicting King Amenhotep III, and marked the entrance to his mortuary temple.
‘The Colossi of Memnon’
This particular statue depicts the diminutive figures of Amenhotep’s mother Mutemwiya and his wife, Queen Tiye surround the legs of one of the statues.
The two huge statues together represent King Amenhotep and over stood over 65 feet high. The king site on a huge throne decorated on the sides with the symbol of the united land of Egypt. The following image is of the cliffs sit overlooking the valley of the kings. The holes in the sides of the cliffs are actually tombs. Most of them have been robbed and desecrated.
‘Cliffs Above the Valley of the Kings.’
One of the most interesting places on our itinerary was a trip to the Valley of the Kings and Queens. For me, this part of the journey was my favorite and not at all what I had envisioned. It basically is a line of cliffs in places containing valleys and entailed a mountainous journey to where the temples of such greats as King Tut and King Seti were discovered and where Queen Hatshepsut had her enormous temple constructed.
The above image and those below include images taken on route to the Valley of the Kings and Queens and are full of hidden tombs yet explored, but believed to hold the remains of royalty. Of course as with most of the tombs, robbers have long since had their day, and the grand artifacts which graced the insides no longer are present.
If you look very closely at the upper image, at the top of the cliff are two men. They appear as blips in the photo. That gives one an idea of how great these cliffs are. The cliffs range from two to three or four hundred feet high. Amazing that men built tombs inside.
For a scientist, I have to say I was amazing to see such dramatic landscapes comprised limestone and sandstone, even granite cliffs, then flat and hilly scapes of sand; little to no vegetation. Vegetation if any, was primarily along the Nile River.
This image you can see the tiny holes in the sides, these are tombs that once held great treasures. Most of those have either been robbed of its contents or scientists are working in them, or had been, or they have been robbed of all contents. The next images are a few photos taken from the tomb of Hatshepsut. Her tomb is colossal.
There are a great deal of temples and tombs up and down the Nile River. It is quite impressive. It had to take many years and man power to erect these tombs many during the same time frame. It makes you think, how could such structure be built with suck accuracy, strength, and hand carved. I borrowed a few of the following images from Lloyd as he was able to filter some of the sun’s rays better on his camera at the time. The sun was extremely bright the day we were here, and the skies so blue.
From this image you can see how mass structure. The people are barely visible. The ramp contains a staircase while the other side is a smooth ramp. the ramp was used to move the columns and sarcophagus, and other mortuary temple treasures. Inside the temple there are two levels with statues similar to those below.
The above photo and the one below are courtesy of Lloyd. You not only see the statues but you get a feel for how blue the sky was. The further south we traveled the deeper blue the sky became, and the temperatures became warmer. In Cairo, low 80s to upper 70s F, here the temperatures were in the low 90s upper 80s F. This was in November. Can you imagine what it would be like in Summer? HOT!
This photo was also borrowed from Lloyd’s collection. The man provides a great scale.
This image I took of the guards, I wasn’t sure if they were going to allow me to take a photo of them. As you can see, they were not fazed. This was inside Hatshepsut’s temple. A large part of the temple was lost around 27 BCE? The temple apparently also was the site of a massacre of 62 people, mostly tourists, by Islamist extremists that took place on 17 November 1997.
Guards such as those in the above photo ‘Guards For our Protection,’ depicts two of a myriad of men on guard holding weapons, all to make sure the safety of the tourists. The guards are everywhere keeping the tourists and artifacts safe.
The people we met are friendly and in no way were we in danger at any time during our trip. Yes the guards, police, and military were strongly present. Yes there are big guns, AK-47s and old US machine guns (likely) all to protect us. The government would indeed fall if it were not for the Tourist. The tourism industry is the prime industry, and without it the country would crumble, and because of the revolution, the country has suffered tremendously.
The ‘Man Kneeling’ was taken by Lloyd while I was facing the other direction taking pictures of the guards with guns. This is probably one of Lloyd’s favorite photos, and I have to say I have grown to like it as well. The following images are similar to those capture by Lloyd. Notice the color of the sky. No kidding. The sky was this deep color of blue. Nearly surreal.
This photo was shot from the lower lever facing the upper portion of the temple on the second level.
‘Hatshepsut as a god‘ wearing the false beard which curve up. Here she is portrayed in her godly state as she wears the false beard that curls upward. The way in which one can decide whether the king was a god was by the false beard; if it curled upward, this meant the king was also a god. A straight false beard was worn by a man, who is king or pharaoh. Queen Hatshepsut is the only Queen in history who was also depicted as a king wearing a false beard and wore man’s clothing. Her false beard with a curve depicted she had been deemed a god by the gods. This was how she was able to gain the respect of the Egyptian people, but telling them she was in fact a god. Thus, the nation recognized her as a Queen and ruler of the country. No other Egyptian Queen served as a pharaoh who was a ruler and was a god. That is how one can identify the gods versus a pharaoh.
This photo depicts Hatshepsut.
Afters some time in the sun with our sparkling bubbly, we were off to Kom Ombo; a night journey. Most of our photos, unfortunately weren’t that great. Plus this place was extremely crowded. I would say the most people we encountered at any one given time or place. I captured only a few shots while there.
Here is an important find that depicts Isis and Anubis and describes a history of event during one of Ramses reign.
A close up of Isis and Anubis and all likelihood Ramses.
Above is a section of wall containing three cartouches, the oval-shaped designs with the hieroglyph inscription inside. The cartouches are only given to royalty or gods. So the message has something to do with someone of royal stature or a deity.
Columns at Kom Ombo.
The underside of the column roof. The colors were amazingly still intact on a number of the glyphs of bees and Ankh symbols.
A defaced wall destroyed.
Inside the Temple Isis and Horus are depicted in several places on this wall telling a story. Keep in mind this wall is some twenty feet or so in height. The glyphs reach the ceiling and are often painted or carved on the ceilings as well.
‘Two Snakes and a Cartouche‘
‘Two Snakes and a god‘
Isis and Horus depicted. There is a tinge of red color in the image either from the stone used to carve the hieroglyphs or from the paint they used during the time. The paint and face make-up was made red by crushing up beetles. Believe it or not, some make-up continues to use this practice to obtain the red colors. This is also true in some of the red dyes, Natural Red #4, we find in food, like yogurt, jello, and other foods that have a red color, come from carmine beetle.
The image is of some servant likely presenting a gift or offering to one of the gods. This ends the second part of our journey through Egypt. I hope you enjoyed seeing the photographs as much as I had taking them. I will post the third and final post of our Egyptian adventure, that will include some of the boats on the Nile River, The Temple of Edfu, the Temple at Phliae, Aswan and the upper dam, and our return to Cairo.
Our entire trip was amazing. We saw so much in such a short time. I think I have said, I wish we would have spent another three or four days cruising on the Nile, regardless, the trip was more than I could have ever imagined. I lived a dream.
I hope you will follow us as I post Part III soon.