Our trip began in Esna, a merchant town 33 miles south of Luxor. While our luggage was being loaded onto our dahabiya – boat – we were dropped off at the Temple of Khnum. Located nine meters below street level, the location reminded me of Bet Giyorgis or the Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia.
Because the roof is still intact, a lot more of the color remains on the walls than in the previous temples we visited in Luxor. Covered in bird excrement – the birds like having a roof as well – a dedicated crew is carefully cleaning the walls to reveal the colors beneath.
Afterward, we went on a walk through the town, passing by vendors and shops, happily selling their wares.
That night we docked again, in a small fishing village, and we got to know our fellow travellers, as well a local family. Dennis showed his brilliance by stuffing his roll in his pocket and pulling it out any time someone came by with another round of bread. The rest of us kept eating to remain polite and we nearly had to be rolled back to the boats.
Day two began with a stop in El Kab and a trek to a row of rock-cut tombs. Cut into the side of a mountain, we walked through the lush greens that grow along the Nile to get there.
Along the way, we passed donkeys, camels, merchants, and farmers. Living their lives in this precarious spot of green amidst an ocean of sand.
A few minutes later, we had left all thoughts of green behind and we made it to a very abandoned railway. A surprisingly busy highway was all that stood between us and our first glimpse of the tombs.
Not many visit these tombs – only one other group visited them during our hour-long stop, but they had some beautiful hieroglyphics.
The colors here had also been well preserved and the images portrayed the best way to make wine during the eighteenth dynasty (1550-1295 BC).
They also included a shocking amount of graffiti – mostly from Europeans, but even D. Bushnells from Ohio wanted to be remembered. Most carved their names between the images, but a few were audacious enough to carve over the images themselves.
Next up, it was time for a walk through what little remains of the Temple of Nekhbet. All that can be viewed is the wall around the enclosure and the location where the sacred lake used to be. The temples themselves (Nekhbet and Thoth) are off limits to visitors during their restoration process.
The reoccurring theme throughout this trip that was somehow a complete surprise to me was how much restoration is still in progress in Egypt.
After an incredible lunch aboard the El Nil, we docked again, this time in Edfu. My only real disappointment on the trip (and something I would have known about had I paid just a little more attention to their website), was that our transportation to the Temple of Edfu was a horse and carriage.
As a vegetarian, I like to make arbitrary boundaries for what I am and am not comfortable with. I like riding horseback, but I am wildly uncomfortable making a horse pull me, plus two others, as well as a buggy for all of us to sit in. Factor in the near starvation of so many of the tourism horses in Egypt and it’s a little too depressing for my taste.
Many others thoroughly enjoy the rides and some even raced. Luckily, our horse was in surprisingly good shape and the driver and I talked about the benefits of taking good care of his horses. I just wish Nour El Nil would open up their transportation options to include the tuk-tuks/bajajes that also drove around in plenty.
The temple in Edfu is one of the best preserved in all of Egpyt and had quite a few more visitors than our morning stop in El Kab. The temple is dedicated to the falcon god Horus and its construction was finished during the reign of Cleopatra VII.
In 391 AD, the temple fell into disuse, following an edict banning non-Christian worship within the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, Christian zealots had the same idea that Thutmose III had: carving chunks out of the offending images.
But over the centuries, the temple was buried by 12 meters of desert sand and river silt and it wasn’t until 1860 that the temple was freed again.
The history that accompanied these structures was incredible, but also a little overwhelming! After a while, it was hard to keep track of which God was worshiped where. By day three, it was nice to let all that new knowledge settle in and spend a day relaxing and sailing.
Note: These photos were taken by a number of people, myself, Chandler, and a new friend from the cruise, Thouraya.