Cruising the Nile
I am back from my trip but the euphoria of my visit to lands rich in history and unmatched experiences still there. My flow of writing got interrupted because of a lack of easy Wifi availability in Egypt. For the next few days, I am going to tell all those stories which are bubbling in me.
From Luxor, we took four nights cruise to Ashwan, a bustling city in upper Egypt. The beauty of the Nile is to be seen to be believed. Particularly in the background of the desert, the cool, calm and ever-flowing water of Nile is a better sight than any oasis one could imagine.
The room in the boat was beyond our expectations. Almost to the size of a hotel room, it had a king bed, a lounge, and a full-size window that could be opened to let the breeze in.
Once we passed the bustling banks of Luxor the smaller villages started to appear showing the real-life around the ancient river.
A little later we saw a show of our lifetime. A few boats started following the boat to sell merchandise. The skillful vendors threw ropes to hitchhike a ride with the boat while precisely throwing their merchandise to the uppermost deck where we were enjoying the sunset and a cup of tea. It was a spectacle never to be forgotten.
We haggled on the price in the noise of the boat engine and threw back the dresses (and towels and Egyptian cotton bedsheets) when the prices were not agreed. One of the dresses fell in the water which upset me a lot thinking that the poor vendor probably occurred more loss than gain.
Our guide assured me that they will recover the dress even if it had flown miles down in the river. “Don’t worry,” said our guide, “even if you throw them the money and a fish swallows it, they will find the fish and recover the money.”
We sailed for a few hours and then anchored at night in Edfu, a town famous for the Edfu temple. In the morning we visited the temple on a horse carriage.
Each temple has almost the same structure and almost the same relics – purification of the king, crowing of the king, the king making offerings to the gods, the gods presenting the king with the key of life. We also learned that each place has its own god, or rather the family of gods – the male god, the female god and the son god. The god of Edfu was Horus the falcon-headed god (the god of protector of the ruler of Egypt), who is the son of Osiris (the god of dead and underworld) and Isis (the goddess of life and magic).
The temple was the ‘home’ and cultural center of the falcon god Horus of Behdet (the ancient name for Edfu) and remains one of the best-preserved temples. Outside the temple was a big stable for horsecarts a means for cashing in on tourism.
Once back onboard, we continued sailing to Kom Ombo, another town by the river, where we visited the Temple of Kom Ombo dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god and Horus the falcon-headed god.
The temple occupies a stunning location overlooking the Nile but most of its front pylon and pillars were chopped off to provide stone for the construction of a sugar mill nearby at the orders of Ottoman ruler Mohamad Ali Pasha in the nineteenth century. It is the same ruler who gave the Luxor Temple Obeslick to the French King Louise Philippe in exchange for a mechanical clock that didn’t even work and is still mounted on a terrace of Mohamad Ali mosque in Cairo.
Muhamad Ali was also going to use the stone from the Great Pyramid of Cairo for construction of other buildings but fortunately for Egyptians, the cost of cutting the stones from the pyramids was much more than sourcing them from the querries.
The fact is that most of the Egyptians didn’t know the value of their heritage until about two hundred years ago. It was when Napolean defeated Ottomans and occupied Egypt, Rosetta stone was discovered and the West turned its attention to Egypt that a new field of study, Egyptology, emerged and Egyptians beginning to realize that the ruins scattered around them were in fact cradle of civilization like no other.
Kom Ombo temple is unique in the sense that it was also a treatment center. It has relics that document the tools and mechanisms used at that time for childbirth, surgery and medicine making.
In the afternoon we started sailing towards Ashwan and reached there just after the sunset. Ashwan is the place where the High Dam was constructed in 1960 which stopped the flooding of the Nile. More about that in my next post. Today just enjoyed the beauty of Ashwan at night in the following video.