First, a note on masks. Most people I came in contact with were wearing masks. At least indoors. I wore a mask all the time indoors unless I was eating. Outdoors I wore a mask if there were a lot of people around. Many people who were wearing masks, let them slip down below their nose. Does that qualify? Not sure that really does much. Whenever I got on a plane I double masked. I figured it was a small confined space so better safe than sorry.
There were only six people in our tour group which was fantastic. Our guide was a very nice man from Luxor who had a Masters degree in Egyptology. He was knowledgeable and happy to answer all our questions. Plus after doing this for twenty years he was still very enthusiastic about it all. It was interesting to wander around some of the more crowded areas and listen in to other guides. They all picked out different things to highlight and stories to tell.
Our cruise ship was called the MS Tulip. It had four floors and a top deck. The weather was in the 50’s and 60’s and very windy on board so not really pool weather but there was one. My fellow tourists took great advantage of the masseuse on board. There were only about 40-50 of us on board so we got a lot of attention from the staff with a couple of them hovering over us at all meals. One of them said “bon appetite” whenever he took a plate away. The food was abundant and for the most part pretty good. After reading Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie many years ago, I always wanted to float down the Nile. No murder this time…
As a young girl, I had a very colorful history teacher who brought it all to life. He told exciting detailed stories of Alexander the Great, Ramses II, Queen Hatshepsut, and many others. He told us about the great temple that Ramses II built into the mountain at the edge up the Nile River in 1200 BC. After learning about this magnificent temple, I read that the Aswan Dam was going to bury it in water and it upset me because I wanted to go see it. In 1968, an international team of engineers successfully moved the temple 65 meters up and 200 meters back in order to save it. I was still sad not to see the original but excited to go none the less.
On day four of my trip I boarded a flight in the early morning for Abu Simbel, 230 Km southwest of Aswan near the Sudanese border. It was a sunny day and the flight was spectacular. I never imagined the desert to have such interesting terrain. Big black rock dominated with specs of green along the river. As we descended we caught a glimpse of the temple from the air. It took our breath away. This was the highlight of my trip, my dream come true.
There were two temples at Abu Simbel. They sat next to each other against their artificial mountains. The Temple of King Ramses II was the larger one with statues measuring 20 meters high (66 ft.). Above the statues were twenty-two baboons worshiping the rising sun. Inside there was a main hall and chambers off to the side with a sanctuary at the back. In the sanctuary were four seated figures – Ra-Horakhty (the sun god), King Ramses, Amun Ra (the creator of all things) and Ptah (god of craftsmen and architects).
The temple was built so that on October 22 and February 22, the sun would enter the temple and light up the figures in the sanctuary with the exception of Ptah who was connected with death, the dark. These are said to be the dates of Ramses’ birth and coronation. There is no real evidence that this is true and the dates could have shifted over time but still, an amazing feat.
The second temple was built for King Ramses’ wife, Queen Nefertari. Her statues are half the size at 10 meters (33 ft.) high. It is rare in Egypt to see the Queen depicted as the same size as the King so it is clear she was important to him.
We returned to Aswan in the afternoon and as soon as we boarded our cruise ship, we set sail down river. In Egypt up is down as the river flows north to the Mediterranean. After dark, we stopped at Kom Umbo to visit the joint temple of Sobek (the Crocodile god) and Horus (the Falcon god), and the Crocodile Museum. The temple was built about 350 BC and has been damaged by earthquake, erosion and builders stealing rock to build other things. But on a clear night with a full moon, it was beautiful.
The next morning we had some time off so we just stayed in bed and watched the river bank as we sailed north to Luxor.
Our cabin staff were very creative and presented us with towel sculpture whenever we returned to our room.
Stay turned for Luxor….