Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 12: Dendera

Well, I sure felt rotten when I got up this morning, but after an hour or so I was doing pretty well. We boarded our bus at 8 for Dendera Temple - only two buses' worth went here, which was a shame because it's really very pretty.

Dendera Temple is dedicated to the cow-goddess Hathor. The front facade has a row of pillars with her head on them:
Hathor is one of only two Egyptian gods who are shown full-face (the other one is Bes); everyone else is shown in profile! (your trivia for today...)

There is a sacred lake out back which is now filled with date palms:
which can apparently survive on where-the-water-used-to-be. Actually Ihab tells us they only need about 3 liters of water a year. Good job, palm trees!

Also out back: the rear facade includes a portrait of Cleopatra and her son Cesarion:
From the fact that Cleopatra is on there, you can tell it's a Roman-era temple, and because it's so new (!) it is very well preserved. Well enough preserved that we even got to go up on the roof!

You can see a map of the temple here and if you look at it there are two staircases marked. We went up the spiral staircase on the left and emerged on the roof.

On the second floor, the major attraction is the famous Zodiac Ceiling. There is a round, Greek-style zodiac:
and a rectangular, Egyptian-style one:
with Nut the sky goddess arching over the land. (These both show up a lot better if you click to embiggen them.)

Here we are wandering around on the roof of the temple:
Then we came down the stairs, by the other staircase marked on the map - the LOOONG straight one! It just swoops down one whole side of the temple! There are carvings on every surface you pass on both staircases, too.

What's most amazing about this temple is the gorgeous painted frescoes in the inner chapels, which still have most of their original color. They are intricate and very very beautiful:
IMG_1036 IMG_1035
Many of the scenes involve healing of some kind, because Hathor was one of those goddesses associated with healing.

They are just starting to clean 2000 years' worth of soot off the ceiling in the hypostyle hall:
It's really a delicate blue, which will look amazing when they're done revealing it!

We had about an hour of free time to wander around and take pictures; Dad spent it talking Middle Eastern politics with Ihab. Some of Ihab's ideas are interesting - for one thing, he looks forward to when the oil runs out, because then maybe the rest of the world will leave them alone for a while and they can fix some of their problems! He plans to go into Egyptian politics the next time they have parliamentary elections over there.

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