Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 10: Edfu Temple

Today began with a leisurely sail down the Nile starting around 5:30 AM. I didn't even notice when we cast off, and I slept clear through till 7:30. After breakfast we loitered around and I took some pictures out our cabin windows. It's like a whole other millennium here:



Around 10:00 we docked and debarked for Edfu Temple, and the Nile cruise boats are so thick on the ground here that we had to walk through someone else's boat to get to shore! We borded our usual buses rather than taking the horse-drawn carriages that are a local attraction (and in Luxor and at Giza too.) This is a principled decision on the part of Grand Circle Travel, since a sorrier collection of scarred, thirsty, starved and maltreated horseflesh you would be hard to come by. One of our group members is the wife of a vet; she got so mad she almost cried. Ihab deplored the horses' condition too - he is a horseman himself and had showed us photos of his own horse back in Cairo.

We arrived at the temple and ran the gauntlet of merchants - every time we do this I think of shearing pens and milking stalls!

This is another Greco-Roman temple; it was finished in 57 BC and its outer pylons (those big entranceway walls, built for the sole purpose of having a place to put your carvings and hieroglyphs) are mostly intact:


Edfu temple is dedicated to Horus the falcon god, son of Isis and Osiris:


I love the way sunken reliefs look on the outside walls of these temples.


This technique is great because you can see the carvings even when the sunlight is so strong due to the shadow outlines. Bas relief/raised relief is very hard to see in such bright light.

The interior carvings are mostly bas relief, though. This one is Thoth, the god of wisdom.


The ceiling of the hypostyle hall retains some original color:



and the holy of holies has a gorgeous model of the Horus Boat and its shiny pink granite shrine. It was so shiny I thought it was metal till they told us it was stone!


As we looked at the wall carvings Ihab pointed out something odd:



A lot of the cartouches that would normally contain the name of the pharaoh who'd built the temple, or who had been pharaoh when the temple was built, are blank. Apparently this was a ploy to keep the priesthood's options open during political instability. One claimant to the throne shows up and is greeted with "Welcome, your majesty! What? Your name's missing? Oh, we were going to carve that in next week, sir! Of course!" and then the next week they give the same speech to someone else.

Everybody had to get their picture taken with Big Bird: there are at least four of these huge falcon/Horus statues in the temple, but this one is the only one with his crown still attached:


There was some dramatic lighting in the little alleyways between structures:


And we saw a weird Egyptian moth:

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