Spectacular sightseeing trips from Luxor include the Aswan Dam, Dendera Temple, Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo Temple and Philae Temple. We've chosen just two temples to highlight here - The Great Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel and Philae Temple near Aswan.
Colossal statues - around 20 metres tall - and huge, highly detailed stone carvings decorate the front of the temple. Inside, the temple is unusually complex, with many side chambers. The Hypostyle Hall supported by eight huge pillars, carved with images linking Ramesses with Osiris, god of the Underworld, to illustrate the pharaoh's immortality. More colossal statues line left-hand wall. The bas-reliefs on the walls depict battle scenes form Ramesses II's many military campaigns. A second pillared hall lies beyond, before the entrance to the sanctuary.
The sculpture of the four main gods carved into the black rear wall of the sanctuary is straight from fantasy fiction: the clever design means that twice a year on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate three out of the four gods. Only the statue of Ptah, the god of the underworld, remains - appropriately - in permanent darkness. How clever is that?
The islands of Philae (tr. "'the End") lie just above the First Cataract near Aswan at the southern end of the Egyptian Nile. The huge waterfalls led to the islands of Philae becoming centres of commerce between Meroë and Memphis, as cargoes had to be transferred between boats to continue their journey along the Nile River.
The Ancient Egyptian temple complex of Philae Temple was originally built on Philae - an island sacred to both the Ancient Egyptians and the neighbouring Nubians. The Temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. For a time it was considered to be a burial place, and was to be "Unapproachable" (by anyone but priests). A legend grew that birds would not fly over and that fish would avoid its shore.
But in 1902, the Aswan Low Dam was completed. Its height was later increased twice, so that the island of Philae - and its ancient temple - was permanently flooded, except between July and October when the dam's sluices were open. The temple buildings were strengthened but the colors were washed out of the wall paintings and the stonework became encrusted with silt and other Nile debris.
The flooding got worse and worse, and in the 1960's UNESCO proposed a massive ten-year rescue project. The whole island was surrounded with a large coffer dam so that all of the water could be pumped out. After careful surveys the entire ancient edifice was dismantled and relocated - in about 40,000 carefully labelled pieces - to the higher ground of nearby Agilka Island.
Amelia Edwards, a 19th century British novelist, wrote about Philae:
"The approach by water is quite the most beautiful. Seen from the level of a small boat, the island, with its palms, its colonnades, its pylons, seems to rise out of the river like a mirage. Piled rocks frame it on either side, and the purple mountains close up the distance. As the boat glides nearer between glistening boulders, those sculptured towers rise higher and even higher against the sky. They show no sign of ruin or age. All looks solid, stately, perfect. One forgets for the moment that anything is changed. If a sound of antique chanting were to be borne along the quiet air — if a procession of white-robed priests bearing aloft the veiled ark of the God, were to come sweeping round between the palms and pylons — we should not think it strange."
A Shaduf in use at Kom Ombo, Egypt
Travelling around Egypt you can see many echoes of Ancient Egypt in the daily life.
One example is the Shaduf (or 'shadoof') - like the one pictured here, which is in use at Kom Ombo. The Shaduf - a counter-balanced water lifting apparatus - was used in the times of the ancient pharaohs. It can lift over 2,500 litres / day (to keep the irrigation ditches filled) by means of an upright frame supporting a long branch, with a bucket, skin bag, or bitumen-coated reed basket at one end, and a weight - usually of clay or stone - at the other end.
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