Senusret I, Karnak and Ipet Resyt (The Southern Sanctuary)

Having cruised down to Aswan we were now heading back North, to Luxor, the Nile helping us move with its current, taking us past the sights of daily life along the banks, it’s a peaceful, serene, yet hot experience, but thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating to watch.

I don’t know how, but on previous trips I had missed the unusual square water taxis, carrying locals from east to west, strange looking vessels, it was great to see them this time, something else to add to the memory bank in the brain, ready for that pub quiz question!

Senusret I was the 2nd Pharoah in the 12th Egyptian Dynasty, who embarked on a considerable building programme over his ~40 year reign, in part he rules co-regent with his father Amenemhat I and subsequently with his son Amenemhat II as co-regent. He married his sister Neferu III, a practise commonplace in Egyptian times, as well as having more than one wife!

Karnak, the temple complex near Luxor was one such project he started, around 2055BC and comprising of multiple temples, chapels and structures, it is understood that over 30 Pharaohs were in some part involved in its construction, over a period of 2,000 years, its very big!

Egypt’s history and monuments always have an effect on me, they are truly mind-blowing, hiding secrets, telling stories, the skills of the workmen is just amazing, and especially so at Karnak. They have recently been testing a new restoration method on some of the pillars to remove the 1000’s of years of grime and leave the original colour behind, you can see the results above, just wow!

As you enter the main temple complex of Amun-Re there are still clues as to the methods they used to construct the massive structures, take a trip and find out how they managed to build such impressive buildings.

You will remember the unfinished or more apt, broken obelisk at the quarry at Aswan. Karnak originally had 29 obelisks, 17 remain the tallest being Hatshepsut’s obelisk, ~29Metres high, it’s impressive. There is another ‘unfinished’ obelisk, also dedicated to Hatshepsut and located in the northern quarry at the temple, some 42Metres long.

I’ve chosen a couple of significant and important views in the massive Karnak complex, and with my good friend Ahmad’s support, and some significant research am able to explain their meaning in more detail, please go to the hyperlinks for even more information on points of relevance. So here we go!

The Great Hypostyle Hall, a forest of 134 columns in the precinct of Amon-Re represents the primeval papyrus swamp from which Atum, a self-created deity, arose from the waters of Nun at the beginning of creation. The picture above (left) is known as column no.7, and Seti I on the right, is making an offering of Lettuce leaves to Amun, the creator god on the left.

This depiction was a common ritual, an act of devotion in ancient Egyptian religion. Its other significance, it was thought that lettuce increased fertility by allowing more sperm to be produced, the Egyptians were quite an advanced and forward thinking nation, as more recent studies have scientifically shown!

Maat, ancient concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice was also the goddess and the personification of truth, cosmic balance, and justice. Her ostrich feather represents a truth. Maat were the principles that were followed by Egyptians in their daily lives and ultimately formed the basis of law in Egypt.

Egyptian society followed these sets of rules and doctrines, performing complex daily rituals to appease the gods. How do we know? Written documents in the form of papyrus, describing the complex procedures in considerable detail. Known as Papyrus Berlin 3055 the document contains over 66 stages and is a fascinating look into daily life all those years ago.

The slab on the right was built in Hatshepsuts time in 1520BC and is part of a list of the daily offerings in numbers to be given to Amun-Ra, any leftovers being given to the people, and forms further evidence of the contents of Papyrus Berlin 3055 truly fascinating stuff.

Deep Breath…….

It’s difficult to appreciate the immense size of the ‘Hypostyle Hall’, pictures don’t do it justice, you have to visit to feel the atmosphere, and, in the heat of the sun, take a deep breath and try and imaging what is was like in ~2000BC, some 4023 years ago! A stone mason, creating part of a pillar, an artist, filling in colour, erecting an obelisk, it must have been a magical and mystical time……

We spent some time at Karnak being educated on various important aspects of the site, some free time to take in the atmosphere and then it was back on the coach, next stop the Temple at Luxor, just down the road.

Luxor temple is connected to Karnak by a ‘road’ some 2.7km long, known as the ‘Avenue of Sphinxes’, it was lined by 100’s of Rams Head and Sphinx statues and would have been quite impressive during the Festival of Opet, which at its peak lasted 27 days!

Much of the avenue remained covered until the early 1900’s, but, following 7 decades of restoration, and, following a grand ceremony, it finally re-opened in November 2021.

At the end of the avenue on the right had side there is a small structure, a chapel, built by Hadrian and sitting in the ‘Court of Nectanebo’ called the Chapel of Serapis, pictured above left and middle. Serapis is a Graeco-Egyptian deity whose cult, was introduced during the third century BCE on the orders of Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter of the Ptolemaic Kingdom as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. It’s constructed of burnt brick and sits atop a plynth 12 metres by 8 metres and contains a single remaining statue.

There are numerous discussions as to the reason why Egyptian Pharoah statues are always presented with the left foot forward, as you can see in the picture on the right. I will leave you to explore and ponder, at Luxor temple, during its restoration a mistake was made if you look at the picture of the front of the temple above, check the statue on the left, the reconstruction accidentally put the wrong foot forward, ooops!

One of my favourite statutes inside part of the Temple, one of many is that of Rameses II, left above and middle. It’s in extremely good condition and portrays a powerful man, but what do we know about him, here are some interesting snippets gained from historic texts (not the phone ones :-), and hieroglyphic inscriptions in numerous temples.

  1. Rameses II is THE MOST FAMOUS of Pharoah’s, although Tutankhamen, and his mask of solid gold may be more in the public eye due to Howard Carter et al.
  2. He Lead the Egyptian Army at the Battle of Qadesh against the Hittites in Syria in ~1274 BC, the jury is still out as to its actual outcome with most of the evidence from an Egyptian perspective
  3. He had two ‘main’ wives, Nefetari, and Isetnofret, the latter gave birth to Rameses successor, Merneptah his 13th son!
  4. He had over 100 children!

The temple complex of Ipet Resyt, The Southern Sanctuary, Luxor Temple was our final visit, it had been another long and interesting day, full of mysticism, history and intrigue. The final pictures show some of the recent artefacts found, and on display in the open air museum, and the interesting mix of cultures, the temple once housing a christian church and as you can see more recently, an active mosque.

Next stop was the airport in the morning and the flight back home. Another trip to Egypt done, and it had not let us down. The Giza plateau was immense, Saqqara and Memphis equally so, the Nile Cruise was peaceful and energetic at the same time, visits to the various temple sites were off the planet. The Valley Of The Kings had stepped things up a gear, with the electric cars making the visit so much more comfortable than previous trips.

I do hope you have found this Egyptian series of blog posts interesting. It’s very difficult trying to convey the atmosphere and feelings on these trips as Egypt is a magical place and the sites we visited, some for the 2nd or 3rd time, still conveyed a new sense of wonderment,

…………………Until Next Time………………….L8ers

Dam, Dam, Granite and Temples!

It’s Thursday morning and we are off on our adventures again! There is a famous Dam at Aswan, well actually there are two. The original ‘Low Dam’ was built between 1899 and 1902 by the occupying british, although there are records of a failed attempt much earlier in the 11th Century. The ‘High Dam’ was built much later by the Egyptian government between 1960 and 1970, following the revolution in 1952 and had both engineering and financial support from Russia.

The High Dam has resulted in a number of benefits, the original Dam failing to do much to improve things other than the pockets of some British businessman. Firstly, proper protection from historical flooding and droughts caused by too much, or lack of water flowing from the hills in Ethiopia and Sudan. The regulated water flow has meant an increase in agricultural production and employment, electricity production and better navigation on the Nile has benefitted tourism.

Sadly, when completed, the dam flooded a large geographical area, relocation of over 100,000 people was needed as a result. Many archaeological sites were submerged while others were relocated. The dam is blamed for coastline erosion, raised levels of salt in the soil, and health problems so not the total success that was expected.

If you ever visit the ‘historical’ Egypt, then most people start with Cairo, the Giza Plateau and a Nile Cruise, that was our first venture way back in February 2000, over 23 years ago. We returned a while later and picked a ‘Lake Nasser’ cruise, much more sedate and the chance to spend some proper time at Abu Simbel, when it’s quiet and the hoards of visitors have left by plane or bus, returning to Aswan.

One of the 1st temples you visit on a Lake Nasser cruise is the Temple of Kalabsha, just visible in the picture above. It’s one of numerous monuments that were sectioned, moved and put back together like a 3D Jigsaw to escape the flooding the High Dam Caused. Abu Simbel was moved at a cost of $40M and took 4 years, click HERE for the complete list.

Shut your eyes for a moment, and try and take yourself back to circa 1458BC +/- 10 years, that’s approximately 3,480 years ago!

Your Pharoah, Hatshepsut, has asked you to create an important Obelisk for a temple, a very big one, you start to create one out of granite bedrock with a massive team of engineers. Approximately 5, maybe even 10 years into its production it cracks! Bugger!

The ‘Unfinished Obelisk’ at Aswan IS THAT Obelisk and is 1/3 larger than any other similar object found. Its weight is calculated at over 1000 tons and it’s over 40 Metres in length, it’s huge.

Our brilliant guide Ahmad, who had been with us for all our trips so far, explaining impeccably, the important history of each of our visits discussed the theories of how they managed to create such magnificent structures, with simple tools, no laser cutters in BC1458. It was a simple but mind-blowing example of Egyptian genius! (Or maybe other powers assisted?)

Anyone for a temple visit, yes please. Oh, and a short trip on a motor boat.

Built during the reign of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III, the Temple of Isis at Philae is dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and Horus. In danger of being submerged by the Aswan dam which flooded the area, the Egyptian government and UNESCO worked together to pump the area dry and relocate the entire temple, some 50,000 stones, to a nearby island called Agilka, where it stands today, it’s another magnificent example of Egyptian workmanship.

During its life, the temple has been inhabited by Christian’s who left evidence of their occupation in the form of crosses of different styles as exampled above. The defacing of Egyptian deities was common, the Christian Coptics only believing in one god would chisel out the faces of Egyptian religious figures.

Above left and right is the ‘Mammisi’ a Coptic word meaning ‘place of giving birth’ it was a common feature in Ptolemaic temples, they were small structures usually placed outside the main complex. The one at Philae has 7 columns on the east and west sides, each bearing different ‘capitals’ or column heads.

So, a bit of an Egyptology lesson for those that are interested, thanks my new best Egyptologist friend Ahmad Mozamel, he really knows his stuff, all the other guides we met knew him and said how lucky we were, he was awesome.

Back to the Mammisi, Horus was born inside, an energetic spot where ‘Ley Lines’ cross. The 7 columns represent the 7 faces of Hathor, you can see her head on the square element of the columns near the top. Seven is a magic number, 7 days of the week as in greco-roman times. When a lady gave birth, they did so in the mammisi, the baby was kept there for 7 nights, if the baby survived 7 nights, it was finally given its name.

I dropped a clarification question to Ahmad regarding the mammisi, I couldn’t remember all the detail and google and ChatGPT were hopeless. I sent the message on Sunday evening at 18:44 and the lovely kind Egyptologist and friend replied within 10 minutes, a gentleman indeed.

The Mammisi at Philae was the 1st Ptolemaic one to be constructed and dedicated to the young Horus.

After the brilliant visit to The Isis Temple at Philae we popped into a ‘perfume’ factory which typically features on these trips, along with the papyrus factory trip with did in Gaza. They provide a break from the heat, clean toilets, some local crafts and a chance to support the local economy.

Rows of high quality extracts from all sorts of substances were available along with ‘copies’ of well known perfumes. I did my bit to support the economy, Bergamot, Mint, Summer Jasmine and Frankincense along with a candle burner to delight the senses and bring back memories of happy days on Egyptian adventures.

It was a very busy day, after lunch was a Felucca trip, the boats used up and down the Nile for millennia.

As we sailed south, boys on sail boards approached us and sang various songs to attract us and seek financial reward, El Nabatat Island, or Kitcheners Island as it is more commonly known, Aswan Botanical Garden, home to many rare plants was busy with visitors, it was a peaceful and relaxing trip and very enjoyable.

The Temple Island of Philae looked completely different at night, lit up by clear starry skies and a bright beaming moon. We had returned to enjoy the Sound and Light Show, this was a new one, up to date and ‘modern’. As we were guided around the temple grounds, areas suddenly lit up and the spoken word was used to describe the story of how the complex was moved and saved, familiar british voices it was professional and extremely well done.

It was a beautiful evening, the show had been wonderful, the heat of the day had subsided that had been packed with adventure and wonderment.

……………………….Until Next Time………………………L8ers……………..

Nubt – City Of Gold

The feature image at the head of this post is a depiction of Horus (Falcon head) and Thoth (head of Ibis or Baboon), pouring consecration water over Ptolemy XII while Sobek watches on. Ptolemy XII ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt from 80 to 58 BC and then again from 55 BC until his death in 51 BC.

The relief has been defaced by ‘copts’, early orthodox Christian’s who often chipped out the faces of Egyptian gods because of their belief, that there was only one god. Sobek was an ancient Egyptian deity shown as a human body with a crocodile head.

The temple at Kom Ombo is unique in being dedicated to both Sobek & Horus.

Above, the first known ‘picture’ of a stethoscope is located at Nubt, the ‘The City of Gold’ which is commonly known as Kom Ombo, like many Egyptian cities it has had several name changes over the centuries.

The temple contains some stunning reliefs which our guide described as we walked around, apparent here compared to other locations is the obvious prominence of particular bodily features such as the belly button. Human forms were usually depicted as being perfect, with no anomalies.

Considering it’s over 2000 years old, surprisingly, vivid coloured paintings can still be seen on some ceilings in the temple and quite stunning they were, we visited in the early evening and the natural light was turning to a vivid orange hue, absolutely beautiful.

This particular relief is quite extraordinary, it’s probably the 1st known ‘picture’ of both childbirth and a mother feeding her child, this temple has some quite amazing depictions of life, but so long ago, the next relief shows what might be the 1st evidence of some of the medical paraphernalia that Egyptians used to deal with sick people and injured soldiers.

If you look carefully, you can see all manner of medical instruments in the relief above, like the glass bulbs used with a flame to create a vacuum and suck poison from wounds, various knives and cutting tools, a set of scales and if you look carefully, what looks like a tuning fork which may have been used to test hearing!

Before the construction of the High Dam at Aswan, the Nile would regularly flood. A series a ‘Nilometers’ were constructed to enable the water depth to be determined, and as necessary warnings sent out to nearby villages to warn them, and allow them to take appropriate action if possible. One such Nilometer exists at Kom Ombo.

Next to the temple is a small museum dedicated to the Crocodile, it’s really interesting. Excellent examples of preserved and mummified animals are on display, along with descriptions of the process, history of the site and some more details on daily life, its was a perfect finish to a thoroughly interesting day.

…………………………….Until Next Time…………….L8ers………………..