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………………..

Edfu – Ptolemaic Temple of Horus

It was Wednesday morning, the Nile cruise had properly started, it’s now a few weeks since our Egyptian adventure, I have started a new job, my boss flew over from the U.S. to spend a few days with me and I am excited, things feel great.

The Nile is very familiar, a friend that we have navigated twice before, cruise itineraries follow a gentle rhythm and only change if the lock at Esna is hit by too much traffic or the boat engine fails!

Our agenda took us south towards Aswan, the Nile river flows south to north, originating from two sources joining at Khartoum, the White Nile which starts in South Sudan and Blue Nile which has its origins in Ethiopia, currents can slow things up a bit if you don’t have propeller power! The river is 6,695KM long, arguably the longest in the world, although some support a different view that the Amazon is longer.

The routine at the city of Edfu is to get on a ‘Calèche’ from the boat mooring. Arranged by our guide, the calèche’s appeared from nowhere, he wrote the numbers of each carriage which we had to remember for the return journey. We were instructed not to give any money to our drivers as he had paid the fares and ‘baksheesh’, a tip given for pretty much anything, wages are low in Egypt so anything extra makes a difference.

It’s a lovely ride through the streets, watching the town getting into action first thing in the morning and five minutes or so later we were at our destination, where overhead shades keep the well looked after horses cool in between rides, and stalls and a café, our meeting point after the tour and free time.

The Temple of Edfu is the second largest temple in Egypt. Also known as the Temple of Horus (the falcon-headed God) it is said to be the most beautiful and well-preserved of all the Egyptian temples. A French archaeologist by the name of Auguste Mariette uncovered it from its deep sand burial in the 1860s, positioned between Luxor and Aswan on West Bank of the Nile river.

Perhaps the most striking features of the Temple of Horus are the massive pylons that stand at the entrance to the temple. They are 118 feet high, decorated with battle scenes of King Ptolemy VIII defeating his enemies for Horus. Inside the temple are several rooms, with walls covered in ancient writings.

The holiest place, the sanctuary, is accessed through the ante-chambers where Horus’s priests would have left offerings, sitting proudly is a polished granite shrine (above) where the gold statue of Horus would have stood, in front is a replica of the wooden barque used to carry the gold cult statue during festivals, the original is on display in The Louvre in France. There was definitely a ‘mystic’ feeling in the air.

The first visit was complete, a refreshing mint tea in the café was enjoyed before heading off back to the boat and a few hours cruising before our next stop Nubt, City of Gold. More about that later.

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

Luxor – Gateway To The Nile

If you drink from the Nile you will keep coming back, so goes the saying. It’s our fourth trip, our 16 year old son’s first, he asked if we could come and I had booked it within 30 minutes!

It was day three and the short hop from Cairo to Luxor was over before it started, soon we were on the coach bound for our vessel for the week, M/S Tulip. We booked our adventure package with DISCOVER EGYPT they were very good. Two Cabins, one for the other half and junior opp, the second for me, I snore, loudly!

A lovely compact ship, not too big, not to small she was perfect. We had been briefly introduced to our guide Ahmad (and now very good friend) he was with us for the week, there was more to him than met the eye as were to find out later.

We were shown down to the restaurant for lunch, the afternoon was at leisure, to get used to where everything was, It was definitely hotter 1 hour south! The food was of very good quality with a variety of Soups each day, Salads, various Meat and Vegetarian courses, a live cooking station for Omelettes at breakfast, and assorted options for lunch and dinner there was something for everyone including ‘local’ food to try. Oh, and lots of sweet things!

Deir el-Bahari is famous the world over, the facade has been on so many TV programmes and magazine front pages, and unfortunately the scene of a horrific act on November 17th 1997. Security in Egypt is extremely tight, tourism is critical to the nations economy and it has not stopped us coming, we feel very safe here.

There are some historically significant paintings in one of the rooms at the ‘Temple of Hapshepsut’, depicting people from Africa. Robert Bauval a famous Belgian author and lecturer has written a book exploring the link between Egypt & Africa, Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt (with Thomas Brophy PhD, April 2011), a copy was waiting for me on my return home, recommended by our guide Ahmad!

We were up early for breakfast and then onto the coach for a full days sightseeing, guided by the lovely Ahmad who was to bring our visits to life during the day, he definitely did that.

There is some evidence that Hatshepsuts physician was very skilled, using opium and other barbiturates to assist with curing a variety of ills, and also relieving pressure off the brain by making small incisions in the skull!

So, the ancient story about Pharaoh’s being entombed in/under a pyramid, if you look closely at the 1st picture below you will see the Pyramid shape at the top of the hill, overlooking the awe-inspiring valley we were to visit next, but not any old valley!

On the way to the Valley of the Kings we visited an Alabaster factory, this is standard for most of the trips to Egypt where a Nile cruise is involved, you get to see skilled craftsmen make some beautiful objects using natural and unique materials, and by buying something put some money back into the local economy.

We had purchased a very nice vase in 2000 on our first trip, which got destroyed when our house was flooded in 2007 so an opportunity to replace it with something was an opportunity not to be missed. They supply refreshments free of charge at the factories and have clean toilet facilities which are usually very welcome!

The Valley of The Kings had changed considerably since our last visit. Previously you would have to walk up the road in intense heat to reach the numerous tombs, they now have electric carts, although you can walk if you want! Not us, I remember the heat as the sun reflected off the side of the hills from before, it’s a hot barren place.

The valley is known to contain 63 tombs but that’s just what has been discovered so far. I have been fortunate to enter 13 from memory, over the 4 trips. They rotate those open to the public each year, the entry ticket includes three visits and optional tombs are available for a few extra Egyptian Pounds.

They tombs are all completely different, unique and beautiful. We saw the tombs of Sety I, Rameses I, Rameses V/VI and of course Tut-Ankh-Amun the only tomb with the preserved remains on view in an atmospheric controlled cabinet.

Unlike before, no extra paid ticket is required to take photos with your smartphone, in fact, I had a Leica D-Lux 7 medium sized digital camera with me, and was not questioned by the wardens as I snapped away, trying to capture the essence of the atmosphere which cannot be described!

The easier tombs are just short(ish) tunnels, King Tut-Ankh-Amun is just some stairs and you are in, medium look to 50m – 100m and steeper entry the most difficult up to 250m!

In the ticket office there is a very clever model showing the Valley and tunnels, tombs in a 3D model which gives you an impression of the magnificence of the whole area, how they managed to work in scorching conditions and create all the tombs with their stunning work is beyond belief, and still amazes me when I visit, junior opp was totally blown away by the place!

Ah, the Colossi Of Memnon, Amenhotep III in fact, standing since 1350BC so doing quite well in the open air despite an earthquake which destroyed the mortuary temple which stood behind. If you look closely at the picture on the right you can see graffiti, from circa AD 121.

This was our last stop before heading back to the boat and relaxing for the evening, having some great food and chatting with the other guests.

………………………Until next time……………..L8ers………..

2600 BC (Approximately) And Still Investigating!

We are stepping back in time again today, day two of our Egyptian adventure to approximately 2600 BC and the time of the great Pharaoh Sneferu, a 4th Dynasty (Golden Age) Pharaoh who reigned for approximately 24 years and was responsible for building at least 4 pyramids, we were starting with the ‘Bent’ and ‘Red’ Pyramids at Dahshur necropolis.

The ‘Bent Pyramid’ is believed to be an experiment, the 2nd Pyramid built by Sneferu and likely transitional from a design perspective from step, to smooth sided (like the Red Pyramid constructed after), the angle of the top section changed due to visible instability during construction.

It was known in ancient times as ‘The Shinning South Pyramid’, most likely due to the way the sun reflected off the Limestone casing which is still quite intact. Despite being relatively early it was hot, the intense sun amplified by the barren stone surroundings.

Khufu was Sneferu’s son and heir, famous for his construction on the Giza Plateau, these historic monuments which were a precursor to the Giza structures are still nothing short of unbelievable. How on earth……..!

Our lovely guide Ali explained some of the history behind the mammoth structures we explored, both externally and internally, in the case of the Red Pyramid which was extremely hot, cramped, stuffy and mystical. How did they manage to construct such a massive structure, so long ago, with primitive tools, but such perfect work, it certainly gets you thinking!

The drive down to Dashur was as exciting as the previous days travelling, lots of honking horns, close misses, cars turning or getting in the way at the last second it was exciting to say the least. Although a Sunday, the roads were busy and people out and about working as Sunday is a normal day for the Muslim community.

The Red Pyramid is the third largest in Egypt, after Khufu and Khafre at the Giza Plateau, probably the 1st smooth sided pyramid and known locally as el-heram el-watwaat meaning the ‘Bat’ Pyramid. Its location is approximately 1km from the Bent pyramid as seen in the photo above top left. Typically of archaeologists, there is conjecture over the time to construct this massive structure but the suggestion of 10 – 11 years seems to be the most discussed.

We decided to take a look inside! A passage 3ft high and 4ft wide, 61 metres long was hard work in the heat as seen in the middle picture above, it lead to three chambers, the final being the resting place for the original sarcophagus, and seemingly broken up by robbers looking for treasure.

Our next stop was Saqqara, the location of the Pyramid of Djoser, the ‘Step Pyramid’ and close to the 1st capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, Memphis. It’s situated on a massive complex or Necropolis, an ancient burial complex which is this case, contains another 16 pyramids in various states of preservation.

Djoser is the oldest known complete stone building complex and was constructed in the 3rd Dynasty (2686 BCE – 2613 BCE, the Bronze Age), a long time ago.

Since our last visit over 20 years ago, a lot more work has been done to both uncover and preserve the ancient monuments and bring the site to life even more. It’s an impressive place to visit and deserves a lot more time to explore the various buildings, nooks and crannies. We had been lucky so far in missing other tourists, but, it was obvious at Saqqara that time was catching up with us as we noticed some coaches, and ‘people’!

Our last stop before returning to the Giza Plateau, our hotel and amazing view of the Pyramids was Memphis or Men-nefer, the capital during the Old Kingdom. There is an open air museum where the history of the city is explained, and many monuments and statues are displayed for all to see, it’s another impressive site for sure.

In the main building by the entrance is a massive (10 metre length), statue of Rameses II, carved out of limestone, it is just stunning and another ‘how the @£$% did they manage to do that, all those years ago’ moment!

It was time to return home, lunch was planned but my other half was back at the hotel suffering with bad knees and had stayed behind to rest them, so we skipped that part of the trip and headed back. We booked this and the Giza Plateau half day tours with GEM Explore Egypt on Tripadvisor, they are a London backed licensed operator and they were extremely good.

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

The Pyramids of Giza, Off Exploring Again!

It only seems a few days ago that I was in the Northern Hemisphere, Norway, Finland and briefly Sweden, enjoying (massive understatement) the delights of Tromsø, Kilpisjärvi and Sørvågen on Lofoten with its stunning snowbound waterfall, and the fantastic Holmen Lofoten where I had spent an unbelievable few days with some like minded adventurers, having the time of our lives at ‘Kitchen On The Edge Of the World’.

The familiarity of Heathrow Terminal 2 was unmistakable, security had not changed since the previous week, the new high tech scanner lane that does not require liquid visibility, iPad withdrawal and the usual invasive activity was not open, but the officers on charge were polite and efficient, I don’t begrudge the activity to provide an extra layer of security, however mundane and troublesome it may seem.

Unlike my trip the week before, our family flight to Cairo, capital of Egypt was scheduled later in the day, so many of the sustenance outlets, unlike the previous week were open, yipeeeeee! There are the usual high street options, but I really fancied trying Monsier Blutmenthals’ ‘The Perfectionists Café’, so, after the standard perusal of duty free, not really intent on buying anything we headed over to the restaurant, and with no queue were guided to a table immediately.

‘Hestons Gaff’! sits on the same floor as security towards, the front right of the terminal affording a ‘window shopping’ view of goings on, if you are seated in the right place, it’s great for people watching if that’s your thing. The terminal wasn’t manic but, I guess lively would be an apt description, it was 11:45 and I wanted to wait for the 12:00 bell when breakfast became lunch, and the menus changed to include different options. You can just see the location in the top right of the picture above.

Junior opp wasn’t hungry, the boss went for a Cheese Burger, apparently very nice indeed, I was the awkward bugger, so looking closely at the menu I found an interesting selection of ‘Snacks’ nestled away in the bottom right hand corner of the menu, almost hidden, please don’t choose us type of vibe.

That’s for me my brain whispered, I was too excited for a ‘big’ meal but something was telling me to think Tapas, were they, could they, are they.

So, with the waitress expectantly waiting off I went, Flats Breads, Nduja, yes please, Sweet and Sour Chicken Bites, yep, oh, and Blanchbait and Garlic Mayo, erm yes, ohh, mmmmm, Ragu Croquettes sound the business, yep, I think that’s it!

I can only say it hit the spot and I managed most of it, the truth being since I had returned from Norway I had hardly eaten anything at all so I was actually quite hungry, with a 4 hour 50 minute flight, and Ramadan under way so I was not sure what, or when we might get some refreshments, a decent fill was probably a good idea.

Getting onto the plane was ‘interesting’, my wife having some knee issues we usually manage to get some assistance, it’s never asked for as there are other people more ‘needy’ (no pun intended) but when offered, we will usually accept, if nothing else to help ‘human traffic flow’.

For some reason as we got to the plane with the other ‘challenged’ folk, the heavens opened and apparently water was getting into the plane so they decided to close the door! We then had to reverse, essentially being at the back of a queue of several hundred people as we filed to the other side of the plane, had to show our already shown boarding cards and eventually settled down for take off, amusing and frustrating simultaneously.

There is something I find interesting about food on flights, delivered in trays with more accessories than Batman carries in his utility belt this one was actually quite nice, but served hurriedly just over 1 hour 30 minutes before landing, Ramadan seemed to have jinxed the liquid refreshments and no coffee/tea was served, water was available if you pushed the ‘service’ button enough times, my record was 5!

Did I tell you my wife and I LOVE Egypt, I don’t believe so, this was our fourth trip, but the first taking our son, he had asked to go and I was more than happy to book something not having been since about 2003. We have done the usual Cairo/Nile cruise twice, but also the the very quiet Lake Nasser, all the monuments have been chopped into blocks, moved and put back together like a massive puzzle, they are all UNESCO sights, fascinating and if you get the Egypt bug like we have, well worth visiting.

Getting INTO Egypt was a doddle, don’t believe all the tales you hear about customs and visas etc., if you follow the guidance on the forthcoming website to the letter, it’s not difficult. If you browse to Egypt Visa (as of April 2023), fill in the form making sure you copy EXACTLY the details from your passport and pay the fee.

If you make a mistake, you still get charged and have to do it again. I managed 2 out of 3 so had to do my wife’s a second time as I missed a letter! On arrival, if you have done it correctly and got your confirmation email and PDF certificate they have you in their systems, just queue up and show your passport, as of writing its mentions diplomatic and something above the correct queue line, EGYPTIANS ONLY is to the left, and CREW to the right, it took us about 7 minutes to get to the baggage collection hall, result.

We met the local team ‘on the ground’ as they sometimes say, holding big signs and looking expectantly for lost tourists that are in their party, to be transported off to hotels all over Cairo but have actually forgotten who they had booked with, and end up in the wrong bus and at the wrong destination!

Baggage took a while but we soon connected with our driver and 24/7 contact, if we needed anything he was a WhatsApp call away. Off we drove and 45 minutes later, after the maddest ‘whacky races’ you have ever seen, we where at our hotel in Giza, a stones thrown from the majestic Pyramids and the new Museum just over the road, the driving is hilarious if you have not experienced it before, 8-10 lanes and no traffic rules at all.

Our son was in hysterics and so was I, so comforting to be back in Egypt, in Cairo, one of my happy places..And we could see the Pyramids from our Balcony.

I couldn’t sleep, to be honest I was still buzzing from Norway and now had the added emotions of Cairo and Giza to deal with so I ordered some wine on room service and watched the Battle of Narvik which I had downloaded on Netflix to my iPad. I had headphones on so the family could try and sleep. It was a fascinating historical film covering some courageous action during WWII in the Nordics with a whole bunch of countries involved. I finally got to sleep about 03:15!

It was sunny and already 12 degrees when we rose from our slumber, it was going to be nice and warm today. Breakfast was calling and I had booked a private tour to the Giza Plateau, to take the pressure of having to join an big coach with unknown travellers from who knows where, I wanted us to control the pace and make it special for everyone.

Being an (very) eccentric foodie, I don’t travel 2197 miles to another country, with different customs and culture to eat a british fry up, it drives me nuts, I want to try local food, experience what the locals eat, so breakfast was Ful Medames for me, rich, hearty, tasty and nutritious. It’s a bean based dish with ‘toppings’ if you like, Olive Oil, Chopped Onions, Cumin Powder, Chilli Powder and Lemon Juice it was very tasty and served with fresh local bread made the same day, yummy. For dessert! I had some Sesame Seed Halva, and Honey and of course lots of tea!

Ali, our guide and Farouk, our driver had already sent messages early to confirm pickup time and location, it was going to be a great day. We were soon on the Giza Plateau, getting some education about the history and dynamics of an ancient world, steeped in mystery, who, how, exactly when it was fascinating (as always).

I had picked up a book written by Toby Wilkinson, an eminent Egyptologist before we left the UK called ‘The Nile – Travelling Downriver Through Egypts Present and Past’, I have quite a few books on the history of Egypt but this one seemed different, approaches things from a different point of view, and within the first 6 pages I have already learnt so much, it’s a captivating book.

Ali was brilliant, asking our son (and the rest of us), questions about all things Giza Pyramids and it drew our son into the mystery even more, he loved it, fantastic I thought.

This afternoon is relax time, well for the rest of the family, I have been writing this post and thinking back across the last 24 hours and the adventure that stands before us. Tomorrow we are with Ali and Farouk again, off to Saqqara and Memphis, to see some older structures. More about that another day.

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

KitchenOnTheEdgeOfTheWorld – Holmen Lofoten

So after months and months of planning, booking planes, restaurants, a hotel, museums, a short northern lights tour (the sarcastic in me, sorry), looking at all the flight and ferry options and finalising my itinerary and it was the final day. I was somewhat exhausted, having crammed in as much as I could on my 1st few days in Tromsø, what a beautiful city it was too. Holmen and the Lofoten Islands were just indescribable in their beauty, the support act delivered well beyond expectations.

I had missed a couple of events on the basis that I will be back and do them the next time, maybe with the family, the break in my itinerary meant I could recover a bit and catch my breath, take stock of what I had actually done, Norway is an exhilarating country.

I took the decision to miss the optional last day events, not because I did not want to do them, more because my brain probably could not take anymore and my blog needing attention and updating. When I am travelling I need to commit some words, get it done so the little feeling and expression I could include in descriptions wouldn’t dissipate. I sat down in the dining room with my iPad, iPhone delivering tunes via Spotify, Blue Öyster Cult, Yes, Jethro Tull and simultaneously watching the kitchen team prepare the days delights, something I find deeply relaxing.

It was soon time for lunch, as previously mentioned these are a simpler affair to dinner, to provide a little respite and give a chance for the body to do its stuff, the volume and balance of food seemed perfect, breakfast was never too much or too heavy but you did need to feed the body with all the activities taking place, along with the climate which could take it out of you if not careful.

I had been noticing a number of different aroma’s as I thought back through the previous days and scribed my thoughts on my blog, it maybe obvious when you look at the picture, but sitting many feet from the pass, trying to work out what was going into dinner was interesting. I had spoken with the head shelf ‘coxy’ earlier, all the chefs were extremely approachable and would happily discuss the merits of certain ingredients like, using little known parts of the Cod, like the collar, more gelatinous that pure fillet it would add some body to a flavourful curry, which was what our lunch was, and it was bloody good too.

My mind wandered back to the museum I had visited in Tromsø, Full Steam a fish factory from the early 1900’s that was now both a museum/exhibition and also a restaurant where I ate a rich and delicious Reindeer Stew, I suspect they ate and used as much of the fish and other produce as possible in those days compared to now, where we only seem to like food that looks pretty according to the super markets, who only seem to supply “perfect’ everything with no comprehension of what flavour really means. Sorry, off my soapbox!

There was a hive of activity in the kitchen, more so it seemed than usual, it was the last night, the last supper, A Rick Stein banquet with all sorts of delicious food, and the brilliant Nick Strangeway supplying delicious drinks to match it was going to be a great evening. Throughout the week, the place settings had been moved about so attendees got to sit and mingle with different people which was really nice. I couldn’t see my name anywhere, until I went over the chefs table and there was my name, I was on the top table on the last night, With Rick, his wife Sass, my good friend Richard Bertinet, Nick Strangeway and when he wasn’t in the kitchen, the maestro Rick Stein, what an honour and privilege, I couldn’t believe it.

What a night, alongside stunning food, amazing cocktails and an atmosphere akin to the best party ever the conversation, laughter, jokes, tales and, well, it was just indescribable, in a brilliant way, even the Northern Lights made a brief appearance!

Thanks Rick and Sass for a very special evening and one I will never forget, ever. And to the other friends on my table, thank-you for putting up with my constant enthusiasm, which I know can sometimes be overwhelming :-

Holmen Lofoten is a very special place indeed, unlike anywhere I have ever been, which is quite a few nice places. #KitchenOnTheEdgeOfTheWorld is an experience like no other, its unique and if you have the slightest interest in food, or doing something different, read the description on their website like I did, and if you can, just GO. You won’t ever regret it.

Thank – you Ingunn Rasmussen & Valentine Warner

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

Into The Mountains and Tongue Extraction!

I am currently sitting in the departure lounge at Bodø airport, having taken the 20 minute flight from Leknes on Lofoten Island. It’s been a sombre morning as the adventure has concluded and we are all on our way homebound in some form or another. I have personally been subdued, I am extremely emotional when it comes to goodbyes and mentally, have been focussing on ‘till next time’, rather than goodbye to try and hold back the tears.

Anyway back to Saturday, another fun packed programme of activities to enthral us all, of course after a delicious substantial breakfast. I am fighting back the aroma magnetism of Bacon and Eggs and this morning opt for the Cold Smoked Haddock, Poached Eggs, Horseradish Labneh and Pickles with Salmon Roe, another brilliantly conceived plate of food.

The kitchen staff at Holmen are truly wonderful, their coffee skills able to whisk up the most flavourful coffees (in my case Latte), and all the food and service is top drawer, and with a meaningful smile wedded to real enthusiasm and passion. I fancied desert so they also made me a half portion of Waffles, Brunost (that sweet salty Goats Cheese), Berries, Gooseberry Yoghurt and Sour Cream…. Yummy.

The first session of the day was a hike, I needed it after the breakfast I had just consumed! We headed into the hills, admiring the environment, inhaling air so fresh it had not been polluted by modern industry. The views were stunning, the snow crisp and in places extremely deep. I had spent the last few months going out for walks practising, but nothing could have prepared me for the drag of 2 1/2 feet of snow on the legs and thighs, it was very hard work but worth it nonetheless, another truly amazing experience. The pace was managed so even the old gits like me could enjoy things, we stopped to take rest and thoroughly enjoyed sliding down a steep bank, fresh snow creating a slide of sorts, our back-sides helping us navigate the slope!

After enjoying a thoroughly delicious hot fruit tea, served in traditional wooden cups we headed back to Holmen, stopping by racks of Cod drying in the cold dry crisp air, a local tradition on Lofoten, the smell was obvious, heady and pungent.

All the food so far had been exceptional, no faf, but hearty, wholesome and packed with flavour. The lunches were lighter as during the evenings we were delighted with multiple courses, matched with a variety of delicious wines, cocktails, punches and witches brew, that the genius that is Nick Strangeway pulled together. I was really looking forward to todays lunch, Arctic Hare, a la Pasty, a nod to Rick Stein who set his stable in Cornwall where the pie like food originated. It was outrageously delicious, served with mash, appropriately drenched in Butter! It was a Val Warner creation and more complex than its description, with added Goats Sausage, a variety of vegetables and a matching sauce including the cooking liquor and a whole host of other delicious ingredients that resulted in a really rich and tasty gravy, and a Pasty to die for!

There is a tradition in parts of Norway where fishing is the prevalent industry, the young children from approximately 8 years to 15 years of age get paid for removing the tongues from Cod’s heads, they can earn up to $2000 per day when at their prime, and some are able to buy houses and cars by the time they are 18. We were treated to a talk and live demonstration of this fascinating part of the history of Norway by our host Ingunns daughter, and then some of us were able to have a go ourselves, it’s not as easy at it seems and I was struggling, imagining an 8 year old knife wielding tongue remover, in orange coveralls attacking a massive crate of cod heads, a great theme for the next Norweigian Chainsaw Massacre film!

Our next workshop was with the brilliant Tom Frost, apart from being a totally lovely bloke, he is a master at the art of screen printing and we were to receive a masterclass, followed by assistance to have a go on our own. It was hilarious, the guidance to keep things simple failed miserably as we seemed to create all manner of challengers with multiple colours and lots of challenging processes. I suspect most people have had a go at screen printing, something we did in junior school so reliving our childhood created a further sense of fun, and remembering happy childhood times which was really nice.

If you cannot remember, screen printing requires making a mask, which prevents ink getting onto the paper, so as you make the image more complicated, and with more colours there are multiple time consuming steps as the ink has to drive after every ‘press’. It quite some time to first, work out a design that would actually work, and then, using a very sharp scalpel trying to cut the paper image accurately. Trying to align and register each layer was an added complication.

Having worn Tom out with our ‘simple’ screen printing there was time for relaxing and then one of the highlights, (apart from Ricks food), an hour’s talk by Rick on his life and the numerous experiences he has had over the years, before a dinner curated and prepared by the kitchen team at Holmen Lofoten.

During the talk, we were also treated to a variety of nibbles and some delicious drinks curated by the brilliant Nick Strangeway, like a Lingonberry Negroni, or hows about a Seaweed Martini, all very delicious indeed, as was the food. During the talk, and speaking with Sass Stein, Ricks wife I was made aware of a couple of books he had written that were not in my library, thanks to smart phones and online shopping they had both arrived on my doorstop by the time I got home. Thanks for the heads up Sass.

The talent of the Holmen kitchen, with Richard ‘Coxy’ Cox at the helm was inspiring and just brilliant. If you look at the menu above, Tongue & Cheek Terrine, Bottarga Fish Skin Crisp and Beetroot was standout, and Skrei and Whey, Periwinkles and Salsify, well everyone was blown away at the quality and inspiration behind the food. Ingunn, Richard’s boss pictured above mentioned on numerous occasions how lucky she was to have found such as amazing calm, and professional chef (no swearing or shouting at anyone, especially staff). He was just brilliant, and a really top bloke!

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

Sørvågen – Kitchen On the Edge of The World at Holmen

It was the start of a new day. I have this problem, had it for years and not yet found a way to solve it, sleep, I can’t, it takes me hours, i have an overactive brain, could be ADHD I have been told but when I was a youngster such things didn’t exist, or at least had not been discovered.

I was watching the light show at 02:00 the previous evening and had managed to get some light rest but I was excited, it was a new day and we had a lot happening on our first full day at Kitchen On the Edge Of the World.

As we settled down to breakfast there was a lot of discussion about the previous evenings light show, which was amazing. The breakfast menu at Holmen provides some recognisable options including local Bacon and Eggs and some more local delights such as Waffles with Brunost, the local Goats Cheese Whey that is boiled down to provide a brown Cheese which is both sweet and savoury, it’s extremely nice, especially when served with Gooseberry Jam, Sour Cream and berries. It was my intention to avoid anything that looked ‘british’ and experience the Norwegian way as much as possible.

Richard Bertinet is a friend of mine, I hope he doesn’t mind me saying as I actually haven’t been to his cookery school since before Covid, but having met him 10 times prior we know each other enough to joke with each other and play tomfoolery! My 1st session of the day is with some other guests and Richard, learning (in my case re-learning) how to make bread the traditional way, it takes a lot of effort to really do it properly.

I won’t describe the method, get his book(s) or go on one of his awesome courses at his Bath Cookery School. It was great fun, he is a brilliant Teacher and everyone had great fun trying to master the process of getting air into the dough mix, Flour, Salt, Yeast and Water, nothing more, nothing less the results are yummy.

Imagine the picture above was your classroom, it was a stunning location, a tad cold but we had gas heaters providing enough warmth to not feel cold or hot, so just right for working our dough. Once we completed the dough making session we went into the main kitchen were there is a wood fired oven, some previously prepared dough had risen and was ready for shaping and baking, which is exactly what we did next. Fougasse all sorts of different forms as well as a flat bread, smothered in garlic butter one of the Holmen chefs had prepared for us, the results were crunchy, fluffy, garlicky, buttery and delicious. We made enough to go with the lunch that was to follow later.

The next session was all about Cod, and more importantly how to make the most of this regal and majestic beast of a fish, one of my favourites when not overcooked to destruction! With the help of the lovely and extremely hospitable Holmen owner Ingunn, our chef Val Warner took us through the process of breaking down the fish to extract as many different parts as possible, explaining their use in a number of different dishes, it was really enlightening to see how much is unnecessarily wasted, which is tragic considering how much can actually be used.

Let’s go Arctic fishing, hell yes….. After lunch we had our fishing trip and after making sure we had enough warm layers on, we donned flotation suits which also acted as an insulating layer, and set off in metal ribs out into the cold (very), to see if the sea was going to provide us with some jewels in the form of fish. Our skipper Daniel was young but well travelled and experienced using a sonar to try and find elusive shoals of fish.

After some searching we found an couple of spots and the bites started, I fish in the UK, but have not managed a trip for some time, my fishing budding being of an age now where its just not possible for him to venture out onto the sea, the delight in getting a rod tip bending was the start of a few hours of cold weather sea fishing the likes I had never experienced before. In the end my tally was 5 Coley, they all went back into the sea for another day, it was a thoroughly enjoyable, but a very cold experience.

Nick Strangeway is a God, the master of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. His knowledge is beyond reproach and we were going to be treated to a masterclass, all about Punch and Cocktails, it was absolutely fascinating and delivered with some comedy and amusement we all laughed as he provided some accurately corrected history about how drinks had developed from time immemorial. Nick was to provide us with treats during various meals over the days, they have all been glorious so far with unique blends and flavours to tickle all taste buds.

It was Ricks night to delight food wise, and boy did that happen the food was so delicious, subtle, punchy, flavourful I will say no more other than having eaten as his Seafood Restaurant, St Petrocs Bistro and attended a 2 day Seafood Class at his Cookery School he can still cook the most tasty food, it was sublime. As the night before we were treated to some more of natures fireworks and this particular shot of the mountain ‘on-fire’ is one of my favourite. Thanks Rick for bringing seafood to the attention of the British public all those years ago, and being such a lovely bloke, joining in the conversation, signing stuff and providing such lovely stories which will remain forever at Holmen 🙂

……………..Until Next Time…………L8ers……………