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……………..