Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan, Egypt

Temple of Horus
After an overnight cruise from Luxor, we arrived in Edfu.  Following breakfast, we headed out with Ali to line up for the horse and buggies assembling at the dock and providing transport to the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus (aka the Edfu Temple).  Built along the west bank of the Nile between 237 BC and 57 BC of sandstone blocks, the temple was built to honor the falcon-headed god, Horus.  The temple had fallen into disuse in 380 AD when Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire.  The Edict of Thessalonica banned non-Christian worship.  Many of the temples' carved reliefs were destroyed by Christian followers.  Over hundreds of years, the temple was buried in shifting desert sands.  It was identified by a French explorer in 1798 but was not unburied until 1860.

Ptolemy VI, Cleopatra I, and Sobek
Ancient medical devices
Heading back to the Crown Prince, we enjoyed lunch as the boat moved further south.   Our next destination, the Kom Ombo Temple, was built between 108-47 BC and is located on a bend in the Nile where sacred crocodiles are said to have basked in the sun along the shore.  The eastern portion of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, with the western portion dedicated primarily to Horus.  One of the earliest representations of medical and surgical instruments is revealed in one of the engravings.  Scalpels, forceps, and scissors are depicted, along with two goddesses in birthing chairs.  Beside the temple, a crocodile museum houses dozens of mummified crocodiles which were discovered on the property, some as long as 20 feet!  

Friendship Lotus Flower
Returning to the boat, we went to the pool deck to enjoy our final sunset along the Nile as we headed to Aswan.  The High Dam at Aswan was first on our itinerary the next day.  Construction started on this mammoth project in 1960 and was completed in 1970, though electricity was first generated as early as 1967.  The project was funded by a low-interest loan from the USSR, along with their technical input.  The Arab Soviet Friendship Lotus Flower and heavy security greet visitors.  The dam has been a boon to agriculture by allowing the planting of 2-3 crops a year by providing a regular water source for irrigation and protecting against droughts and floods.  Massive areas were flooded by the creation of Lake Nasser, the artificial water reservoir.  Numerous temples and monuments had to be moved including Abu Simbel, and many others lie beneath the roughly 8 miles by 300 miles of water.  Over 150,000 Sudanese Nubians and Egyptians were displaced by the project.  According to our guide Ali, prior to the High Dam, electricity was not available to the majority of the Egyptian populace.  Previously, only commercial interest and the wealthy had access to power.
Temple of Philae on approach by boat

Next, we moved on to the Temple of Philae.  Built between 386 and 362 BC, the temple was dedicated to the love goddess, Isis, the giver of life.  Ali negotiated with a boatman along the launch area where numerous boats vie for customers for the trip to Agilka Island.  The Temple was moved stone by stone during the 1960s to its current location prior to the completion of the High Dam.  Isis was the wife of Osiris, god of the afterlife, and mother of Horus.  These three dominate ancient Egyptian culture with their dramatic story of love, murder, resurrection, and birth. 

At Temple of Philae
On our return to the boat launch area, we noticed the area had been cleared, and there was an increased security presence.  Ali mentioned that the Egyptian president was scheduled to come to Aswan to speak at the Arab and Africa Youth Platform conference, and security around the entire township was intense.  On our trip to the dam, which is also the route to the airport, we had noticed security personnel stationed every few hundred yards on the entire route.  Our afternoon trip to Elephantine Island was canceled because of security concerns.  The military police were essentially shutting the city down and wrapping a protective barrier around everything to ensure no incidents would occur during their hosting of this event. 

Throughout the country, we had experienced regular security checks.  Our car was stopped on entry to certain areas, the trunk was checked, credentials reviewed, and backpacks were scanned before entry to any monument.  Tourism is an important source of income in Egypt and the
View from plane on our departure, desert and
more desert with the Nile in the distance. 
country is just starting to recover from the blow to tourism dealt by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, and terrorist attacks over the years.  During our visit, locals repeatedly asked us to communicate to our friends that Egypt is safe.  As with any international visit, common sense needs to be followed, and there are definitely some parts of Egypt which should be avoided by independent travelers, but we enjoyed exploring the ancient sites and learning about a culture that is thousands of years old, and we always felt safe.

Now it is time to head back home for a while, but we'll be traveling again soon! 
Carriage brigade at Edfu
Gods' images defaced at Edfu
Columns at Temple of Horus

At Temple of Horus

Statue of Horus, the falcon god

In Edfu near the market

Market in Edfu

Aswan High Dam

Lake Nasser

Philae Temple

Kom Ombo
Boat launch area for Agilka Island





Along the Nile, Egypt

As we headed down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan, we spent many hours on the pool deck.  The following are a handful of the way too many photos I snapped. For the most part, the activities we watched along the waterfront have not changed substantially over hundreds of years.

The Crown Prince, our home for the trip down the Nile

Along the west bank
Along the east bank of the Nile

New bridge being constructed over the Nile on approach to Aswan

The islands are public lands, but many of them are planted with

The pool deck was perfect for an evening cocktail, and on our boat, there were never
more than a handful of guests taking advantage of the wonderful views.
With overnight temperatures dipping into the 50's,
the pool stayed chilly, even though daytime temps rose into the 80's.

One of the countless boats we saw along the trip.  The small rowboats
were expertly maneuvered using a paddle that looked something like a 2 X 4. 

Feluccas (sailboats) near Aswan
Washing the dinner dishes

Many farmers take their cattle to the islands in the middle of the
Nile to graze.

Heading home from school


Waterfront home

Luxor, Egypt

Hot air balloons drifting over Luxor
Arriving in at Luxor airport, prior arrangements had been made for a pickup, and we were greeted by a driver and a guide.  With a population of one-half million compared to Cairo's 20-plus million and since we were arriving on Friday (the Muslim holy day), it almost felt like we were in a small town.  Driving past miles of sugar cane fields, our guide was offering to stop so we could buy some sugar cane to try.  Since this is not an anomaly for us, we passed on that offer, but Alan had another idea, rum.  Alcohol consumption is banned in the Muslim religion, so in this primarily Muslim country spirits can be difficult to obtain, expensive, and in the case of home-distilled products, even toxic.  Since a cruise on the Nile was on our itinerary after Luxor, we knew that alcohol would be available but pricy.  Our guide was willing to fulfill Alan's wishes, so once we arrived in the city the driver wound his way to a place where liquor could be purchased.  Our guide made the purchase, saying that if we entered the store the price
Karnak Temple model
would be doubled.  Before arriving at our evening's accommodations, however, the guide asked us to hide the liquor, saying he would lose his job if his mission was revealed. 

Rooms in Luxor are seriously cheap, the 4.5-star reviewed room did not meet our expectations, but for $27/night including breakfast, we could hardly complain.  Dinner was enjoyed at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Nile with a crescent moon providing a slip of white in the lovely sunset.  Walking along the waterfront that evening the area was abuzz with activity.  The horse-drawn carriages which provide a popular means of transport for sightseers, as well as locals, lined the thoroughfare.  Once again, a good-natured "no, thanks" was sufficient to dissuade the men promoting their carts.  Luxor Temple was lit for the evening, and families and vendors filled a nearby courtyard.

Columns at Karnak
Enjoying our breakfast at the same roof-top restaurant, hot air balloons floated over the distant mountains in the clear blue sky.  Our soundtrack on this March morning was a nearby school, where children were inexplicitly singing Jingle Bells.
Sphinxes at entrance of Karnak Temple

Having booked a 4-day and 3-night cruise of the Nile, we
were beginning with tours in Luxor and were picked up early by our guide for the next few days, Ali.  Starting with the Karnak Temple, we visited the museum which provided historical info but also a large model of the original grounds.  Rows of sphinxes graced the entryway.  Started in 2055 BC, expansions continued over the next 2000 years.  Covering 200 acres, it is the largest religious building ever constructed, with the Hypostyle Hall featuring 134 huge decorated
Luxor Temple
columns covering 54,000 sq. ft.  Historically an annual festival was held during which time the priests answered questions from behind a screen, purporting to be providing answers from the gods.

Along the East Bank, and sandwiched between the Nile and the modern city of Luxor, the next stop was the Luxor Temple which we had viewed from the outside the previous evening.  Built during the reign of Amenhotep III, who ruled fro 1390-1352 BC, the temples are some of the best preserved in Egypt.  Rameses the Great, roughly 150 years later, had a number of the monuments repurposed to feature himself.

Finishing for the day, we headed to the Crown Prince, our home during the cruise.  Though built to accommodate over 100 guests, the first evening only a handful of passengers were on board, so we had the pool deck to ourselves to enjoy another beautiful sunset. 

The next morning, we departed with Ali to explore the West Bank of Luxor and headed to the Valley
Interior of the tomb of Rameses IV
Hieroglyphics in
Rameses IV
of the Kings.  Of the 63 tombs in the Valley, eight are open for viewing with the general entry ticket, another three require a special ticket.  Our tickets allowed us to select three tombs to visit.  With Ali's guidance, we started with the tomb of Rameses IV.  We were surprised by the vibrant yellow, red, and blue hieroglyphics and carvings in this tomb which is now over 3000 years old.  With a $17 charge for taking photos, I had decided to put the camera away.  Alan was so overwhelmed and saw so many people snapping pictures that he pulled out his phone to snap a few.  A few moments later a guard asked to see his photo pass.  Not being able to produce one, he was allowed to keep his phone (this is not always the case), but only after paying a bribe and promising to take no more photos. 

Impressive architectural design of Hatshepsut's Temple
Next, we explored the tomb of Rameses III.  By this time, lines were getting longer and the weather warmer, we were grateful to be visiting during the spring rather than summer when temperatures soar to 100 plus.  Impressive painting and murals were in this tomb as well.  Finally, we visited the tomb of Rameses IX.  The highlight is the burial chamber at the end of the tomb, but the paint in this tomb was not as well preserved. 

After a lunch break, we traveled to the Temple of Hatshepsut.  As one of a handful of female pharaohs, Hatshepsut came to power following the death of her father.  A number of her statues represent her with a beard and men's clothing, which she is said to have worn during royal functions.  Most of the magnificent temple has been restored but portions of the original are still intact.
Departing the temple, we made a quick stop at the Colossi of Memnon.  Heavily damaged by earthquakes, the 60-foot sandstone statues 'protected' the
Colossi of Memnon

Click photos to enlarge.
mortuary of Amenhotep III.  The mortuary itself was destroyed by repeated floods and earthquakes. 

Returning to the ship, we prepared a farewell cocktail and headed to the pool deck so we could watch as the boat departed Luxor, and began our trip down the Nile.   

Entrance statues of Hatshepsut

Original painting in Hatshepsut Temple

Ongoing excavation at the Valley of the Kings

Along the Nile

Inside the Luxor Temple

Columns at Luxor Temple

Rameses the Great at Luxor Temple

Sunset over Luxor and the Nile