Cruising the Nile

Trip Start May 05, 2011
1
23
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Trip End Aug 29, 2011


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M/S Nile Dolphin

Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, June 17, 2011

We wake as we’re sailing down the Nile River on the M/S Nile Dolphin.  When we move the curtain aside, we see the shoreline moving swiftly along.  Going downstairs to the breakfast buffet, Janice tells us that the housekeeping staff created an elephant towel sculpture in their room, which they discovered upon returning to their room last night.  The kids get excited at the prospect of discovering a towel creature in our room later today.
 
Soon the boat docks at Kom Ombo and we go ashore to see the temple, which is dedicated to both Horus the Elder and Sobek, the crocodile god.  This is the only temple to honor two gods within a single temple, but the architects planned it well - two entrances and two altars, with the whole temple split symmetrically down the middle; left half all Horus the Elder, right half all Sobek.  Each a full temple on its own.  

SobekHorus the Elder and HathourTwo EntrancesLooking into Sanctuary for Horus the Elder
 
The hypostyle hall is supported by massive pillars, each one with a different design at the top.  This practice indicates that the temple was built during the Greco-Roman time period, not nearly as old as the Pyramids at Giza, for example.  The entrance overhang is full of color, which prompts our guide Ahmed to remind us that every temple in Egypt was brightly painted when it was brand new (and full of gold decorations, too).  Ancient Egyptians used ground lapis lazuli, turquoise, malachite and coral gemstone as the color for the paints.  A coat of egg white preserved the color and created a glossy finish.
 
Inside the Sobek part of the temple, a picture of a full-size crocodile appears on the wall.  Other hieroglyphic highlights include a wall of medical instruments and a calendar.

Taking on the CobrasEgyptian CalandarSurgical Instruments

Ahmed also points out to us two holes in the ground, one outside the now missing wall of the sanctuaries, one inside.  This was a secret passage to allow a priest to sneak into the sanctuary to provide a voice to the god during ceremonies.

Secret Alcove for the Voice of the GodsKate as the Voice of God
   
During our free time in the temple, we discover crocodile sarcophagus near the small shrine to Hathour.  Ancient Egyptians in this region lived with the sacred crocodiles on the banks of the Nile, kept them as pets in the well and mummified them after they died.
 
Crocodile WellCourtyard Pillars
 
On our way back to the boat, we pass the crocodile mummy museum, which is unfortunately (or fortunately...) not open.  We have some free time on board to relax or shop in the souvenir stores.  In the room we find a towel swan and heart displayed on the bed.  The kids are thrilled but want more.  Then we enjoy lunch.  Our tour schedule on this cruise gives us time to cool down in our air-conditioned room during the hottest part of the day and then venture out for another temple tour after 3:00pm when we dock at Edfu.

Mark and JaniceTowel Swan and Heart
 
The afternoon excursion takes us to the Temple of Horus, built from 237 to 57 BC.  First, we have a horse-drawn carriage ride to the site.  Ahmed hires two drivers then hops into a carriage with Mark and Janice.  We step up into our carriage and the driver lets the kids sit with him.  Then we race through the streets of Edfu.

Kids Help DriveOur Carriage
 
Residents of the town watch us go by since we are louder than the usual horse and carriage sounds they’re used to.  The kids are cheering on the horse as we catch up with Ahmed, Mark and Janice’s carriage.  We all end up at the same parking lot but the kids take great delight in pointing out that we arrived first.

Ahmed takes us through the shopping gauntlet on the way to the temple.  I’ve finally found a way to endure this experience - sunglasses and a smile.  No eye contact, no hassle.

Next to two large statues of Horus as the falcon, we continue the ancient Egyptian creation story with Horus and Hathour.  Although he fell in love with Hathour as his mother, Horus grew older and fell in love with her as his wife and they were married.  He turned her into a god in the shape of a beautiful woman but she insisted that she was a cow.  Now she is typically represented in hieroglyphics as a beautiful woman with cow ears.

Then it was time for Horus to face his Uncle Set to avenge his father Osiris’ death.  First, Horus and Set battle in hand to hand combat (for many years, because they’re gods, of course) until they are exhausted.  Then they agree a boat race will settle the matter.  Horus builds a boat of wood but adds a stone facade, knowing that Set will spy on him.  Set thinks that Horus’ boat is made of stone and that he has discovered a new way to make a fast boat, so he makes his boat of stone.  The day of the race, Set’s boat sinks, as expected, and he turns himself into a hippopotamus.  Horus wins, but Set goes back on the agreement and attacks Horus.  

They fight again and this time Horus kills Set, dumping his body in the Nile.  However, Horus is overcome with regret.  He returns to retrieve Set’s body and to give him a proper burial.  Turns out Set is not completely dead.  As Horus reaches for him, Set attacks and gouges out one of Horus’ eyes.  Horus is enraged and kills Set for good.  Horus casts his injured eye into the heavens to watch over and protect Egypt.  (Thus the reason for the famous “Eye of Horus” hieroglyph.)  The people rejoiced and made Horus the King of Egypt.  Future pharaohs all derived their right to rule only from the blessing of Horus as depicted by the hieroglyphs in this temple.
 
Despite the fact that this temple is one of the most well-preserved temples in all of Egypt, we see many gods’ and goddesses’ faces are terribly vandalized throughout the temple.  Like most temples in Egypt, early Christians and Muslims set about defacing depictions pagan gods and did significant damage.

This temple also has a side room called the laboratory.  The walls of the laboratory have pictures of laboratory-type instruments and recipes for medicines and perfumes using plant, flower and spice extracts and essences.  Ahmed tells us that many of these recipes are the basis for some of the most famous perfumes used today (Chanel No. 5, Dior, etc...).

The sanctuary holds a replica solar boat, which we have not seen before, in front of a polished granite altar.  Ancient Egyptians put a solid gold statue of Horus in this boat and carried it out of the temple during festivals.  Some 100 miles away in Dendera, local villagers would prepare the solar boat in the temple to Hathour.  Her statue was placed in that boat and floated down the Nile (with additional boat escorts) to the Temple of Horus for the god and goddess’ annual conjugal visit, or the “good reunion.”

The kids befriend a scrawny calico cat wandering around the temple grounds, and we name her Ramses.  We have no food to give her but she lets us pet her nonetheless and follows us around as we walk.

Our return carriage ride is another horse race until Ahmed’s carriage makes a quick stop for supplies.  We return to the ship with time to spare.  The driver lets the kids feed the horse and a couple of merchants hang around, trying to sell us drinks.  When Ahmed, Mark and Janice arrive, we board the ship and discover that the crew was waiting on us for departure from Edfu.

Kids and HorseKate Pets HorseKai Feeds HorseM/S Nile Dolphin Logo
 
We race to the sundeck so the kids can hop in the pool.  We notice that the normal awnings over the lounges are all folded down and wonder what’s going on.  About an hour later, we find out:  The ship’s route takes us under a low bridge.  The crew has battened down the hatches so everything topside clears the bridge.  We approach the bridge slowly and the crew repeatedly makes everyone aware they need to get down.  People standing need to squat down and we, on our chaise lounges, dare not sit up.  When we’re directly under the bridge, Kurt lifts his arm up and can touch the bottom of the wide bridge with his palm - it’s that low.  Immediately after we pass under, the crew restores the furniture to its usual positions.  How interesting.

Bridge ApproachingBridge Upon UsBridge OverheadBridge Behind
 
We linger to watch the sunset as it slowly sinks behind the palm trees.  The colors in the sky range from orange to deep pink to blue-violet in thick bands just above the horizon.  Early evenings on board this ship are magical, quiet and beautiful.

Sun Sets SlowlyKate Takes It All InNile SunsetDusk on the Nile
 
Time for dinner downstairs where the waitstaff greets us with a rousing percussion serenade.  They chant, they form a conga line and then they bring the wine.  Another excellent meal on board.  As we finish, we figure out that the ship is quickly approaching the locks.  Outside the window of the dining room, we see a merchant waving scarves and towels while having an animated discussion with someone a couple floors above us.  How can he possibly sell something to passengers on our ship, we wonder.

We take the stairs back to the sundeck to find we’re behind another ship in the locks, and the merchants are ready.  They’re waving shirts, sarongs, towels or blankets and calling to anyone watching.  We discover they can easily reach us as the boat descends with the water level in the lock because we’re right alongside the lock’s concrete platform where they stand.  We walk down some stairs to find a place to sit and a merchant calls to us.  Even though we don’t look at him, he throws a towel at us and it lands at our feet.  Kurt tells me to leave it alone, but I don’t want the merchant bothering us with demands for money.  So I pick it up and try to throw it back.  The wind sends it straight down into the water.  Should have listened to Kurt, for sure.

Moving through the locks is time consuming business.  The kids are interested in how the locks work so we spend over an hour sitting, watching and talking about the locks and about our day.

As we walk down the hallway to our room, a neighbor nearby invites us to see the crocodile towel sculpture she has just discovered in her room.  He’s funny looking with his shades.  We rush to our room to find “Freaky Fred,” the towel traveler.  He’s amusing and creatively put together with items that housekeepers found in our room, like Kurt’s shoes, Kate’s hat and Kai’s sunglasses.   We rush to Mark and Janice’s room to find that they have received a towel monkey hanging from the ceiling.  Much amused, we settle in for the night as the ship continues down river.
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