Abydos & Dendera day tour

Trip Start Mar 10, 2012
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10
Trip End Mar 25, 2012


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Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If you scratch into Egyptian history, you'll discover the stories of Abydos.  It is located about 90 km north of Luxor.  The ancients believed this was the resting place of Osiris, the most venerated of all their gods and Lord Protector of the underworld, so it became a destination not unlike Mecca is today -- a place for veneration, worship and a necropolis for the earliest of Egypt's Kings.  The first Egyptian King from the Old Dynasty was Narmer.  He was buried here.....they all were back then.....if not, their tombs were at Saqarra in the north where we visit in a few days.

There are so many stories about this place I had to see it after reading two books.  For example, the tomb of the 3rd King of the Old Dynasty, Djer, included 338 strangled courtiers who, along with animals like donkeys, were to serve the King in the afterlife.  Later, human sacrifice gave way to using "shabtis" or small figurines who would come to life when called upon in the afterlife.  I think King Tut's tomb had over 300 shabtis, one for each day of the year.

Another site at Abydos was called Umm el-Qa'ab (Mother of Pots) which is apparent when you see it; it is completely littered with pottery shards.  Egyptians brought their offerings in jars which were broken and left behind.  We couldn't wander over to Umm el-Qa'ab (the police prevent that) but I did pick up an old pottery jug shard when we were at Saqaara.

Abydos' jewel is the mortuary temple of Seti I (~1290 BC).  He was the father of Ramses II and heralded in the golden era of ancient Egypt.  Because Abydos is off the average tourist's route, and it is located some distance from Luxor, the temple is amazingly well preserved -- a masterpiece like Abu Simbel if not better given its architecture, still-intact roof, and important carvings: the Abydos King List filled a wall with the cartouches of every Pharaoh from the first, Narmer, to Ramses I, Seti's father.  Some Egyptologists rank the Abydos King List up there with the Rosetta Stone as far as understanding the civilization is concerned.  Check the photos from the temple, especially the one of young Ramses grabbing the tail of a running bull as a test of his strength and manhood.

The mysterious structure behind Seti's temple is called the Osireion.  Nobody is sure when it was built -- perhaps when Seti's temple was built, perhaps centuries earlier.  It's architecture is totally different...the huge smooth stone monoliths are still sharp-edged.  Why is there water in the Osireion when the Nile is 11 km away?  New Ager's are drawn to the tomb with a kind of mystical attraction. There was a German lady, a real spiritualist, meditating on steps at the edge of the Osireion when I walked by.  

On the way back to Luxor, we stopped at Dendera to see another lovely temple dedicated to the goddess, Hathor.  Wonderful carvings, pillars standing over 50' tall and covered top-to-bottom with carvings, and vivid 3300 year-old colours.  While there is restoration at most major temples, no re-painting is ever done.

Late this afternoon, we said adieu to Luxor, a wonderful ancient city, and flew to Cairo.  What a difference!....Yikes.
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