Aswan has long been a vital military and trade center, and also a border point. Just south of Aswan is Nubia; and beyond that, Sudan. Although Egypt is technically in Africa, I know a lot of you just thought “Sudan = Africa”. And yeah, it was ridiculously hot. There are two major temples near Aswan – Philae and Abu Simbel.
This complex was actually submerged under the flood waters of the Aswan Dam for a couple of years before it was dismantled and relocated during the 1970s to preserve it.
The complex consists of the Temple of Isis, Temple of Hathor, and Kiosk of Trajan; but ask me which one is which and I wouldn’t be able to tell you from my pictures (sad, I know!) – but you can always google it :).
The pictured colonnade was a Roman addition (obviously Roman, huh?).
As with other temples, there are a lot of reliefs – the ones at Philae are quite well preserved.
The blue-ish picture (below) of me was taken in a room where a priest would make sacrifices and supposedly gain power – it used to have a gold door, so you know it was definitely special.
Philae used to be a colourful temple, but is now the colour of sandstone – as most temples are in Egypt….
The principal deity of Philae was Isis (Goddess of motherhood and fertility). Some images of her in the complex were defaced by Coptics who hid in temples during times of persecution. You can see Coptic crosses left by the early Egyptian Christians in the temple.
Sidenote: if anyone knows how to make or where to get Kosheri/Koshari in Toronto, let me know. Because it is the best vegetarian food I’ve ever tasted. And it is related to this post because our group tried this dish in Aswan.
Abu Simbel was a long drive away from Aswan. Well, it seemed long – maybe it’s cause we had to leave in the wee hours of the morning to be a part of a convoy. The reason they travel so early is because the vehicles may not be able to handle the afternoon heat – so we had to allow plenty of time to travel there, sight-see, and travel back before the sun was able to fry vehicles (and us, I guess).
Abu Simbel was also saved from dam flood waters by a frantic international effort in the 1960s (note: a LOT of temples and historical buildings had to be saved from the dam(n) flooding of the Nile).
The two temples of Abu Simbel were originally carved into the rock of the Nile valley by Pharoah Ramses (Ramesses) II.
Four 20m statues of Ramses guard the entrance to the Great Temple. From left to right, they represent him through his ages – from young to old. As you pass through a hall containing columns and various rooms depicting reliefs of his military superiority (some coloured), you eventually come to a room located furthest back from the entrance. In here are rock cut sculptures of the gods mentioned above in seating position (L-R: Ptah, Amun, Ramses II, Ra-Harakhty).
Here’s where the architectural facts get interesting: the temple was positioned in such a way that twice a year, on October 22 and February 22, the rays of the sun would penetrate this sanctuary and illuminate the statues – except for the statue of Ptah, who always remained in the dark. It is thought that these dates represent the King’s birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no solid evidence to support this – though the significance of the dates is agreed on.
The smaller temple is dedicated to Hathor – a goddess who personified the principles of feminine love, motherhood and joy – and was built for Ramses’ wife Nefertari (not to be confused with Nefertiti) who was one of the Great Royal wives.
The statues of Ramses and Nefertari are equal in size – which was not common in Egyptian art.
Traditionally, statues of queens that stood next to those of the pharaoh were never taller than his knees. This exception indicates the special importance (and love) attached to Nefertari by Ramses.
Lake Nasser surrounds Abu Simbel and stretches from southern Egypt into northern Sudan.
It’s on the top 10 list of largest resevoirs (artificial lakes) by surface area. Its creation was unfortunately also responsible for wiping out all the Nubian villages. Egypt’s entire Nubian community was forced to relocate. Nubia is said to be the homeland of Africa’s earliest black civilization.
After the Abu Simbel Adventure, we got on a boat. A m___ f____ boat. You know the lyrics…and if you don’t, you should. :)