Friday, December 11, 2009

Egypt (Day Six)

Day Six - Edfu & Kom Ombo

We started the day by touring the Temple of Horus in the city Edfu. Amazingly, this temple was covered in sand for thousands of years and wasn't discovered until the 1860's. It's shocking to think that something this large could be lost for that amount of time. Fortunately, this helped to preserve the temple.

Many of the ceilings were either still in place, or were easily repaired. This made it easy to image how the temple originally looked.

This is the Holy of Holies. It was the center of the temple and was where the people came to worship. The shrine is a reproduction, but it was neat to see how it looked in the temple.

The falcon statue is original and is in perfect condition. The detail in it is amazing.

This wall is one of the highest surviving pylons and stands about 125 feet high.
In the evening, we went to the Temple of Kom Ombo. It is unusual in that it is a double temple that is dedicated to two gods with two Holy of Holies side by side.
This hieroglyph is of the various medical instruments that the Egyptians used. Some of them are still used today. The two figures on the left are on birthing chairs. For thousands of year it was traditional for women to give birth in chairs like these.

This is considered the best hieroglyph in Egypt. The detail in the figures is incredible. Every muscle and detail is perfect.

It's fascinating that the detail in the columns has remained for so many years.

I just like this picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Egypt (Day Five)

Day Five - Valley of the Kings & Cruising the Nile
We started the day early with some tours of the West Bank of the Nile near Luxor. The statue above is one of two that used to guard a giant temple. The temple has long since been demolished, but the statues are quite impressive.
We went to the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. Both locations do not allow any cameras, so these photos were downloaded from the Internet. Both sites are where the Queens and Kings (Pharaohs) of ancient Egypt were secretly entombed with all of their treasures. Unfortunately, the secret got out and all but one of the tombs were pillaged thousands of years ago. King Tut's tomb is the only one to be discovered untouched in the modern day.
The more important Pharaohs had large corridors leading to the tombs. In some tombs, like Ramses IV, the corridor was over 200 feet long and covered with detailed, colorful, hieroglyphs.

Around the tomb, the hieroglyphs still hold the vibrant colors from several thousand years ago. It was breathtaking to see. We also went inside King Tut's tomb and saw his body. It was fascinating to see the relatively small tomb he was buried in since he died unexpectedly at the age of 19.

Next, we went to Queen Hatshepsut's temple. This temple has been heavily restored to the way it would have looked during her time. About 25% of it is original. Regardless, it is very impressive.

Giant statues line the temple.

This is the view from our room in the cruise boat. It was fascinating to watch what was happening along the Nile from the view in our room or from the pool on the roof of the boat.

Small boat fishing is very common to see along the Nile.

We felt like we were floating through a National Geographic magazine as we saw cows swimming along the Nile.

We found many kids happily playing in the water.

We spotted this great shot from the top of our boat.

The small boats that seem to be attacking the river boat are actually trying to sell souvenirs to the tourists on the boats.

They would line up along the side of the boat and yell out to the tourists on the top deck.

If someone was interested in buying, the men would throw the item all the way to the top of the boat. Then, the tourist would place the money in a sack and throw it down to the men.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Egypt (Day Four)

Day Four - Train & Luxor
We woke up on the the train after a poor night of sleep. As soon as the sun came up, we looked outside the window of our cabin and found that the train was rumbling through some areas of Egypt that never see tourists. I grabbed the camera and took the following pictures for the next 3 hours until the train finally made it to Luxor.

Camels are still used for transportation and as work animals.

We passed many fields while on the train. It was common to see families working together.

This shot is of a field with some trash being burned. The mosque in the background is a very common site.

When we finally made it to Luxor, we got on our four day Nile cruise, the Jaz Royale. This is very different from an ocean cruise. The boat only had 47 guests. It would make multiple stops each day at various sites along the Nile. At night, it would dock at a town so we could walk around at night. It was an amazing experience to float along the Nile.

After we checked in on the boat, we had a few hours to kill before our first tour. We decided to check out the local market. It was very different from Cairo. The street was dirt and was filled with shops for clothes, food, and other local goods. Check out the size of the lettuce in the photo above!

I can't get over how awesome it is that Egypt still uses donkey carts!

This kid had a crate packed full of baby chicks he was selling.

Once again, the big digital camera caught a lot of attention from kids as they were coming home from school. These boys were so excited to get their picture taken.

This darling girl ran all the way across the street to get her picture taken.

Our first tour was the Karnak Temple. It is the largest temple in Egypt and was built over many years. Almost every pharaoh added to the temple, but most of the construction was done under Ramses II. That is why these giant Ramses statues guard the entrance.

These ram statues used to line both sides of the 1.5 mile long road that separated the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple.

The Karnak Temple is filled with giant columns that are covered with hieroglyphs. The color that is visible on the stones on top of the columns is original and hasn't been restored. The Egyptians ground up precious stones into a paste and then painted it onto the hieroglyphs. They used precious stones because the color would not fade over time like natural pigments would have.

Next, we went to the Luxor Temple. This temple was also built mostly by Ramses II, but many other Pharaohs contributed. The photo above is the main entrance. Originally, there were two obelisks in front of the temple. However, the one on the right was removed in 1829 and given to France as a gift. If you have been to the Place de la Concorde in Paris, you have seen the other obelisk that used to stand in front of the Luxor Temple.
The hieroglyphs inside in the temple are in very good condition and have incredible detail.

It was neat to be at the temple at dusk. As night fell, the lights made the temple look spectacular.

After the Luxor Temple, we went back to the Karnak Temple for the sound and light show. Similar to the Giza light show the story was pretty cheesy and over dramatic. However, the light show was great!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Egypt (Day Three)

Day Three - Cairo
Today we hired our driver again and he took us to some of the sites in Cairo that are relatively new . . . less than two thousands year old.

This is the City of the Dead. It is a four mile long area of Cairo that is formally known as the Northern Cemetery. Traditionally, Egyptians built small house-like mausoleums for their loved ones where they could stay during the 40 day mourning process. Also, when they came to visit the dead, it gave them a place to hang out. The City of the Dead is filled with these small houses. Today, the area is filled with thousands of homeless people who have moved in and live with the dead. They have even set up markets and coffee shops amongst the tombs.

This is a view inside one of the mausoleums. If you look behind the bars, you can see the tomb.

Next, we went to the Citadel. The history of this area goes back to the year 810 A.D. and has had many uses. The position of the Citadel, on a hill overlooking the city, made it a great location for military defense and was even used to defend against the Crusaders.

Many different mosques have stood within the walls of the Citadel. Today, the Mohammad Ali’s Mosque dominates the site and is quite stunning.

The inside of the mosque is beautiful and unique.

The view from the Citadel is supposed to include the pyramids, but the pollution in Cairo is so horrible that there is no chance of seeing that far. You can smell and taste the pollution all day long.

We then went to Coptic Cairo which has had Christian roots since about the 3rd century A.D. This is the Hanging Church. It was probably built in the 8th century, but stands on the same spot as a church built in the 3rd century.

Near the Hanging Church is a Christian cemetery. It really should be in a scary movie. Seriously, I'm sure at night this place has dead people walking around everywhere!
Another view of the city on a clear day.

That night, we got on the sleeping train that took us on a 12 hour trip to Luxor.

This is our little room on the sleeping train. If you've ever ridden on a train in Europe, this train isn't anything like that! This thing rocked and rumbled down the track. Occasionally it would just slam on the brakes. I was sure we were going to hit another train. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep that night.