Editor’s note: Colleen normally writes all the blog posts as you all know, but she has decided to take a day off, so I have been given the responsibility for this installment and for this I ask your forgiveness in advance.
The alarm chimed at 3:45 AM, we jumped out of bed already awake as sleep does not come readily to the Wileman / Chevrefils travel club. With eyes wide open, hearts aglow we headed to the lobby to catch our 4:30 AM bus to the airport in order to board our flight to Aswan located on the Nile, south of Cairo. The flight was a hassle free hour and a half and we arrived at our Nile cruise ship around 10:00 AM. We were able to settle into our room at 11:00 AM. After freshening up, powdering our noses (mine took longer) and a buffet lunch we heading out for our tours of the day – the High Dam of Aswan and the Philae Temple.
The High Dam: It’s a dam that holds back the water in order to make hydro electric power and protect the area from flooding. Lake Nassar was created from this dam. Nuff said. We have an abundance of these in Manitoba so we were wondering why we paid to see this one. If you ever make the trip to Aswan you can scratch the High Dam off of your list as it is not worth paying to see it. My TripAdvisor tip of the day free of charge.
Philae Temple: Now this was worth the cost of admission which by the way has gone up from our initial correspondence with our tour agency. Hmmmmm……. Always an angle, isn’t there?
The temple was built in the 4th century BC and was dedicated to the goddess Isis which became a major religious pilgrimage site for the Egyptians. If you think how Muslims in modern days will make a pilgrimage to Mecca or Christians will go to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage that is how it can be compared to that time period for the Egyptians. As dams were built along the Nile river which changed the water levels, the island on which the temple was located became flooded which created quite a conundrum for the Egyptian government. It was decided to dismantle the temple one block at a time and move it to a nearby Island where people could once again visit these ruins. Work began in 1972 and was completed in 1980 with the cooperation of Unesco and the Egyptian Antiquities Organization. Each block was numbered as it was removed and recorded so it could be placed back in the exact position from which it was taken. Some of the art work is still in very good condition and the hieroglyphics could easily be read if one was able to. One of the more interesting parts of the temple is a rather large round stone which has the last known hieroglyphics ever recorded in Egypt. How do we know this? I dunna know, but that is what we were told. Another interesting aspect of the temple was a picture of the goddess Isis breastfeeding Pharaoh Ptolemy. As Ptolemy was Greek (Alexander the Great’s general who took over Egypt after Alexander’s death) and not Egyptian they wanted to show in the art that the Egyptian gods favoured him even though he was not Egyptian. Also which is of interest is that the early Christians removed the face of Isis so she would not be confused with the Virgin Mary.
With the advent of Christianity and the founding of the Coptic Church in Egypt by Saint Mark, the temple began to be used as a Church for Christian worship. As you walk through the temple you will notice crosses mixed in with Egyptian religious symbols along with an altar and niche used for early Christian services where the Eucharist was celebrated. Colleen and I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Aswan.
Colleen’s notes – Richard was much better equipped to write this excerpt of the blog because of his knowledge of Egyptian history. All I can add is that, once again, the architecture and hieroglyphics were amazing and awe inspiring. It was great to just walk around the structures and drink it all in. Tomorrow we cruise down the Nile and stop to see another couple of temples. Day Five we arrive at the Valley of Kings. Creme de la creme!!
The stone with the last known Hieroglyphics written in Egypt.
Cross with Coptic writing beneath it.
The goddess Isis feeding Pharaoh Ptolemy. Notice how her face was removed by the early Christians so she would not be confused with the Virgin Mary.
Altar inside the temple used by the early Coptic Christians after it was turned into a Church.