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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Edfu and Kom Ombo

Now returning to our Nile cruise after an inexcusably long break ...

I must begin with full disclosure. On this day of the cruise, I was unaccountably exhausted. Most of the information provided by our guide, Hesham, did not register with me at all that day. The weeks since the trip have further dulled my memory. As a result, most of the information in this particular entry is from various websites, rather than from my memories of the tours themselves.

We started out with an early morning sail, departing from Luxor and heading to Edfu. We had the opportunity to be woken up to view the ship's passage through the lock at Esna, where the ship had to be raised to a higher water level, but Jeff and I chose to sleep through this event. It was uncertain when it would occur--as early as 3am or as late as 6. In either case, we decided that sleeping late on vacation was more important than watching an event that, while probably fascinating, occurred just too early in the morning.

At a much more reasonable time that morning, we docked at Edfu and went ashore to tour the Temple of Horus, possibly the best preserved temple in Egypt. It was built during the Greco-Roman period, with construction beginning in 237 BC and continuing until 57 BC. Horus was the falcon-headed god and husband to the goddess Hathor, whose temple we saw at Dendera. There are images of Horus and Hathor engraved on the facade of the first hypostyle hall.

As we approached the temple, we could see the remnants of the carvings on the facade. The carvings were symmetrical, with the same scene mirrored on each side. The scene shows the pharaoh holding captive enemies by their hair and killing them in the presence of Horus.

Further in to the temple, in the sanctuary, we saw a reconstruction of the ceremonial barge--called a barque--that would have been used once a year to transport the statue of Horus to visit his wife Hathor in Dendera. From what I understand, Hathor visited Horus once a year, and Horus returned the visit once a year. In this way, the married god and goddess maintained their relationship. The statues even were left alone together at night so they could engage in sexual activity!

Sources for information about Edfu: Wikipedia, Egypt Travel, and Sacred Destinations.

After our visit to Edfu, we returned to the ship for lunch and a lazy afternoon, during which I again tried to stay awake. Early that evening, we docked in Kom Ombo and went ashore to tour the temple there, which was dedicated to two deities: Sobek, the crocodile god of fertility, and Haroeris, or Horus the Elder, the sun god of war. This temple is symmetrical--every room that exists for Sobek on the right also exists for Haroeris on the left. There were two entrances, two sanctuaries, and probably even two sets of priests.

There were three things that I found memorable about this temple, apart from its double design. The first was that crocodiles were kept at the temple in honor of Sobek--the belief was that crocodiles could be prevented from harming the population if they were worshiped. So a captive crocodile was kept at the temple at all times so that it could be worshiped. Hesham told us that it is believed that the crocodiles were young--when they got older, bigger, and scarier, they mysteriously died (possibly as a result of being poisoned by the priests) and were mummified. The crocodile mummies were found at the site.

The second memorable thing about the temple at Kom Ombo was the section that seemed to be dedicated to ancient Egyptian medical practices. There were carvings depicting medical instruments and procedures, even childbirth.

Third, I finally got to see something that I'd heard and read about repeatedly--a nilometer. There's one here in Cairo, but I haven't been to see it. Nilometers existed in various places along the Nile. Their purpose was to measure the height of the river, I believe during the annual floods. The nilometer consists of a cistern dug deep into the ground near the river. It's connect to the river by an underground tunnel, through which the river water enters the cistern. Stairs spiral down the walls so that priests or whoever did the measuring could go down to water level and use a pole or some such to measure the distance from the bottom of the cistern to the top of the water. The water level determined the amount that the people had to pay in taxes. If the Nile was high, it was a good crop year; taxes were accordingly raised. If the Nile was low, it was not a good year for crops; taxes were accordingly lowered.

Sources for information about the temple at Kom Ombo: Wikipedia and Tour Egypt. I remembered the information about the crocodiles, medical instruments, and nilometer on my own, so you may not want to assume that I remembered it all correctly.

After we left the temple at Kom Ombo, it was time to go back to the ship for dinner. Wednesday night was Egyptian night, so most people wore gallabeyyas. Most of them were purchased on the ship for pretty reasonable prices. Of course, I wore the one I bought a year or so ago in Kerdassa, and Jeff wore one he bought at the Khan back in October. The meal was all traditional Egyptian food--the most notable being koshary and schawarma (our favorites). After the meal there was an Egyptian party in the lounge, but I was dead on my feet, so we just went to bed instead of joining in the fun.

Next: the final day of sightseeing--Aswan.


  1. Even though it took a while to get written, thanks for the wonderful tour. Looking forward to the last installment of the cruise.

  2. even though your memory was a bit of a fog (which i think pregnancy also does to ya) it still sounds wonderful! thanks for sharing!

  3. Kom Ombo is the ancient site of Ombos, which is from the ancient Egyptian word 'nubt', which means 'City of Gold'. It has been occupied since prehistoric times.
    Temple of Egypt


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