Posts Tagged With: Pharaoh

Luxor: Part One

Hello all! Hope you are having a lovely weekend. Here in Kuwait the weather has been sunny and mild. I’ve gotten out and about with friends, and today am going to the doctor to get the bandages on my wrist changed. I have healed perfectly, and will find out the test results this week.

On a somber note, I don’t know if you have been following the news, but Egypt isn’t looking so hot. The unrest there is tragic. When we were there, there had been protests and such, but all before we arrived. Our two weeks were over the holidays, so I think the volatility of the situation was on a bit of a hiatus. Now, though, it seems like it will be a while before things are resolved. I know I said, “Go! Visit Egypt!” in my last post, and I still think you should go. These people that are unhappy have nothing to do with the tourist industry. The tourist areas will remain stable and safe.

After we left Cairo, we went to Luxor, the main tourist city outside of the famous pyramids of Giza. We flew to Luxor from Cairo, which only took an hour. The only other way to get there is by an eleven-hour overnight train. I’ve heard good things about it, but we were short on time so opted for the flight.

When we got to Luxor, the weather was just perfect, and we walked around a bit to get our bearings.

IMG_3834Above is the main city center of Luxor. As it is right on the bank of the Nile, it was a pretty lush city with lots of palm trees and greenery. (Everybody looks pretty tired in the above picture! We sure did a lot of our vacation!)

IMG_3835Luxor temple is the most famous temple complex in the city of Luxor (along with Karnak temple). It was built in 1400 BC, and much of it remains to this day. As you can see, the city has built itself around it, with a mosque from the Middle Ages constructed literally on the side walls of the temple!

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We saw many, many cruise ships on the bank of the Nile. While in theory a “Nile cruise” sounds decadent, I was happy we chose not to take one. The boats stacked next to each other on the bank, the smell of gasoline, the approach  of “get off at this port and do a quick drive-by of everything in forty-five minutes” was not how I wanted to see Egypt.

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Instead, we chose to take a sunset cruise on a “felucca”, otherwise known as an Egyptian sailboat. We met a guy with a nice boat on the bank of the Nile, and he took us around for the evening and to watch the sunset. It was blissfully quiet and surreal!
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The next day we began a tour of the West Bank of Luxor. Since the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, the West Bank was where the famous mortuary temples, tombs, and celebrations of the dead took place. Our first stop was the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (they told us to say “hot chicken soup). The coolest thing about this temple? Queen Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh! Historically, she is known as one of the first great women in history. She reigned for over twenty years, and was known as a very peaceful pharoah. She wasn’t buried here, as this is only a mortuary temple.
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A column with the goddess Hathor at the top. The goddess Hathor was the god of music, beauty, love, wisdom, and dancing. My favorite goddess!

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Sean outside the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. If you look at these statues, they are wearing the double crown of unified Egypt. Upper Egypt is the center, bowling-ball-looking crown, and the crown of Lower Egypt is the bucket-like-crown surrounding the bowling ball. It was believed that King Menes unified Upper and Lower Egypt around 3100 BC – such a long time ago!

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Here we are walking into the temple of Medinet Habu. It is the mortuary temple of Ramessess II.
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We had a great guide, Mohammed, who interpreted the hieroglyphics  architecture, and history for us. It was fascinating! These columns are inside Medinet Habu.

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Can you spot Sean standing outside Medinet Habu? It was a gigantic temple complex! One of my favorite.

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Sean is inside one of many underground burial chambers that we explored while in Luxor. I believe this one was in the Valley of the Kings, where many of the Pharaohs and their descendants were buried. I am fascinated at how well the color has been preserved over thousands of years. If you look at the wall behind Sean, you can see the pharaoh on the far right side; you can identify him by the double-crown of unified Egypt I described above. He is making an offering to two gods, one I can only identify as the goddess Hathor (by the circle and ‘horns’ above her head). The other god may be Amun, the god of creation, only because I can see the feathers above his head, which is how he can be recognized. There is so much to interpret in each tiny etching!

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Sean standing at the Colossi of Memnon. They are two giant status of the Pharaoh Amenhotep. The only reason they are named “the Colossi of Memnon” is because the Greeks, in 20 BC, thought the statues were singing (or whistling) at dawn. Memnon means “Ruler of the Dawn”. The reason they were whistling though was because they had crackes in them from an earthquake. When the wind blew through the cracks, they whistled!

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My first time seeing a scorpion. It was a quick crawler!

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Our morning breakfast in Luxor. We stayed at Mara House, which really made our trip easy and fun. It was a great place!

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The next day we woke up to explore the temple complexes of Abydos and Dendera. Our first stop was Dendera, which is known as one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. The main god of this temple is the goddess Hathor. Each temple is generally dedicated to a particular god or goddess. Also here is where it is believed that Isis was born. Isis is the goddess of healing and magic.

The above picture is a relief of Cleopatra and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion. Is it one of the few known artistic representations of Cleopatra in the world. Isn’t that amazing?!

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Interesting hieroglyphics at Dendera.

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This is inside the Dendera temple complex. It is famous for it’s beautiful colors that have been preserved for so long. Can you see the goddess Hathor’s head on each column?

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The ceiling of Dendera. The reason this temple is so preserved is due to the draining system they had on the roof. Water couldn’t accumulate and weather the stone. The above picture represents the passage of night with the help of the goddess Nut, the goddess of the sky. Sean took an amazing panorama of this artwork,  which I will share with you in a “best of Egypt” post!

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Walking down into the crypts of Dendera…

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Hieroglyphics inside the Dendera crypt.

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The god Horus, wearing the crown of Egypt, and his mother, the goddess Isis.  (Do you see the helicopter above Isis’ head? Proof that the Egyptians were visited by aliens!)

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This is another controversial image in the crypts of Dendera. While many people believe it is a snake and a lotus flower, common in Egypt, others believe it is a lightbulb. They think the Egyptians were visited by aliens and given advanced technology, or that the Egyptians themselves had supernatural powers and created things far beyond their time. I’ll let you decide ; )

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Inside the temple of Dendera. If you look at the top of the columns, you will notice the goddess Hathor’s face is scratched out. In the middle ages when the Coptic Christians began to occupy these temples and use them for their own worship, they scratched out  all of Hathor’s faces as she represented sinful acts and polytheism to the Copts.

 

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The same wall as above, with the relief of Cleopatra and her son.
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Sean inside the temple of Abydos, which was the temple for the god Osiris, the god of the dead.

IMG_4013Sean liked this relief  inside the temple of Abydos, which depicts Pharaoh Seti I with Prince Rammeses (Rammeses II), roping a bull.

Overall, these two days of tours (West Bank and the day we visited Abydos and Dendera) were fascinating. We learned so much history and saw so many beautiful things. I think by the end of it though my sister was a little bit tired of eight-hours-a-day-ancient-history. Regardless, it was an unforgettable experience.

I hope to conclude Luxor in two more posts, and then, who knows? I may begin to talk about our trip to Bangkok… but that’s a tale for another time.

 

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The Pyramids

When planning this blog, I thought to myself, “Perhaps I should condense some days in Egypt. I could combine the pyramids with… no, I can’t. It’s the pyramids.”

You really can’t “share” the pyramids with anything else. They need to stand alone in all their glory. We hired a guide and driver to help us see the pyramids, and I am glad we did. We didn’t only see the Great Pyramid, but we saw Giza, Memphis, Saqqara, and Dashur! I used to think that there were only 3 pyramids in Egypt, and they were alone in the desert, far from the city. Little did I know that there are still hundreds which border the city of Cairo, and you can even explore the interior of a few of them!

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Our first stop was the Bent Pyramid. It was built by the Pharaoh Snefreu around 2600 BC. It was the first “true” pyramid. (We will see one pyramid that came earlier, but it was built in a series of ‘steps’, rather than with clear linear sides.)

The reason it is called the “Bent” Pyramid is because, as you can see, the angle of the sides is bent about halfway up. Sneferu most likely wanted it built too steep, and when the builders were constructing it they realized they had to taper it off earlier than anticipated to avoid collapse. To this day, it still retains a lot of the original limestone casing; the pieces that make the sides smooth, not choppy like Lego blocks. Another cool fact? This pyramid has two entrances, not just one!

 

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Here is Emily with the Red Pyramid in the Dashur area. (The Dashur area is where the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid are located.) This is the third largest pyramid in Egypt. It is called the Red Pyramid because when seen from a certain angle and in a certain light, the pinkish limestone appears red to the eye. This pyramid was also built by Sneferu.
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Our lovely guide Mohammed held my camera while we explored the INSIDE of the Red Pyramid! He snapped a few cool photos of us making our way to the entrance. The Red Pyramid is the first successful attempt (in history) at building a smooth-sided pyramid. What was it like inside? Really hot! The heat gets trapped in there. Other than that, it is eerily “perfect”. The angles inside are perfect, the chambers are perfect, the chutes and channels are perfect. It is difficult to fathom that such perfection was achieved 5,000 years ago, and is still “perfect” to this day! I don’t have any photos inside the pyramid, as cameras were prohibited, but with a simple Google search you can see the inside for yourself 🙂

 

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After Dashur we went to the ancient city of Memphis. (No, not in Tennessee.) It was the capital of the Old Kingdom (when the Dashur pyramids were built), and is famous because of all the statues that were found there.  The above photo is my sister and I with the Alabaster Sphinx. Yes, made completely out of alabaster!

 

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Sean and I with a statue of King Rameses II.  He is one of the most well known Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. He is seen here wearing the false beard, signifying royalty, with his left foot forward, also a stance of the royals.

 

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Inside the museum at Memphis is a giant statue of Rameses II. It is around 10 meters long, and is carved out of limestone. My favorite cool fact about this one is all of the cartouches he had carved on it. A cartouche is an Egyptian hieroglyph; you can see one on Rameses’ shoulder in the above picture. A cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the name inside the oval is royalty.

So, when Rameses II had this statue built, he had at least ten of his own cartouches carved into he statue. Why would he have it carved so many times you ask, when once would have clued us in just as well 5,000 years later? Well, archaeologists found hundreds of cartouches of other Pharoahs all over Egypt that Rameses had defaced and replaced his own name on. Therefore, when he had his own statues made, he ensured that nobody like himself could cover up his name in the future! What audacity!

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Here is the Step Pyramid, the oldest pyramid in all of Egypt. It was built for the Pharoah Djoser by the famous architect Imhotep. If you’ve seen the film The Mummy, then you know that the whole movie was based around Imhotep himself. While he was a famous, historically-significant architect, his body remains undiscovered, which makes him the perfect candidate for a mysterious blockbuster film…

Anyways, the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid of Egypt. Before pyramids, simple “mastabas” were built. A mastaba is a flat-roofed structure with sloping sides. Well, Imhotep began stacking mastabas and adding more to the layers as he went along, and ended up with the first pyramid ever.

The tunnels beneath this pyramid for a maze about three and a half miles long. Wow.

 

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Imhotep was also famous for building the first columns ever in history. Sean loved this fact, seeing as he is has a major in ancient Greece and Rome, the “kings” of the columns. Here we were in Egypt, looking at the birth of the first columns ever!

The funny thing was that when Imhotep had these columns built, he didn’t believe they could stand on their own, so he had a small brick “supporting wall” for each column. As we now know, those could have been removed and the columns would have functioned just as well. Pretty neat!

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After all of this build up, we finally visited the Great Pyramid of Giza. One of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for the Pharoah Khufu (Cheops) around 2560 BC.  It is aligned perfectly with true North, and scientists to this day still cannot replicate the engineering that took place to build such a monument.

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The view looking out over Cairo from the steps of the Great Pyramid. (It was so sad to see such a small amount of tourists, on Christmas day!)

IMG_3717This is a shot of the Grand Gallery inside the Great Pyramid. Can you believe the engineering that had to have taken place for this to work?! The stones are laid at a slightly steeper angle with each layer starting up from the floor, so each stone fits into a perfect slot cut in the roof of the gallery. Each block supports the others around it, not only by the base of the block alone.  I can’t believe they were able to build such cavernous interiors which still exist today!

Once you walked through the Grand Gallery, you were inside the King’s Chamber. It is entirely faced with granite, and the original sarcophagus is still inside.

IMG_3731Sean and I on Christmas day, looking out over the Pyramids of Giza.



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This boat was what blew my mind the most out of everything we saw that day. No joke. This is called the Solar Boat, and was discovered buried next to the Pyramids of Giza in the 1950’s. They dug up a pieces of wood perfectly inscribed with numbers for reassembling the boat  – imagine “attach piece 145 A to 145 B”.

After fourteen years, they had reassembled a cedar-wood boat 143 feet long.

The cedar wood was brought from Lebanon almost 5,000 years ago when the boat was first built.

That’s right. You’re looking at a five-thousand year old boat. I can’t believe it either.

It is called the Solar Boat because it was built for Khufu in the afterlife. When the Pharaoh died, he was going to sail through the sky with the sun, thus the need for the Solar Boat.

Further, they tested the wood while they were excavating, and determined that it had been, at one point immersed in water. Therefore, they can conclude that the boat was built for Khufu’s death, then sailed from Cairo (Memphis) to Aswan, the city of the dead and then back again. Aswan is the city of the dead because it is the home to the god Osiris, the god of the dead. I love this stuff.

 

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Lastly, we finished our day with the sun setting over the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids. It was a perfect day. I think I may quit my job and go into Egyptology…

Stay tuned! There is still lots more of Egypt to discover!

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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