Chapter 6 - The Land of the Pharaohs
The temple Danny and Katy see when they arrive is the Luxor Temple, dedicated to Amun and built by several pharaohs including Amenhotep III and Ramses II. At the front is a pylon with two statues of Ramses and one obelisk - the other one was swapped with the French for a clock. The clock is still in the Mohammed Ali mosque in Cairo. It never worked! The obelisk is in La Place de la Concorde in Paris. It was brought over in 1833. It is 23m high and weighs about 250 tons.
The original cap was stolen in the 6th century BC so the French replaced it with a gold leaf-covered new one.
The Trip Down the NileIn November 2001 I visited Egypt. The first week was a cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and back - the same trip that Danny and Katy take in the book. On this page you can see some photos I took of the various sights which I, and my characters, viewed en route. Click here to see a map.
I stayed on the Viking II, a cruise ship for English travellers who were divided into two groups for touring. My guide was Ahmed - the other's was called Osama, which caused a few jokes as the cruise took place only two months after September 11th. Ahmed was a nice bloke who gave us lots of background details during each site visit (though a few of them were wrong...). Here you see the top deck on which I spent many an hour sunbathing.
The famous river Nile was gorgeous to look at. Deep blue reflections of the sky, but dark green if you looked straight down. Luxuriant green fields on each bank, lazy palm trees everywhere.
And at night it was no less lovely.
Our first stop was the Temple of Horus at Edfu. This was built very late on in Egyptian history, during the Ptolemaic period when Greek kings ruled Egypt (exact details: Ptolemy III started it in 237BC, and it was finished by Ptolemy XIII in 57 BC). Edfu had always been sacred to Horus, however. It is the best preserved temple in Egypt with a full hieroglyphic retelling of the myth of Horus and Seth. And of course the statues of angry Horus (it's Seth he's angry at, for killing his father Osiris).
Those niches in the pylon, by the way, were for the four flagpoles. The holes above were for raising and changing the flags. Can you see the image of Horus on the wall, with the double crown?
One unpleasant side of Egypt is that at every ancient site there are traders who descend like vultures on visitors. They use the most aggressive methods to sell their wares. One salesman after getting me to buy a scarf wouldn't give me the right change and wouldn't take the scarf back. He only gave in when I threatened to go to a policeman. So if you go to Egypt use these words and learn them well: 'la shokran!' (= no thanks).
Kom Ombo was next, a bit further down the Nile. Like Edfu this was an ancient temple (according to Ahmed it was built by Thutmose III), later rebuilt by the Ptolemies (Ptolemy VI to be exact - and later completed by the Roman emperor Augustus in 30 BC). It was dedicated unusually to two gods - Horus and Sobek (see Sobek right). Each god had one half - left or right - of the temple. There were lots of crocodiles in the Nile in this area, and people kept getting eaten. The temple was built partly to honour Sobek so he would stop his creatures doing such nasty things. Sacred crocodiles were kept in the grounds and mummified when they died.
On the walls of the temple there was a black stain up to about chest height, which showed an ancient very high flood. I used this idea later in the book...
Finally we reached the city of Aswan. There were so many cruise ships moored here that they had to line up side by side, and I had to walk through five other ships to get to the shore. There's lots to see in Aswan:
1. The high dam, built in 1960 to provide electrical power, but which ended the summer floods which had brought life-giving fertile mud to the ancient Egyptians for thousands of years. It also caused the flooding of a large number of ancient temples and villages.
2. The Temple of Isis (see right), also known as Philae, after the island it was originally built on. After the Aswan dam was built, a lake (Nasser) was created to the south of it which would have submerged the island, so they removed and reconstructed it on another island. An amazing project.
3. The Island of Elephantine (which I didn't visit) with various ancient remains.
4. Kitchener's Island, with its lovely botanical gardens.
5. Aswan market - colourful indeed (see right).
6. The Unfinished Obelisk. We visited a quarry of pink granite used by the ancient Egyptians, with its famous unfinished obelisk. There is some debate but most people think it was commissioned by Hatshepsut. It would have been the largest in Egypt - 42m high, but a crack appeared in it and it was abandoned. Obelisks were always built in pairs, so presumably this was the first of such a pair as another one has not been found.