Egypt 1 until 10 October 2010

Egypt, a trip organised by Nile Travel Agency

In October 2010 we made a roundtrip in Egypt. From the organisation Nile Travel we selected the Ramses tour, a 10 days trip to Cairo, Abu Simbel & a small Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor. For a detailed program see the website of Nile Travel (Niletravel Egypte vakantiespecialist).
The "Fellowship of Ramses" (Ramesses):  Karen and Merdan, Eef and Annita, Renske and Rob, Jan-Willem, Mieke, Joke, Marjon and Paul.  It was more than just a pleasure to make this trip with them.
Our guide from Nile Travel, Moustafa Abd El Nabi, welcomed us at the airport and during the next days he showed us around at the museum and the Pyramids at Giza. For the more detail stories our local guide Mohammed was great and more than enthousiast to give us all the information for years in a couple of days. Mohammed was our guide in Cairo, Memphis and Saqqara.

Day 1, the Valley of Giza

The pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx is one of the seven Wonders of the World. For more than 4000 years these immense structures interest people all over the world. The largest pyramid and the oldest one (2750 BC), is the pyramid of Khofu or Cheops, height (146 m), base 230 x 230 m. An amount of 2,3 million blocks of limestone makes a total mass estimate around 5,9 million ton, The pyramid of Kafhre or Khefren is  about 136 m high and the pyramid of Menkaura or Myrerinos  about 62 m.  We went into the the pyramid of Khefren through a very small and low tunnel ending in one of the chambers. Inside the pyramid, the part open for tourist, it is only impressive but it has no real beauty (anymore) inside.
For more information about the Pyramids of Giza

The Great Sphinx of Giza is a statue of a reclining mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head. It is about 73,5 m long, 6 m wide and about 20 m high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture and is commonly believed that it is built in the period the Old Kingdom during the reign of Pharaoh Khafra (around 2500 BC).
The visit to the museum was very impressive but unfortunately not very well documented and exhibited sometimes after dirty windows. Within 2 years the Cairo museum will be moved to a new one in Giza close to the pyramids. A new museum which probably give more judgement to the exhibition. Pictures were not allowed.
pictures Giza, pyramids and Sphinx

Day 2 and 3, Memphis and Saqqara

Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch (Lower Egypt). According to the legends the city was founded around 3000 BC. It was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom and remained an important city  throughout the ancient Mediterranean history. It had a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile delta. During its golden age , Memphis thrived as a regional centre for commerce, trade and religion. The ruins of the former capital offers fragmented evidence its magnificent past.
The earliest known Egyptian pyramids are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis. The earliest among these is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which is constructed between 2630 BC and 2611 BC. The pyramid and its surrounding complex were designed by the architect Imhotep, who is credited with being the first to compose a number of steps that decreased in size towards its apex.  It was designed to serve as a gigantic stairway by which the soul of the deceased Pharaoh could ascend to the heavens.
pictures Memphis and Saqqara

Day 4, Abu Simbel and Aswan

Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser. It was a trip in bus convoy for about 280 km through the dessert from Aswan. Originally the twin temples where carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramseses II in the 13th century BC as a lasting monument of himself and his queen Nefertari. The temple is made because of the victory at the battle of Kadesh and to intimidate the Nubian neighbours. 
The complex was moved in the 1960s to an artificaial hill because of the structure of the Aswan High Dam reservoir. the creation of Lake Nasser. It took about 20 years to build and was completed round the year 1265 BC. The temple was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah as well as to Ramseses himself. The second temple is dedicated to queen Nefertari.
For more information about 
Abu Simbel
pictures Abu Simbel

Aswan is a strategic location since ancient times. It was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt to the south.  The city lies on the east bank of the Nile with a beautiful setting, slow and relaxing, with Nubian influences. The most interesting site is Philea temple which is timeless with artefacts dating from pre-dynastic times onwards. Aswans ancient Egyptian name was Suene or Swenet (means trade), said to be derived from the Egyptian symbol for trade. From the stone in this area and especially the granitic rock called Syenite the colossal statues, obelisks and monolith shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids were made. In the evening of day 4 we made a trip by horse carriage through the old town, the Archangel Michael's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral and  the El-Tabia Mosque.
pictures Aswan

Day 5, Philea temple

The island Philea in the Nile River was the previous site of an Egyptian temple complex in southern Egypt. The complex was dismantled - for the same reason as Abu Simbel - and relocated to a nearby small island Agilkia, an Unesco project. Philea is being accounted one of the burying places of Osiris and was held in high reverence both by Egyptian to the north and the Nubian to the south. The most ancient were the remains of a temple for Isis built in the reign of Nectanebo I during 380-362 BC. Beyond the entrance of the temple, into the principal court are small temples, one of which is dedicated to Isis. The temple is covered with sculptures representing the birth of Ptolemy Philometer, under the figure od the god Horus. The story of Osiris is everywhere represented on the wall of this temple, and two of its inner chambers are particularly rich in symbolic imagery.  At the southern extremity of the dromos of the great temple was a smaller temple dedicated to Hathor; at least the few columns that remain are surmounted with the head of the goddess. Originally there were twelve columns, four in front and three deep. Their capitals represented various forms and combinations of the palm branch, the dhoum-leaf and the lotus flower. All was painted with the most vivid colours, which, because of the climate, have lost little of their original brilliance.

During the fifth day we also visited the High Dam at Aswan, As-sadd al Ali. President Nasser started to build this dam in 1952, but from the beginning there were problems of political and technical reasons. The Worldbank promissed a great loan but didn't keep this promisse. Nasser the claimed the Suez canal with all consequences resulting in the Suez war. We also visited the unfinished Obelisk and the Botanical garden on Kitchener's island. The unfished obelisk is the largest known ancient obelisk. It would have measured (if finished) 42 m with a weight of 1.200 ton.  During the carving of the obelisk cracks appeared in the granite which was probably the reason to abandon the project. Three sides were already cut and prepared for carving.
Kitchener's island (named after Lord Horatio Kitchener, commander of the Egyptian army in 1890) is one of the two major islands on the Nile at Aswan, the other being Elephantine, and it as a whole constitutes a botanical garden. We went to the island with a felucca which was supported by a motorboat because of lack of wind.
At the western bank the tomb of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan is to be seen. Leader of the Islamic sect who died in 1957.
For more information about Philea temple
pictures Philea temple and botanical garden

In the evening after a short trip with the cruiseboat from Nile Travel, MS Alexia, we arrived in Kom Ombo (Ombos). Kom Ombo originally was called Nubt, meaning City of Gold.  It became a greek settlement during teh Greco-Roman Period. About 50 km north of Aswan it gave the town's some controle of the trade routes from Nubia to the Nile Valley, but it became more important with the erection of the temple in the 2nd century BC.
The temple of Kom Ombo is dedicated to two gods, the falcon god Haroëris, Horus the elder, and the crocodile god Sobek. Ptolemaeus VI Philometer started building the temple which was eventually completed with the entrance pylon by the Roman emperor August in 30 BC.  Most of the decorations are made during reign of the father of Cleopatra the 7th. The crocodile was held in especial honor by the people of Ombos. In the ancient catacombs mummies of the sacred animal were found. There is a small sanctuary where crocodile mummies are kept.  
In Kom Ombo there is a rare engraved image of what is thought to be the first representation of medical instruments for surgery, scalps, curettes, forceps, scissors and medical bottles dating from the days of Roman Egypt.  Also a so called Nilometer used to measure the level of the river waters is found here.
pictures Kom Ombo

Day 6, Edfu and (first day of) Nile Cruise

The town Edfu is known for the major Ptolemaic temple (dedicated to the falcon god Horus), built between 237 BC and 57 BC, during the reign of Ptolemy 7th Neos Dionysos, father of Cleopatra 7th. Of all the temples remain in Egypt this one is being the most well preserved. For more than 2000 years it was covered by sand and sludge. It is built from sandstone blocks. The entrance is about 33 m high and leda to a square surrounded by a colonnade roofed with squared granite. The temple is about 45 m wide ans 129 m long. every part of the wall is covered with hieroglyphics. The whole area is surrounded by a 6 m high wall of great thickness which gave it capability as a fortress. The sculptures, carefully and beautifully executed are from the Ptolemaic era, 180 BC. The sculptures in the smaller temple represent the birth and education of Horus, whose parents Noum (or Kneph) and Athor were worshipped in the principal temple. The symbol of Noum is the disc (sun), supported by two asps ans the extended wings of a vulture. With Athor and Hor-Senet Noum formed a triad of youthful gods.
pictures Edfu

After visiting Edfu we sailed to Luxor.
pictures cruise to Luxor

Day 7, Luxor, Valley of the Kings and Queens

The Valley of the Kings is a valley where for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to the 11th century BC tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom, the 18th to the 20th dynasties of Ancient Egypt. This place was probably chosen as a royal burial site because it is overlooked by a pyramid-shaped mountain. At this moment 63 tombs and chambers (ranging from simple ones to tombs with over 120 chambers) are discovered. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funeral rituals of that period. All of these tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but still give a good impression of the power of the rulers that time.
Nowadays it is not allowed to make any pictures at all. Too bad but Ok. So for more information about the Valley of the Kings and Queens and especially the tombs we visited, VK34, VK11 en VK2 and off course the tomb of Tutankhamun, see the links below. You get a slight idea about the overwhelming beauty and impressive structures of these tombs. On one ticket it is just allowed to visit 3 tombs. For the tomb of Tutankhamun a separate ticket was necessary.
For more information about the Valley of the kings and some of the tombs we visited
Valley of the kings
VK2 (Ramesses IV)
VK11 (Ramesses III)
VK34 (Thutmess III)

The tomb of Tutankhamun is not the most beautiful one, but certainly the most famous, because it was the first one not robbed from its treasures. In the tomb the drawings on the wall showed parts of his short live. The tomb looked very small if you take in consideration the enormous with cold plated coffins which are shown at the museum in Cairo.
mummy of Tutankhamun, a small young man is still in his tomb.
For more information, see VK62 (Tutankhamun)

The Valley of the Queens is the place where wives of Pharaohs were buried. In ancient times it was known as Ta-Set-Neferu, meaning a place of the children of the Pharaohs, because along with the Queens of the 18th until the 20th dynasties many princes and princesses were also buried. The valley is just like the Valley of the Kings located on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes (Luxor). This place was chosen due to its relative isolation and proximity at the capital. The kings of the 18th dynasty, instead of the traditional building of pyramids as burial chambers now chose to be buried in rock cut tombs, probably because of the tomb robbers.
The valley of the Queens is said to hold more than seventy tombs, many of which are overwhelming decorated. The until now closed tomb of Queen Neferari (1290-1224 BC) of the 19th dynasty is one of the most beautiful ones because the poly-chrome reliefs are still intact.
In the valley of the Queens we visited 3 tombs. For the more beautiful one of Nefertari see 
V66, Queen Nefertari
For more information about the Valley of the Queens

Temple of Hatshepsut, Memnon

Hatshepsut, meaning Foremost of Noble Ladies, was the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (1508-1458 BC). She is generally regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty.  Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders in Ancient Egypt, hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt. She employed the great architect Ineni, who had worked for her father and her husband. During her reign so much statuary was produced that almost every major museum in the world has Hatshepsut statuary among their collections.  Following the tradition of most pharaohs monuments at the temple of Karnak were constructed. She had twin obelisks, at that time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance of the temple. One still stands as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on earth. Djeser-Djeseru is the main building of Hatsheput mortuary temple complex at Deir el Bahri. Designed by Senemut, het vizier, the building is an example of perfect symmetry that predates the Parthenon, and it was the first complex built on the site she chose, which would become the Valley of the Kings.
pictures temple of Hatshepsut

The Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon (known to locals as el-Colossat, or es-Salamat) are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. For the past 3400 years (since 1350 BC) they have stood in the Theban necropolis, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor. The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (fl. 14th century BC) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards (actually SSE in modern bearings) towards the river. Two shorter figures are carved into the front throne alongside his legs: these are his Including the stone platforms on which they stand (about 4 metres (13 ft) themselves), the colossi reach a towering 18 metres (approx. 60 ft) in height and weigh an estimated 700 tons .The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep's memorial temple (or mortuary temple): a massive cult centre built during the pharaoh's lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world.
pictures colosses of Memnon

In the evening we went to the museum, a very modern museum with not much but very beautiful items exhibit in a very good and well documented way. Some pictures of Luxor by evening.
pictures Luxor by evening

Day 8, Luxor, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor

Again a very, very interesting and impressive day. The Karnak Temple Complex comprises a vast conglomeration of ruined temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amen and a massive structure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II (ca. 1391–1351 BC). An ancient sacred lake is part of the site as well. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes.

The history of the Karnak complex is largely the history of Thebes and its changing role in the culture. Religious centers varied by region and with the establishment of the current capital of the unified culture that changed several times. The city of Thebes does not appear to have been of great significance before the Eleventh Dynasty and previous temple building here would have been relatively small, with shrines being dedicated to the early deities of Thebes, the Earth goddess Mut and Montu. Early building was destroyed by invaders. The earliest known artefact found in the area of the temple is a small, eight-sided temple from the Eleventh Dynasty, which mentions Amun-Re. Amun (sometimes called Amen) was long the local tutelary deity of Thebes. He was identified with the Ram and the Goose. The Egyptian meaning of Amen is, "hidden" or, the "hidden god".

Major construction work in the Precinct of Amun-Re took place during the Eighteenth dynasty when Thebes became the capital of the unified Ancient Egypt. Thutmose I erected an enclosure wall connecting the Fourth and Fifth pylons, which comprise the earliest part of the temple still standing in situ. Construction of the Hypostyle Hall also may have begun during the eighteenth dynasty, although most new building was undertaken under Seti I and Ramesses II. Almost every pharaoh of that dynasty added something to the temple site. Merenptah commemorated his victories over the Sea Peoples on the walls of the Cachette Court, the start of the processional route to the Luxor Temple.

Hatshepsut had monuments constructed and also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient great goddess of Egypt, that had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. She had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth; the other has broken in two and toppled. Another of her projects at the site, Karnak's Red Chapel, or Chapelle Rouge, was intended as a barque shrine and originally, may have stood between her two obelisks. She later ordered the construction of two more obelisks to celebrate her sixteenth year as pharaoh; one of the obelisks broke during construction, and thus, a third was constructed to replace it. The broken obelisk was left at its quarrying site in Aswan, where it still remains. Known as The Unfinished Obelisk, it demonstrates how obelisks were quarried. 
The last major change to Precinct of Amun-Re's layout was the addition of the first pylon and the massive enclosure walls that surround the whole Precinct, both constructed by Nectanebo I.
 In 323 AD, Constantine the Great recognised the Christian religion, and in 356 ordered the closing of pagan temples throughout the empire. Karnak was by this time mostly abandoned, and Christian churches were founded amongst the ruins, the most famous example of this is the reuse of the Festival Hall of Thutmose III's central hall.

One of most famous aspects of Karnak, is the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters. The architraves on top of these columns are estimated to weigh 70 tons.
More information about the temple of Karnak
pictures temple of Karnak

Luxor Temple is a large Ancient Egyptian temple complex located on the east bank of the River Nile in the city today known as Luxor (ancient Thebes) and was founded in 1400 B.C.E. , Known in the Egyptian language as ipet resyt, or "the southern sanctuary", the temple was dedicated to the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut, and Chons and was built during the New Kingdom, the focus of the annual Opet Festival, in which a cult statue of Amun was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple (ipet-isut) to stay there for a while, with his consort Mut, in a celebration of fertility – whence its name.

The earliest parts of the temple still standing are the barque chapels, just behind the first pylon. They were built by Hatshepsut, and appropriated by Tuthmosis III. The main part of the temple - the colonnade and the sun court were built by Amenhotep III, and a later addition by Ramesses II or Ramesses the Great (see Ramesses II information), who built the entrance pylon, and the two obelisks (one of which was taken to France, and is now at the centre of the Place de la Concorde) linked the Hatshepsut buildings with the main temple. To the rear of the temple are chapels built by Tuthmosis III, and Alexander.
During the Christian era the temple's hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west. Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of the town of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today.
More information about the temple of Luxor
pictures Luxor temple

Day 9, Cairo, Saladin Citadel, Mohammed Ali Mosque, Coptic city

From Luxor we went back to Cairo, where in the afternoon we did our last excursions, visting the Saladin Citadel with the Mohammed Ali Mosque and finally the Coptic city of Cairo.

The Saladin Citadel of Cairo (Qalaʿat Salāḥ ad-Dīn) is a fortification in Cairo, Egypt. The location, part of the Muqattam hill near the centre of Cairo, was once famous for its fresh breeze and grand views of the city, and was fortified by the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) between 1176 and 1183 AD, to protect it from the Crusaders.
The Citadel is sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel, because it contains the Mosque of Mohamed Ali (or Muhammad Ali Pasha), which was built between 1828 and 1848, perched on the summit of the citadel. This Ottoman mosque was built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali's oldest son, who died in 1816. However, it also represents Muhammad Ali's efforts to erase symbols of the Mamluk dynasty that he replaced. When Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha took control from the Mamluks in 1805 he altered many of the additions to the Citadel that reflected Cairo's previous leaders.

Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo with the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites. It is believed that the Holy Family visited this area and stayed at the site of Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga).  Coptic Cairo was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt until the Islamic era, though most of the current buildings of the churches in Coptic Cairo were built after the Muslim conquest of Egypt.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue was established in Coptic Cairo in 1115, in what was previously a Coptic church that was built in the 8th century.
pictures Citadel and Coptic

Day 8, return to Amsterdam

On the last day we found some time to visit the Cairo museum for the second time. Early at nine in the morning we were almost the only visitors in the Tutankhamon area. After this trip and the visit to the Valley of the Kings, the tombs, it was even more impressive.

In the afternoon we took the flight back to Amsterdam after a very tiring but most impressive tour to the highlights of Ancient Egypt.