The Lake Nasser Ferry pulled into the quickly expanding town of Abu Simbel. Fifteen years ago there was nothing here but a car park and a bus stop, now there’s a small town of ten thousand people. We made our way to a comfortable hotel and the first shower in five days, followed by a 4am alarm to watch the sun rise on Abu Simbel, one of Egypt’s most incredible sights.
Ramesses II or as he liked to be called, Ramesses the Great or what most Egyptians probably called him back then, Ramesses the Egotist, had the entire complex carved directly from the rock with the purpose of impressing his southern neighbours. The four main colossal statues are all of himself, of course and the smaller statues are of a couple of his favorite wives, with Nefertari near the center.
Inside are eight huge columns depicting, guess who, Ramesses the Great. Further inside is another large room adorned with statues of three god’s and who else but Ramesses the Great.
And if a dozen huge statues of himself is not enough, on the 22 Oct every year on his birthday, the sun shines through the temple entrance, travels 80m down the hall and lights up a statue of none other than Ramesses the Great.
He had the temple next door constructed to honor the favourite of his thirty four wives, Nefertari. It’s of course smaller than his temple but most of the statues inside his wife’s temple are of himself!
Ramesses the Great constructed more statues of himself than any other pharaoh.
After Abu Simbel we drove north to Aswan on the banks of the Nile just north of the Aswan Dam.
We jumped in a boat on the first morning and cruised up to Philae Temple which sits on an island in the middle of the Nile.
After a day in Aswan we opted for a three day felucca cruise down the Nile with three of our travel buddies, Dan, Nick and Sam.
The felucca trip was fantastic. Great weather, great hosts and a comfortable boat with plenty of nice food. Our time on the felucca consisted of swimming, sleeping, listening to music and drifting around in the inflatable dinghy we bought the day before.
The next stop after Aswan was Luxor.
The sound and light show was on at the Karnak Temple only two hours after arriving in Luxor so we walked down to the river and caught a water taxi to the other side, had a quick meal and jumped in a couple of carriages and trotted off to Karnak, arriving just as the show began. The show was pretty ordinary and outdated but the temple was amazing, particularly the Hypostyle Hall with its 134 huge pillars, several of which are over 20m tall, with a 10m circumference. I definitely wanted to come back during the day.
The following day we arrived at the Valley of the Kings where 63 tombs have been cut into the limestone hillside.
Visiting the tombs was one of my African highlights. Several tombs are over 150m long, with the longest at 300m. Ramesses II has 74 rooms in his tomb and another has 120 rooms.
We visited Ramesses IV, Ramesses III and Merenptah. Tutankhamen’s tomb is also in the valley but it’s only small with three rooms. When it was discovered in 1922, the three rooms were full of treasures and he was a young minor pharaoh.
One can only imagine what treasures must have been in the tombs of the great pharaohs like Ramesses II, who ruled for over sixty years.
To this day all the treasure that was in the pharaoh’s tombs, has never been found. Sometime during antiquity most of the mummies were taken out and placed in a hidden tomb several kilometers away to protect them from looters. Egyptologists believe that all the tomb’s treasures were also hidden in a secret location that has been lost in time.
The impressive Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was the second female Pharaoh and came to power in 1478BC.
The next morning we headed back to Karnak Temple to see the Hypostyle Hall in daylight. The columns were even more impressive during the day and definitely one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in my two years in Africa.
From Karnak I wandered along the Luxor Corniche to the Luxor museum.
Although only small it has some impressive artifacts, mummies, and statues. One of the main attractions is the mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses III.
I hope I look that good when I’m 3,000 years old !
Over the next few days we’ll have a break from the Nile and tombs and temples and spend three days on the Red Sea Coast and hopefully I’ll have time for a dive while I’m there.
After Hergharda well drive to Cairo.
Bye for now.