We stay in hotel Mövenpick at Cairo (excellent). And from there we made some visits to the pyramids of Giza. The Giza district begins opposite the west side of Roda Island and stretches 18 km westwards to the great pyramids. Most of the things of interest are either near the Nile or at the western end of the Pyramid Rd. Namely the Pyramids of Cheops, Chepheren and Mycerinus.
The great pyramid of Cheops the oldest at Giza and the largest in Egypt, stood 146.5 metres high when it was completed in 2600 BC., with a cubic capacity of approximately 2.470.000 metres en 2,3 million lime-stones. Although there is not much to see inside the pyramid, the experience of climbing through such an ancient structure is unforgettable and a little claustrophobic. Chepheren South-west of Cheops, and with almost the same dimensions, is the pyramid of Chepheren. It seems larger than Cheops, because it stands on higher ground and its peak still has part of the original limestone casing which once covered the whole structure of all pyramids. Most of the disappeared covering is used as building material for the City of Cairo.
Mycerinus at the height of 62 metres is the smallest pyramid of the three. Extensive damage was done to the exterior by a 16th century Caliph who decided he wanted to demolish all the pyramids. The Sphinx legends and superstitions abound about the relic of antiquity, and the mystery surrounding its long-forgetten purpose is almost as intriguing as the sight of the structure itself. Its more or less a fact that the original image was a Lion, and this Lion was much bigger and older than the present Sphinx.It is not known who and when it was carved.
On the way to Saqqara you will pass Mit Rahina (Memphis), once the glorious Old Kingdom capital of Egypt, but almost completely vanished. Centuries of annual flood have inundated the city with Nile mud, while other ancient buildings and monuments have long since been ploughed over and cultivated by the fellahin. Today there are few signs of the grandeur of Memphis: in fact, its extremely difficult to imagine that a city once stood where is now only a small museum and some statue in de garden. The museum contains a colossal limestone statue of Ramses II In de garden an eight-tonne alabaster sphinx a sarcophagus of Amenhotep and the enormous alabaster tables on which the scared Apis bull were mummified before being placed in the Serapeum at Saqqara.
When Memphis was the capital, during the Old Kingdom period, Saqqara was its necropolis. Deceased Pharaohs, family members and scared animals were ceremoniously transported from Memphis to be permanently enshrined in one of the myriad temples, pyramids and tombs at Saqqara.
Step Pyramid, When it was constructed by Imhotep, the Pharaoh’s chief architect, in the 27th century BC, the pyramid of Zoser was the largest stone structure ever build. The Step Pyramid Zoser dominates the Zoser’s mortuary complex, which is 544 metres long and 277 metres wide and was once surrounded by a magnificent bastioned and panelled limestone wall. On the way back to Cairo most tour operators planned to stop at carpet factories, which exploit very young children, the best protest is not to go inside.
The Egyptian Museum also called Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is unique, it should not be missed. In fact, it’s a good idea to visit this place at the beginning of your visit to familiarize yourself with the Egyptian ancient history. More than 100,000 relics and antiquities from almost every period of ancient Egyptian history are housed in the museum. The place is virtually bursting at the seams, and hardly the last word in modern museum techniques. The exhibits are arranged chronologically from the Old Kingdom to the Roman Empire.
If you spend only one minute at each exhibit it would take more than nine months to see everything. Without doubt, the exhibit that outshines everything else in the museum is the treasure of the comparatively insignificant New Kingdom Pharaoh Tutankhamen, who ruled for only nine years during the 14th century BC. The king’s decaying mummified body, the outer of three mummiform coffins, and the huge stone sarcophagus are all that remain in his tomb. The rest of his funerary treasures about 1700 items, are spread throughout 12 rooms on the 1th floor of the museum.
The Citadel is a spectacular medieval fortress of crenelated walls and towers perched on a hill, and was home to the rulers during a period of about 700 years. Today the Citadel is a complex of three mosques and four museums. The Mohammed Ali or Alabaster mosque is recommended to visit, Shoes out and lay down on your back in the middle of the mosque and look to the ceiling.
We used the night train to Luxor – (Thebes), and reserved a sleeper with diner and breakfast. At 8,00 o clock we arrived in Luxor dropped our luggage in the hotel and right away to the temple complex. Luxor a 4000-years old site is one of world’s greatest open-air museums, a time capsule of a glorious long-gone era. At the height of its glory and opulence from 1570 to 1090 BC, the New Kingdom Pharaohs made Thebes their permanent residence; the city had a population of nearly one million and the architectural activity was astounding. Because so many kings left their marks at Thebes it can quickly become very confusing trying to keep track of who build what temple or tomb and when they did so. Fronting the entrance to the temple is the enormous 1st pylon, about 24 metres high, in front of which are some colossal statues of Ramses II and a pink granite obelisk. There were originally 2 obelisks, one is stolen by France and stands in de Place de la Concorde in Paris. The Amun temple enclosure is the central enclosure of numerous temples that make up the enormous Karnak complex. Its ancient name was Ipet-Isut or the most perfect of places. Karnak was build, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over a period of nearly 1500 years. The major additions to the complex were constructed by Pharaohs of the 18th to 20th dynasties, between 1570 and 1090 BC.
You’ll need to visit Karnak at least twice to fully appreciate the size and magnificence of the complex. A return visit in the evening for the sound & light show would complete the picture. The wonderful little museum of Luxor, a present of France, has a small but well-chosen collection of relics from the Theban temples and necropolis, the most interesting exhibit is the wall of Akhenaten on the 2nd floor, which is actually a set of 283 sandstone blocks found within the 9th pylon of the Karnak temple. The reliefs show the rebel Pharaoh and his queen, Nefertiti, making offerings to Aten. If you have some time left make a round trip by a horse-drawn carriage (known as a hantour or calesh) or make a trip with a Feluca on the Nile river.
The west bank of Luxor was the necropolis of ancient Thebes. Magnificent mortuary temples were build on the plains, where the illusion of the Pharaoh’s immortality could be perpetuated by devotion of his priest and subjects, while de king’s body and worldly wealth were laid in splendidly decorated secret tombs excavated in the hills. The tomb of Tutankhamen is the magnet and most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but it far outshines its appearance. Tutankhamen tomb is neither large nor impressive and bears all the signs of a rather hastily completion and inglorious burial. The extraordinary contents of this rather modest tomb build for a boy-king, however, can only make you guess at the immense wealth that must been laid to the rest with likes of the powerful Seti I or Ramses II. But the mummy of Tutankhamen is still in it and the others are empty. Rising out of the desert plain in a series of terraces, the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut merges with the sheer limestone cliffs of the eastern face of the Theban mountain as if nature herself had build this extraordinary monument. The partly rock cut, partly free-standing structure is one of the finest monuments of ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, over the centuries the temple has been vandalized. Aknenaten removed all the references to Amun; and the early Christians who took it over as a monastery, also defaced the pagan reliefs. The worst damage, however, was done out of pure spite by Hashepsut’s successor, Tutmosis III, Who developed a fairly strong hatred of the queen in the 20 years he waited to ascend the throne of Egypt. Within weeks of her dead he had obliterated or covered her name or image wherever he found it.
The massive pair of statues known as the Colossi of Memnon are all that remain of the temple of the hedonistic Amenophis III. The colossi were among the great tourist attraction of Egypt during Greco-Roman times because the Greek believed they were actually statues of the legendary Memnon, a king of Ethiopia and son of the dawn-goddess Eos.
We are going by bus to Aswan. On the way the first stop is at the little but beautiful, Greco-Roman Khnum temple of Esna. Dedicated to Khnum, the ram-headed creator-god who fashioned humankind on his potters wheel, the temple was begun by Ptolemy VI and build over the ruins of earlier temples. It was excavated from the silt that had accumulated through centuries of annual Nile floods and is about nine metres below modern street level. Next stop is at Edfu. The largest and most completely preserved Pharaonic, albeit Greek-build, temple in Egypt is the extraordinary Temple of Hores. The structure dominates this west bank riverside town, 53 south of Esna. The construction of this huge complex began under Ptolemy III Euergetes I in 273 BC and was completed nearly 200 years later during the reign of Ptolemy X III ( the father of Cleopatra) in the 1st century BC. Dedicated to Hores, the falcon-headed son of Osiris, who avenged his father’s murder by slaying his uncle Seth, the temple was build on the site where, according to the legend, the two gods met in deadly combat. After the Horestemple we visit the temple of Kom Ombo, 60 km south of Edfu. Kom Ombo or, more precisely, the dual Temple of Sobek and Haroeris, stands on a promontory at a bend in the Nile, where in ancient times sacred crocodiles basked in the sun on the river bank. South of the main temple is the Roman Chapel of Hathor, dedicated to the wife of Hores, which is used to store a large collection of mummified crocodiles.
In Aswan all the hotels are filled to the last bed and they accommodate us in Hotel Tut Amon. Not so good!, in the middle of the desert, but with a nice swimming pool. In ancient times the area was known as Sunt; the Ptolemaic town of Syene stood to the south-west of the present city; and the Copt s called the place Souan, which means trade, from which the Arabic Aswan is derived. The main town and temple area of Sunt was actually on the southern end of the island called Yebu, which means elephant, and which the Greeks later renamed Elephantine Island. You have to go by a Feluca to the island Elephantine which is really nice trip on the Nile. The south side of the island is full of remains of the old city. Here are also the ruins of an old Jewish Temple, original build in the old Solomon style. They suppose that here once the “Ark of the Covenant” is hidden before it is lost somewhere in Ethiopia. The old Nilometer to measure the water level is still in use here, although it dates from Pharaonic times , and bears inscriptions and cartouches from the reigns of Amenophis III and Psammetichus II.
An other island Geziret Nabatat or Kitchener island is one of the most delightful places in Aswan, it was given to Lord Kitchener in the 1890s when he was consul-general of Egypt. Indulging his passion for beautiful flowers, kitchener turned the entire island into a botanic garden. Sailing between the grotesque rocks and it fairy-like landscape is exciting. By airplane to Abu Simbel dedicated to Ramses II en Nefertari. The Abu Simbel temples were threatened with being swallowed forever beneath the rising water and silt of Lake Nasser. Their preservation, 280 km south of Aswan, must rank as the greatest achievement of the UNESCO rescue operations. The great Temple of Ramses II was dedicated to the gods Ra-Harakhty, Amun and Ptah and, of course, to the deified Pharaoh himself; while a smaller Temple of Hathor was dedicated to the cow-headed goddess of love an build in honor of Ramses favorite wife, Nefertari.
At the island Philae are also a couple of temples rescued from the rising water. in the 1960s when the approaching completion of the high dam threatened to submerge the island completely and forever, the massive complex was disassembled and removed stone by stone from old Plilae to the new Plilae island. It was on Philae, during her search for the dismembered pieces of Osires, who had been murdered by his brother Seth, that Isis supposedly found her husband’s heart; hence the island became her most sacred precinct. her cult following was so strong that she was still being worshipped long after the establishment of Christianity. A visit to the old and new Aswan dam is always part of the program. These dam made it possible to distribute the water but disturbed the old situation in such a way that after some years a lot of temples and sculptures pass away to sand. In early days the floods of the Nile washing the minerals out of the stones. But now slowly the minerals crystallizing and the stones go to pieces.
A beautiful and very interesting trip but unfortunately due to local terrorism it is no longer possible to travel Egypt on this way.
Tags: Aboe Simbel, Aknenaten, Amenhotep | Tutankhamen, Amenophis III, Amenophis III | Aswan, Amun, Apis bull, Ark of the Covenant, Cairo, Cheops, Chepheren, Citadel, Edfu, Egyptian Museum, Elephantine, Esna, Feluca, Geziret Nabatat, Giza, Hathor | Philae, Hathor | Sunt, Hatshepsut, Horus, Imhotep, Karnak, Khnum temple, Kitchener, Kom Ombo, Memnon, Memphis, Mohammed Ali | Luxor, Mycerinos, Nefertari, Nefertiti, Old Kingdom, Osires, Psammetichus II, Ptah, Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy X III, Ra-Harakhty, Ramses I, Ramses II, Roman Empire, Saqqara, Seth, Seti I, Sobek, Sphinx, Syene, Tell al-Amarna, Theban, Thebes, Tutankhamen, Tutmosis III, Zoser