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Sunday, November 13, 2016

10/25: Unimaginable Colors at Abydos & Dendera

Khalid and Abdul, our driver and guide respectively from Love Egypt Tours, picked us up from our hotel at 7:30 again for our day trip to visit both Dendera and Abydos today. 
After we had driven for a bit, we were told to hide in the far back curtained seat of the huge van before going through the police checkpoint so that Khalid could take the faster Western Desert Highway which is normally closed to tourists. The police say the road is not secure and therefore force people on the far slower Agricultural Road instead. Since Abydos was only 200 kms north of Luxor on the former road compared to 320 kms on the latter road, we could certainly understand why Khalid wanted us to try and escape detection in the rear seat.

It was certainly a novel experience hiding from the police for us! If the police had simply opened the doors, of course we would have been noticed right away. There would have been no consequence for us, only a stiff fine levied against Khalid. 
Despite its name, the Western Desert Highway was an amazingly fertile area with lots of farming being done. Abdul mentioned that okra, oranges, grapes and tomatoes were grown here. 

The people were making mud bricks that they would then burn to make them harder.

More local homes were being built because the village was expanding. There was still a lot of work to be done before anyone could move in though.
Lots of stretches of the Western Desert Highway were very desolate.
Entering the village of Abydos:

Animals live immediately next to the people’s homes, Abdul said, not in stables on farms outside the village.
We took the back way through the village to get to the Temple of Abydos which dated from the pre-dynastic period, Abdul said, or before the pyramids were built. There are 40 tombs in the area comprising Abydos.

Abdul pointed out the barley plants used for the walls and roofs of the homes.

The main temple at Abydos was for Ramses II and his father, Seti I, but there were three other temples too. 
According to wikipedia, Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately as the god of transition, resurrection and regeneration. Abdul told us that all temples in Egypt had parts of his body and that one of his hands was in Abydos. Considering the staggering number of temples there are in Egypt, I didn’t know how each one could have a piece of him though!

The Greeks and Romans also came to Abydos. He pointed out the limestone and sandstone baptismal font Christians used as we approached the entrance.
The temple contained two halls and seven sanctuaries, one for each god.
The original entrance was covered by sand. The Romans wanted to gain entrance and broke through.
It was very dark inside because of the smoke from the fires. Natalie: I can't tell you how much the flashlight you gave Dad has come in handy this trip! It has been invaluable in so many sites we've visited.
Abdul pointed out what sure looked like images of a submarine and a helicopter carved into the stone ceiling! Considering the ceiling was about 30 feet high, we really needed to crane our necks to see them and to take photos of them too! 
The owl in this photo represented knowledge.
 Abdul mentioned that Christians added new inscriptions in the 5th century AD.

The god Osiris, his wife Isis and son Horus:

Giving the ankh or the key of life to the king:
Even though we had seen so many hieroglyphics over the last couple of days, it was still amazing to me that the whole wall could tell a story from the beginning to the end.
Ramses II’s tomb was carved with inset bas-reliefs versus the new wall done with exterior reliefs for Seti I. Abdul explained it was hugely more complicated to carve the latter out of limestone.

Inset bas-reliefs:
The far more difficult exterior bas-reliefs:
Osiris shown sitting down:
There were seven rooms in the tomb as seven is considered the lucky number for Egypt. Each room had the same offerings, Abdul assured us.
The dome-shaped roofs with stars to help him on the journey to the afterlife. 

A basket of fruit to also help the king on his journey:

There were seven sanctuaries here, not just the customary one, and niches in between each sanctuary. 

Amun-Ra, the oldest and the most worshipped ruler of ancient Egypt, was always depicted in blue. Many considered him as the God of Kings and King of Gods. 
Seti I wore the blue crown of war from ancient Egyptian time.
The photo shows Nut, the goddess of the sky, giving Seti I the scepter for a long rule.
Amun-Ra, the Creator, is shown protecting Seti I:
The guard, holding a machine gun, had been wandering around the many chambers in the tomb. Abdul told the guard he should be outside the tomb as it was very upsetting to tourists seeing him inside. We hadn't said that but that was probably not far off the mark.
Seti I teaching Ramses II the names of the 76 kings that had come before. What a history lesson - sure glad I didn't have to remember the names!

Archeologists knew the statue was a prince because of his side locks of hair, Abdul explained.
Outside was the oldest part of the temple where the mummification process took place.
No one knows why the water was green, Abdul said. There were fish there so the water is not dead.
Lady Isis protecting her husband, Osiris, who was presented with the eagle or falcon. Isis is seen wearing a large, solid gold necklace. She needed the counter balance of more of the necklace on the back.

In the main room dedicated to the god Osiris, the faces had been chiseled out by Christians who were against the Egyptian religion, Abdul stated.
The frog symbolized Osiris’ stomach!
Other photos from the temple:

We left the marvelous temple then to drive to a small restaurant for lunch. Despite the fact so many tourists come to Abydos, there was nothing we saw in the way of any tourist infrastructure at all in the area - absolutely no shops selling any souvenir items and nothing that would make anyone want to linger awhile.

Abdul had needed to order our lunch ahead of time so we wouldn't have to wait even though we were the only patrons except for the local tourist police officer who followed us in. Here Steven was showing Abdul what a 'bookmark' was on the computer.

From the moment we left the restaurant, we had a police motorcycle escort. Love Egypt Tours, the tour agency we were using, had had to buy a permit for us to come to Abydos. The cost of the permit also included the cost of the escort who accompanied us for about twenty minutes.

The sign said 'Goodbye' as we left the town.

There were a large number of homes that had barley fences and roofs in the area around Abydos:

We picked up another police escort in Sohas City: there were three police officers in the back of the truck and two more up front. Steven and I never understood why the need for the escort.
Abdul stopped off at one of the many molasses stands along the barren road as he said this area was particularly well known for its quality molasses.

There were long lines for gas as there were significant gas shortages in many areas around Luxor. Khalid had had to wait in line more than two hours last night to fill up the van with gas for our trip today, Abdul explained!

About 3, we reached our final destination for the day, Dendera, one of the best preserved temple complexes in Egypt. Dendera was a site for chapels or shrines from the beginning of history of ancient Egypt. It seems that pharaoh Pepi I, circa 2250 BC, built on this site and there was evidence of a temple in the eighteenth dynasty, circa 1500 BC. The temple was modified on the same site starting as far back as the Middle Kingdom, and continuing right up until the time of the Roman emperor Trajan.
Dendera means the sacred land or the land of the goddesses. The largest temple was dedicated to the goddess, Hathor, who was also known as the goddess mother for all of Egypt.
The columns and the entranceway were added by the Romans when they controlled Egypt.
After learning from Abdul that this was Bes, the god of fun, I was interested to read more about him. Bes was an ancient Egyptian dwarf god who was both a deity and a demonic fighter. He was a god of war yet he was also a patron of childbirth and the home. It was thought that he could scare off any evil spirits lurking around the birthing chamber by dancing, shouting and shaking his rattle!

Bes was associated with sexuality, humor, music and dancing. Although he began as a protector of the pharaoh, he became very popular with every day Egyptian people because he protected women and children above all others. Bes had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name but he was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetic containers.
Abdul said this was the only temple where we could walk into the crypt underground. There were nine columns on each side of the temple. Each column represented ten days and included the Zodiac symbols.
The columns once inside the temple were immense.
Faces of Hathor and cow ears adorned the tops of the columns.

This was the best ceiling in any temple in all of Egypt, Abdul said, with a hint of pride in his voice. We were so fortunate that part of it had just been recently cleaned in a careful way that removed hundreds of years of black soot without harming the ancient paint underneath. As a result, we were able to enjoy its beauty even more. The photo showed the restored and dirty parts.
The eye represented the god, Osiris.  
The 14 figures represented the same number of pieces of Osiris in other temples.
The celing was dominated by Nut, the face of the sky goddess.

On the ceiling were many Zodiac symbols: The scorpion was for Gemini which is my sign.
The scale was a sign for Libra.
Other scenes in the spectacular ceiling:

During the mummification process, a blue scarab was put into the heart cavity, Abdul said.
The moon with a man and a dog: 
The bull was a symbol of the Egyptian zodiac.
An overview of the ceiling: 
 To give you a sense of how high the ceiling was and how we had to crane our necks to be able to pick out the images that Abdul pointed out!
At the other end of the gigantic ceiling were Nut's feet and the sun streaming over Hathor: 
Another view of the extent of the ceiling that had been cleaned:
The inner part was not cleaned at all. 
 Isis was shown praying for her sister and Osiris. Abdul said that only here at Dendera were hands seen held like this as if praying as we do.

Other rooms in the crypt were used to store food, etc. Each of the 11 rooms had a different purpose, according to Abdul. 
The main entrance of the wall that, during ancient times, protected the tombs: 
The crypt hole cut by Christians: 
 The sun’s rays of the goddess Nut:  
The soul of Osiris in bed: 

There were actually seven Cleopatras in Egypt. On the rear of the temple exterior was a carving of Cleopatra VII Philopator - the popularly well known Cleopatra - and her son, Caesarion, fathered by Julius Caesar. 
All the holes had previously been covered with gold! 
Chapel of Isis: 
The mammoth facade: 
Mud bricked walls surrounded all the temples, Abdul told us. 
The lower part of the wall had once been covered by sand so it was not defaced or destroyed compared to the upper sections. 

Human figures were always carved in profile, Abdul explained.
We couldn’t help but admire the incredible detail in the kilt. 
We had seen so many temples so far and each was very special but the colors we saw today, particularly at Dendera, were the most magnificent. 

Posted from Lalibela, Ethiopia on November 13th, 2016.


  1. Seven Cleopatras and Bes, the god of fun....ALWAYS learn so much from your posts; thanks !
    xo Lina

  2. WOW!😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😲 My parents bending the rules and running from the cops😰😰😰😰😰😰 Givunv5me some ideasπŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†


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