I know, at this stage in my posts about Egypt, that you might be thinking all Egyptian temples look alike. While I have tried to highlight the unique points of each place I have visited, all Egyptian temples do have some similarities since they were all built to fulfill certain services to the Egyptian gods. However, they all do have certain peculiar aspects unique to each.
I’ll try to illustrate all of the above by reporting on a short visit to both Esna and Edfu.
2,200 years ago, Esna was the last city at the end of a prosperous caravan route. Because of that, it had a special temple.
Building Egyptian temples is a little bit like hooking a rug in the fact that construction usually started in the middle and worked out. Esna just happens to still have a very pristine center/middle section of its temple, as opposed to some temples I have already shown that are more dilapidated. Most temples started out like this – a big box with a shrine at the back.
This temple’s excellent preservation is largely due to the fact that Esna temple got buried by years of sand and dirt storms. It’s in such good shape because it got buried. It was rediscovered and excavated in the mid 1800s. Today, to get to the temple, visitors have to go down about 3 flights of stairs to reach the temple floor.
That means this temple is in a big excavated pit in the middle of town. This photo shows how high the pit walls are on all 4 sides of the temple. It also shows a few signs of the modern buildings (200+ years old) that sit, roughly, at roof level to the temple.
Being buried in sand and dirt protected both the structure and decorative aspects of this temple. For example, you can see a lot of the original paint at the roof top.
Generally speaking, the carvings are still in pretty good shape.
The middle sections of most temples usually have a cluster (24 in this case) of Papyrus or Lotus columns.
In older temples, the columns are usually the same design.
Since the column designs in this temple vary a lot, it’s a tip off to the fact that Esna is a newer temple from the Graeco Roman era. It was built by one of Cleopatra’s ancestors, making it over 2,300 years old.
This particular temple has lots of zodiac signs on the ceiling. Although it looks very “black and white” in color scheme
It really isn’t that dull at all once the grim comes off.
Painstaking restoration is removing all the smoke and dirt that is covering everything. As it goes away, the original brilliant colors can once again be seen.
It takes a long time but each completed section shows that it is worth the effort.
This big box at Esna, with a shrine at it’s back, may be a lot bigger than what can be seen at the bottom of this pit. It was normal for the starting “boxes in the middle” to be added on to by successive Pharaohs, over time, at both the front and the back. However, in this case, to find those sorts of additions, the front and back sections of the pit walls would have to be removed and excavated. That would also mean that all the family homes, shops and a couple of mosques sitting on top of the earth on the edge of the pit, would have to be removed. Since that’s not going to happen any time soon, we’ll probably never know about Esna.
I can complete this temple lesson in a much easier way –
Just go down the Nile a little to Edfu. Edfu is considered to be the best preserved temple in Egypt.
Like Esna, the original part is a box in the center of the design. In most cases, the center section houses the particular God who is being honored with this temple.
As Edfu temple was dedicated to Horus, the falcon God, he shows up a lot.
In fact, the shrine at the back of that central box, is where he “lives.” His priests would do all sorts of ritual things during the day to feed and take care of him. Then, once a year, they would put his image on this boat litter and carry him outside so that he could interact with “his people.”
Actually, there are all sorts of depictions of this annual festival. While, I am sure, Horus was thrilled to see all his supporters, the real point of the festival centered on the fact that priests from another temple just happened to bring his “wife” in on the same kind of boat so they could hang out together for a month or so. The end result of that interaction was supposed to produce a new off spring, which insures the fertility and longevity of the nation, etc., etc, etc.
That sort of thing seems to have happened a lot at Egyptian temples!
Backing up a little from that center box of the original temple and shrine, you can easily see that another Pharoah has come in and added on to the “box.”
This addition is a full colonnade on the other three sides of the box, making a new courtyard outside the box.
That extra addition not only makes a courtyard, which can be used for all sorts of festival purposes, it also provides a lot of new wall and column space that can be used for telling stories. These stories may be about the fertility cult of this particular god, or the mythology about him or about various political propaganda the Pharaoh wants to commemorate.
Every square inch ends up being covered with some message. Occasionally, temple carvings provide historical facts that would not be known from any other source.
Just as often, temple art is there simply to communicate big ideas about the country … if you know how to read it.
This motif, which is repeated in lots of other temples, represents the sacred pyramid shape, rising from the ground and reaching to the sun. It’s a symbol of Egyptian life reaching up to the sun god.
Above it, on this column, is a geometric band of ankh symbols bordered on each side with the Anubis staff – Anubis is power and the ankh means life.
Finally, in case you miss the point, this column has a lot of hieroglyphics spelling out what it’s supposed to communicate. While I know very little about Hieroglyphics, I can see a cobra, a lion (who wears the crown of both upper and lower Egypt) and a vulture. All of those animals are strong, protective images which were meant to convey protection for a strong Egypt.
If original visitors to this temple had any doubt about that, all they had to see was the last addition to this end of the temple – The Pylon. Since this is a late addition, that means its out on the edge of the temple. (Remember, we started in the middle and worked out to the outer edge, like hooking a rug.) So now, I am looking on the outer edge and can just see the center box through the gate.
All pylons seem to look similar and convey a similar message.
To help explain, I cropped out the middle gate so you could get a better look at the scenes of the Pharaoh depicted here. i.e. He is whacking his opponents.
To paraphrase a motto from the great state of Texas: Don’t Mess With Egypt, or the Pharaoh who’s building this temple!
That’s also why there are always a lot of cobras hanging around ready to strike at anyone who isn’t a believer!
And, if the Pharaoh can’t handle things, Horus can.
While I certainly came to Egypt to see all the things that tourists have been coming to see for thousands of years, I also wanted to find some ways of visiting with local Egyptians who live off the beaten path. We got to do that one day when our boat stopped at a small island in the Nile.
A local boat ferried us in to shore
Where Sayed, our host, came to guide us to his house.
Here is a visual record of what I found interesting on that 25 min. walk through his village and farm land to his house.
They love Americans in this village and we had the constant companionship of several children.
Our walk took us through his 2 acres of farm land.
His two big crops are mangoes and bananas.
I loved the palm tree bridge.
It just so happened that we were visiting at the start of the mango harvest. To get the fruit, tree climbers go into the upper branches of the tree and just start shaking.
As they do that, ripe mangoes start falling. It was every person for himself as these were big mangoes that would do quite a lot of damage if they hit you on the head.
When the mango bombs stopped dropping, we got involved in the harvest.
I am not sure who thought the whole experience was more exotic – the tourists or the guys who work the mango field?
We did not stay long as we had to get to our host’s home, a path which took us through an animal enclosure and back into the village.
As you can tell, I like interesting doors.
We even got to peak in the village mosque.
I particularly liked the shutters on the mosque windows.
Finally, we made it past the guard water buffalo
To Safed’s home.
This is the view from his front door.
Again, I am always a sucker for decorative architectural elements, no matter how primitive.
We started our visit by sitting in his living room for tea and introductions.
He was quickly joined by his brother, who also lives in this house with his wife and children. Egyptian houses are usually multi-story with different generational families living on various floors. The oldest couples are usually on the lower floors the younger couples and children being located on upper levels.
In this case, the newest addition to the house was a lateral addition of a section for Sayed’s brother and his family. After tea, introductions and discussions about life in Egypt and America
We adjourned to the open air dining room for lunch. (Part of this room is covered with a roof, while the stair case up to Sayed’s quarters is open.)
We did not lack for food at all. The menu was bird’s tongue soup (little slips of pasta, not real bird’s tongues) rice with various sauces, stewed eggplant and zucchini, french fries, home baked bread, roasted chicken and some salads. This was all served by Sayed’s wife, sister in law and the younger brother.
After eating lunch, it was back in the formal room to visit with the wives.
Up to this time, they had been very busy trying to get all the food cooked and ready to serve. We visited with them for some time. As you might imagine, everyone in our group had many questions they wanted to ask.
The told us ahead of time that we could ask any question we wanted. That open door policy certainly prompted a lot of them.
After about 4 hours, we said our goodbyes and jumped on another little boat waiting to take us to our Dahabeya.
You certainly see a different side of Egypt when you get off the beaten tourist path! I am so glad we did.
I like to come to the deck early, so I can enjoy the scenery and drink my first cup of tea. Early in the morning, the Nile usually has a dream like appearance that is quite magical.
I like watching the transformation that takes place each morning while I sit there.
Although we are certainly doing plenty of day time excursions while we cruise from Luxor to Aswan, we also have lots of time to just kick back and contemplate the Nile. I think that’s extremely important since you really can’t understand Egypt without understanding the Nile River.
The landscape itself often reminds the viewer that land close to the Nile is fertile and land too far away to irrigate is desert land. And, you don’t have to go very far from the river for that to happen.
My biggest surprise about the Nile is how clear the water has been. That is not what I was expecting at all.
Our 5 day cruise is aboard a brand new Dahabeya (classic sailing vessel) called the Aida. It only holds 16 passengers. It’s extremely comfortable and has wonderful amenities.
While it is a true sailing vessel, most of the time we weren’t able to use the sails on this cruise since we are going against the current and the wind was not strong enough to buck that tide.
Therefore, we kept on schedule via the services of our own private tug boat.
One of the nice things about a Dahabeya is the low draft that allows the boat to get very close to the shore.
In fact, we hop off all the time for special sites of interest. This excursion was to visit with a farmer who’s farm land comes right to the shore.
He took us on a little tour and explained how he uses the river to farm.
He raises alfalfa and okra
Magoes (his biggest money crop)
And bananas. Notice the ridges of dirt that fence in these 2 spots of land? When it comes time to irrigate, he simply runs water to this section by digging a little hole in the wall. It allows the field to fill and he then plugs the hole and diverts water to the next little field.
How does the water get there in the first place? He has 2 systems: 1. a diesel pump that looks about as old as me
Or 2. A water wheel that looks about as old as my grandparents. Actually, this wheel worked very easily by just pushing the leaver around the circle. Grandchildren showed us how this worked, although I’m sure they would hitch up one of their donkeys should they need to flood all the fields.
Some crops get watered in this way every 7-8 days while other crops (like banana trees and Mangoes) get their water every 15 days. I really appreciated being able to see how this system worked.
When I have to be posting, this is my Nile office.
Most of the time, however, I just enjoy gazing at the Nile while thinking about all the historical people and events that are associated with this great river
As well as the people who currently call it home.
Every where I look
I keep seeing scenes that I think would make good pictorial rug designs.
Further down the Nile, we jumped off one evening to visit a temple and a stone quarry.
As temples go, this one is not nearly as dramatic as others described in these posts.
However, like Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings, it’s carved out of solid stone.
Quite an accomplishment for a temple
So off the beaten path.
It’s location, however, is rather significant in that it’s where the Pharaohs got a lot of their stone for many of their building projects. You can even see places where the evidence of the quarry techniques can still be seen.
This was a great spot for a quarry because the blocks could be made and simply moved to the banks of the Nile where they could be shipped back up the river to the temple construction sites.
Special quarry workers even got buried in rock cut tombs when they died.
The Nile is, truly, the story of Egypt.
After doing that little tour, the captain decided to tie up in this spot for the night.
I think it had more ambience at night than it did in the day.
There’s a lot to take in on this cruise. Thankfully, I had 5 days to soak up as much of the Nile experience as I possibly could. I travelled on it, slept on it, ate on it and next to it, stared at it, photographed it, splashed in it and hung my laundry out to dry on it!
One of the temples I was particularly excited to visit was the one built by the Pharaonic Queen, Hatshepsut. While there were a few other female Pharaohs none had the clout, longevity or success as Hatshepsut. Cleopatra who would come much later, was the only other female to even come close to doing what Hatshepsut did.
Hatshepsut became the ruler of Egypt when her husband died, leaving behind a son (from another wife) who was too young to rule. Hatshepsut became the regent for her step son. It was unusual for the Egyptians to put a woman in power like this. However, it seems she had played a significant role in government during the reign of her weak husband and, therefore, had a power base. Then, instead of turning over the power when her step son became old enough to take the throne, she expanded her hold over Egypt and kept him from the succession for many years.
She was able to hold onto the crown because she was a highly effective ruler. As Pharaohs went, she was very successful.
I’m drawn to her temple because of its decidedly different building design. There is a lot more to it than this photo suggests. You think, for example, just go up the stairs to get into the main temple. But that is an optical illusion.
Once you get to the top of the first set of stairs, you realize you’ve simply made it to another huge assembly place and that you have more rooms to see and another set of massive stairs to go up before you get to the top.
Once you start looking around, it becomes apparent that there are no images of Hatshepsut or carved texts that bear her name anywhere in the temple. This gallery, for example, which originally had statues of Hatshepsut for pillars, now only has statues of her step-son and eventual successor. Sometime after she was dead, all her original images were removed and replaced. Every face or text about her in the temple was chiseled out. Whoever did this (and it was probably her step son) even went so far as to remove every statue of her in all of Egypt and also obliterate her name out of every Pharaonic record and text they could find. They tried to make it look as though she had never existed. Removing rulers’ names and images was believed to be a way to destroy them in the afterlife. Someone hated her so much that they did that.
Their plan was to remove every trace of her, then replace her spots with their name. This happened because she dared act like a man in a man’s world. Women could have some power as an influential queen, but they couldn’t take over … even though she did and did it very well!
So, at her own temple and across Egypt, new images and texts were installed to replace her so everyone would just forget.
That did work for a while but, eventually, enough overlooked facts, here and there, of her life were discovered to set the record straight.
Only one image of her has even been found, although it has been severely damaged. Notice how the artist has taken pains to show that she is wearing a strap-on beard to give the appearance of being a man?
Back at the temple, a couple sets of interesting carvings managed to escape the notice of the people who were attempting to destroy her place in the historical record.
This faint detail shows a pregnant woman – Hatshepsut’s mother. (Pregnant women are very rare in Egyptian art. Just look for the slight baby bump.) Although all the names are gone, the story line of these carvings concern an Egyptian God who fathered this child with the woman in the photo. Had everything been unaltered, the story line would have stated that Hatshepsut had the right to rule because she was of divine origin. While they thought it was safe to leave the art after taking out her name, we now know it was about her.
In another spot, a trading expedition to the land of Punt is covered in great detail. Again, the names are gone.
The enormity of this expedition’s impact would be akin to Isabella of Spain sending Christopher Columbus to sailing to the New World. Or like the Apollo Moon Landing. It was the stuff of legends and Hatshepsut was the instigator. So, a big section of Hatshepsut’s expedition is naturally shown in her temple. After all, it was her temple and her expedition. When she was off the throne, they just removed her name but not the pictures, expecting everyone to forget about her. We can barely see the exotic stilt houses the people of Punt lived in and the ladders they had to use to reach their doors.
A variety of animals encountered on the way to Punt that would have been strange and exotic (a sea turtle for example) to the Egyptians of that time. They too are recorded.
It’s hard to do a complete PR hatchet job on anyone because, eventually enough truth will leak out to set the record straight. That is just what has happened to Hatshepsut. By linking some overlooked texts with other chiseled out carvings, historian’s now know a lot about her. Her fame has been restored and she is like a Catherine the Great of Egypt!
lt just goes to show that you can’t keep a good woman down.
While I like close up photos that show as much detail of Egyptian art as I can possibly get, I must say that there is something particularly lovey about seeing grand structures at night, when the lights and shadows turn it into something approximating ancient impressionistic art. Consequently, having both day time and night time photos of Luxor, I opted for these evening shots because I found them to be very appealing and hope you do too.
Built right next to the Nile, the magnificence of Luxor temple is known around the world. Due to the 6 huge portrait statutes and (originally 2) dedicatory obelisks, the entrance pylon lets everyone know that it was built by Rameses the Great. He was never shy about showing his power and probably has more statues in Egypt than any other king.
When facing the pylon to shoot the previous photo, my back was to this mile long avenue of sphinxes which stretches all the way to the Karnak temple. (I believe there were originally about 800 of them.) This sacred roadway was used at least once a year to bring the “god” from Karnak to visit the “god” of Luxor.
Just before going through the pylon, you can see more statues of Rameses further into the temple, just in you case missed them the first time.
Once inside, however, there is a small statue of another Pharaoh, tucked away in an alcove. Most big temples like this were added and expanded by later rulers, like Ramses II. It’s a wonder, when he was expanding this temple that he did not get rid of this little statue. It is good that he didn’t as most scholars think that this is the only public statue that has ever been found of King Tut. It makes sense that Tut might have put something in this temple because his grandfather added a big section to Luxor during his reign. Tut would have wanted to be included in this temple because of his grandfather. Instead of overpowering Tut with his later addition, Rameses II probably saved Tut for posterity.
But, quickly, Luxor gets back to being all about Rameses. This shot is photo #1 of a 180 degree turn. That makes this photo start on my left
To be followed by shot #2, straight ahead (more Rameses)
With 2 shots put together to make the colonnade on my right. It’s a decidedly grand space but so big and overpowering that no one could get it in one shot. Wouldn’t you agree that it is very lovely at night?
Given that overpowering narcissism of Rameses, I kind of like air brushing him out with the impressionistic light bath. That allows the lines and movement of the space to take center stage, instead of a personality.
Of course, lots of personalities have added on to Luxor. Alexander the Great added his own little temple.
The Roman emperors added there own little temple
And an Islamic mosque (colored lights) was also added centuries ago. Everyone, it seems, wants to be connected to Luxor Temple.
I can see why. It is a beautiful place.
I particularly like it at night when all the historical jockeying for power and position gets lost in the wonderful bath of light!
It’s nice waking up with a view of the Nile. Since making the transfer (by plane) from Cairo to Luxor, we’re in a hotel that is just across a small street from the Nile. That came in particularly handy one morning when we decided to beat the heat, as well as the lines, and make a 6 AM run out to the Valley of the Kings.
As it was quicker to go by boat than bus
We just crossed the road and boarded our boat for the 5 min. ride to the other side of the Nile where our vehicle was waiting for us. Had we gone with it, instead of on the ferry, it would have taken an extra 25 mins. to get there.
If the early hour seems odd, please remember our tour destination that day was for a very hot place! (Think Death Valley.) By noon, when we had been touring for 6 hours, the temperature was just getting to 108 degrees and going higher. By 12:30, we were done with the valley and ready for lunch on a covered roof top with a nice breeze. Consequently, we had no lines and only moderate heat plus a decidedly lovely and historic way of crossing the Nile.
We even got to slip past Luxor as we made our way to the Valley.
ABOUT THAT VALLEY
After several generations of Pharaohs came to the realization that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to advertise their burial place with a gigantic pyramid, a new secretive and solitary place was found.
That place, on the western side of Luxor, became known as The Valley of the Kings. Besides being in a very inhospitable place, the rim of this valley is marked with a natural stone formation that actually looks like a pyramid. To ancient Egyptians, that made it practically perfect.
So, 3,500 years ago, the Valley of the Kings became the resting place for a Who’s Who of Egyptian royalty. At least 63 royal tombs have been found and there is always a possibility more will turn up.
When the list numbered 62, almost no one thought there were any more tombs in the valley.
Then, Howard Carter found this one and the rest is history!
Although we visited King Tut’s tomb (no pictures allowed there) in addition to four others, most of my remarks today will be about Rameses III.
Up till now, he wasn’t even on my short list for favorite Pharaohs. However, I feel I have to reconsider him for that spot since I think he might even have been a rug hooker.
On the surface, I suppose that Rameses III (left) looks about the same as any Pharaoh. However, here are some things that I noticed about him that lead me to suggest he’s worthy of any rug hooker’s admiration and respect. In fact, he might be a kindred spirit.
#1 – He consistently made exceptionally good lettering.
Since getting to Egypt, I have seen all sorts of lettering. Lots of it has been just downright indecipherable. Like I tell my students – make your lettering bold and easy to read. Hands down, Rameses III’s lettering (hieroglyphics) is easily the best I’ve seen. Each figure started out clear and concise because of the cut he used (a chisel not a Beeline) and was then made even more pronounced with the colorful fill he used. To my way of thinking, he could teach classes to rug hookers on lettering – particularly if they hooked hieroglyphics.
#2 – He had a good eye for composition.
There was just something lyrical about the images I found in the tomb of Rameses III. There was a certain poetry to the composition. I just love the simple design lines of this particular bit. It would make a good rug design just as drawn.
#3 – He had a flair for geometrics.
I noticed, in several places on the tomb walls
That Rameses made good use of geometric design elements. They form a very nice compliment to all the flowing movements in both his lettering and pictorial elements. The geometrics provide a refreshing counterpoint to that image movement.
#4 – His priorities were something we could all get behind!
While he obvioulsy knew how to party (and intended to do so in the after life) which I think was the plan of every Pharaoh who was buried in the Valley of the Kings, he was quite clear about the things he would need to party. Besides the bread, beer, meat, vegetables, servants and all the other good time elements that usually got included in the tomb paintings, Rameses II sticks out for one monumental priority he had for the after life.
He made sure he brought along a very nice assortment of rugs to keep his eternal palace comfy. I could not quite tell if they were hooked, prodded or woven. However, it makes no difference to me – this is my kind of Pharaoh! If he would go to the trouble to provide rugs for himself for all of eternity, then he had to be all right. If I had to choose an eternal companion from all the other tomb dwellers I saw on my visit to the Valley of the Kings, this would be my man. Who wants to spend eternity in a stone palace with cold floors?
We saw lots of stunning tomb paintings in the Valley of the Kings. However, the guy who viewed life like a rug collecting artist was Rameses III. So, please join me in giving him a little respect.
It’s hard to get anything at Karnak with one shot.
The only place I could even get 2 shots together was at the entrance … and those shots don’t do justice to the magesty of the largest temple in the world. Still, it gives you a taste of the drama and grandeur that is Karnak.
If you ever questioned the wisdom of a repetitive design motif, just go to Karnak. There are nearly 1,000 sphinxs just at Karnak temple and the grand avenue that connects it to Luxor. In this case, more is more!
See what I mean?
This temple, which was added to and expanded by nearly every successful Pharaoh for a couple of millenniums also illustrates that you can radically revise and change an artistic plan and still end up with something that is cohesive. It’s rather like a huge challenge rug where everyone in the local chapter is responsible for coming up with something cohesive to add to the rug design.
Only in this case, it turned out really well.
To make sure no one walking through this temple could miss the point of it’s being there (it’s a temple to the God Amun Rah)
Nearly every square foot has comentary
And data entry about who built what, when and why.
I think everyone’s favorite part has to be the Hypostyle Hall. (There are well over 100 of these massive columns in this temple.) It goes on and on, totally engulfing the viewer. And while I could spend several hours talking about dozens of spots in this section, the thing that struck me the most about it was the fact that several sections still show signs of the original paint that provided detail to every design element.
At first, I just saw tiny bits of color here and there.
Once I got to looking for it, however, I began to see more and more the color showing through.
It’s just remarkable that these sections of color have survived for over 3,000 years. While I love the carving without color, in this case I can see how the use of color really helped the artists graphically communicate their message.
Striking as it is today
I can’t image the power with which it originally communicated in living color.
Karnak is truly a doorway to a world that is beyond belief.
I am not roughing it on this trip. Here is my view of the Nile from my Winter Palace balcony. I can’t help but wonder if this is the room Agatha Christie stayed in when she visited Luxor …
The big pyramids on the Giza plateau have the distinction of being the longest running tourist attraction of all time. – Herodotus and Alexander the Great went there.
– Julius Caesar and Napoleon went there.
– Winston Churchill took FDR there.
And I took my daughter there on our second day in Cairo. The pyramids are a must see because they are iconic.
We started out at the great pyramid. Not only is it the biggest one, it’s also the oldest. In fact, it was also the oldest item on the list of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. And, it is the only item on that list that is still around. That may be partially due to the fact that it contains 2.3 million blocks of very large stone!
Constructed by/for Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) about 4,500 years ago, it is considered a perfect feat of construction. It’s also BIG.
Besides being there to look it over, some of also came to go inside. Although the original entrance is that big hole in this photo, tourists actually enter through the smaller dark hole about half way between the base and the original entrance. From here it doesn’t look like it would take too much to make it to that little entrance.
However, remember, the sides go up at a steep 51 degree angle. You need to pay attention when getting to that hole.
And, you also need to pay attention when going up the internal ramps. This section, called the Grand Gallery, was a piece of cake. However, the first part was just as up hill, and that passage was only about 4 feet high and much more narrow. There was no taking of pictures in that hole, particularly when you had to share the shaft with people coming back from the top! All I can say about the experience was that it was quite a lot easier to do 35 years ago when I was younger, more limber and lighter.
From the Great pyramid you can see the slightly smaller version that his son made.
It’s note worthy because some of the polished stone, like that which used to clad all three pyramids, is still visible at the top.
Can you imagine how wonderful these structures would look if their polished outer coverings had not been looted in ancient times. The 3 big pyramids are surrounded by all sorts of other ruins. They weren’t just merely tombs for the Pharaohs that built them, each was part of a complex of very specific buildings. All three had at least a mummification temple, a transport causeway (walled road) and a ritual temple to offer continual sacrifices for the deceased King.
It certainly looked different 4,500 years ago than it does now.
First of all, in ancient times, the annual inundation of the Nile brought water into the Giza complex. That was important due to the fact that all those big blocks of stone had to be shipped into the work site by boat. Besides the workers, priests and royalty were constantly entering the complex via boats.
Then, when a Pharaoh died
His body would be brought to the complex by boat.
It was quite a complex. It even had a really big guard dog … I mean lion … or Pharaonic lion might be a better way to say it – a beast with the head of a Pharaoh and the body of a lion.
We just call it a Sphinx now. Even so, in its hey day, this monster was a scary, intimidating, guardian for all those coming into the complex. Of course, since I am in the process of hooking a Sphinx pillow, I was thrilled to see it again in person.
I even tried to recreate the original photo I took 35 years ago, the first time I visited Giza. That wasn’t too hard to do since no one has moved either the Sphinx of the pyramid.
So, imagine the Sphinx on eternal guard as the body of the Pharaoh arrived for mummification in the first temple. After that was finished, the mummy would be taken to the final temple where it would be “brought back to the afterlife.” Even after the Pharaoh was buried in the pyramid,
Daily offerings and prayers would take place in the memorial temple next to the pyramid.
They’ve even found one of his statues that went in that temple.
Actually, they still find odd things buried around the pyramids.
In 1954, an Egyptian archaeologist found a really big pit on the opposite side of Cheops’ funerary complex.
What he found inside was the boat that was used to bring
The deceased Cheops in for mummification and burial. After he was buried it was taken apart and stored in the pit. You see, a Pharaoh just might need a boat in the after life and his people made sure he had it.
To get a shot of all three big pyramids in one frame, we had to move to a different spot. This shows, left to right, Cheops’ Great Pyramid, his son’s almost, but not quite as big one and his grandson’s smaller version. (They think there was an economic downturn by pyramid #3 and he had to economize.)
Even so, it’s a lovely pyramid and still pretty big.
I am sure that the pharaoh thought so too. It’s certainly much bigger than
The other 6 much smaller pyramids at Giza. They seem to be scattered all over
Along with other temples and the tombs of various dignitaries. People wanted to be buried next to their pharoah so that they could go to the after life with him.
In spite of all this building rubble
I think I might even find at least one more iconic design inspired by my trip to Giza.
Although it took almost 24 hours to get there from LAX, my daughter and I arrived safe and sound to Cairo, Egypt, on June 11.
Our hotel, now owned by Marriott, is the oldest one in Cairo. In fact, it is a converted palace which was built by the ruler of Egypt to hold the VIP European royalty which came to the opening of the Suez canal in 1869.
Although full of modern additions and adaptations, the hotel is still very much in touch with it’s royal beginnings.
Wherever possible, the rich architectural and ornamental details of this palace have been preserved.
In fact, I even got a security guard to let me into some of the original grand reception rooms which are still used
As grand reception rooms!
It’s just my kind of place.
Once safely settled in Cairo, Ann and I met the other 14 people who will be in our tour group for the next two weeks. So far, we have been treated like royalty.
I can already tell that it is going to be a great trip, full of all sorts of artistic stimuli.
While all that original European Royalty that came for the Suez Canal opening is long gone, we spent our first full day in Egypt seeking out Egyptian Royalty that’s been around for nearly 4,000 years.
That means we went straight to the Cairo Museum.
That place is full of royalty –
We actually saw the mummies of 12 of the most famous Pharaohs that ever lived. However, they don’t let you take photos in that room! (Actually, you might not even want to see them even if I could have photographed them.) Therefore, a few royal statues will have to do.
Actually, I was just as interested in many of the works of art that depict regular people from ancient Egypt.
Those statues can be quite striking!
It’s an amazing feeling to be able to look into the eyes of a person who died millennia ago, yet feel as though they might simply turn their head and blink.
Before I became a rug hooker, I think I viewed Egyptian art as being somewhat flat. Certainly, some eras of Egyptian art were more flat than others.
I suppose, when compared to Michelangelo’s statue of David, this piece comes off a little flat. However, if you really look at it, there are a lot of curves that start coming into play. The arms, biceps, legs, thighs and features of the face are anything but flat. Actually, given its spot on the historical time line and the tools they used to make it, this piece is quite realistic.
And, it tells a story using both images and lettering. If likening Egyptian art to rug hooking, it’s almost as though every piece is a pictorial – a really fine primitive pictorial – with a story to tell.
We don’t always know the stories … but that doesn’t mean we can’t figure them out with a little work … or imagination.
And, just when you think Egyptian art is a one note symphony
You run into something so simple and sublime
That you start wondering just how you might turn it into a hooked rug! Notice the very soft background details of foliage.
This is a small painted detail from a coffin text. I was fascinated with the economy of colors used to paint both the snake and the crocodile. That snake is only 2 values of blue, white and a skinny red partial outline! There is not much to it YET, the snake has a lot of panache. The croc is just one shade of medium green with the smallest amount of dark green outline, along with a little red under-stomach detail. Again, less is more.
I quite liked this little section as well. That lotus is just done with a medium green throat, accented with Vs of darker blue, sky blue and white … with a bit of red stem. It is such a lovely detail.
In fact, you could utilize & expand that technique to make quite a fine little rug composed of just lilies, fish and ducks.
As usual, I also looked for color inspiration while in the Cairo Museum. Lapis blue, sky blue, lime green, rich yellows, reddish brown – what’s not to like? I’ll have to file this one away for another time.
If you know me at all, you’ve probably been wondering when I would get to King Tut.
Well, I got there as quick as I could, although most of his stuff was off limits to photographers.
Still, I was able to get a few shots of Tut furniture and other things that can’t fit into the monitored rooms. (Even though it’s all behind shiny glass.)
I don’t even know what this design is about (it’s story – meaning) YET, I love it, as is. It looks like some sort of mysterious geometric with multi-toned blue background. I am sure the blues probably changed in intensity over time. Yet, I like the multi-values they’ve become.
It gets even better when you realize this geometric was used as the outside decoration for a coffin shed (I think it’s really called a shrine) but I like the shed motif because this box/shed is big enough to be a hooking studio. It’s bigger than those backyard sheds that you can buy from Home Depot. This is what I would call a great he or she shed for rug hookers!
We are just getting started looking for great design inspiration from Egypt as we cruise up the Nile. It’s going to be a fun trip … and probably cooler where you are than here!