We awoke this morning in a felucca in the River Nile. We slept poorly as the wind blowing for several days abated for 4 hours but began anew at 2am and persisted strongly thereafter. We knew that the temperature would dip to 52° Fahrenheit (11°C) but the wind made for a very frigid night. Cozy blankets helped but everyone put them over their heads to keep wind off their face.
Sunshine is not a problem in Aswan, it averages 364 days of sun per year. But it is also one of the lowest humidity cities in the world. So we awoke parched, cold and assaulted by the bright, clear sky.
And a basket of sodden shoes.
It turns out that the basket which held all of the Adventurers’ shoes had survived the heeling over of boat during the sailing day but ended up in the Nile from a flat deck after a blustering night. We located 9 of 10 of them (Sorry, CreeperPuppy, guess it’s shoe shopping time).
The romantic concept of the felucca trip didn’t quite match up with the practical realities of the boat itself and the weather during the trip. We can share more felucca stories at another time, this blog is really best served to you with optimism and cheer.
Today was really designed to be a driving day between Aswan (our Southernmost Egyptian stop) and Luxor which is our final touring stop in Egypt.
We visited two remarkable locations on our drive North. The first visit was to the crocodile temple of Kom Ombo.
Prior to the Aswan Dam being built this part of the Nile was festering with crocodiles which were both feared and revered. Sobek is the crocodile God and this temple was built to honor him.
The Nile regularly flooded and would occasionally reach these temple walls. As a result the colors that the ancient builders had applied to this temple were long gone but the ceilings and highest points have retained some of the original colors.
This temple also featured wells deep enough to draw in water from the Nile. The Egyptian royals and administrators would use these wells to mark the height of the Nile at the start of Harvest Season. This well measure was called a Nilometer.
A low river level would yield low taxes and a high river level would yield higher taxes because more fields would receive irrigation. Needless to say that a very high level would be disastrous flooding that’s bad for crops, tributes and moral.
It was also theorized that these wells were large enough for a crocodile to stay in. There are many crocodile mummies which have been ceremoniously entombed so the theory is that a living specimen lived at the temple taking on the material role of Sobek. This crocodile lived “high on the hog” from offerings by worshippers seeking protection from crocodiles or other Nile troubles like flooding. When this living Sobek died he was mummified and placed in a sarcophagus preserving his body like the demi-god he was revered to be.
CreeperKitty like many 10yo boys loves to learn about dangerous animals (sharks are another favorite). He spent about 10 minutes longer in the crocodile museum than his siblings soaking in every English language description panel.
We drove from Kom Ombo to Edfu, a town of 60k which hosts the second largest temple in Egypt. This is also one of the most preserved temples from this ancient Egyptian period. Before spending a few hours at this site we found a local place for lunch.
We could tell it was for locals for two reasons. First, everyone seated was mildly surprised to see us walk in. Secondly, the cost for the family of five with soft drinks was $10. It’s also the parent’s favorite Egyptian dish so far – Koshari, the Egyptian national dish. It’s a mixture of lentils, rice, pasta, chick peas and a flavorful tomato sauce.
At this Temple of Edfu and at Kom Ombo we noted the lack of fellow tourists. This made the gauntlet of camera-wielding tourists easier to avoid but the gauntlet of souvenir-wieldong vendors more difficult to navigate.
This temple was rediscovered in 1860 by a Frenchman who noted the unusual ancient mud walls which appeared to be protecting something in the mud and silt which had built up to a point where only the top of the temple was visible. Years of digging it out from the mud yielded a large temple complex dedicated to the Egyptian God Horus.
Due to its entombment in mud and silt from Nile floodwaters, the carvings have remained in good condition. There were some carvings which had been defaced by Christians in the 4th century who were trying to erase “false idols” but the volume and completeness of the hieroglyphs is amazing.
We left Edfu and drove North passing a surprising number of young drivers (some under 12) which prompted a line of inquiry by CreeperKitty about his age for his first motorcycle.
We arrived in Luxor after dark and were very happy not to be on the Egyptian roads at night. Apparently it’s customary to drive with only running lights on to protect oncoming drivers’ eyes. You activated your lights when you’re passing which happens as frequently at night as during the day. So it was always fun popping out into the oncoming lane to pass an unlit donkey cart, seeing our activated headlights meet another car/truck who just activated their headlights! Hello! It’s no wonder that Egypt prevents foreigners/tourists from driving at night.