November 6 – 17
A short ride later we arrived at the house for our lunch. As in Aswan, here the street in front was not paved, dirty and dusty; likely the lack of rain makes this tolerable as you don’t have to deal much with mud. Inside though, the house was nicely decorated and furnished and sparkling clean as had been our Nubian household. One of the things we need to abandon as travelers is our home-grown perspectives (biases, preconceptions, etc.) about what is the “proper” way to live. And being in Egypt brings you right up against those perceptions.
As we needed to wait for a member of the family to join us, we spent the time on comfortable bench seats in the living room, thankful for the break after a full morning’s activity. After about 15 minutes it was decided there was no need to linger any longer and we wandered over to the long table to find our seats, gazing in anticipation at the great looking spread in front of us.
Everything to behold was a delight to eat, including a fried croquette that was a topic of debate centering around its ingredients. Was filled with meat or some type of pureed vegetable like hummus. I’m not sure we ever got the answer. The baked chicken with tomatoes and onions was just right, along with a potato and tomato dish and a beautiful heart shaped plate of rice pilaf.
We took our time eating, savoring the experience and filling up to the point of bursting, a meal that would last us far into the afternoon and evening, a good thing as our next repast would not come until much later on board our overnight train back to Cairo. Finished, we loaded up the van and headed back to the hotel for some down time.
But, not wanting to waste our last afternoon on the tour, Kim, Joanna, Marty and I walked down the street to spend a couple of hours at Luxor Temple. Constructed in approximately 1400 BCE and known as the southern sanctuary it, along with Karnak, are the two primary temples on the east bank.
Unlike the others in Thebes, Luxor temple is not dedicated to a cult god or a deified version of the pharaoh in death. Instead, it is dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship; it may have been where many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned in reality or conceptually (as in the case of Alexander the Great, who claimed he was crowned at Luxor but may never have traveled south of Memphis, near modern Cairo).
To the rear of the temple are chapels built by Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty, and Alexander. Other parts of the temple were built by Tutankhamen and Rameses II. During the Roman era, it and its surroundings were a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in the area. During this period a chapel inside originally dedicated to goddess Mut was transformed into a Tetrarchy (the system of government of the ancient Roman Empire instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293 ) cult chapel and later into a church.
As you enter the temple, one obelisk remains of the original two (the smaller one closer to the west is now at the Place de la Concorde in Paris). When built, they were not the same height, but the layout of the temple makes them appear to be of equal height by using illusionism, which enhances the relative distances making them look the same size in relation to the wall behind them.
The active Abu Haggag Mosque is located within the temple, standing on ancient columns. It was converted to a church by the Romans in 395 AD, and then to a mosque in 640, providing for more than 3,400 years of continuous religious worship. Hence, the Luxor Temple is the oldest building in the world at least partially active for other than archeological or tourist purposes.
The best part of the visit for me was an exhibit outside of the temple but inside its outer walls which traced the history of Egypt through its dynasties. Our tour had not progressed in a historically linear fashion, jumping around from ancient site to ancient site with multiple dynasties mentioned in a single day, or at a single spot. Being able to walk down a sidewalk starting with the first dynasty and ending with the last helped me to put it all into context.
We finished at the temple and walked back to the Emilio, spending the rest of the afternoon getting cleaned up and packed for the train trip. Later, we all gathered on the roof to enjoy a last beer together, the hotel pool shimmering in the setting sun, the clamor of the busy streets below reminding us of the chaos that seems to be present in every Egyptian town.
I found myself actually thinking I was going to miss it. How far we’d come in less than a week.
Luxor Temple: https://discoveringegypt.com/luxor-temple/