Myth, Magic, Mystery & Memory
Updated: Jun 14
Egypt stole my heart.
I don't know if it was the ancient history, the cultural significance, the chaotic marvels, the stunning landmarks, the stories, the forgotten treasures, the vibrant colours or the friendly people...
I don't know.
Maybe it's the food.
BUT... regardless... I really loved it.
Once the train pulled into Aswan and we had successfully checked into our hotel, our first stop was the majestic Philae Temple, on the tiny island of Agilkia. Known as the Peart of Egypt, this temple... and island setting... has captured the imagination of travellers throughout history.
Philae is dedicated to Isis, the Goddess of healing, birth and magic... which definitely accounts for the magical, mysterious and mythical feeling you get while walking around and exploring. Isis was one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt, and her name is the word for “throne.”
Isis was married to Osiris, who was also her brother... and it gets better...
Myth has a pretty interesting story to tell inside on the walls of the temple. Seth, jealous brother of both Osiris and Isis, dismembered Osiris and tore him to pieces. He then scattered parts of Osiris' body all over Egypt to be rid of him forever. Isis wasn't having any part of it and turned herself into a bird, dedicating every moment to flying over Egypt and finding the pieces of her beloved husband in order to put him back together again. She never found "the zucchini," as the Egyptians like to refer to it as...
It's all true, folks...
In 1971, UNESCO worked to relocate the temple to higher ground, after the rising Nile threatened to submerge it completely.
Next stop... Abu Simbel.
What can I say? Wow... Big WOW.
After the Giza Pyramids, Abu Simbel is the most famous masterpiece in Egypt . It was built by Ramesses II, who is regarded as the greatest pharaoh of all time. The four statues that guard the main doorway, each represent Ramesses II seated on a throne. They symbolize the extraordinary power of his rule and are the largest sculptures surviving from this era.
It was definitely a bit of a trek to get here. I think we left at about 4am and drove for almost 4 hours. The hotel had packed us up a to-go breakfast, which was similar to the carb delight we received on the sleeper train. This time, we received a bag of crisps, a piece of bread/toast, a packet of jelly, a croissant and an apple & an orange. Everything was completely encased in plastic wrap... including the apple and orange. It's nonsense how much plastic gets wasted in Egypt.
Abu Simbel was quite crowded when we arrived, with bus loads of Japanese tourists elbowing their way in to take photos.
We started with the significantly smaller temple, built to honour Ramses' favourite wife, Nefertari, and dedicated to the goddess, Hathor. By the time we were set to explore the Great Temple, the crowds had dispersed and by the end of our time there, we pretty much had the temple all to ourselves.
Mo is VERY good at giving crowd advice, advising us exactly where to go first and last.
The Great King Ramesses Temple is dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah. Not difficult to see why it's considered one of the most majestic and beautiful temples in Egypt.
Hard to imagine due mostly in part to the colossal size of the statues, but in 1968 the Abu Simbel Temples were also dismantled and moved, due to the same problem Philae Temple faced, the rising waters. I think it took UNESCO over 10 years to complete, as they not only had to move the statues and the temples, they had to build a new mountain.
Cool fact about The Great Temple;
The sanctum sanctorum, one of the rooms in the Great Temple, remains in complete darkness every day... apart from two days a year. NOT coincidence. It goes to show how phenomenal their knowledge of science, mathematics, architecture and astronomy was...
Not too shabby.
Not too shabby at all.
Our first evening in Aswan, we were given the optional activity opportunity to visit a Nubian Village.
What's that? Not really sure... but I decided not to go.
Why? Well, I figured it would be the same as all the other African tribe villages I'd already visited. There would probably be a welcome dance... some songs... some tacky photo opportunities... a brief glimpse into their lifestyle... a couple morsels of typical food... and then off we would go, thinking we were all cultural experts.
When I told Bishoo I wasn't interested, he had a very puzzled look on his face, as he silently judged my decision and questioned my motives.
"It is very interesting," he said.
I still wasn't convinced, and his argument was weak... but considering it was only $32US, I decided to humour him and sign up.
I had read that Nubian villages were referred to as the 'rainbows of the Nile,' whatever that was supposed to mean... Seemed intriguing though. We all boarded a small, elaborately decorated riverboat and made our way upstream. The sun was going down, so the scenic sunset photo opportunities on the Nile were brilliant... and many.
Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, the cutest little houses along the shore of the Nile began to appear. Their bright colours burst out of the sandy backdrop. I felt like we had suddenly landed in some kind of magical Brigadoon.
What is this place????
It was bloody Brigadoon!
Brigadoon with an explosion of colour.
The Nubians are an ethnic group indigenous to the region, which is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt. These vibrant-hued villages exhibit the traditions and cultures of the Nubian lifestyle... and if the opportunity arises to visit, it should NEVER be missed.
EVER. Especially if you are a photographer.
I fell HEAD OVER HEELS in love... and I can honestly say that this brightly coloured, feel-good village was one of the highlights of both the tour and my time in Egypt. I would have felt completely ripped off, had I not opted to join in.
There were luminous triangles found painted around the village, which represented the three most crucial roots of Nubain life: Earth, a neon green; the Sun, a gorgeous yellow; and the sky & the Nile, a bewitching blue.
We dined in a local home, a large communal feast made up of an okra and tagen stew, mashed fava beans, brown lentils & chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce, tagen and Moloukhiya, a green soup made from finely chopped Jew's Mallow leaves.
It was delicious.
The only thing I didn't particularly enjoy was the crocodile captivity... as much as I detest them...
Seriously... they keep crocodiles as "cherished pets". Odd, but true. There are no more crocodiles in the Nile... they're all in the front entrance of each Nubian home. These poor un-snuggleable reptiles are kept in cramped cages and when they're occasionally removed from imprisonment, their mouths are bound so as not to cause harm/death to their captors. I guess it's a source of income for the locals, with travellers paying to marvel at the creatures.
Who carries more blame here?
The locals looking for income or the idiots that will pay to marvel at captivity?
Everywhere your eye wandered was more funky colours and patterns.
Once dinner was over, we all wandered through the village streets, checking out what the locals had for sale in the bazaar.
There were leather goods, colourful clothing and a lot of spices... which definitely added to the aroma of the village... and to the overall ambiance.
No need to head out and paint this town... it was already a rainbow.
The rainbow of the Nile.
I love Egypt...