Aswân, Egypt
24° 5' N 32° 53' E
Feb 12, 2008 19:26
Distance 684km

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Text written in: English

Nubian Wonders of the Upper Nile

Aswan. Tuesday, February 12th.

Took an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. Left at 10:30 p.m. and got to Aswan at noon. It was so nice to see green colours again. We travelled along the Nile River for some of the trip. What was curious was that the farming along the Nile did not go very far from the river. Perhaps a few kilometres on either side of the river there were farms, and then the desert started again. (60% of Egypt cannot be farmed as it has salty soil, so the precious land along the Nile and the Nile River delta are valuable lands. Egypt is building a parallel canal to the Nile, which will use the silt from the lake behind the Aswan dam (Lake Nasser) to fertilize the soil. This project will finish around 2030 and increase the farmable land of Egypt to 18% of its area.

Checked into our rooms and we were off. First site was the quarry where the granite for the tombs was cut. Impressive to learn how the granite is slit (a hole is cut into the stone, wood is put into the hole, the wood is wetted so it swells, and then the wood is heated by putting fire on the top of the stake). At this site is what would have been the largest obelisk in the world, had it not cracked.

Next, it was off to the island of Philae and the Temple of Isis. This was my first temple, so I was easily impressed, but it was a good one. Quite a large site and temple, built around 200 BC. Like many of the other temples along the upper Nile, it was moved to its new location because of the Aswan Dam. Photos tell the story.

What really impresses you about these temples is the amount of writing. All the walls and columns from top to bottom are covered with hieroglyphics. Not a single space is without writing. These writings are supposed to tell the story about how great and magical and mystical the king or pharaoh is/was. Note, pharaohs are kings that the priests have decided are gods. To make it to pharaoh, a lot of stories and myths about the king had to be approved by the priests. So the kings were sucking up to the priests to get their blessings, and to invent the new myths about themselves. Eventually, the kings just decided that they were gods and this put the priests out of work. Not all kings were pharaohs, it fact most were not. And kings that were pharaohs could lose that title if later leaders decided to undo their stories. One king had enough of this foolishness and killed 17,000 priests, making himself a god (around 1500 BC). However, by killing the priests he started the undoing of the Egyptian civilization, as the priests had all the knowledge. With the loss of knowledge, the Egyptian culture started to decline and never recovered again.


Photos / videos of "Nubian Wonders of the Upper Nile":

Spice market in Aswan. The world's largest and unfinished Obelisk. It cracked as it neared completion. It is 42 metres long. Looking down the length of the unfinished Obelisk.  It weighs about 122 tones.  This is the quarry where the granite for the stones of the pyramids comes from. The first of several cracks put into a block of granite. View of Philae Temple as seen from the water taxi Viewing the Philae Temple from the Nile River. Hieroglyphs. The entire interior of the temple, from top to bottom, is covered with these characters and writings. Looking down the corridor of pillars in the inner court of the temple. Roman temple behind the Nubian temple at Philae. Top of the columns of the Roman temple.

View of another corridor of columns.
Large hieroglyphs on the side of the outside temple wall. Close up of some of the writings on the wall of the temple. Inner temple of the temple.  Note the writing everywhere. Altar in the inner-most part of the temple.
Looking down the series of corridors leading to the inner most altar.  30 minutes earlier, there were hundreds of people here, now they have all left, and we also have to leave in a few minutes. Shadows on the outer wall of the temple. View of the Roman temple from the Nile River as we leave. This is interesting.  Aswan is the site of the Aswan Dam which was built in the 60's.  The dam changed the water level of the Nile downstream from it (which is where we are).  You can see on the river bank the level of the river at different stages of the construction of the dam. Men smoking their water pipes.  Several of my mates have taken a liking to smoking these pipes - apparently it is quite wonderful.  I will not try, given that I quit smoking over four years ago and have not had a cigarette since.