Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Egypt

At the Giza pyramid complex on the outskirts of Cairo, showing the three  Great Pyramids. Also at the site is the massive Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers' village and an industrial complex located roughly five miles into the desert from the old town of Giza on the Nile, some 15 miles southwest of Cairo city centre. The pyramids, which have historically served as emblems of ancient Egypt in the Western imagination, were popularised in Hellenistic times when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is by far the oldest of the ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.
The pyramids have provoked some of the most far-fetched of all human speculation. They are visible from space, and the notion has sprung up that visitors from outside the solar system built them. Elaborate calculations have been produced to show that the three largest at Giza form a pattern matching stars in Orion’s belt as they appeared in 2600 BC, though how such a simple figure, delayed through the reigns of at least four pharaohs, could have given any satisfaction to anyone along the way or justified the expenditure by those who would see only the first or second dot of three is hard to see. Undeniably, these three are aligned on the cardinal points with surprising accuracy, and the levelling of the sloping ground and regularity of the construction show remarkable control. So we jump from such evidence of technical skill to the idea that the overall configuration must mean something. But the three were not always three, and even now the idea that they form a group is our perception anyway.
 Robert Harbison (20-21) Travels in the History of Architecture
In front of the oldest pyramid in Giza and the largest in Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Khufu stood 146 metres high when it was completed around 2570 BCE. After 46 windy centuries, its height has been reduced by 9 metres. About 2.3 million limestone blocks, thought to weigh about 2.5 tonnes each, were used in the construction. On the right is the mastaba of Seshemnufer IV is in front of the entrance to the second largest pyramid, that of Khafre.
 Climbing up 
 Entering the tomb within the pyramid of Henutsen
Dubbed the Sphinx by the ancient Greeks because it resembled the mythical winged monster with a woman’s head and lion’s body who set riddles and killed anyone unable to answer them, it was carved from the bedrock at the bottom of the causeway to the Pyramid of Khafre; geological survey has shown that it was most likely carved during this pharaoh’s reign, so it probably portrays his features, framed by the nemes (the striped headcloth worn only by royalty). It can be seen in the GIF that the nemes has been buttressed since the war. As is clear from the accounts of early Arab travellers, the nose was hammered off sometime between the 11th and 15th centuries, although Napoleon is also responsible to an extent. Part of the fallen beard was carted off by 19th-century adventurers and is now safely on display in the British Museum. These days the Sphinx has potentially greater problems: the monument is suffering the stone equivalent of cancer and is being eaten away from the inside; pollution and rising groundwater are the likeliest causes. A succession of restoration attempts unfortunately sped up the decay rather than halting it. The Sphinx’s shiny white paws are the result of the most recent effort.

Philae
Philae is currently an island in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Dam, downstream of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, Egypt. Philae was originally located near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile River in southern Egypt, and was the site of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex. These rapids and the surrounding area have been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Old Aswan Dam in 1902. The temple complex was later dismantled and relocated to nearby Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam.


At the Aswan Dam with the so-called monument of Arab-Soviet Friendship (Lotus Flower) in the background, designed by architects Piotr Pavlov, Juri Omeltchenko and sculptor Nikolay Vechkanov.

There will not be many takers these days for the Nile cruise-ships, but if you are there, ponder on the Aswan Dam. Not the vast and ugly Soviet-built one, but a smaller, elegant one, built by the British in 1898. The consul-general (meaning imperial governor: one of the British strengths is the under-stated title) Lord Cromer could take much pride in it. It was an engineering triumph, a symbol of the transformation that the British had worked in a quarter-century in Egypt: planned towns, drains, ordered finance, justice for the peasant. Germans (their archaeologists were spies) were hugely envious. In the first world war, they were busy fomenting a holy war to drive the British out — the idea was to inspire an Islamist insurgency, to destabilise the British. This is the plotline of John Buchan’s novel Greenmantle, and of Sean McMeekin’s recent book about the Berlin-Baghdad railway — seen, then, as an artery along which the blood of a new and mighty German empire would flow. 
 
The site at the turn of the century, showing its dilapidated state and proneness to flooding
At the end is the entrance of the Temple of Isis, marked by the 18m-high towers with reliefs of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos smiting enemies as he holds one on either tower by the hair whilst holding his mace high above his head. He is accompanied by Isis, Horus of Edfu and Hathor. There are two smaller scenes above this depiction; on the left the pharaoh offers the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt to Horus of Edfu and Nephthys; and on the right he offers incense to Isis and Horus the child.  The pharaoh is also depicted "smiting" his enemies on the western tower in the presence of Isis, Horus of Edfu and Hathor. Above this scene the pharaoh appears with Unnefer (a form of Osiris) and Isis and also with Isis and Horus the child. These decorations were badly damaged by early Coptic Christians and later the French during their invasion of 1799. At the base of the first pylon a series of small personified Nile figures present offerings. Strabo refers to this building in xvii.1, 28 when he describes "two walls of the same height as those of the temple, which are prolonged in front of the pronaos."
The Mammisi (birth house), surrounded on three sides by a colonnade of floral topped columns each crowned with a sistrum and Hathor-headed capital. The walls flanking the columns depict the pharaohs Ptolemy VI, VIII and X and the Roman Emperor Tiberius along with a number of gods.
At the Grand Portico of the Temple of Philae and as depicted by David Roberts in 1848.  English novelist, journalist, traveller and Egyptologist Amelia Edwards described it as "a place in which time seems to have stood as still as in that immortal palace where everything went to sleep for a hundred years. The bas-reliefs on the walls, the intricate paintings on the ceilings, the colours upon the capitals are incredibly fresh and perfect. These exquisite capitals have long been the wonder and delight of travellers in Egypt. They are all studied from natural forms - from the lotus in bud and blossom, the papyrus, and the palm. Conventionalised with consummate skill, they are at the same time so justly proportioned to the height and girth of the columns as to give an air of wonderful lightness to the whole structure."
Today only ten columns remain. On the east side the reliefs were replaced by Coptic Christian crosses where altars to the Virgin Mary and Saint Stephen substituted for Isis and Harendotes. On the side doorway leading to a room on the right is another inscription to Bishop Theodorus claiming credit for this "good work".
Inside the sanctuary, Horus is depicted as hawk wearing the Double Crown and standing in a thicket of papyrus. Below that scene, Isis carries the newly born Horus in her arms, under the protection of Thoth, Wadjet, Nekhbet and Amun-Ra. Successive pharaohs reinstated their legitimacy as the mortal descendants of Horus by taking part in rituals celebrating the Isis legend and the birth of her son Horus in the marshes.


At the temple of Augustus from where archaeologists found a stone bearing a trilingual inscription referring to Cornelius Gallus (the first Roman Prefect appointed after the death of Cleopatra VII) in this temple recording the suppression of an Egyptian revolt in 29 BCE. From Egypt, the cult of Isis extended to Greece, Rome and throughout the Empire, so that when Roman rule was established in Egypt, successive Emperors embellished the sacred island. Besides Augustus who built this temple in 9 BCE, Tiberius and others added reliefs and inscriptions, and Claudius, Trajan, Hadrian and Diocletian erected new buildings up to the fourth century CE. It is assumed that Emperor Septimius Severus took the opportunity of carrying out the sollemne sacrum in person in late May of the year 200.
  
The Chapel of Horus on the north side of the Great Court of the Temple of Isis in a photo taken by Francis Bedford on March 13, 1862 during the 1862 travel of the Prince of Wales and today. Near Hadrian's Gate is the final datable text written in hieroglyphics dated August 24, 394CE, shown on the right.
In front of the temple of Hathor, constructed by Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II. The temple included a colonnaded hall and a small forecourt. The hall was decorated by Augustus with depictions of the festivals in honour of Isis and Hathor where people eat, drink and dance whilst Bes plays the harp and the tambourine (accompanies by a number of apes who also play instruments or dance). Augustus is also depicted presenting offerings to Isis and Nephthys.
  In front of the so-called Trajan's Kiosk (sometimes referred to as "Pharaoh's Bed") but which is most likely dating from the time of Augustus.
Two of the walls between the columns are relatively intact and are decorated with images of Trajan burning incense in honour of Isis and Osiris and presenting wine to Isis and Horus. 

Karnak
The Karnak Temple Complex, commonly known as Karnak, comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings. Building at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom and continued into the Ptolemaic period, although most of the extant buildings date from the New Kingdom. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes. The Karnak complex gives its name to the nearby, and partly surrounded, modern village of El-Karnak, 1.6 miles north of Luxor.
The first pylon at the turn of the century and today. This first pylon was actually the last to be built built by Nectanebo I (380-362 BCE) and never completed and thus was left undecorated. One can see the remains of the mud brick ramps used to build it inside the great court when going through the main entrance into the temple. The north tower is roughly 71 feet and the south tower 103 feet; when completed it may have reached a height of as much as 131 feet. As seen in the background, an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes symbolising the god Amun leads to the entrance and into the first court.
 
The Avenue of Sphinxes at Karnak. The road from Luxor to Karnak was lined with recumbent rams, called Krio-Sphinxes, many of which still remain. Between their paws are small effigies of Ramesses II in the form of Osiris.
In fact, the remains of some 850 fragmented sphinxes had already been discovered in recent years along an earlier section of Sphinx Alley which was built by the fabulously wealthy Pharaoh Amenhotep III,  They were erected on either side of the road, alongside chapels stocked with offerings for the deities.  Some 1,350 sphinx statues are thought once to have flanked the path. 
In front of the First Court way station of Seti I which was designed to house the ceremonial boats for the Theban triad, consisting of the gods Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Nearby Drake stands before the colossal statue of Pinedjem I, High Priest of Amun at Thebes in Ancient Egypt from 1070 to 1032 BCE and de facto ruler of the south of the country from 1054 BCE. 
James Bond (accompanied by Ringo's wife Barbara Bach) at Karnak in The Spy Who Loved Me.
In front of the central aisle of great hypostyle hall in the turn of the 20th century and today. Greeks and Romans are known to have travelled to Karnak which was a popular location on the tourist route in ancient times, and many foreign visitors scratched their names or comments on the Egyptian structures at which they marvelled. This graffiti not only documents which buildings the curious tourists visited, but the scrawled comments often attest to the participation of these travellers in cult activities at the temple sites, such as consultation of oracles or analysis of dreams.
 
Statues of Thutmosis III, in front of the 7th pylon before the Great War and today 
 
A giant scarab in stone dedicated by Amenhotep III to Khepri, a form of the sun god.

The fallen obelisk of Hatshepsut showing her coronation.

 
Beside the red granite thresholds. Located in the background is the Akhmenu during the war and today. Akhmenu is the festival temple of Thutmose III in Karnak which contains the chapel of ancestors h a series of relief scenes depicting kings that Thutmose III, the king who built that structure, considered as his “ancestors.” Four rulers of the mid-Old Kingdom and one other whose name was destroyed are listed in this relief. Some Egyptologists interpret this depiction as a record of kings who contributed constructions to the earliest temple of Amun.
 
The state of Karnak when Napoleon’s expedition arrived in 1799 and today

In front of the Great Temple and the sacred lake, where, according to Herodotus, the priests of Amun bathed twice daily and nightly for ritual purity. 

Luxor 
  At the entrance to the temple as depicted by David Roberts in the mid-19th century and today. Known as the first pylon. It was built by Ramesses II and depicts his supposed triumph at the battle of Kadesh. The pylon towers originally supported four huge cedar flag masts from which banners would have fluttered in the breeze. Later pharaohs added scenes recording their own military triumphs to the first pylon. This entrance was flanked by six massive statues of Ramesses, two seated and four standing, but only the two seated statues are still relatively intact. There is also a twenty-five metre pink granite obelisk also built by Ramesses just inside the gateway. It is one of a pair - the other now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The four sacred baboons who greet the morning sun are carved on the pedestal and the names and epitaphs of Ramesses appear on each side of the obelisk. 

On the so-called Sphinx Alley, connecting Luxor Temple to the vast Karnak temple in ancient Thebes, marking a route that ancient Egyptians promenaded along once a year carrying the statues of the deities Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of their marriage.  Amun was ancient Egypt's supreme god king, whilst Mut was a goddess worshipped as a mother.  The road was later used by the Romans and is believed to have been renovated by Cleopatra, the fabled Ptolemaic queen who left her cartouche - an inscribed hieroglyphic bearing her name - here at the temple in Luxor.
Beyond the first pylon Ramesses II built a peristyle courtyard (replacing an earlier court thought to have been constructed by Amenhotep III) which was set at an angle to the rest of the temple in order to preserve three pre-existing barque shrines constructed by Hatshepsut (with later additions) which stand in the northwest corner. The court is composed of a colonnade including a number of colossal statues of Amenhotep III which were usurped by Ramesses II. The Abu'l Hagag mosque perches precariously at the top of the columns of this courtyard. As a result one of the doorways, on the eastern side, hovers uselessly above the ground.  The peristyle courtyard leads to the processional colonnade built by Amenhotep III with additional decorations added by Tutankhamen, Horemheb and Seti I. By entrance to the colonnade there are two statues representing Tutankhamun, but on each his name has been replaced by that of Ramesses II. It is lined with fourteen huge papyrus topped columns and the walls are decorated with scenes depicting the stages of the Opet Festival. Other decorations celebrate the reinstatement of Amun and the other traditional gods following the Atenist heresy. They are ascribed to Tutankhamun, but his name has been erased and replaced by that of Horemheb. 
Beyond the colonnade of Amenhotep III there is a further courtyard built by Amenhotep III featuring double rows of papyrus columns with barque shrines for Mut and Khonsu at the southern end. A cache of statues was discovered under the floor of this court and can now be seen in the Luxor Museum.  Decorations depict the coronation of Amenhotep III by the gods. On the south side of this courtyard a hypostyle court composed of thirty-two columns leads to the inner sanctum of the temple. To the left of the central aisle there is an altar dedicated to the Roman Emperor Constantine. The inner sanctum is reached by a shadowy antechamber with eight columns which was used as a temple during the Roman period and Roman decorations overlay the original Egyptian carvings, but the original carvings can be seen in patches where the stucco is crumbling away. A second antechamber contains a further four columns and depictions of Amenhotep II offering incense to Amun. 

In front of a statue of Tutankhamun and his sister and wife Ankhesenamun, hacked at during the damnatio memoriae campaign against the Amarna-era pharaohs.
                                  Past the antechambers is this barque shrine built by Amenhotep III and rebuilt by Alexander the Great which housed the statue of Amun during the Opet festival. Finally there are private chambers for the use of the three gods and the Birth Shrine of Amenhotep III in which the divine origins of the king are proclaimed. Amun takes the place of his father, Tuthmosis IV, to father the god-king with Mutemwiya (Amenhotep's mother). Khnum makes the pharaoh on his potter's wheel and the newborn king is presented to the gods. 
The wife and son surrounded by Jordanian schoolchildren, apparently never having encountered Chinamen before

Abu Simbel
The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples at Abu Simbel, a village in Nubia, southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan (about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments," which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan). The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic. The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to prevent them from being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River.
Comparison of the site today and before its complete removal. The photo on the left by John Beasly Greene  from the 1850s shows the quantity of sand still covering the façade.
Following in James Bond's footsteps from The Spy Who Loved Me. Carved out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile between 1274 and 1244 BC, Ramses II’s imposing temple was as much dedicated to the deified pharaoh himself as to Ra-Horakhty, Amun and Ptah. The four pharaoh’s colossal statues fronting the temple are like gigantic sentinels watching over the incoming traffic from the south, undoubtedly designed as a warning of the strength of the pharaoh.
Herodotus records that shipwrecked Ionians and Carians were first employed as mercenaries by the Egyptian Psammetichos in his successful bid for the Egyptian throne (ii 152.3–5). Their services were retained and they were allowed a permanent settlement at a place called ‘The Camps’ in the Delta, but Amasis later moved them to Memphis ( ii 154.1, cf. ). These Greeks proved important as a buttress to imperial power, and served in Egyptian foreign expeditions. There was also a Greek settlement at the ‘Islands of the Blessed’, an oasis seven days’ journey across the desert from Thebes (iii 26.1), which may well have been made up of retired mercenaries. Here one can make out the longest Greek inscription at Abu Simbel on the left leg of one of the statues of Ramesses which records something of the military activities of these soldiers :

When King Psammetichos came to Elephantine
This was written by those who, with Psammetichos son of Theokles, Sailed and came above Kirkis, as far as the river permitted;
Potasimto commanded the non-native speakers, and Amasis the Egyptians; Archon son of Amoibichos wrote us and Pelekos son of Oudamos.
According to Matthew P. J. Dillon of the University of New England, Australia, this inscription is particularly fascinating as he argues that "it seems almost certain that the last line of the inscription is a pun on two words which are phrased as a name and a patronymic, referring to the axe with which the letters were carved. As such it was the first Greek pun on words to be inscribed on stone, and possibly by a mercenary who knew the Odyssey." This if one translates the script as ‘Archon son of Amoibichos wrote us and Axe [Pelekos], son of Nobody[Oudamos]' in what is clearly intended as a joke: Amoibichos carved the letters with the aid of a pelekos: an axe or blade. There is a very famous ‘Nobody’ in Greek literature- Odysseus, to conceal his identity from the cyclops Polyphemos, tells him that his name is Outis, “Nobody” (Hom. Od. ix 366, 369, 408, 455, 460). Homer, in fact, mentions Egypt. Menelaos’ encounter with Proteus is set in Egypt, and Odysseus invents a story about having been on a raid there. Clearly, especially for the author of the Odyssey and his audience, there was an interest in Egypt. The Greeks who settled in Egypt adopted many Egyptian customs, but they also retained their Greek cultural background.
At the entrance, holding the temple's sacred key of Osiris 

The entrance to the temple. By the 6th century BCE, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Jean-Louis Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple and told legendary Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. A detailed early description of the temples, together with contemporaneous line drawings, can be found in Edward William Lane's Description of Egypt.
The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The hypostyle hall (or pronaos in front of which Drake stands) is 18 meters long and 16.7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt (pschent).

Although photography is strictly forbidden at the site due to fear of flash, my special shades stepped in to record these storerooms.  The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites. The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner. Others show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of pharaoh Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. The rock-cut façade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt (south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen and the king. Remarkably, this is the only instance in Egyptian art that the statues of the king and his consort have equal size; traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. Ramesses went to Abu Simbel with his wife in the 24th year of his reign. As the Great Temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as one faces the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum and Meryre, princesses Meritamen and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her- khepeshef, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.
Inside, showing two of the six pillars of the hypostyle hall crowned with capitals in the bovine shape of Hathor. On the walls the queen appears in front of the gods very much equal to Ramses II, and she is seen honouring her husband. The vestibule and adjoining chambers, which have colourful scenes of the goddess and her sacred barque, lead to the sanctuary with a weathered statue of Hathor as a cow emerging from the rock.

Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
The Djeser-Djeseru ("Holy of Holies"), is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun god Amon-Ra and is located next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration, and later, a quarry. It is considered one of the "incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt." The temple was the site of the massacre of 62 people, mostly tourists, by extremists that took place on 17 November 1997. The Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw is responsible for the study and restoration of the three levels of the temple. As of spring 1995, the first two levels were almost complete, and the top level was still under reconstruction. 
The terraced temple to the God Ammon beneath the Cliffs at Dein-el-Bahri Bunil by Queen Hatshepsut in the 19th century and today. As can be seen in the contrasting images, between 1923 and 1931 tens of thousands of fragments—some weighing more than a ton, others smaller than a human fist—were recovered and sorted. Examples of the architectural statues were reattached to the temple's façade and some of the sphinxes and other freestanding statues were reassembled The temple, stunning after considerable refurbishment, must have been even more stunning in the days of  Hatshepsut (1473–1458 BCE), when it was approached by a grand sphinx-lined causeway instead of today’s barbarous tourist bazaar, and when the court was a garden planted with a variety of exotic trees and perfumed plants – the ancient Egyptians called it Djeser-djeseru, ‘Most Holy of Holies’. If the design seems unusual, it featured in fact all the things a memorial temple usually had, including the rising central axis and a three-part plan, but had to be adapted to the chosen site almost exactly on the same line with the Temple of Amun at Karnak, and near an older shrine to the goddess Hathor.
Drake appropriately spending his birthday at the Solar Cult chapel, considering it falls on the winter solstice. The main and axis of the temple is set to an azimuth of about 1161⁄2° and is aligned to the winter solstice sunrise, allowing the sunlight to penetrate through to the rear wall of the chapel, before moving to the right to highlight one of the Osiris statutes that stand on either side of the doorway to the 2nd chamber. This is the place of worship of Amun-Ra, as well as Ra- Horachty and Atum-Amunm, two other aspects of the solar god. The altar is open to the sun's rays. Apparently the priests would walk up the stairs to the top of the altar to offer sacrifice to the sun.
At the very heart of the temple: a sanctuary dedicated to the god Amun cut directly in the mountain with small cult chapels alternate with niches housing osiride statues of the queen. This was a main site of the Luxor massacre of November 17, 1997 in which 62 people, mostly tourists were butchered by Islamic fascists.  Caught within this space, the victims found themselves in a perfect trap. The screams of the victims were echoed by cries of “Allahu akhbar!” as the attackers reloaded for forty-five minutes with no support from the Egyptians (who would later mix up and lose a number of bodies), until the floors streamed with blood. The dead included a British child the same age as Drake and four Japanese couples on their honeymoons. The ornamented walls were splattered with brains and bits of hair.  35 of the 58 tourists killed were Swiss and that one Swiss woman saw the terrorists beheading her father. According to the New York Times, one of the men fired into the face of a Japanese woman from a range of about 15 inches. Survivors said the terrorists moved away then returned to gun down people who had taken cover. Another reported how a cab driver testified that the gunmen were “pulling tourists like sheep on the floor and slaughtering them.” The Economist noted that the attackers lingered to finish off victims with knives and to “dance over their victims’ bodies.” 
 
The Swiss newspaper Blick, after so many of its citizens had been butchered, decided that the photo taken the day after the massacre was not sensational enough and therefore altered it so that a stream of water appeared as a stream of blood.

The Valley of the Kings
Once called the Great Necropolis of Millions of Years of Pharaoh, or the Place of Truth, the Valley of the Kings contains at least 63 magnificent royal tombs from the New Kingdom period (1550–1069 BCE), all very different from each other. The West Bank had been the site of royal burials from the First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BCE) onwards. At least three 11th-dynasty rulers built their tombs near the modern village of Taref, northeast of the Valley of the Kings. The 18th-dynasty pharaohs, however, chose the isolated valley dominated by the pyramid- shaped mountain peak of al-Qurn (The Horn). The secluded site enclosed by steep cliffs was easy to guard and, when seen from the Theban plain, appears to be the site of the setting sun, associated with the afterlife by ancient Egyptians. The tombs have suffered great damage from treasure hunters, floods and, in recent years, from mass tourism: carbon dioxide, friction and humidity produced by the average of 2.8g of sweat left by each visitor have affected the reliefs and the pigments of the wall paintings. The Department of Antiquities has since installed dehumidifiers and glass screens in the worst affected tombs, and introduced a rotation system for opening some tombs to the public while restoring others. Each tomb has a number that represents the order in which it was discovered. KV (short for Kings Valley) 1 belongs to Ramses VII; it has been open since Greek and Roman times, and was mentioned in the Description de l’Egypte, dating from the late 18th century. 
The earliest photograph of the Valley of the Kings by Francis Frith (1857) and the wife and son today with al-Qurn in the background.
The wife inside tomb KV2, that of Ramesses IV,  located low down in the main valley between KV7 and KV1. It has been open since antiquity and contains a large amount of graffiti. There are two known plans of the tomb's layout contemporary to its construction. One on papyrus (now located at the Egyptian Museum in Turin) provides a detailed depiction of the tomb at 1:28 scale. All of the passages and chambers are present, with measurements written in hieratic script. The papyrus plan also depicts the pharaoh's sarcophagus surrounded by four concentric sets of shrines, the same layout of shrines that were found intact within Tutankhamun's tomb. The other plan of the tomb was found inscribed on a slab of limestone not far from the tomb's entrance, and is a rough layout of the tomb depicting the location of its doors. The latter plan may have just been a "workman's doodle" but the papyrus plan almost certainly had a deeper ritual meaning, and may have been used to consecrate the tomb after it was built. Though sizeable, KV2 has been described as being "simplistic" in its design and decoration. The tomb is mostly intact and is decorated with scenes from the Litany of Ra, Book of Caverns, Book of the Dead, Book of Amduat and the Book of the Heavens.  The sarcophagus is broken (probably in antiquity), and the mummy was relocated to the mummy cache in KV35. Visits in antiquity  The tomb was one of about eleven tombs open to early travellers. KV2 contains the second-highest number of ancient graffiti within it (after KV9), with 656 individual graffitos left by both Ancient Greek and Roman visitors.
Going up to the tomb of Merneptah (or Merenptah), the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BCE as the thirteenth son of Ramesses II; he only came to power because all his older brothers, including his full brother Khaemwaset or Khaemwase, had died. By the time he ascended to the throne he was almost sixty years old. His throne name was Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru, which means "The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods".
 
Tomb KV8 was used for the burial of Pharaoh Merenptah of Ancient Egypt's Nineteenth Dynasty.  
Inside the burial chamber, located at the end of 160 metres of corridor, which originally held a set of four nested sarcophagi. The outer one of these was so voluminous that parts of the corridor had to have their doorjambs demolished and rebuilt to allow it to be brought in. These jambs were then rebuilt with the help of inscribed sandstone blocks which were then fixed into their place with dovetail cramps. The pillars in Chamber F were removed to allow passage of the sacrophagus, only two were replaced. The other two pillars may have been stolen by Paneb, a worker in the craftsman's village (Deir el Medina), for use in his own tomb. 
Wife and son entering Tomb KV14- a joint tomb used originally by Twosret and then reused and extended by Setnakhte. It has been open since antiquity, but was not properly recorded until Hartwig Altenmüller excavated it from 1983 to 1987.  Located in the main body of the Valley of the Kings, it has two burial chambers, the later extensions making the tomb one of the largest of the Royal Tombs, at over 112 metres.  The original decoration showing the female Twosret was replaced with those of the male Setnakhte. Even later, the name of Setnakte was replaced by those of Seti II.

The wife in front of the final scene from the Book of Caverns adorning Tawosret’s burial chamber showing the sun god as a ram-headed figure stretching out his wings to emerge from the darkness of the underworld and in front of the Illustrated Book of the Earth.
 The second and unfinished burial chamber showing a badly damaged red granite sarcophagus has been reconstructed in the middle of this room. A figure of the king was carved on its lid and at the foot end figures of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are kneeling. Setnakht’s cartouche cut on the sarcophagus box replaced an earlier name, possibly that of Tausert.
 
In front of KV 62 – Tutankhamun’s famous tomb, which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 – until recently the last one to be discovered when, in 2006 KV 63 was discovered, with a few empty sarcophagus making it unclear if this was a royal tomb or a chamber for the mummification process.

The Ptolemaic-Roman Temple of Khnum is about 200 metres from the Nile bank at the end of the tourist souq. The temple today sits in a 9 metre-deep pit, which represents 15 centuries of desert sand and debris, accumulated since it was abandoned during the Roman period. Most of the temple is still covered and all that can be seen today is that which was excavated in the 1840s, specifically the Roman hypostyle hall. Khnum was the ram-headed creator god who fashioned humankind on his potter’s wheel using Nile clay. Construction of the temple dedicated to him was started, on the site of an earlier temple, by Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 BCE).  


The Romans added this hypostyle hall with its well-preserved carvings from as late as the 3rd century CE. A quay connecting the temple to the Nile was built by Marcus Aurelius (161–180 CE).


The central doorway leads into the dark atmospheric vestibule, where the roof is supported by 18 columns with wonderfully varied floral capitals in the form of palm leaves, lotus buds and papyrus fans; some also have bunches of grapes, a distinctive Roman touch. The roof is decorated with astronomical scenes, while the pillars are covered with hieroglyphic accounts of temple rituals.


Inside the front corners, beside the smaller doorways, are two hymns to Khnum. The first is a morning hymn to awaken Khnum in his shrine, and the second is a wonderful ‘hymn of creation’ that acknowledges him as creator of all, even foreigners: ‘all are formed on his potter’s wheel, their speech different in every region but the lord of the wheel is their father too’.

Standing beside the crocodile hymn to Sobek, written in crocodile signs- perhaps the most extreme examples of cryptography to the crocodile god, Sobek-Re. It can be seen in the Roman pronaos on the inside of a doorway. 

When the light hits them, the texts are revealed in all their mischievous glory, for the Sobek hymn is written almost entirely in crocodiles. Luckily, the Sobek hymn begins with the words ‘Praise to Sobek’ and then continues in crocodiles. It is clearly a hymn of praise and seems to consist of epithets of the god, extolling his various qualities and attributes, even his crocodileness. From other texts, the crocodile sign has a wide range of possible uses and readings, such as ‘lord’, ‘power of attack’, ‘divine’, ‘Sobek’, ‘appearing in glory’, ‘time’, ‘one who seizes’, and so on. The clever thing about the hymns is that the priests who wrote them used the whole hymn as a symbolic message, for both gods are recognised as creator gods, who created everything themselves and are immanent in everything. Therefore, the hymns express the idea that divinity exists in everything through the medium of meaning, sound value, writing, and representation. If one text were needed to express the real triumph of hieroglyphs it would be this.
Penelope Wilson (65-66) Hieroglyphics
 
On the walls Roman emperors dressed as pharaohs make offerings to the local gods of Esna. The northern wall has colourful scenes of the ruler catching fish in a papyrus thicket with the god Khnum, and next to this the emperor presents the temple to Khnum. The back wall, to the northeast, the only remaining part of the original Ptolemaic temple, features reliefs of two Ptolemaic phar-aohs, Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (170–116 BCE). A number of Roman emperors, including Septimus Severus, Caracalla and Geta, added their names near the hall’s rear gateway.

This scene from the Temple of Esna shows the king making an offering of two different types of sistra (musical rattles) to the goddesses Neith and Hathor. The figures are surrounded by lines of texts reading and proceeding in all directions. The texts concerned with the king read towards his face and are meant to emanate from him. The short vertical line directly in front of the king gives the title of the scene: ‘Playing the sistra for the Two Ladies’. Above his head two cartouches identify the king; in this case he is actually the Roman emperor Titus. Behind him one vertical line of text reading left to right gives more of his virtues and attributes (the other vertical line reads the other way and belongs to the next scene to the right). All the other texts in this scene read from right to left and give the speeches, the names and titles, and the rewards of the goddesses. Again one vertical column of text at the left frames this scene. The bands of text divide, label, give the words, and most importantly stress that the correct procedures for this offering and the correct mythical context have been evoked.


Kom Ombo

The Temple of Kom Ombo is unique in Egypt as having a dual dedication to the local crocodile god Sobek and Haroeris, (Horus the Elder) and is reflected in the temple’s plan: perfectly symmetrical along the main axis of the temple, there are twin entrances, two shared hypostyle halls with carvings of the two gods on either side and twin sanctuaries. It is assumed that there were also two priesthoods. The left (western) side of the temple was dedicated to Haroeris, the right (eastern) half to Sobek. Reused blocks suggest an earlier temple from the Middle Kingdom period, and there are remains of 18th-dynasty structures, but the main temple dates from Ptolemaic times; built by Ptolemy VI Philometor, though most of its decoration was completed by Cleopatra VII’s father, Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos. 



The temple’s spectacular riverside setting has resulted in the erosion of part of its partly Roman forecourt and outer sections, but much of the complex has survived and is very similar in layout to the other Ptolemaic temples of Edfu and Dendara, albeit smaller. The temple is entered through the Ptolemaic gateway on the southeast corner. 

Passing into the temple’s forecourt, where the reliefs are divided between the two gods, there is a double altar in the centre of the court for both gods. Beyond are the shared inner and outer hypostyle halls, each with 10 columns. Inside the outer hypostyle hall, to the left, is a finely executed relief showing Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos being presented to Haroeris by Isis and the lion-headed goddess Raettawy, with Thoth looking on. The walls to the right show the crowning of Ptolemy XII by Nekhbet (the vulture goddess worshipped at the Upper Egyptian town of Al-Kab) and Wadjet (the snake goddess based at Buto in Lower Egypt), with the dual crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, symbolising the unification of Egypt. Reliefs on the north wall of the inner hypostyle hall show Haroeris presenting Ptolemy VIII Euergetes with a curved weapon, representing the sword of victory. Behind Ptolemy is his sister-wife and co-ruler Cleopatra II.

From here, three antechambers, each with double entrances, lead to the sanctuaries of Sobek and Haroeris. The now-ruined chambers on either side would have been used to store priests’ vestments and liturgical papyri. The sanctuaries themselves are no longer completely intact, allowing one to see the secret passage between them that enabled the priests to give the gods a ‘voice’ to answer the petitions of pilgrims. 


Here in the outer corridor, which runs around the temple walls, is a most unusual series of reliefs including what is considered the oldest representation of surgical equipment. It seems more probable that these were implements used during the temple’s daily rituals although I overheard one guide stating that with the scalpel and apparent sponge carved into the rock, it represents tools for circumcision.Also shown are two goddesses sitting on birthing chairs.

Bas-relief showing the last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, Cleopatra VII 


Around the corner is the oldest calendar ever made in Egypt- civil as opposed to religious used for purposes of the state such as tax collection, recording the year of the king’s reign, et cet. It organises the year into twelve months divided into three 4- month agricultural seasons: inundation (akhet) growing period (peret) harvest period (shemu) Each month was divided into three 10-day periods. However, this calendar wasn’t accurate enough as although the Nile would flood every year around the end of June, the flood occurred within a range of 80 days.  Therefore, after noticing that the river’s flooding and rising coincided with the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, they based their year on the cycle of this star’s reappearance, effectively applying astronomy principles to develop a more accurate calendar by which to track the days of the year which still serves as a model in our tracking of the days today.



In front of a relief showing a lion helping the Pharoah to victory by biting the arms off his enemies



Nearby, to the right of the temple wall, is a small shrine to Hathor, now a storage for the mummified crocodiles and their clay coffins that were dug up from a nearby sacred-animal cemetery; four from the collection are on display. On the opposite side of the compound, to the left (southwest) corner of the temple are the remains of a small mammisi, decorated with reliefs, including one that depicts Ptolemy VIII Euergetes in a boat in a reed thicket be- fore the god Min. Beyond this to the north you will find the deep well that supplied the temple with water, and close by is a small pool in which crocodiles, Sobek’s sacred animal, were raised.