40 for 40: Day 12 – Edfu and Al Kab

Today, we met the other tourists.

Now, it was by no means a huge crowd, but considering that we were alone in Kom Ombo a few days ago, and alone at Gebel El-Silsila yesterday, having a few actual tour groups moving through the temple at Edfu was a change of pace. Not enough to feel overwhelmed, not enough to not enjoy it, but enough to break the illusion that we were alone in Egypt.

Today’s experience was a bit more touristy than before, starting off with a horse carriage to take us to the temple (a necessity, since the dahabiyya had to dock further away from the temple than the big ships), and a really eager set of shopkeepers at the temple entrance, including one guy who shook my hand for a good 30 seconds while walking before asking if I’d see his store after, to which I told him “I will try”. More on him later.

Edfu is dedicated to the God Horus and was built around two and a half centuries ago, making it relatively young in terms of the Egyptian temples we’ve seen so far. Aside from it’s size and the beautiful falcon statues that were reclaimed from broken obelisks, what makes this temple interesting is that it represents an Egypt in stasis, as the temple was built in a period where there was no defined king for any long amount of time, so the temple cartouches were all left blank. The innermost sanctum has a sun-boat featuring Horus’ statue, which was used for ceremonies in and around the temple. Bats were perched on the ceiling at various points, there was a beautiful drawing of the Goddess Nut creating the universe, and more wonderful carvings. Fortunately, we also seemed to be on the tail-end of the various tour groups, so there were a few opportunities to get “empty” shots of the temple.

Abdualla gave us about half an hour extra to explore the temple before we were supposed to meet him at the the horse carriages, and we ended up using every minute of it, which meant that we wouldn’t really have time to go see the shops. So we walked through, politely stating “we are late for our horse”, which of course led to the “only one minute” responses, which we ignored. Mr. Shake-Hands Man (Google it) came back for another handshake, which I had to break while explaining that we were late, and by break I mean I had to physically release the grip of my right hand to give him a clue and, when he didn’t get it, had to use my other hand to take his hand away. I say goodbye, at which point he angrily says “YOU PROMISED” before attempting to push me into his shop with his shoulder which, considering I had a foot and about fifty pounds on him, went about as well for him as you’d expect. At this point, I got a bit loud and, in my best kindergarten voice said “NO! That is NOT how you do things! You do NOT push me! Good-bye!” Which shut him up for almost a minute before he went back to trying to sell me something as I was across the parking lot.

Back to the boat for lunch. No swimming today, just relaxation before the afternoon excursion to El Kab, a series of rock cut tombs you get to after about a half hour walk through a small dessert, past 4000 year old mud-brick walls and across some train tracks, which led to my best pun of the trip. As we walked past the back of the train, I chimed in with “We’re going to see El Kab, but we’ve already seen El Kaboose!”

After which, I learned that “caboose” actually sounds like the Arabic word for “nightmare”, which accurately sums up how good my joke was.

The El Kab tombs were for rich Egyptians, who documented their wealth, family, friends and lives in their tombs. What made them interesting were not only the stories that were told to us by Abdualla, but the colours within the tombs themselves. Being smaller and less visited, the paint hasn’t degraded the way it has in larger, more open temples and tombs, which gave this particular art an edge in beauty-by-colour, if not by design.

The walk back to the boat was uneventful, save for some children either trying to sell us decorative straw bowls or get us to drop money in those bowls. Now, having said goodbye to Abdulla (whose name I may have spelled several different ways), we’re on the boat for one more night, one more delicious dinner and breakfast, before we hit the next major destination, Luxor.

If I had all the time and money in the world on a vacation, a dahabiyya cruise would be the way to go. Small, relaxed, calm, this has been a different type of Egypt, one we won’t quite be able to replicate. Great experience and I’m glad we added it to the list.

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