Journal: Wednesday 20 November 1996
Robin, Lucy and I were all set to go to Abydos today – on the local train. At breakfast we mentioned this to our tour rep, Gillian, and she was horrified, strongly advising us not to attempt the trip. She gave us all the reasons we shouldn’t go and pointed out that neither the tour company or the British Embassy would help us if we got into difficulties as it was a restricted zone and tourists were strongly discouraged from going there. We had to think carefully about this and in the end decided to take the advice we had been given, giving up on the trip. We all spent the rest of the day feeling wimpish! We had also wanted to visit the tombs at el-Kab, which is to the south between Edfu and Esna, but were told the town was cut off after the rain, with no water or electricity and the army was having to take in food supplies.
Making excuses to ourselves – we’d all had shaky stomachs for the past couple of days anyway – we went into Luxor and bought Antinal from the pharmacy (the best cure for pharaoh’s revenge!). We walked through the bazaar and did some serious shopping, gifts to take home and the sort of souvenirs everyone buys on early trips Egypt.
In the evening we went to Luxor Museum and spent a couple of hours having a good look around. There are some beautiful objects and I took lots of pictures (unfortunately when they were developed they were all fuzzy because of the dark conditions).
The museum is very modern and the artefacts are well displayed with good spot-lighting. My favourite piece in the whole museum is a black granite statue of Amehotep, son of Hapu, Advisor to Amenhotep III, Scribe, Architect and Director of all the Royal Works. After his death he was deified and worshipped as a god of medicine. The statue represents Amenhotep as a scribe sitting cross-legged, his left hand unrolling a papyrus scroll. This statue is so beautiful that whenever I go to visit him in the museum I feel I want to reach out and touch him (which of course is not allowed). I also love the statue dyad of Amenhotep III with the crocodile god, Sobek, from the Temple of Sobek at Dahamsha. Sobek has his arm around the king’s shoulder in such a protective and affectionate way. It was later usurped by Rameses II who carved his own name on the statue. I particularly liked the Akhenaten heads which had been found in his temple at Karnak. I was standing in front of one of the wonderful elongated stylized heads, wondering if the king really did have some strange medical condition, when a young Egyptian guy came and stood beside the head, pointing to it and then to his own face. He grinned and said ‘This is my Grandfather!’. I had to admit that the likeness was astonishing – the elongated face, the almond eyes and the full lips were just the same when you really looked and I realised that these facial characteristics were seen in many Upper Egyptian men. From that time on I have believed that the strange statues were not showing any abnormal deformity, but were merely stylized versions of the king, a modern form of art of the time. At closing time I went into the museum book shop and saw a large fabulous statue of Sekhmet, which I just had to buy. These replicas were made by a local village cooperative from a kind of resin. They looked exactly like others I had seen carved from stone, but when I picked one up it was very lightweight. Great for taking back on the plane! She was a perfect copy of the statue of the goddess I had seen in the Temple of Ptah at Karnak. I was so pleased with my purchase, it really made my day. Unfortunately I’ve never found any more of these light resin statues since that time, though I’ve looked everywhere. Guess they stopped producing them.
Our next port of call was to Gaddis bookshop, but by the time we got there it was closed. What a pity…. I couldn’t spend any more money today!