Journal entry for Wednesday 28 October 1998
Although Medamud is only a few kilometres from Luxor, it seems to be a difficult place to get to. Permission is needed from the tourist police, who will escort any visitors to the temple, which is in the countryside beyond the road block on the northern edge of Luxor. For this service they charge a huge fee. On Wednesday morning, Kit, Robin, Sam and I piled into Abdul’s Taxi to go to visit our friend David in his home in the village of el-Arabet, which was situated about half way between Luxor and Medamud. Over a mid-morning cup of coffee, it was David who happened to mention that Medamud was just a short distance across the cultivation, almost within walking distance. Then Abdul told us that he could drive his taxi along the tracks by the canals, through the fields of sugar cane and it would only take a few minutes to get there. We needed no persuasion.
The Montu Temples at Medamud and Karnak were once linked by a canal. The site of the present temple was built on remains dating at least back to the Middle Kingdom, by kings of the Graeco-Roman Period and dedicated to Montu, Rattawy and Harpocrates. When we arrived there after our short taxi ride the guards seemed surprised to see us but were only too pleased to let us have a look around the site, showing us the unusual triple gateway built by Ptolemy VIII and the kiosk walls decorated with singers and musicians and one of my favourites, the little god Bes, who was shown dancing. The temple has distinctive slender columns in the forecourt which are now the most substantial remains of the monument. The rest is fairly ruined, with walls no higher than a metre or two, but we did see a granite doorway depicting Amenhotep II before Montu-re that was the oldest of the visible remains. One of the most interesting aspects of the temple, in the east court, is the precinct of the sacred bull, who was kept as the symbolic incarnation of the god Montu. Carved on an exterior wall, marking the place where oracles were delivered, the Emperor Trajan can be seen worshipping the sacred bull. There were once many domestic buildings on the site including granaries, a well and a sacred lake but these are now gone. A few of the ram-headed sphinxes which once lined a processional way leading from the temple to the quay can still be seen and the quay itself is in quite good condition. After we had a good look around we sat and had a cup of tea with the guards, who seemed very friendly. Then the police turned up (it could only have been the guards who let them know we were here) and we were told in no uncertain terms that we should not have come here without them. It was of course our taxi driver Abdul who got into the most trouble (and was afterwards in danger of losing his licence), which we all felt terrible about. I suppose we should have played by the rules.
Abdul was unconcerned at the time by the police’s arrival and when we left Medamud he took us to a new golf course that was being built on the edge of Luxor. He wanted to see someone who worked there, so while he was busy we sat and chatted to Chris, a golf pro who had taken on the task of getting the course up and running. Chris told us that the golf course was a very big project and was intended to become an major international course of 810 hectares. At present, though there were water sprinklers everywhere, it still looked like part of the desert but we did see a few blades of grass struggling up through the sand on some of the greens. A big task indeed.
Afterwards we stopped at a farm near the golf course. By now I was completely lost having never been in this part of the countryside before and it felt like we were a long long way from Luxor town. The farm belonged to Abdul’s uncle and we were all made very welcome, shown the animals and then given the inevitable glasses of tea while sitting outside with views across fields of crops. One of the outbuildings contained a huge old generator used to pump water and some of the farm workers insisted on firing this up for our inspection because it had been made in England. It was all very interesting and made a nice change from looking at monuments.