Journal: Friday 6 November 1998
Having arranged to meet Robin and Sam at Medinet Habu, Kit and I caught an arabeya to the taftish and bought our tickets, before walking along the track which leads straight to the Temple. Habu is my favourite temple on the West Bank, probably the most complete and I love it for its colourful reliefs. By now, Kit has become quite good at reading hieroglyphs, or at least recognising what he’s looking at, so he was able to contribute as Sam, Robin and I looked at the various deities we found in the first and second courts. The pillars especially have beautiful reliefs of Rameses III before the gods. These characters, such as Hathor, Horus, Amun, Thoth, Anubis etc. are generally called gods, but I think of them more in terms of different aspects of possibly a single entity. Or perhaps they could be likened to the numerous Christian saints we find in western churches. We take for granted that the lady with the moon and horns headdress is Hathor, or the figure with the canine head is Anubis, the ithyphallic figure is Min, but this is often not the case. Looking at each ‘deity’, we found in Habu that some of the figures were un-named, while others, after reading the accompanying text, were not what we expected. We spent an interesting couple of hours looking at these figures, photographing them and making notes for further discussion.
After a quick lunch break at the Rameses Cafeteria opposite the temple, we walked back to the ticket office to meet Mr Abdel Fetuh who was to take us to Deir el-Bahri. Here we were introduced to Dr Mohammed el-Bierly, who was the Chief Inspector for the area and we sat in the guards hut having tea with him before going on to tour the temple with Abdel Fetuh. This was the first time I had visited Deir el-Bahri since the ‘incident’, as it is called, the horriffic terrorist killings here last year. I wasn’t sure how I would feel being here again, but it was OK and felt like it had been cleansed of the atrocities.
The Temple of Hatshepsut is very different from other West Bank temples because it is arranged on a series of three terraces, each containing important and fascinating reliefs. The third terrace has been under reconstruction by a Polish-Egyptian mission for many years and was not yet open to the public, so I was thrilled when Abdel Fetuh asked if we would like to see it. We walked up the ramp, admiring the huge carefully restored Osirid statues of Hatshepsut, before going through a doorway into the columned courtyard. The reliefs in the third terrace have been cleaned and Mr Fetuh took time to explain their sequence to us as we walked around. Many of the colourful scenes depict the ‘Beautiful Feast of the Valley’, showing barques carrying statues of Tuthmose I, II, III and Hatshepsut. Barques of the Theban Triad are carried by priests, with offering-bringers, dancers and musicians making up the procession.
The chambers in the northern part of the upper terrace are dedicated to the solar cult of Re-Horakhty and in one of these we saw a huge alabaster altar on which offerings would have been left exposed to the sun. Other niches and chapels such as those dedicated to Anubis and the parents of Hatshepsut still have very well-preserved colourful paintings. We were very grateful to have a sneak preview of these chambers.
Soon it was time to leave and Mr Fetuh came back to the el-Gezira Hotel, where we all had tea on the roof.