Journal: Thursday 25 March 1999 (PM)
After lunch, Horus came to the hotel and suggested that he escorted Robin and I on a tour of the Temple of Seti I. This was my second time at the temple, having been here for a brief visit just over a year ago, but I knew that today our tour would be much more leisurely and enjoyable. As we walked together up the road towards the temple, which dominates the centre of the village with its backdrop of desert and high cliffs, a few tourists were going in the opposite direction to leave in their taxis with the convoy. I realised then that we would have the temple to ourselves. Oh what joy!
Walking around the temple with Horus and Robin, I could imagine Omm Sety herself showing tourists around, with bare feet and covered head to show her respect for the long-remembered deities whose house this was. Horus and his family had known Omm Sety very well and had taken care of her in her last years of illness before she died in 1981. Now, having walked through the magnificent shrines and halls in the main part of the temple, we went out of the back entrance to see the Osirion, a subterranean structure with huge square granite pillars surrounded by water-filled trenches. This monument, once covered by a mound, has been interpreted as a cenotaph to the god Osiris, but its true purpose is still obscure. The fact that the decoration in a later entrance passage built by Merenptah, contains scenes usually associated with a royal tomb, suggests that in the New Kingdom, the structure may have been regarded as a tomb. Alternatively, some archaeologists have interpreted the Osirion as a symbolic ‘Mound of Creation’, representing the first dry land to emerge from the primeval sea.
The Osirion is frequently completely flooded, but today we were lucky that the water in the trenches was very low and we could walk around the ‘island’ to the large Transverse Hall at the eastern end of the Great Hall. This room was in fact flooded, but we went inside the huge dark chamber far enough to disturb the biggest bat I have ever seen, which flapped scarily around the ceiling. The further in we went, the darker it became until I could see nothing, but I could hear some loud plops in the water, presumably made by a fish or other aquatic beasty. There is an astronomical ceiling on the saddle roof in this chamber with a fine relief of the sky-goddess Nut, but it was too dark to see and I decided to leave before I lost my footing and risked being eaten by the giant fish.
Before going back inside the temple, Horus took us up onto the roof to show us the mysterious ‘Blind Rooms’. These two rooms, now open to the sky, are situated behind the chapels of the Osiris complex, one above the other. The strange thing about these rooms is that there were no doors or windows, no visible entrance into them from the temple or outside, nor any way to get from one room to the other. The lower room contained very short, but massive, disproportionate pillars that supported the floor of the room above and both rooms were undecorated. Looking down into the now-open rooms from above, I was intrigued by these mysterious chambers, my mind filled with possible pivoting stones and secret passageways like a real-life Indiana Jones movie.
Inside the temple once more, Horus left us and I spent the rest of the afternoon taking photographs. The guards had all retired into various dimly lit corners for their afternoon siesta and Robin and I could wander wherever we wished. I had bought an extra ticket so that I could use my camera on a tripod and I was in heaven, spending long minutes setting up shots in the lovely dim atmospheric lighting.
When we later got back to the Seti Hotel, we met a new couple who had just arrived to stay the night. They were working at Tell el-Amarna and we shared a dinner of rice, vegetables and chicken and some very interesting conversation.