Journal: Friday 19 April 2002
What a beautiful morning to wake up in Edfu, where we had docked at some time during the night. The low sun was casting pale glittering shadows on the river as we went down to breakfast. It wasn’t quite such an early start as yesterday but we had left the boat by 8.00am for the short coach ride through the busy town of Edfu to the Temple of Horus.
I’ve visited Edfu Temple several times before but today I was surprised by how quiet it was. We parked in the street alongside the stalls selling galabeyas and souvenirs and walked along the western side of the long temple enclosure wall, past rows and rows of larger-than-life Ptolemaic kings offering to various deities and then around to the huge First Pylon. To my amazement the courtyard was empty and so was the temple – our little group were the only visitors this morning. I stayed with Hala and the other guide for a while before setting off to take pictures, a temple devoid of the hoards was an opportunity not to be missed. While Mary stuck with the group, I went to photograph the eastern staircase. I was hoping to find a guard who might let me go up onto the roof. I soon found a willing enough guard, but unfortunately he didn’t have the key to the locked gate at the top, I guess it’s a no-go area. But the staircase was interesting and very similar to the dark winding stairs at Dendera, with priests and standard-bearers processing up and down. The ‘Pure Place’, a kiosk-like shrine to Hathor at the bottom of the stairs in an open ‘sun court’, is also identical to the one at Dendera, with the same figure of the sky goddess Nut on the ceiling. In many respects this is Dendera’s twin temple, this being the abode of Horus, while Dendera belonged to his consort Hathor. The cult statue of the goddess was brought here each year by river to join with hubby to celebrate the ‘Feast of the Beautiful meeting’. Scenes of this important annual festival are shown in great detail inside the porticos of the courtyard, but there was not enough time today to study these reliefs. I caught up with the group while they were in the sanctuary and then it was time to leave. I would dearly have liked a few more hours here – I had intended to have a good look at the Roman mamissi, on which the mamissi at Dendera was modelled but there was no time. This is a drawback in doing a cruise. It gives the visitor a taste of ancient Egyptian archaeology but you really need a separate visit to see much more. By 10.30am we were back on the boat on our way to Kom Ombo.
The weather has been much warmer today and Mary and I sat on the boat’s top deck in the shade in the afternoon watching river scenes. My friend dozed on a sun lounger while I jumped up and down taking photographs of the odd clump of drifting water hyacinth, a heron on the river bank or a tiny island populated by the ubiquitous white egrets, but it was very peaceful. By the time we reached Kom Ombo the sun was already low and our visit to the temple, high on its promontory on a bend in the river, was quite rushed. It was almost dark when we left, running the gauntlet of souvenir stalls whose owners were desperate to compete for the last of the day’s sales. Many of the cruise passengers bought galabeyas and head-wear for tonight’s ‘galabeya party’ but I have brought an old favourite with me from my collection at home. As we were steaming away from Kom Ombo I stood on the rear deck watching the beautiful spectacle of the temple, floodlit now and standing gracefully to await tomorrow’s new consignment of visitors.
The galabeya party after dinner was fun, with everyone dressed up and getting into the spirit of things. Some of my fellow passengers are real characters, stealing the show with their outrageous antics. We arrived and docked at Aswan around 10.30pm but I don’t think anyone noticed we had stopped until much later.