Journal: Monday 21 November 2005
We left the Safa Hotel in Sohag this morning at 9.00am, after watching a beautiful pale sunrise from our balcony. A couple of little boats were out for the early morning catch, the fishermen beating the water to make the fish rise into their nets. Other than this rhythmic sound the river was as still as a millpond.
Today we were heading back towards Luxor after our brief trip into Middle Egypt, but on the way we just had to stop once more at Abydos for a longer visit to the Temple of Seti I. Once again we were not part of the convoy so we had the temple to ourselves for a few hours and the guards left us alone as we all spread out. I don’t have any digital pictures taken in the temple and set about trying to photograph everything – not an easy task. I worked methodically for once, beginning with the outer hypostyle hall, which is actually the latest part of the temple decorated by Seti’s son Rameses II.
While most of the monumental reliefs of Rameses are large and bold, they are much more subtle here, almost as delicate as his father’s beautiful reliefs in the rest of the temple. Whether this is as a result of Rameses’s youth at the time or simply the superb workmanship of the artists here, I don’t know. I worked my way through the seven shrines of Seti and into the rear of the temple, the Osiris Hall, where some of the finest carving can be found, depicting Seti offering to various deities. The colours are fabulous but the light is very low and without a tripod I wasn’t expecting great results.
One of my favourite rooms is the Hall of Ptah-Sokar and Nefertum, the gods of the Memphis Triad and the Northern counterpart of Osiris. There are some very beautiful and quite rare reliefs of a hawk-headed Sokar and both a human and lion-headed Nefertum.
My next stop was the Gallery of Lists, the famous Abydos King-list in which Seti and Rameses offer to a list of 76 cartouches of their ancestors, beginning with Menes and ending with Seti. Of course there are omissions, such as Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Smenkhare, Tutankhamun and Ay, who were presumably not considered legitimate ancestors.
Time was running out as I made my way out to the Osirion with its huge granite pillars and massive roofing blocks. The water table was quite high today and the subterranean pavement of the structure was under several inches of water. We were not even allowed down the staircase. The Osirion has been interpreted as a kind of cenotaph of the god Osiris or possibly a pseudo ‘royal tomb’, symbolizing his myth, but nobody knows its real purpose.
I would have loved to walk along to the Temple of Rameses II, but we had no time left because we had to leave when the convoy left to drive back to Luxor. A few hours later we were back at the Winter Palace. Our three days in Middle Egypt will be remembered every time I hear a certain Fleetwood Mac CD, as Jim had brought this along and it was played over and over on our journeys in the minibus. Funny how some things stick in your mind!