Journal: Saturday 26 November 2005
Having visited the Temple of Horus at Edfu earlier this week, it seems only right to pay our respects to Horus’s consort Hathor at her Dendera temple. Our little group left early in the morning with the convoy in the minibus with the Abduls and followed the Nile north towards Qena.
Dendera is around 60km from Luxor and it took less than an hour to reach the town of Qena. Here the convoy split up, some of us taking the bridge to the west bank while others carried on through the eastern mountains towards the Red Sea coast and Hurghada. The long bridge that crosses the Nile here is right in the centre of the wide bend in the river that can be clearly seen when flying south down the Nile Valley. Once over the bridge it is just a short journey through agricultural land to the temple at the edge of the desert.
I’ve been to Dendera many times and although it is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt and very beautiful in places, it is not one of my favourites. I can’t explain this feeling except that it may be because the reliefs there are Ptolemaic rather than from an earlier period that I prefer. The temple itself is very dark inside, the walls blackened with the grime of centuries and in the past it has never been easy to photograph on film. But today the columned hall was littered with scaffolding poles and it looks like a thorough cleaning and restoration is in progress. Some of the ceiling panels have been completed, revealing the most beautiful astronomical scenes in gorgeous blues and browns. And at last with a digital camera that copes well with dark conditions, I could take some decent pictures.
Our group split up and went our separate ways and eventually I ended up on the roof – a part of the temple I have always liked the most for its wonderful views over the whole precinct. Visitors are no longer allowed up onto the upper level of the roof (apparently someone fell off not long ago), so I had to make do with the lower level where the lovely little kiosk of Hathor stands in a corner. I also had a good look at the Osiris rooms where the mysterious reliefs of the resurrection of the god are displayed on the walls. There is also the replica ‘astrological ceiling’ here, the original I had seen in the Louvre recently.
We had only an hour and a half at Dendera before we had to leave with the convoy on the journey back to Luxor, but as I went out of the Gate of Domitian, the main entrance into the temple precinct, I looked up to see one of my favourite reliefs. This is a winged scarab on the lintel, but it is unusual and possibly unique in that it is the underside of the beetle that is shown.
We were back in Luxor by early afternoon, though it seemed like we had been out all day because of the early start. In the evening we went out to eat at a little local restaurant near the railway station called ‘Salt and Bread’ where I had eaten before. It is nothing fancy but the food is local, freshly cooked and very good and most of all is not expensive.