Journal: Monday 11 November 1996
My morning began with me wrapped in a blanket and sitting up on deck at dawn to watch the sun rise. I had at first been a little disappointed to learn that we were not going to Luxor at the beginning of the cruise, as I was eager to see Karnak again. But a cruise, if nothing else, teaches you patience. The guys sweeping the upper deck early in the morning must have thought I was a little strange and kept asking me if I was OK. Well, I was more than OK as I sat and watched the golden sunrise before me. It was very cold at this time of the morning – hence the blanket! Every now and then I could see men and women and children on the riverbanks beginning their daily tasks, moving their animals or riding donkey carts filled with produce destined for the nearest markets. The bird-life on the river was spectacular, the birds in glowing colours putting on a carnival show just for me.
After breakfast we set off from the dock in a coach to Edfu Temple. The figure of the pharaoh still had his hand raised to strike down his enemies on the front pylon and the huge granite falcons still graced the entrance. I clutched my notebook filled with things I wanted to look at in each place I visited and flicked through it to Edfu, ticking off each item as I made notes and took photographs. Our Egyptian guide, Michael, was very good and very knowledgeable. I soon discovered that he taught Egyptology in a university and this was just his ’vacation job’. The inside of Edfu Temple is not easy to photograph. At that time I was using an SLR with ‘real’ film so in the darker areas the results were not great. But I had particularly wanted to look at the ‘Feast of the Beautiful Meeting’, carved on the back of the first pylon. These reliefs depict the annual festival where Horus of Edfu, the falcon god of this temple, met with his consort Hathor, who is brought from Dendera for the occasion. I also sprinted up to the Mammisi, the colonnaded Graeco-Roman birth-house, constructed to honour the divine birth of Horus and where there were scenes of Horus and Hathor with their baby son Ihy. Unfortunately, being part of a tour group means that you don’t get a lot of time at each site, so before very long it was already time to leave. Oh well, another place I need to come back to.
When we arrived back on the boat, the engines began to rumble and very soon we were out on the river again heading towards Aswan. The journey by road from Luxor to Aswan takes three or four hours, but we had much more leisurely journey on the cruise. After an enormous buffet lunch (with pastries to die for) I sat on deck with some of the other passengers, who were all first-timers to Egypt. As they learned that I had done this trip before they were all full of questions for me. I soon had to enlighten them that I was no expert. Fortunately Michael joined the group and we spent a pleasant afternoon discussing many different topics.
With the fiery back-drop of another beautiful sunset to our left, we glided around the bend in the river and docked at Kom Ombo. I walked around the temple with Michael our guide, all the while ticking off items in my notebook. Thwarted again – the sun had set so conditions were not ideal for photography. The bazaar hadn’t changed and stall-holders still clamoured for our attention, but this time there was a line painted down the centre of the road and the men from each side were not supposed to cross the line to get to potential customers. I found this very amusing as they just shouted all the louder – ‘Welcome to Alska’ and a new one to me, ‘Come on down, the price is right!’.
I had made friends with a couple of ladies travelling together, Kim and Diane and as we had quite a lot of time in Kom Ombo, the three of us set off walking down the road through the green cultivated fields towards a village. Several men on donkeys passed by and waved a greeting as they slowly rode towards home at the end of their working day. Before long we had attracted a crowd of little boys from the village, each dressed in long galabeyas, who wanted to know where we were going (tourists didn’t usually venture this far away from the dock). As they became more boisterous and demanding we decided to turn back towards the boat. By this time it was really dark and the temple before us was now floodlit and looked glorious, standing proud on its promontory as we pulled away back into the river.