Team VA's Wonderings

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ferry cross the Nile

Day 76 Luxor Temple
I have not read any Agatha Christie for something like 20 years. Obviously I bought Death on the Nile for my location; amusingly there’s an advert in it for the next Poirot, which is set in Petra, so I guess I’ll be getting that too. Have to say she’s a better writer then I remembered/expected, though I guess to sell that many books you need something (over a billion in English and the same again in other languages-I think JK Rowling has a way to go). There’s some recognisable sides of Egypt in it too:

‘If there were only any peace in Egypt, I should like it better,’ said Mrs. Allerton. ‘But you can never be alone anywhere. Someone is always pestering you for money, or offering you donkeys, or beads, or expeditions to native villages, or duck shooting.’

Well, I haven’t been offered duck shooting. Yet.

The plan for today was to go across the river to Luxor Temple, have lunch, come back and have a snooze, post the blog and then go for a late afternoon mosey round the museum, before meeting Norbert (and whoever is now keeping him company) for dinner. In the end the blog was very long, so the museum got put back-I have plenty of time left in Luxor.

Luxor temple was mostly built by Amenhotep III, although the colossal statues of Ramses II do a pretty good job of stealing the credit. I can half imahgine having dinner with Ramses II, I think there would be only one topic of conversation-Ramses II. He’s at it again here with the statues accompanied by a massive pylon (kind of like a castle gateway) covered in his heroic deeds-I recognised the chariot and firing of arrows from Abu and the Ramasseum. The common theme to these heroic deeds does seem to be Ramses in chariot driving over his enemies while firing arrows at people on foot, who are running away from him. Now maybe I’ve seen too many Die Hard movies, but I’m not so sure that’s so very heroic. It smacks of clearing up after the real fighting’s over and then bragging in the bar afterwards. In the museum there’s a mummy of another great fighting Pharoah, and the caption expresses some surprise that he is small and arthritic, given the tales of his heroic deeds: call me cynical (go on, I dare you), but it strikes me that if you’re footing the bills for huge temples and friezes, you’re probably gonna want to look like you’re in the action, not cheering from the sidelines while some Achilles figure actually does the fighting. I think some of the academics need to consider that the Pharoahs might just have been full of shit.

The temple is 3km from Karnak and the two were originally linked by an avenue of sphinxes. A fair bit remains both exiting Karnak and entering Luxor Temple.

The format is fairly familiar by now: big boastful entrance, Ramses, big hypostyle hall, Ramses, obelisks and Ramses. Here’s Ramses’ leg and a fan

Now I wouldn’t say Ramses was on roids, but he’s certainly been to the gym for this one

To try and convey the ludicrous level of artistry, here’s a little detail from one obelisk.

There was one big surprise in here (don’t get me wrong this place is beautiful and impressive, but it’s getting a bit much)

This is a Roman era Christian fresco towards the back of the complex. It is more beautiful than it looks and, for my money, I think they should give serious consideration to moving it somewhere they can control the climate. This is essentially outdoors.

Later we had some dinner, a few drinks and there were some fezs lying about, so this happened.

Day 77 Luxor Museum
Today I was meant to be going to Abydos and Dendara. The plan was always to do a day trip from Luxor for this. Well my hotel was unsurprisingly no help at all. I must have visited at least 6 places that said they did a trip to Dendara and Abydos, but none of them had anyone going at any point in time, so they weren’t actually running it. I negotiated a taxi to do it the other day, but when it became clear he didn’t know we’d have to go in police convoy (and therefore didn’t know when we needed to start), I dumped that idea. Today is going to be different though. I had a long chat with a few taxis and have agreed a price with a guy that includes both temples and back to Luxor in the police convoy and NO SHOPS. I’m meeting him at the ferry on the East Bank at 7.30. As the ferry made its way over, I watched the hot air balloons floating over Luxor.

It certainly looks a nicer way to travel than the ubiquitous cruise ships.

I feel a lot of people must expect something tranquil and exclusive and be somewhat disappointed.

Well today would have been different had my taxi man showed up: I believe the price we agreed was half the average monthly wage, so even with fuel and all, it should have been worthwhile. Still I had a feeling he’d no show.. I thought Dendara and Abydos sounded well worth a visit, but it seems no one else is going, so maybe I’m not missing much. It certainly wasn’t meant to be. The museum opened at 9, breakfast places at 10, so I sat and read my book for an hour.

Luxor museum doesn’t really feel like Egypt. First up there is film (the first time there’s been anything like that: it is a joint production of the National Geographic channel and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (you just know they’re bureaucrats wasting oxygen). Omar Sharif does the voiceover in a curious accent. It’s reasonably well done and gives you a feel for the museum’s collection, as well as setting it in some historical context-hallelujah.

The museum itself is well lit (as in it enables you to see the exhibits) and the exhibits have labels and explanations. There’s even some big screens showing the making of pots, bricks and papyrus. Interestingly, although nowhere near as big, it costs 40% more than the Egyptian museum in Cairo. And there are some really good pieces. This is actually a proper museum.

Right at the start there’s the head from a colossus of Amenhotep III: I’m struggling to imagine how big it must have been as the head is the same height as me, though much bigger than me overall. The quality of the sculpting is again extraordinary, reinforcing what was lost until the Renaissance: this is best demonstrated in a simply wonderful sculpture of Tuthmosis III, which is as good as anything I can remember seeing. It is made from a black stone called Greywacke that I’ve never heard of, but I wish Michelangelo had used once or twice. (No photos allowed in here).

In the Egyptian Museum I chose not to go and see the mummies: I’ve seen the ghoulish reactions of people in the British Museum and I have very ambivalent feeling about it. Just when is it OK to dig up bodies and put them on show? How long do you wait before it’s no longer grave robbing? I hesitated and went for a quick look. I still can’t really see the justification aside from on a commercial basis-mummies seem to be a big draw, they’re more expensive than the rest of the Egyptian museum. There’s one here they think is Ramses I, when that was discovered the museum in Atlanta gave it back. They’d recently paid 2 million dollars for it.

The Egyptian idea of eternal life and mummification and burying people with things they’d need in the afterlife means there are some interesting items in tombs. On display here was some of the furniture and sandals in King Tut’s tomb. It seems that the afterlife was going to be quite hard on shoes.

Reading the captions you realise just how much they are still finding, some of stunning-there’s a whole room full statues, found in a cache less than 10 years ago. Makes you wonder what’s still out there.

Day 78 Luxor Airport
Yeah this really has been an airport day. Pack, check out, have something to eat, hang out, read, blog. Flight’s not till 21.40, but the need to forward plan and book ahead has meant I’ve had at least 1, if not 2, too many days in Luxor, so I’m not doing much today. This is the longest I have been without flying since before Benicasim in July 2006. I am going to have buy some more trees when I get home. And one week tomorrow, I fly back to England.


  • It's all very interesting, but I don't really think it's ever alright to dig people up and put them on display for money... apart from anything else, it's a gross violation of their beliefs. I was amused / appalled by the high horse that the King Tut exhibition seemed to climb on about grave robbers, when here we were, staring at exhibits from an Eygptian tomb on display in Vienna. Having said that, investigating the tombs is just about one thing, it's something else entirely to unwrap these things and then put the mummified bodies on display. As I recall, the pope has a few of those on display in the Vatican, which will probably be of no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the Catholic church. Imagine the outrage if someone dug up a pope and put them on display.


    Wasn't Rameses II the one who features a lot in the Bible? Was that Moses' mate? Israelites in bondage and all that?


    By Blogger swisslet, at 9:31 PM  

  • John

    aloha from Hawaii
    enjoy reading your wonderings and miss ours.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:33 AM  

  • *looks again at the photos 3 years later*

    Hmmm. I see.

    By Blogger swisslet, at 9:12 PM  

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