1998 Mystery of History – Day 12

Philae to Aswan – Isis, islands & feluccas

 ▲ ▲ ▲Wednesday – another early start, another wonderful breakfast. Blue skies await and today we tour the Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae.  Kylie is a bit better but still a bit sore so she has commandeered my big white cotton shirt that I bought in Athens. I think she has her eye on it so I will have to keep my eye on her!

We get a small bus from our boat to another wharf where we get on board a small motor launch which takes us across Lake Nasser to the Temple which is on an island in the Nile.

It is wonderful to be near the water all the time, the Nile is so blue, the breeze refreshing and after a short cruise we arrive at the island. It looks fabulous.

HISTORY LESSON: This temple is one of the three best preserved Ptolemaic temples. (Edfu and Dendera being the other two). It is dedicated to the goddess Isis.

During the construction of the old dam in 1904 the temple found itself under water for most of the time. After the big dam at Aswan was built, it became necessary, in order to save the temple, to dismantle it and rebuild it on the island of Egilika 150 metres to the north.

What we refer to today as Philae is the main temple complex relocated from that island to the island of Agilika. It was the center of the cult of the goddess Isis and her connection with Osiris, Horus and the Kingship, during the Ptolemaic period Egyptian history.

0318 PhilaeMohamed does his usual very informative talk – and then we can enjoy a nice leisurely stroll around the temple and surprise – take lots of photos – now up to roll number 15.

The carvings on the pylons are fabulous and it is incredible to think that all of this was on another island and then moved to this one. I am glad that it was not left to be covered by the waters of the dam, it would have been such a great loss.

PhilaeThe largest and most important temple on Philae is the great Temple of Isis, which is oriented south to north. It was entered on the south through the Hall of Nectanebo.

The Hall of Nectanebo (380-363BC) leads into the large Outer Court, which dates from the end of the Ptolemaic period or the reign of Augustus. It is enclosed by a wall known as the first pylon on the north and colonnades on the east and west sides. Here can also be seen a section of the solid embankment wall that apparently enclosed the main part of the island and was interrupted at several points by steps leading down to the water.  Note the bell shaped Hathor columns.

Another photo of the Pavillion (or Kiosk) of Trajan. As its name implies it dates from the Roman Imperial period but was left unfinished. It is also called ‘the Pharoah’s bed’.

The first pylon is 45.5m wide and 18m high. It consists of two towers and a central doorway, decorated with reliefs by Nectanebo.

On the front of the east tower is a huge figure of Ptolemy XII grasping a band of enemies by the hair and raising his club to smite them, with Isis, the falcon headed Horus of Edfu and Hathor on the left.

Above are two reliefs of Ptole

my XII presenting the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt to Horus and Nephthys (right) and offering incense to Isis and Harpocrates (left). There are similar reliefs on the west tower; at the foot are demotic and Greek inscriptions.

After Philae we visit the mighty Aswan Dam with views over Lake Nasser.

Sitting on the top of the dam we can look out and wonder just how much of ancient Egypt was lost when this dam was constructed.  We are so lucky to see some of the temples and monuments that were saved and we are really looking forward to the temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel – even though they are not where they were originally built – they will still hold amazement for all of us I am sure.

On the road across the dam there is a gate  that looks like it is right out of Stargate.  Considering this series had snippets from ancient Egypt – it seems only appropriate.

On the way back to the boat we visit Ani papyrus (another  tourist trap) nd I am caught again. I buy a small papyrus for LE 35.00.

Back to the boat for lunch and a bit of a relax before setting off again – this time for an afternoon sail in a felucca around Elephantine and Kitchener Islands.

Here’s Kylie (in my shirt again!) and me – this photo was taken by the dreaded Britannica – so she came in useful sometimes.

It is wonderful to look around and see all the feluccas – just like in the books.

Unfortunately it is very hot and still – no breeze at all – so our rower has to put in a bit of manual labour to get the boat sailing along for a while and what an effort that is.

Nevertheless sailing on the Nile in our felucca is lovely even if we don’t get to hear the snap of the sails in the wind.

This island was given to Lord Kitchener (hence the name Kitchener Island) for his services in the Sudan campaign.  He transformed the island into a paradise of exotic trees and plants and carefully planned walkways. The entire island now constitutes a botanical garden and can only be reached by boat. A wonderful oasis in an otherwise desolate landscape.

We get lots of Nubian kids coming along side and they are singing ‘Frere Jacque’. The little boats they are in do not look safe to me as they bob around all over the place but – they sail in them all the time.  Mohamed says that they do not go to school in the afternoon because it is so hot!

We head back to our boat and I am lucky enough to be able to get some good photos of our ‘Giselle’.

Usually there have been other boats in the way – but today she sits on the Nile all by herself so I start snapping away.

After our felucca cruise we explore the market in Aswan and I buy some statues of Horus, Sekhmet, and Anubis. I also get some musk and sandalwood incense.

Back on board our boat – time to relax and after dinner there is to be on board entertainment. There is going to be a belly dancer, and no, it is not me!  I have ordered a gold cartouche with my name on it from the jewellery store on the boat and it is ready so I shall be able to wear it tonight.  We have our usual sumptuous dinner and get ready to watch the show. The belly dancer looks all of 16. She was OK I suppose but not really graceful.


There were also two guys dressed up as a camel – now that was funny. They kept going up to all the ladies and kissing them.

They never came near us – which was a good thing let me tell you. And I could tell Kylie was pleased with that as well.

There was also a male dancer called a whirling dervish. He had lots of big flowing skirts and did nothing but spin and spin and spin, makes me dizzy just to think about it. Apparently there are not many dervishes left and he was fabulous.

Highlight of the day : Sailing on the Nile in a felucca.

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