September 27th-29th 2000:
Five hundred years after the golden era of pharonic building, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Alexander soon died. The general Ptolemy quickly established his own family line as the new pharaohs of Egypt. They adopted Egyptian customs and began a program of building temples in faithful pharonic style.
They are wonderful to visit: like Roman copies of Greek statues, these temples are in much better condition than the originals from which they were copied.
It's hot in Aswan, and here in the Temple of Philae we suck on our Camelbacks to stay hydrated.
Ba, the God of Music. His Sacred Attribute was a rockin' set of earphones.
Philae's temple walls were hit especially hard by zealous early Christians. Here one can see the Coptic Cross on Isis' abdomen.
Not to be outdone, the Muslims came along later and put their own symbols on her thigh.
Aswan today feels like the last outpost of a great Empire.
The Old Cataract Hotel is fit to welcome any Pasha or King.
While at the souq they could find whatever their harem desired.
The Aswan souq (market) was the most fun and characterful of all the souqs on the Nile.
Kathleen tries on a galabiyya.
It is from Aswan that one travels to Abu Simbel.
Built by Ramses II to inform those entering Egypt from the south of the might and power of Pharaoh, this monument once stood next to the flowing Nile.
But the Nile shifted, Egypt shrank and desert sands flowed in. Over millennia this temple was lost to human knowledge. Rediscovered in 1813, only the leftmost head and the tip of a crown were visible.
British archaeologists excavated at the dawn of the twentieth century and revealed an archeological treasure. With the coming of the High Dam at Aswan, this entire monument was cut into blocks and moved away from Lake Nasser's rising waters.
Ramses dedicated the smaller sister Temple of Hathor to his wife Nefertari.
Inside is a rare depiction of Pharaoh giving mercy to captives -- at the request of Ramses wife.
Ramses temple is aligned so that on the 22nd of February and 22nd of October (Ramses coronation and birth days) the sun's rays shine down the Hypostyle Hall and illuminate these seated gods.
Ra is rightmost, followed by Ramses II as a god, then Amun. The leftmost god is Ptah, God of Darkness.
His statue is never touched by the sun's rays.
Back in Aswan we visited the quarry of the pharaohs. Aswan is practically made of granite, and Pharaoh's appetite for this hard stone created a hard life for those who had to supply it. For a thousand years during and after the Great Pyramids, the Egyptians didn't possess metal tools hard enough to cut granite. Instead they used stone ponders made of diorite about the size of a man's skull. What surrounds this giant obelisk behind Henry is a channel just wide enough to support a gang of men wielding their stone beaters. An hour's pounding can cut down a postage stamp sized area of granite about an eight of an inch (2 mm). We can only imagine the man-years of work that went into getting this, the largest block of stone ever worked, to the point where they were ready to hammer in wedges and break it free of the earth.
That was when they discovered a crack in the granite.
They had to walk away and leave it: The Unfinished Obelisk.
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