Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oso many temples . . .
Oso little time ~

Arriving in Luxor, the clip clop of horses hooves pulling carriages was but one of many steps back in time. Our hotel in Luxor was situated a block from the beautiful new Luxor museum and equidistant between the corniche (boulevard) along the Nile and the bustling main back road that led to the open market. Across the street from our hotel we enjoyed tea the proprietor of Farouk Papyrus as we perused his beautiful papyrus paintings.

As we walked the narrow dirt alley ways, home to the inner city residents of Luxor, we also saw sheep tethered to a post outside the front door of some the homes. The main roads were shared by horse-drawn carriages, carts pulled by donkeys, motorcycles and bicyclists. Young children played in the alleyways in front of their homes and walked the sidewalks quite freely.

I found Luxor a contrast in cultures each struggling for its "rightful" place. There are the splendid ancient sacred temple sites both on the East and West Banks and a sprawling 21st C. tourist culture imposing upon the long-standing agrarian village culture of this ancient city that may even predate pharonic times.

Bas-relief at Abydos ~ Seti I
making offering with incense
and menat 'necklace' (rattle)
With Luxor as our "base camp" we visited Abydos, the Osiris cult center built by Seti 1 approx. 1295-1279 BCE*. Abydos was regarded as the holiest of Egyptian towns in Pharonic times. 

The bas-reliefs at this site were simply awe-inspiring and no photo can ever convey the magnificence of seeing this ancient art in person. For example, not only is the art perfect in its execution and astonishing in its standing the test of time, but the renderings of loving scenes between pharaoh and goddess, goddess and child stir the soul. Furthermore, the ability to convey the pleated linen garments not to mention the transparency of the fabric in this style of carving baffles my imagination. 

The bas-reliefs also exquisitely rendered the offerings made at the temple ~ e.g., the alabaster perfume vials; baskets laden with grapes, pomegranate, celery, lettuce, and loaves of bread; a long handled implement depicted as a forearm with the hand holding an offering bowl with burning incense.

From Abydos we traveled back toward Luxor stopping at Dendera home to the Temple of Hathor. 

Temple of Hathor, Dendera
also referred to as 'The House of Sistrum'
Visiting this site was especially meaningful to me. I feel a connection to the goddess Hathor, goddess of love, music, dance, and fertility. It was wonderful to see the temple columns adorned with Hathor's beautiful face.


Little did I know how meaningful it would prove to be for me to see the processional of priestesses depicted on a chapel wall processing with sistrum.
Priestesses of Hathor in processional
each playing systrum (aka sistrum)

All too soon it seemed it was time to return home ... Thanks to the careful attention to details of our Windows of Egypt staff everything went exceeding well and every inch of the itinerary went without hitch on time and sa-moothly. Hamdul'Allah (Praise God)!

If I had to choose a favorite capsule of this excursion I would be hard pressed to choose between visiting the temples or...

the smiles and waves of the children as our convoy passed from town to town or ...

the nearly full moon night in the White Desert drumming and dancing with our Bedouin friends. Long will I remember the White Desert's magical lunar-like iridescent landscape and the smiles shared at the fireside.

I had many wonderful experiences; my dear friends and I shared many treasured moments and personal revelations. The most magical ones I hold secret so that when Egypt beckons you, you will be equally surprised and delighted, but I will tell you this:
Professor Shata shared with us a popular Egyptian idiom:

 "We do not ask how old you are;
 rather how young is your heart." 

 He also pointed out that depictions of a deity leading the ruler underscored the ancient admonition of "hand follows heart" ~ i.e., stepping forth with the left foot, the left (heart) side leading. 

I close with an inscription from a statue of Satepihu discovered in his tomb at Abydos:

"Your heart will guide you,
and your limbs will obey you."

May your heart lead you when Egypt beckons!


(1) Hatshepsut exhibit catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 2005