Thursday, December 23, 2010

An adventure to the Middle East ( Part 9 ) The Aswan Dam and The temple of Isis at Philae

Today we will visit the Aswan Dam. This dam generates a large portion of Egypt's electricity but it also allows the control of the flow of  water in the Nile.

Lake Nasser was at the other side. It was created with the construction of the dam and it is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

Next stop.... the Temple of Isis at Philae

.... I saw this arab praying while we were about to board the boat.

We had to take a motorboat to Philae island. The ride across the island of Agilika was very pleasant. We were seated on cushions around the small boat which accommodated all of us...

Once you get on the island, you will see the well-preserved ruins which are the Pavilion of Nectanebo II dedicated to Hathor and Trajan's Pavilion which was rebuilt by the emperor Trajan. The buildings are of an interesting mix of Egyptian history, Greco Roman architecture style. We followed Randa around the island where more details were given on the temple. We were given some time to freely wander around the island.

The temple of Isis sits on an island in the artificial lake between the old dam and Lake Nasser. This temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis, the mother of Horus, who was said to watch over the sacred island of Biga where Osiris was buried. Goddess Isis was very important to the ancient Egyptians as she was associated with funeral rites.

This temple at Philae was nearly lost under water when the Aswan dam was built in the 1960's. After the creation of Lake Nasser, the temple of Isis was moved to Agilika Island. The temple gradually emerges into view as you approach it on a short boat ride. It is not as huge as the other temples but there is still plenty to see.

The Hypostle Hall consists of ten huge pillars. Once beautifully painted, these pillars symbolizes the first plants, trees and flowers of the earth.

A green dimmed light inside the sanctuary adds an eerie mood but it also enhanced the details of the reliefs on the wall.

The small antechambers lead to the sanctuary which is lit by two small windows.

We wandered through the beautiful limestone walls covered from top to bottom in hieroglyphics. They depicted legends of Isis and her son Horus. While many of the walls are fully intact some figures of the god and goddesses had been chipped off by Christians when they used the temple for worship. In some places they had chiseled in crosses to make it more Christian.

We also saw the altar in the Temple of Isis.

Another MUST SEE when you are in Egypt...

On the way back to our boat for the last night of our  Nile cruise before we fly back to Cairo... we went on a fellucca ride on the Nile River. The felucca boats are small, open wooden boats with a large triangular sail.

They are the traditional sailboats of Egypt. They are perfect for catching the breeze on a hot summer night. It  has remained over the centuries as the primary transportation in Egypt.

The felucca rarely has any form of engine. It relies entirely on the breeze which builds up during the day and the current of the Nile River.

To the people of Egypt, the Nile is everything. They drink it, wash in it, cook in it, fish in it..... Two of my fellow travelers in the group, Kerr and Big Mike, even jumped into the water while we were on our felucca least they can say that they had swam in the Nile.

You should try to take this felucca ride around 4:30pm to enjoy a perfect sunset. I was lucky enough to witness flocks of kingfishers flying around in formations. You should put this in your MUST DO list as the experience is much more authentic in Aswan than the polluted and crowded waterways in Cairo.

It was absolutely lovely...... watching all the other feluccas on the Nile while the sun began to set..... simply beautiful!!!!!!!! It is certainly the most relaxing way to see the Nile. Something in the motion and the fact that there is no motor, no nasty diesel smell. When we zig zagged across the Nile, the felucca just lets the wind take us. It is exhilarating and the most liberating feeling. With the cool breeze against my face, this is what it means to have a HOLIDAY!!!!!!!!

We will be heading back to Cairo tomorrow for an overnight stay at the Ramses Hilton. Goodnight Habibis!!! Pyramids here we come!!!!!!


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