When the Aswan Dams were built, the natural flow of the Nile was altered, and a number of floodgates were built. In order to travel south towards Aswan, we had to cross one of those floodgates, the Floodgate at Esna. I was up watching sunrise when we started moving – as we were in line for a very long time in order to do so, our itinerary had to be altered – as we only crossed the dam at 7:40 instead, and would not have made it to our second stop before it closed. So instead of seeing the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris / Horus, we would stop at Esna. This was truly off-schedule, as we actually witnessed the guide purchasing the tickets on spot, while he usually had them ready beforehand. I do think, however, this was a good change.
We made port at Esna [إسنا], at a quay within walking distance of the Temple of Khnum [معبد إسنا], the ram-headed god who created life. This temple was started by Ptolemy VI Philometor (2nd century BCE, Ptolemaic or Graeco-Roman period). Today, only the first hall has been excavated, as most of the temple is buried under the sand – and the houses! In order to access the vestibule, you have to climb down stairs into a nine-metre pitch. As the temple was buried in sand for centuries, it has kept its polychromy, and the columns are richly decorated. It was a beautiful temple, but it seems that unearthing the rest is going to be hard, if not impossible (though they managed to relocate everyone who lived on top of the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, so who knows?)
We went back on board and continued off until Edfu [إدفو ], where we visited the most completely preserved Egyptian temple ever – the Temple of Horus [معبد إدفو] (3rd century BCE, Ptolemaic or Graeco-Roman period). It was one of the most impressive sights I’d ever seen (and there were more to come anyway). Horus, the god with the falcon head, was the son of Isis (primordial goddess of Magic and protecting mother) and Osiris (God of Death, fertility and resurrection). Osiris was betrayed by his brother Seth (god of chaos and confusion), killed and dismembered, with his body parts spread throughout Egypt. Horus avenged him and became the ruling god, with the Pharaoh being his representative on earth, giving Pharaohs a direct connection as figurative “children of the gods”.
The temple was also buried by sand, and that is how it has survived relatively intact, with all the outer walls surrounding the main temple structure. The pylon gates are flanked by falcon statues, and the columns still keep their colouring. We got to see a reproduction of the wooden boat that was used to bring the god out in procession, the original is in Paris’ Louvre museum these days. Here I found a “secret passage” to the side which was really cool to explore (albeit not really secret, just empty of other tourists (≧▽≦).)
After we were back on board, we were summoned to the sun deck to ‘discuss’ the following day/s, and offered some extra outings. We tried to negotiate an outing to see the light show at Giza, but the tour guide refused to organise it (turns out, we would not have the time, but he did not want to tell us that for some weird reason); I also tried to arrange a morning trip for myself on the 2nd, unsuccessfully (more on that later). Instead, he sold us a trip to a Nubian village, sailing through the Nile nature reserve, and a night walk through Cairo with dinner. Oh, and informed us that wake-up call for Abu-Simbel the following day was… 2:00.