Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Luxor 2

Like I said before, we found ourselves back in Luxor, though after our previous experience there, not too thrilled about it. It didn't really change either as we continued to suffer harrassment every time we left the hotel. Fortunately we found a nicer place to stay and were able to relax a little. The reason we stayed in Luxor at all was because it is the best place to base yourself for seeing two other rarely visited but very nice temples a little farther north.
The first temple is Dendara, another "newer" temple and dedicated to the Godess Hathor. Because anywhere north of Luxor is considered middle Egypt, and all of middle Egypt is considered "unsafe" for tourists, therefore requiring convoys, escorts and lots of police harrassment, the majority of package tourists don't include the area and most backpackers couldn't be bothered. Fortunately for us, we have Rhiis and he's been everywhere. It's so nice to go somewhere without the package tourists crowding us out and an empty Dendara is without a doubt the nicest temple in Egypt now. It is one of the largest and most intact, still retaining it's roofing and covered with reliefs. With nobody there you can walk around the dark rooms and up the winding staircases poking around with the beams of natural light coming through small squares in the high ceiling. Lots of atmosphere and character. Organized tours that do come out all arrive at the same time and stay for only an hour but we stayed for about 5 1/2. Ok, we didn't need to be there that long but with the filming we've been doing lately we decided that the best way to show you what it's like was to make a little horror movie. We're just finishing it up now but it was fun to do over there. Nothing like having a real setting to play in.
The second temple, about 2 1/2 hrs north of Luxor, is Abydos. It is the death cult temple of Osiris. He is one of the most important Gods in the old system and was killed by his brother, etc, etc and it is said that his body was buried there. The temple has been around for 3300 years but the site has been holy for a lot longer than that. It was important to the ancient Egyptians as the site that all aspired to make a pilgrimmage to once in their lives, much like Mecca or Varanasi today. It is also said that the temple is a little haunted and that sounds can be heard at night. I don't know about that but it is a pain to get to with all the police following you around and asking a million questions. We were also there filming for another 5 1/2 hours and like Dendara it is full of atmosphere and has the roof intact. Again lots of fun when the guards weren't yelling at us :) From there we stayed a couple days resting in Luxor before coming back.
As for the architectural style, there isn't a whole lot of difference to a tourist. The Ptolemies (the Greek rulers) tried to copy the old style exactly to enhance their legitimacy to the throne of Egypt. There is no real old style vs new style as much as there was a gradual change or differences between different eras before that as well. We are talking about thousands of years even before the Greeks came and capitals in different places, different Gods gaining prominence, etc. Just talking about who was the most important God is difficult because it depends on the period. Amun Ra was later, and is somewhat different from the Osiris, Seth, Isis group. As it was, the Greeks and, later, Christians just adopted whatever was popular and made converted it into their own theology. The religions get so muddled up when you look at them this far back. The Cross, Virgin Mary, the Greek Gods all came from the ancient Egyptians. Even one of the Psalms of Solomon in the old testament is almost an exact word for word translation of a song the ancient Egyptians used 500 years earlier!
There are some technical differences regarding the style of reliefs, robustness of the figures and the like. In general there just seems to be more work done on the reliefs and figures carved out though some of the work by Ramses II, over 1000 years earlier at a very proserous time, is also amazing. Most of the earliest stuff, including the pyramids are very plain and usually have nothing on the inside. They are slowly restoring many of the temples, repainting and that sort of thing so I don't know how much that affects the overall look either.
As a side note, I've been saying ancient Egyptians as opposed to just Egyptians. The people are quite different and the ancient Egyptians were not Arabs as the modern ones are. The ancient ones were very different and Ramses II, arguably the most important or powerful of the Pharoahs actually had fair skin and curly red hair. He is more related to the Berbers (another group in North Africa) than the Arabs.


At 3:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ammon,
I stand in awe of your knowledge base concerning the Gods, theology and differences. That was AWSOME to read. Thank you for taking the time.
Are you guys planning on the west or east coast of africa for your decent to Johannesburg? Might I relay advice from someone who just got back...? Go down the east. The person in question had their trip abotrted because of regional instability. They travell all the time ( work to make money so they can go back out....wait sounds like you) anyways I was talking about you guys to her and she forwards the warning. She wasn't on a tour, but out doing her thing with her boyfriend, and said it was pretty intense and a bit disturbing. Anyways, you guys know more about travelling than me, so I know you'll decide but thought to pass it on.
So Ammon, of all the temples you have seen which is your favorite style? What is it that appeals? Simplicity vs complexity, colour, atmosphere, let me know. I would love to hear what the others think also.
Please give your Mom a hug for me, and slug your Dad in the shoulder for me too.
I can't believe how much different Bre and Savannah look now from before. Enjoy it all.

Love and Bear Hugs
The Bear


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