5 February 2014

SHORE EXCURSION: Temple of Horus

Edfu, Nile River, Egypt


Caretakers at the Temple of Horus,
Edfu, Egypt.
Photo: Cruise Captain
The caretakers in this photo were skulking in the shadows dressed in colour-coordinated long robes and turbans, as if playing bit parts in some period movie. I was immediately taken by their lined faces, full of character, and by the fact that slanting light was coming down from the ceiling and illuminating them like biblical figures. They sat on rickety wooden chairs and spent the time shouting “No flash! No flash!” at visitors, or alternatively, “Who flash? Who flash?” when a flash went off. They were guarding two exquisite small rooms inside the Temple of Horus covered in wall paintings depicting the pharaohs and gods. The colours are delicate and fading, though you can still see the washed-out greens and reds of 2,000 years ago. The caretakers didn’t seem to mind being photographed and, remarkably, didn’t even ask for baksheesh.
Temple of Horus, Edfu, Egypt.
Photo: Egyptian Tourist Authority
Edfu is a bustling little centre for sugar and pottery production on the banks of the Nile north of Luxor. It’s a stopover for river-cruise ships plying the Nile between Luxor and Aswan, and one that's a Captain Rivers favourite. As tourists disembark, touts go into overdrive, hawking mini obelisks and cats and masks of Tutankhamen. Calash drivers prod their horses into action: “Temple of Horus! Twenty pounds sir! Come, come!” and off you clip-clop.
Granite statue of the gold Horus,
Temple of Horus, Edfu, Egypt.
Photo: Cruise Captain
You approach the temple from the rear through a glut of T-shirt and postcard shops, buy a ticket from a little wooden shed if you have to (most cruise lines include them) and straggle across a dusty courtyard. Then the majesty of ancient Egypt takes over. The Temple of Horus is a vast project that occupied the reigns of six Ptolemies and was formally dedicated in 142 BC. The gateways are flanked by brooding statues of falcons in black granite (Horus is the bird-headed god of the sun). At the core of the complex, the Hypostyle Hall has soaring pillars ending in frothy representations of papyrus buds. If you visit, bring a torch to study the interior, because there are colourful reliefs and hieroglyphs everywhere. And don’t forget your camera, because sometimes the most ordinary encounters make the best of photos


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