Sailing via dahabeya instead of a larger boat allows us to travel on our own schedule and visit sites at off times. Thanks to that, we were the only visitors at two of the sites we toured.
First was the temple of Kom Ombo which is dedicated to the local crocodile god, Sobek, and the falcon god Haroeris. It’s a rare double temple, with both gods depicted perfectly symmetrically on each side. Aside from the fascinating mythology, I just love the visual depiction of gods with human bodies and animal heads.
In addition to being wowed by the structure itself, this temple had a Nilometer, which was used to predict how high the flooding would be that year. Taxes were then adjusted (only upward, of course) based on the expected harvest and resulting profit. I’m continually amazed by the sophistication of ancient Egyptian engineering – and now by their financial acumen as well.
Every temple kept a live version of the animal represented in the temple and then mummified their remains when they died. So there were plenty of crocodile mummies in the adjacent museum.
The next day we visited Gebel Silsila, home to the quarries that supplied all of Egypt with the sandstone needed for building their massive monuments. The area also has a number of stelae (think of them as ancient billboards or sometimes tombstones) and a temple built by King Horemheb to honor seven gods.
This site isn’t on the standard tourist trail, so once again, we were the only people there. The highlight for me was walking through the quarries along the Nile and listening to the sound of the Nile reeds swaying in the wind. I love thinking that some quarryman was listening to the same sound 3,000 years ago.
The workers cut blocks from the sandstone in the size required for each project. They then slid them down the hill onto the boat that would ferry them to their destination. You can still see the holes that held the ropes used to gently slide the cut stones down the hill.
Stay tuned for more temples in our next post!