Back On The Bus

Our five-night stay on the dahabeya Aida has ended, a sad moment for all in our traveling party as life on board was wonderful. Meals prepared by the Aida’s chef were fresh and delicious, though maybe too sumptuous. The entire journey from Jordan to Egypt was an overdose of food, most of it very good. I know I have no intention of stepping on a scale anytime soon.

Relaxing on deck.

The periods when we were getting pulled down the Nile on the dahabeya were the epitome of tranquility. It was hard to leave and as I write this we are back on the bus heading for our final tours of the trip: the temples at Luxor and later the Valley of the Kings. I have no doubt those visits will be as amazing as were our earlier encounters with ancient Egypt.

Sunrises were consistently beautiful.

I should note that our time on the Nile was unlike the typical ocean or river cruise. It was very intimate, with the only passengers being the 15 members of our tour group and our tour leader Mona. Also different was that any actual cruising took place during the daylight hours. The boat was moored each evening for dinner and as we slept overnight.

Getting ready for our dinner on the beach.

One night the crew set up dinner on the beach, which by happenstance coincided with the birthday of one of our fellow travelers. It became a party with traditional Egyptian music performed by the crew, and it devolved into some line dancing — in other words, your basic wedding.

Our final day of touring off the boat was limited to a visit to a village which was led by a local woman who works part time for our tour operator. It was another chance to interact with local people.

Later we walked to a temple in the city of Esna that was built during the rule of the Ptolemaic kings. The Ptolemys were Greeks that ruled Egypt from roughly the third century BC to the early First Century AD following Egypt’s conquest by Alexander the Great. Their rule ended early in the first century AD when Egypt became a Roman province. Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemys.

A portion of the ceiling of the Esna temple. The column on the left has yet to be cleaned.

Esna was an important stop on the ancient camel caravan route from the Red Sea. All ancient temples in Egypt feature hieroglyphs and other imagery, but what is now missing from most is that they were also painted. The Temple of Khnum is notable because it is one place where the beauty and breadth of the artwork can be viewed. It is also well below the current street level. The painted ceiling and columns have been revealed by an extensive cleaning of centuries of accumulated dirt and soot by a team from Germany. As the photographs make clear, Michelangelo was not the first guy to paint a ceiling. These were done over 2,000 years ago.

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