Friday, December 26, 2008

Egypt Day 4 – West Bank walk

Boat to the local ferry terminal then a walk up to the Colossi and a view of the recent excavations in Amenhotep IIIs mortuary temple. The colossi and the temple were regularly flooded, having been built too close to the Nile, then robbed to build Merenptah’s mortuary temple. These acts of destruction were common in Pharonic times.  Then to Merenptah’s mortuary temple, with its beautiful small museum. Not much remains of the superstructure, but the jackal sphinxes and coloured panels in the storage rooms are well worth the visit.

From there we walked to Medinet Habu, one of Egypt’s finest temples, with its Rameses III war scenes, all chopped hands and penises, to the numbers of prisoners on the south wall, along with the unusual hunting scenes. There are also numerous Coptic crosses to be seen from the period when the temple was a Coptic community and church. The colours on the roof, pillars and aisles are still strong.

A quick peek at the Temple of Amun, just 200 yards to the south of Medinet Habu, then a walk across the desert to St Tawdros, where we had to knock on the door to enter the monastery, with its 31 nuns, where Ken bought some honey as a donation. The church has beehive cells for the nuns, and a church with crude columns and vaults. The monastic tradition itself goes back to St Anthony in Egypt.

From the monastery we walked through Amenhotep’s palace to the mounds from the Berkut Habu, a huge harbour attached to the palace, 18 feet deep, used as a pleasure lake or for ceremonial purposes. Having spotted these mounds on Google earth, I found an excellent paper on the harbour, printed off the Google images, and used them for our walk. The children from the villages found these Google earth images fascinating, especially when they spotted their own houses. The adults seemed just puzzled. A walk back along the canal took us through the village back to the main road where we caught an alabaysha to the ferry.

Back to the hotel then out at 7 pm to see a lecture by Edwin Brook, who has been excavating around Karnak.  A new sewer has uncovered Akenaten’s temple and lots of other promising future discoveries. The Karnak complex is not delineated by the current Ptolmeic walls, it was a far more extensive complex. The lecture was rather short, and poor on context, but worth attending.

After the lecture, we had a meal at El Khahaby’s for John’s 50th birthday, then taxis home after midnight.

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