Friday, December 26, 2008

Egypt Day 6 – Abydos and Dendera

Six thirty start to Abydos along the banks of canals and the Nile, but no armed convoy this time. Abydos is one of the finest temples in Egypt with Seti I art that is one of the high spots in its entire history. We arrived by taxi to find we were the only two people there, so made the most of it by exploring every wall and image. The Ramses II work is the usual deep cut bombast, but once you enter the Hypostyle Hall, the Seti I art is sensitive and graceful. The wall of the pharos is an important stone document as it hels define the chronology of Egypts rulers. We managed to determine the order and decipher many of the cartouches. This was ancient Egypt’s Mecca – the place to which everyone wanted to take a pilgrimage. The whole area is thick with a carpet of ancient pottery. After emerging from the back of the temple and skirting the Osirion, we walked north to the Ramses 11 temple, which is literally chopped off at head height. What remains retains its colour and for that reason it is well worth visiting, although we had a security guard with an Uzi machine gun accompany us there and back.

Then off to Dendera, which  was similarly deserted, but the work here is much later and of inferior quality. Nevertheless, the images of Hathor, Cleopatra, the famous Zodiac Dial (original in the Louvre) and roof temples are unique in Egypt.

Drove through Dishna, famous in Egypt as a sort of Dodge City, full of gunmen and vendettas. On the whole this is agricultural country, but not by western standards. There’s a few tractors but many still travel by donkey and cart. Some houses are no more than mud hovels. Those living on the edge of the desert have it hardest, although when they tried to move the inhabitants of El Gourna, for centuries the home of tomb robbers, they resisted resettlement on richer agricultural land, as they were from arab stock, and preferred arid desert surroundings.

Our taxi driver was 31 and unmarried, as it cost around 200,000 LE to get married, 70,000 LE to get an apartment, gold, a cow and various other possessions, to attract a wife. An apartment here costs around 7-8000 LE. A flat bread or short service taxi ride costs 50 piastres. Average salaries in Luxor is around 400 LE a month.

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