We caught the
train from Luxor to Aswan this morning. After the most amazing
falafals for lunch, we drove out to Aswan dam, a
large dam 3.6km wide and 111m high, which was built to regulate the flow of the
Nile. It took ten years to complete, and was
finished with the help of the Soviets in 1971. We weren't allowed to take
photos of Aswan low dam (Saddam Hussein once said that if he wanted to destroy
Egypt he would just blow up Aswan dam, wiping out the 99% of the country that
live on the Nile), which was okay with me *shrugs* just a large wall.
The amazing thing about Aswan dam is that the
blockade of the Nile created the enormous Lake Nasser,
flooding many Pharonic Nubian sites. The Egyptian government and UNESCO spent
the ten years during the creation of the dam to relocate the ancient temples to
higher ground. We caught a ferry out to Philae
temple, which was one of those dismantled and reassembled stone by stone sixty
metres higher up the mountain. The temple is beautiful, and quite intact being
a young (Ptolemic dynesties) temple, which much added over Roman times
(including a small temple to Hadrian). The temple is dedicated to Isis who
found the heart of her slain brother Osiris on the island.
One of the interesting things that I learnt is that the original deciphering of
hieroglyphic text was not just done using the Rosetta stone, but also required
the Philae Obelisk (which like the Rosetta had multi-lingual inscriptions).
Many of the god figures carved in the walls had been defaced by Coptic Christians
who lived in the temple and converted it into a church, but luckily the place
was too large for them to damage much of it. As an additional reminder for the bizarre
things people do, a tourist group came in and had a group prayer / meditation -
not in the converted Coptic church, but in the old Egyptian offering room. Very
strange behaviour. Tamara later commented that at least having multiple gods
like the Egyptians made sense out of evil and wrong, as the will of gods
clashed, unlike "Our God". When I looked pained she said don't you
agree? and I had to explain that I don't claim a god for myself.