Aswan and Philae Temple

Aswan Travel Blog

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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.

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photo by: Vikram