Philae temple

Aswan Travel Blog

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We arrived in Aswan around early morning and dropped our stuff off at the hotel. We went for a walk around the streets to get breakfast. We tried an Egyptian dish called koshery, which is rice, pasta, fried onion, lentils, and maybe other stuff. It was only around $1 for a huge bowl of it and it was pretty good.

Next off we headed in a van not far out of Aswan to the temple Philae. We drove over the High Dam that blocks off the River Nile to create Lake Nasser and got to a spot where we took a small boat around some rocky formations called cataracts to the island where Philae is on. The temple was originally located about 500m away from it's current spot, but flooding from the dam built in the 1960s inspired UNESCO to do the incredible undertaking of deconstructing the original temple and reconstructing it as exactly as possible to how it was, but on higher ground. The view from the water on to the temple felt like something out of a movie - a huge Egyptian temple sitting up high with water and reeds surrounding it.

We docked the boat and got out to see Philae up close. I really hadn't read much about Egypt before coming so to see a major temple for the first time blew me away. There are absolutely enormous walls with huge carvings of Egyptian kings and gods, and hieroglyphics everywhere. Compared to the ruins I saw in South and Central America these are elaborate on a whole other level, and they are much much older. Wael took us around the temple and explained the history of it and we did a mock play where we were cast as Egyptian gods and went through some of the story of Osiris, Isis, Horus and others. I was Set, the god of evil. We only got half of the story - the rest was to come in Edfu temple.

One striking thing about Philae was the graffiti left by visitors I suppose before it became taboo to deface ancient monuments. A marking of the word 'CAESAR' is supposedly from a visit by Julius Caesar, and there was a big piece of text left by Napoleon. Many of them were just Western explorers who had made the difficult journey in the early to late 1800s. Personally I think by that time in civilisation that they should have known better than to vandalise grandiose artifacts of history to show off their inflated egos. Another easily noticed mark on the original temple was that many of the figures engraved in the walls have been chiselled out by a group of Christians who had previously used the temple as a sanctuary. Sometimes it was just their face but sometimes it was their whole body. Unfortunately the same patterns of vandalism are repeated in other temples in Egypt.

After Wael took us around the whole complex we had some time to look around for ourselves and then we met up and took the boat back to Aswan. We had a cheap group dinner and then had an early night because we were getting up at 3am the next day to go to Abu Simbel temple.
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photo by: Vikram