Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Egypt- The land of Mysteries and history - Part 2

It was a 14 hours long train journey from Cairo to Aswan. In the morning, after reaching Aswan, we went for Aswan high dam and Philae Temple. The boat ride to the temple was the high point as we were completely exhausted and the Blue water of Nile was like a painting on a beautiful canvas.

Philae Temple-

The temple of Isis, built in second century, Philae temple was initially located in Philae Island which is underneath Lake Nasser presently. When the high dam was made, the whole area was flooded, and many temple and monuments were submerged beneath the water, including Philae Temple. It took 8 years to recover the parts of the temple and reassemble it.

We reached hotel and had to take some rest. However, next day, we're scheduled to visit Abu Simbel and for that we had to check out from the hotel at 3'o clock in the morning. A hectic and exciting day was ahead of us.

Abu Simbel-

I was most excited about Abu Simbel, while planning for the trip. That thrill of just being there, was exciting enough for me, and when the day arrive, even though we only had couple of hours sleep at night, I was high on adrenaline.

So, the guides would pick you up from certain pickup points at 3'o clock in the morning. Once you reach a checkpoint, all the cars wait there, and at 5'0 clock in the morning, the journey will begin from there, along with military convoys. The area is extremely close to Sudan border, and that is why all the security.

The journey is beautiful. The terrain is amazing. Barren and gorgeous desert of Sahara!

Abu Simbel has two temples, one of King Ramesis II and the other of his favorite wife Neferteri. Ramesis II built this temple after his victory over Hitties in the battle of Kadesh. Inside the large temple, various scenes from the battle is drawn in the walls. The temples were flooded and later it was removed from under the water the situated on a high ground. Sun rays enter directly to the inner chamber of the temple on 22nd February (the day of Ramesis II's coronation) and on 22nd October (his birthday).

If you are planning to visit Egypt, you must include Abu Simbel in your itinerary. It is one of the most breathtaking places there.

From there, our next destination was Luxor. It was a 5-hour long train journey. Luxor is beautiful. It wasn't as peaceful as Aswan, but definitely much less chaotic than Cairo. The hustle bustle of Luxor along with the old world cabs and cars, create a nice ambiance for the travelers.

Valley of Tombs:

You can enter 3 tombs with 1 ticket. After that you need to pay per tomb, if you want to visit the special tombs. 

The first tomb we chose was of Ramesis IV. It was colorful and we were amazed! Then 2 more tombs we visited and yes, we so wish, we could visit all 63 tombs there. 

Hatshepshut Temple

Our next destination was Hatshepshut (Haa- Chep- Shoot) temple. Hatshepshut was an intriguing character of that time. She was the daughter of Tutmojese II and after his death, Hatshepshut sent her half brother Tutmojese III away, and imprisoned him. Hatshepshut opted for false beard and declared herself the "King" (not queen). She had also claimed to be the daughter of Sun god 'Amun-Ra'. 

Before going back to hotel, we stopped to see the Colossi of Memnon. Twin statues of Amenhotep III are there, in a seated position and the stones were carried from Cairo (675km) to Luxor for that.

Next day, we visited Luxor and Karnak Temple. A lot of it is ruins, but whatever is still there is beyond amazing. Pure architectural brilliance, and I cannot stop thinking about how grand it used to be back in those times. Extravagant and overwhelming.

Karnak Temple was started during the Middle Kingdom and most of it was built in the New Kingdom. Amun-Ra was the god, and the innermost chamber belongs to him. The ceiling of that chamber still has some colors (the night sky pattern) intact. The obelisk of Tuthmojese III and Hatshepshut are there. Hatshepshut's obelisk was covered by the order of Tuthmojese III for a long time and because of the the inscription of it has remained almost intact. The outermost gate was made by Alexander and it has no inscription on it. The rest of the parts were built by various kings including Hatshepshut, Tuthmojese III and Ramesses II.

Luxor Temple was constructed to worship God Amun Ra, is wife goddess Mut and their son Khonsu.  Ramesses II, Tutankhamun and Amenhotep III had also built various parts of the temple. During the Roman era a church was constructed in a part of the main hall and the wall paintings of that time is pretty much vivid even now. This is may be the only temple/religious place I have seen where there's a mosque and a coptic area present inside.

Luxor has been an amazing experience to us. If we ever visit Egypt again, this place will get a lot of time from us, for sure. 

The trip was almost in its last leg, and our next pit stop was going to be in Cairo.

To be contd.....

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Egypt- The land of the mysteries and history

So, when did my love for Egypt start? Honestly, I have no answer to that. All I know is, ever since I can remember, I wanted to visit the pyramids, tombs and the mummies. It was there, on my bucket list, forever, till recently, when the dream became a reality.

When we finalized Egypt, just like always, many people talked about the safety, and we had to check a few things. The weather was another concern. However, to our surprise, both were pretty pleasant. We found the country (at least the places we visited) very peaceful and traveler friendly and the weather was extremely pleasant, at the end of April.

This is not really a travelogue. I wanted to share some of the happiest days of my life. Yes, I have been to other countries, but Egypt was magical. Hence, some bits and pieces from my trip.


I thought our flight was at night, turned out it was almost in the morning. I was sad of losing those few hours in a country that I was dying to step my foot in. I tried looking for the pyramids from the flight, but alas! They were not visible from there. The city seemed claustrophobic from the air and rightly so. After all, with 22 million people living in Cairo, it's full of hustle and bustle and in the wake of globalization, too many things are happening there. 

We got into the cab sent by the hotel. I started feeling restless, longing to see the pyramids, looking outside the window, when it started raining (good omen for me, always). After half an hour, the cab took a turn toward the ring road and I exclaimed, startling our cab river, "WHOAAA"... Yes, I could see the pyramids, with my own eyes, not on the travel blogs or in history books... I was in Egypt! Yes!! I was in Egypt!! The land of Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Tutankhamun! One  of my Dream destinations!

The first day we rested a bit and Marvel Palace Hotel, Giza really offered the best view of the Great Pyramids. Opt for Room no- 417, and you will get uninterrupted view of the 3 pyramids and The Sphinx. We watched the Light and Sound show from the window, while the cold breeze warmed our hearts.

Next day, we went to see the Step Pyramid in Saqqara.

The step pyramid was built by Imhotep, for Pharaoh Djoser. Apparently the Pharaoh wanted a higher burial ground and because of the tall boundary around the Saqqara Necropolis, multiple layers were added one by one and the end result was the Step Pyramid of Saqqara. There is very little remaining of the rest of the complex and the 42 pillars (21 represents lower Egypt, 21 Upper Egypt) are not in best shape but you can still feel the grandeur of this place.

After Saqqara it was time to see the The Pyramid of Snefru or the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur

The Pyramid of Snefru (Bent Pyramid)

The Bent Pyramid is actually the first pyramid that was planned to be a pyramid with smooth sides. However, the 45 meter high pyramid is not perfect as initially the slope was of 52 degree that changed to 45 degree after a point, hence "Bent Pyramid". This also marks the transition period of the pyramids in Egypt.

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur

Built by Khufu's father Snefru, the red pyramid has slightly smaller base than the Great Pyramid of Giza. This pyramid is also known as the perfect pyramid and the first capstone of "The Old Kingdom" was found here. The Red Pyramid is as grand as the Great Pyramid of Giza but unlike Giza pyramids, here we were the only people and we could enter the pyramids hassle free. However, to enter the pyramid we had to climb to a place that is located at the middle of it, and from there going down inside was quite a "steep" experience. It was the first time we entered inside a pyramid. The lack of oxygen and the certain eeriness in the complete silence was compelling.

I was pretty done with the experience of "inside the pyramid". Hence, in Giza, taking our guide's suggestion, we avoided entering into the pyramid and instead opted for camel ride in the the desert.

Camels are extremely well behaved animals, but the riding is not always very comfortable. However, it was an amazing experience to see and touch the Giza pyramids, while posing a bit here and there. The guides encourage a lot to pose for typical touristy pics and the place and its magic is something, that you wouldn't really mind.

The first phase of our staying at Giza came to an end that day, as we had a train to catch in the evening. Next stop- Aswan.

to be Contd in next post...