Edfu is a fairly small town on the river bank and is known for a temple there with a unique feature. It was built, not during the reign of any pharaoh, but during the Greek and Roman eras.
As a touristic treat we were transported to the temple by horse carriage. It was a very entertaining ride, with the driver directing the horse into the oncoming traffic, but this seemed to be universally accepted, so who am I to complain?! Interestingly enough, I saw a kind of shaded parking lot … for horses. Very interesting idea and quite humane.
Though the temple was built in the ancient Egyptian tradition, of a public courtyard, with columns running through, then the facade of the temple eventually leading to the holy of holies, yet it was unique in certain aspects.
The Greeks and Romans did not believe in the deities worshiped by the ancient Egyptians, so their attention to detail was not of the best. Here is a picture showing that the third figure which is mirrored on the other side of the temple, is not properly aligned with the rest of the figures.
This temple is also interesting because of the different capitals to columns which were depicted in different forms. With the ancient Egyptians there were only two forms of capitals, either an open lotus or a closed one. This temple shows the Greeks and Romans adding a great deal of variety to the capitals by adding different shapes like palms for example, or even in some cases, faces.
Here the falcon god Horus stands guard at the entrance and when you go deep inside the temple, in the holy of holies, you find a small boat right there at the alter. This was made of gold, but the original was given as a present by I think, Mohammed Ali, though an exact replica, but not in gold, was made and placed there.
This temple, as so many others, was used by Christians, during the Roman reign, as refuge. The Christians of that period did not like the idea of a god other than their own, so they systematically desecrated the temples by chiseling out the features depicted in any drawings or statues.
A common feature to all these sites is what I came to term as the “passage of the gauntlet”. This is usually where the shopkeepers set up their shops to pounce on any tourists coming to visit the site, and do their utmost to try to sell them anything. This is a rather daunting affair, as you have to brave this passage twice. Once on arrival and the other on departure. They hawk their wares so insistently that even if you had any intention to buy anything, this effectively puts you off. The best method is to ignore them, but some of them are so persistent that they are difficult to ignore.
After finishing our visit to Edfu, we boarded again and off went the boat to Kom Ombo.
Kom Ombo also is a small town, dominated by yet another temple, and again one with unique characteristics. In ancient Egyptian Kom Ombo means Hill of Gold. This temple, has one feature which it shares with the Edfu temple, it too was built upon by the Greeks and Romans, and Christians took refuge there. But other than that it is unique in its being the only temple built for two Gods not just one. These are Horus, the falcon god and Sobek the crocodile god. The reason for the second god being included was because crocodiles were so prevalent in that area, and so big and predatory, they invariably attacked the inhabitants and killed them, especially children. By building a temple to the crocodile god the people were trying to appease him and therefore lessen the attacks.
A yet another unique feature of the Kom Ombo temple is the way the drawings were made on the walls. Instead of carving the figures in the wall, they made them in higher relief, so the figures were prominent, while the background was carved. This was a very complicated method but the end result is stunning, as seen in this picture.
There are two more interesting aspects to that particulate temple. One of them the carving of a full calendar on one of its walls, and the second is the depiction of surgical implements the like of which are being used by surgeons to this day.
A close by museum holds a number of these mummified animals.
Finally this temple, being close to the Nile, has a Nile-o-meter, where the level of the floodwater was measured. This was very important to know the exact level of the water, not for safety precautions as you would imagine, but for tax purposes. The main income for the people was through agriculture, and the amount of water available would determine the amount of crops, therefore give the governing body an idea of how much taxes they could collect. An ingenious system that, maybe, should be looked into more closely in our times!