Edfu, Egypt Friday, February 10, l995
By the time I arrived at breakfast, Susan had already extended her transportation network to Joanne Feinstein who worked for SEPTA. Out on the rear deck George Cape, the architect from Dallas, is sketching. He's quite good and I want to start a sketch of my own but we're just a few minutes from our felucca ride. Maybe later on.
We all pile into a felucca behind the Sun Boat and are soon backing out into the Nile right under the discharge from our boat. For some reason we head back in and change to another felucca with a snagged sail. One of our Nubian sailors climbs the mast and frees us. Soon we're tacking back and forth up river toward the Aga Khan's Mausoleum. It's a sandstone box set high on a brown hill across the river from Aswan. The wind is light and our progress exceedingly slow so Mona (who we now know is the granddaughter of King Farouk's prime minister) urges our crew to row which they do. We encounter ibis (or are they egrets?), blue heron and other exotic birds then glide past the pink Club Med and dock below the mausoleum. We walk past a small bazaar and up the hill. The mausoleum stands out against a bright blue sky. I'm down to a tee shirt. The view back across the river is excellent-boulder strewn islands, Aswan, the Elephantine and Kitchener's Island.
The path circles around to the rear where we remove our shoes and enter. Inside it's open to the sky with a beautifully carved tomb of Cararra marble and a single red rose. A space has been left on both the wall inscription and the tomb itself for his wife. We like it a lot and signed the guest book. On the way down we briefly tour the bazaar but don't buy anything. We embark for Kitchener's Island. On the way we are 'attacked' by five kids in individual-sized boats made of wood and tin singing Freres Jacques. They want money, naturalement, but Mona says they won't go to school if you give them money.
Kitchener's Island is the result of his lordship's passion for things horticultural. It's a lovely botanical garden with shaded walkways, flower-covered trellises, peacocks, monkeys, bright purple bougainvillea hedges glowing in the sun, all manner of palm trees and other exotica. We stay for a very short time because we have to get back to the boat by noon. However, with no wind and going against the current we don't have a prayer. Mona passes the time by asking us what happened to the top nine feet of the Great Pyramid. I say that it was never really a pyramid at all but a trapezoid-the Great Trapezoid of Giza. Patty Ting thinks that's very funny.
On the way back the lines from the sail send my Imus Autobody Express baseball hat into the Nile. Since we're already late and it's floating away from us at a rapid rate I say forget it. But one of our crew strips off his galabia and swims back for it. The wind finally picks up and we reach shore just as my hero returns with the hat via the shore route. I thank him with LE 10.
Soon the Sun Boat is underway North down the Nile. As we pass Aswan we see maybe 20 or 30 Nile cruise boats tied up and empty. Out on the rear deck we settle in for the views and we are not disappointed. A sandy hill rises on the west bank topped by a domed structure of some kind and half way down the hill is a village of mud buildings with doorways, paths and stairs but no people. I can't tell if it's really old or relatively new. As we continue upriver the shoreline on both sides is a narrow band of green and then beyond, the brown of the desert. We see palm trees and fields, cattle, wattle huts, an occasional village, grazing donkeys and water buffalo, stonework walls up on brown hills, orchards. Sometimes one side is like an oasis while the opposite shore has no green at all. Occasionally, modern civilization intrudes with an industrial smokestack or a brief stretch of road. Otherwise, the river is timeless.
Lunch calls us away from the rear deck but the views continue inside through the dining room windows. We have a terrific Italian buffet while the river life slips by outside. After lunch we return to the deck until we pull up to shore at the Greco-Roman ruins at Kom Ombo. The temple dates from 181 B.C.-219 A.D. and is built on the ruins of an XVIIIth Dynasty temple. It is dedicated to two gods-Horus, the falcon and Sobek, the alligator. The two gods represent good and bad, light and dark, life and death.
On the way up to the temple, Susan has a near purchase experience with a black shawl. The price goes from LE 50 to LE 20 in a flash but she's never going to wear it so we pass.
Our first stop is a small building with mummified alligators after which we enter the forecourt with its partial columns all covered with friezes with touches of color still visible in some places. The cobras in the design represent eternity as well as protection for Horus. The temple itself has the same big stumpy columns with veggie capitals and raised transom that we saw in Trajan's kiosk at Philae. Every surface is carved with deep richly realized images. We see the God of Wisdom in the form of Isis with a bird's head and a man's body. One of the cornices still has touches of color. The stylized Egyptian figures now have an overlay of Greek aesthetic sensibility-more emphasis on breasts, stomachs, legs under gowns. The king wears a Greek robe instead of the usual Egyptian paraphernalia. Some of the carvings are in relief, others cut into the stone. I love it.
In the rear corridor, behind the Holy of Holies, are friezes of medical instruments, operations and child birth-all indications that this temple also served as a medical treatment center.
Finally, Mona discussed a joining system for the granite blocks which formed the temple walls. We couldn't quite figure it out. We even discussed it with a British tourist. Then we got it. Wedge shaped openings were carved into the stones then green wood placed in the openings. When the wood dried out it shrank and pulled inward wedging itself into the narrow opening between the adjoining block forcing the blocks together. Ingenious.
Before leaving we visited the alligator pool and the 'Nile-o-meter', a shaft connected by underground tunnel to the Nile. By measuring the height of the water in the shaft you could tell the height of the Nile and assess taxes according to the anticipated harvest. A higher river meant better crops, hence higher taxes.
On our way out, Ann Ryan receives a turban tying demo from one of the locals. Others end up with more galabias and scull caps. We reboard our boat and pull out into the stream. As Kom Ombo recedes I grab my sketchbook and manage to get down a few columns before we're too far away.
Twin feluccas in the late afternoon sun are breathtakingly beautiful. Dutch light. Magical sight.
Some afternoon thoughts: The dogs of Egypt are mangy and mostly asleep. We let them lie.
A pre-nuptial test from Ancient Egypt. Put garlic inside your fiancée then wait a few days. If she smells of garlic all her parts are working and you can safely marry her. If she doesn't smell, something is probably wrong with her working parts and you should consider marrying someone else.
Prior to dinner we were introduced to our staff at the captain's cocktail party. Applause all around for our chef, maitre d', chief engineer, pilot, chief housekeeper and ship's doctor. Dinner itself was taken with John and Ann Ryan and quite a dinner it was. She is bright, funny and charming while he is older, slightly befogged and, as Bruce who was with us noted, like an onion. Peel back the layers and reveal the sharp as a tack good old boy. The Ryans travel a lot. Money and time are obviously not considerations.
After dinner we head for our room. We have arrived at Edfu which is right outside our window. Since our video isn't working it's Flaubert and bed. Tomorrow is Galabia Night.