Egypt: The very pleasant Abydos and Dendara

1 February 2017

Exactly one month ago, I was at Persepolis. If I could fill every start of the month with one wonderful historical site in a foreign land then I’d be more than willing to be buried with work. Work hard ~ Play hard! Before the midnight flight to Kuwait, my last day in Egypt ended with a very plesant bang. Give me a driver, my Milou and take me to a historical archaeological site. Let me go off on my own. Let me explore. Let me indulge quiet insanity.

The drive from Luxor to Abydos took around 2 hours. Along the way, we past sugar canes, local markets and many roof-less houses. As soon as a roof is completed, the household will be charged with tax. Since Egypt is dry and rain is somewhat rare or tolerable, many purposely leave their houses roofless. Abydos is 90 km north of Luxor and lies in the town of al-Balyana. It is the Temple of Seti I. Honestly speaking, from the outside, it does not look impressive at all. However, as you walk up the ramp, you’ll be wowed by the reliefs.DSC08289 2

Venture into the complex and you will realise that this temple is home to colourful reliefs that are perhaps some of the finest that I’ve seen in Egypt.DSC08328 2 Yes lighting inside the temple is somewhat gloomy however, I prefer that since it adds a more authentic feel to the historical place.

Finished by Ramesses II, the current Abydos was in fact the backdrop to the second courtyard.

Shaped like a L, there is a terrace, ramp and pylons around the entrance area as well as hypostyle halls, chapels and reliefs all over the walls of the temple. Dedicated to the Lord of the Underworld and also a depiction of the lives of the two Pharaohs, it was said that the site of Abydos is also situated close to the mouth of the underworld.

Ground Plan of the Main Seti I Temple at AbydosIMG_6806

Not many tourists would visit the temple (at least not on the day) and I love it. The last thing that I need is to see an ancient site with bus loads of tourist groups who not only interrupt my peace but also make it annoying. For a good 50 minutes, I was able to feel like the only one inside this ‘underworld’. No one pestered me. No one tried to sell me anything. I was left alone- just me and Milou and Abydos. The long corridors leading to various rooms and sections was like walking into the lives of the pharaohs. It really felt great to go at one’s own pace and figue out the stories that  the temple wanted to tell.DSC08512 2

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Before I left, a local family said hi and the kids were excited to practise English with me.  Travelling is truly remarkable since you have the chance to meet people. Despite how sick and dark the world may be, there are always a majority of genuinely friendly folks waiting to greet you and make your trip more memorable.

As I headed out of Abydos, I was stopped by the local police. IMG_6825Again- I waited for them to find someone to ‘escort’ me from Point A (Abydos) to Point B (Dendara). The reason: There are potential risks since the area is known for terrorist threats. As long as I can visit the sites and reduce time being wasted, I don’t mind the police.

 

After a visit to the underworld, the nearby and well preserved temple of the goddess of love, healing and joy (Hathor) is equal in splendour and beauty.

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Built in the 1st century B.C., Dendara Temple is a place of worship, a place of pilgrimage, a place of healing, a location for great processions and festivals and a hospital. The many crypts were used to keep statues and ritual objects of the goddess. The once sacred lake has dried up and only a few remnants remain of the once chapel. The huge columns with the goddess’s faces on all four sides and beautiful ceilings adds much beauty to Dendara. Despite being so blue in decoration, parts of the ceilings are left in a blackened condition. The reason? Cooking fire from a centuries-old Arab Village who called the great temple home made parts of the ceiling black.

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Very well-preserved and protected, I like the open air display of various carvings, statues and other artifacts found on the site. Laid to the left and right side of the pylon, it was nice to stroll around and see the once beautiful carvings at a very close range. Apart from the intricate blue ceilings and multiple faces of Hathor and the huge relief covered columns, the scale and exterior grounds of Dendara made me want to stay longer. A side temple to the left side of the main structure offered a nice view of the building. Perhaps thousands of years ago, members of the royal family and pilgrims stood on the same spot…..looking out at Hathor and hoping that she would bestow good health upon them.IMG_6860

The slow drive back to Luxor signified the end of my Egypt trip. I finally saw the pyramids, the mummies, the treasures and these more hidden unknown temples with my own eyes. For me, it is always such a short love affair.  To have the chance to sit in a hidden corner of an ancient site is good enough.

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