Title: The Nile in Autumn.

Length: 1200 words.


All rights available.

Travel operator: Kuoni / Voyages Jules Verne

Copyright Derrick Grover.

The Nile in Autumn

The Caleche ride.It is cool early in the morning in Egypt in November. The massive columns of the Karnak temple shield the sun until midday. Then warm clothing must give way to the lightest even when standing in the shadows. Tours of the temples start about 7 am to avoid the heat of the day. We returned in the late morning for coffee and the air conditioning aboard our cruise ship, which was moored nearby on the River Nile.

Our guide had spent 4 years learning the history of ancient Egypt and gave us the benefit of his learning. He was well versed in every detail of the temples and expounded at length on the history of the Pharaohs and their subjects. Our group numbered about 30 people but our guide in a brightly coloured hat stood out from the crowd. Around us the red sandstone pillars towered above us. They were deeply inscribed with symbols, which are still visible 3300 years later. A few solitary palm trees seemed to grow out of the stone but there was little else. Presently the call for prayer drowned the voice of our guide and we moved on.

We had flown direct to Luxor from the UK to tour the ancient sites by spending seven days navigating The Nile, pausing every day at a different site to see the surviving monuments to the ancient Egyptian civilisation. The tour was planned to visit alternate sites on the way up the river and then, on the way back, fill in those we had missed.

Travelling in a portable hotel is a restful way of touring. Our luggage moved with us without the need to pack and unpack at every stop. On the way upriver from Luxor to Esna the scenery would drift past the picture window of our cabin, or we could sit on the sun deck under the awning and watch the wash from the boat.

The Caleche ride. A ride on a caleche was an adventurous way to visit the temple at Ednu. On seeing my camcorder the driver invited me to sit beside him. Perched higher in the front of the vehicle, I had an interrupted view of the surroundings. The horse trotted along the muddy road wet with ponds of water after a recent shower before arriving at the temple. It was surrounded by a mass of caleches. An abundance of colour came from the stalls in the market where clothing was displayed for inspection. A man playing a one stringed instrument made strident tones that penetrated the conversation but contributed to the atmosphere. It was a typical working day with many traders bustling around the stalls.

At Edfu the Temple to Horus, the Falcon god, is well preserved having been built comparatively recently in 237-57 BC. On the impressive gateway to the temple the carvings are still on the walls although the colours are fading. The relief is well preserved. Nearby river barges ferry bricks and the quarry is worked for stone.

Temple at Kom Ombo It is not far to Kom Ombo where the Greco-Roman temple of Haroerus and Sobek was built during the period 181 BC to 219 AD on the ruins of an 11th dynasty site. It is unusual in being dedicated to two deities. The god Sobek has a crocodile head and the god Haroerus is portrayed as a falcon. In order to treat the two gods equally the temple is symmetrical about its centre.

Colossus of Memnon. The tourist cannot fail to be impressed by the feats of building and construction, sometimes involving columns weighing over a 1000 tons. Splitting of the stone was achieved by drilling a series of holes in line and then hammering in dry wooden plugs. When wetted, the enormous forces generated by the expanding wood were enough to split the stone along the line of the holes. It is believed that the technique of swelling wood was also used to position blocks of stone next to each other. A visit to a sculptors workshop showed us the traditional methods of working with stone, using chisels, axes and files, and a boring instrument that needed two men to operate.

If you wish to feel miniscule then a visit to the Colossi of Memnon that are nearly 60 feet high, is a must. They are all that remain of the temple of Amenophis III, the stone was plundered by subsequent pharaohs for their building work elsewhere.

Felucccas on The Nile With an enthusiastic guide the visitor is likely to become saturated with Egyptian culture. Accordingly a Felucca ride on the river provides a welcome relief. They are sturdily constructed with a lateen sail capable in a stiff breeze of taking 20 - 30 people at a brisk pace to the botanical gardens on Kitchener island. Here there is an abundance of pink and mauve flowers that mingle with numerous shrubs. Egyptian families visit for a picnic amid the impressive scenery with a backdrop of a blue sky against pinkish-red sandstone hills. It is a busy scene, and with a flotilla of feluccas issuing warnings to each other with loud horns, the guides comments go unheard.

Party time on board is an occasion for the local merchants to sell Arab attire for the fancy dress theme. The garments are light enough to prevent a weight problem with the airline. One expects to put it in a back drawer awaiting a fancy dress party back home. The lounge is alive with the rhythmic beat of drums. Most of the ladies were dressed in multicoloured saris of pink or blue and men were impressive in their beturbaned Arab costume. A belly dancer performed to Eastern music and reminded us what exercise might do for our waistlines.

One of the disappointments of the cruise was that the picture window in the cabins is unlikely to afford a scenic views when moored. This is because there are so many river boats, they have to be moored side by side. Unless you are the last to arrive at a mooring you will be looking at the side of the boat moored alongside. To reach the shore it is usually necessary to negotiate crossing the decks of several boats.

The last visit was to the Valley of the Kings. It is estimated there are over 50 tombs in the area. Elaborate precautions were taken against grave robbers. The effort required to cut these tombs out of rock together with the extensive passages is mind bending. Most of the monuments have required enormous gangs of people and no doubt reflect the power of the autocratic rulers of the time. Not all of the tombs can be seen. The presence of tourists introduces moisture and carbon dioxide that cause damage to the extensive decorations lining the walls.

It was easy to become saturated with the detailed descriptions by the guide. The extensive carvings on the walls may occupy the mind of the historian but for me the more interesting aspects were the enormous undertakings for manipulating such colossal sizes of stone. These were feats that would challenge modern day technology but on more leisurely days we could watch the local customs and observe the red sunsets with stark trees outlined against sky.

Pictures supporting this article.

The Caleche ride; Felucccas on The Nile; Avenue of Sphinxes, Karnak; Temple at Kom Ombo; Colossus of Memnon etc.

Request form for publication.

Back to home page.