Friday, June 19, 2009

Aswan: Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan Dam & Philae

Our first trip into Aswan was to a granite quarry. In the midst of sparkling pink and gray granite boulders lies the Unfinished Obelisk. Worked on during Hatshepsut's reign, it was later abandoned due to a large crack running down it lengthwise. I couldn't help but wonder what happened to the workers once the crack was discovered... Large green rocks, the size of an ancient cannonball, stand out against the pink granite and seem to lie everywhere like discarded ancient . These green rocks were once the tools used to cut out the obelisks. Five times the hardness of granite, they were banged against small indentations at regular intervals to dig the obelisk out of its stone coffin. Although a long time wasn't needed here, walking amongst the granite in 110 Fahrenheit weather and holding one of these green rocks gave a great understanding of the strength and stamina needed to create one of these beautiful sculptures of antiquity.

The Aswan Dam was our next stop. Created as a joint effort between Egypt and Russia,
the Aswan Dam's purpose was to stop the annual flooding of the Nile. A memorial to the joint effort overlooks the dam nearby. On the other side of the dam are the famed crocodiles and hippos who now live happily in Nasser Lake, the largest man-made lake in the world. Standing on the dam gives a beautiful vista of both sides of the Nile. Though zoom photography is expressly forbidden, we managed to take a few beautiful shots of the fertile Nile Valley from above.

order to get to the Temple of Philae, Isis's sacred cult center, we had to board a motor boat. Watching the chaos of the boats reminded me of Rome, and I happily boarded the boat to watch the men take a moment to physically force the other boats away so we could back out. Being on the boat gave us a moment to wiggle our fingers in the Nile, as well as to be close to the great egrets and herons that graced its waters. The Temple of Philae is not in its original location; it had to be cut into thousands of pieces and moved due to flooding. Unless you look carefully, however, you would never notice amidst the defacing done by the Christians who once used this temple as a church. Vertical scratches appear on the walls, a testament to the pilgrims of Isis who came here to claim a piece of the temple for themselves. A lone stone altar lies in the main sanctuary and I could feel the power radiating off of a stone that has existed for centuries. This temple was the last used temple of Ancient Egyptian Religion, and it seemed appropriate that it was dedicated to Isis. Perched on the rocks, the location seems magical and serene, a perfect ending point to our temple touring in Egypt.

Last, but not least, thoughts on the Nile and shopping in Egypt.

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