Mummification

Mummification

The Ancient Egyptians believed in the 2nd life, they believed that death is a middle stage between the first life which was considered short in compare with the second life which was considered eternal.

Mummification Philosophy : 

They understood that the mummy will be re-untied again with the body to continue the journey in the second life, but they were not sure if the body of the first life must be the same body for the second life or no, they thought that maybe the spirit will get a new version of that body, but they were not sure about this thought, so they decided to preserve the body of the first life, and they invented mummification.

I believe that the origin of this name Mummy is the Persian word mūm, which means wax, because the skin of the mummy looks like it was covered with a layer of wax but black colour, it is called mūmiya in the Arabic language (مومياء).

Mummification

Mummification was available to everybody or was just for kings?

We found mummies related to kings, nobles, rich people and middle-class people, Mummification was available to anyone but under one condition, how much money they can pay.

We found hundreds of mummies from different classes, and each class had its own quality according to how much money the pay the embalmer which of course will reflect on the quality of the materials used in the operation,Of course, the best examples for mummies are the royal mummies.

I don’t think we found a mummy for poor people in good condition.

Who was doing the mummification operation, priest or doctor?

The one who is responsible in doing the mummification operation is a doctor who was originally was a priest, we understand that education used to be through the temple, so the first title the student would get was ‘’priest’’ then he studied other subjects.

But according to the story of Osiris and his death, Anubis who embalmed his body and prepared Osiris to the afterlife, so we must know that the original embalmer was Anubis.

That’s why the priest had to wear a mask of Anubis while doing this operation (at least for few minutes).

Anubis or Inpu (this how the Ancient Egyptian called him) Anubis was considered as the guardian of the cemetery and protector of the dead people.

 

What are the steps of the mummification operation?

As we understand that this operation used to take place at the so-called Valley temple where the mummify the dead bodies of the kings, and there is another place for the non-royal people and middle class, there were special tools for the royals used for just one time and it was buried with them in their tombs, but for the non-royal the tools would be used several times like the mummification table.

1- Insert a hook through the nostril, and take the brain out piece by piece, if part of the brain didn’t go out maybe because of big skull, they used to make a hole in the backside of the skull and drain what was left from this hole.

2- They made a cut near the tummy (left or right or above) to take 4 organs out of the body

A- Stomach & Intestines

B- Kidneys

C- Liver

D- Lunges

We don’t know the order of taking those organs out of the body, but what we know that they replaced them in 4 jars called Canopic Jars (it was called Canopic Jars because so many of them were found in a city called Canop)

Hapi, the baboon-headed god representing the north

Duamutef, the jackal-headed god representing the east

Imseti, the human-headed god representing the south

Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed god representing the west

 

3- They took the heart out and treated by some mummification materials and must be replace again inside the body.

The person will need the heart inside the court of Osiris ‘’The Judgement of Osiris’’

 

4- Rinse inside of body with Papyrus and Lotus oil and other materials

5- Add Natron salt and tar

6- They wrap the body with bandages of linen (not cotton) because linen is very good fabric against humidity.

7- They finished their operation in a time between 40 and 70 days.

8- They add amulets (Gold, Silver, precious and semi-precious stones)

9- They place the mummy inside the coffin

10- The place the coffin inside the tomb

 

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King Sneferu

King Sneferu

 

King Sneferu is the founder of the 4th dynasty, Sneferu is the successor of king Huni the last king of the 3rd dynasty, but there is no evidences say that he was a son of Huni, most likely he was his son in low, Sneferu married princess Hetepheres I.

When the funeral furniture of queen Hetepheres I was found and we managed to information about her, we understood that she was the daughter of the predecessor of Sneferu because she had the title ‘Daughter of God, from his body’ which means she is the daughter of the king.

King Sneferu King Sneferu

It is not easy to know for how long king Sneferu ruled Egypt, according to Turin Canons (Turin papyrus), king Sneferu ruled for 24 years, but some Egyptologists suggested that he might have ruled for 27-30 years (Krauss), and some other Egyptologists suggested that hemighthave ruled for 40-48 years (Redford). It is assumed that king Sneferu ruled Egypt around 2600 BC.

King Sneferu Name Meaning

His name Sneferu could explained according to the Ancient Egyptian verb snefer which means to restore, make beautiful and to heal, so his name could mean the restorer or the healer.

Some opinions about his name because of the last letter in his name (u), they said it could a short way to write the pronoun (ui or wi) which means me, so his name could mean (he who) makes me beautiful, but I don’t see it a proper meaning.

King Sneferu

They attributed many pyramids to king Sneferu, the first pyramid was attributed to Sneferu is Meidum pyramid, but some Egyptologists suggested that this pyramid was first build by king Huni and was completed by king Sneferu.

The 2 pyramids at Dahshur, the Bent pyramid and the Red pyramid are strongly attributed to king Sneferu, and according to Egyptologist.

the Bent pyramid was built first and it was considered as a failure (or a big mistake), so Sneferu decided to build another pyramid to the north of the Bent pyramid.

The new pyramid is called the red pyramid. The ancient name for the Bent pyramid is (kha mrrsy) which means The Southern Shining Pyramid, and the ancient name for the Red pyramid is (kha mr) which means The Shining Pyramid.

King-Sneferu

There are some other small pyramids are also attributed to king Sneferu like Seila pyramid at Faiyum.

King Sneferu Family :

King Sneferu had a big family, we believe that his mother was called Meresankh I, and his main wife was queen Hetepheres I (maybe the daughter of Huni), we don’t know names for other wives for king Sneferu.

King Sneferu Sons:

– Khufu

– Ankhhaf

– Kanefer

– Nefermaat I

– Netjeraperef

– Rahotep

– Ranefer

– Iynefer I

King Sneferu Daughters:

– Hetepheres A

– Nefertkau I

– Nefertnesu

– Meritites I

– Henutsen

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King Khufu

King Khufu

King Khufu is the second king of the 4th dynasty, He is the son of king Sneferu, he is the successor of king Sneferu. The Greeks called him Cheops, he ruled Egypt around 2589 BC, he ruled Egypt for almost 23 years, according to the Egyptian Priest Manetho.

The Great Pyramid at Giza Plateau is attributed to king Khufu, although the name Khufu was not found in any place inside or outside the pyramid, except in one of the small chambers above the so called king chamber (Campbell’s Chamber), there is a strong doubt abbot the authenticity of the writings and about who made it. The name of the great pyramid is Akhet Khufu which means the horizon of Khufu.

Khufu is associated with ntr Khnum, his full name is Khnum Khufu which means Khnum protects me.

The Horus (Hor) name is Horus Medjedu which means Horus who strikes, and because of this name we manage to identify the 7.5 cm ivory statue which was found in Abydos in 1903 by Flinders Petrie, the Horus name is written next to the right leg of this statue so we understand that the statue belong to king Khufu.

We are not sure if this statue was made during the 4th dynasty or no, there are some suggestion suggesting that it was made during the time of the 26th dynasty. This is only definite statue we have for king Khufu.

 

King Khufu  

King Khufu lineage and his family

Khufu is the son of king Sneferu and queen Hetepheres I, Egyptologists didn’t believe in the beginning that Khufu is the biological son of Sneferu, but after the tomb of  queen Hetepheres I was found in 1925 east of the Great pyramid, they do believe now that Khufu is the son of Sneferu. Khufu married 2 wives, the first wife was queen Meritites I, and the second wife was Henutsen.

His sons and daughters :

King Khufu had 9 sons and 5 daughters

Names of the sons:

Kawab, he is the eldest son and crown prince, but he died in Khufu’s lifetime

Djedefra, he is the first throne successor.

Khafre, he is the second throne successor.

Djedefhor

Baufra

Babaef I

Khufukhaf I

Minkhaf I

Horbaef

Names of the daughters:

Nefertiabet

Hetepheres II, she was the wife of prince Kawab, later she married to king Djedefra.

Meresankh II

Meritites II

Khamerernebty I: She was the wife of king Khafra and the mother of king Menkaura.

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King Menkaure

 

Menkaure is the 5th ruler of the 4th dynasty after his father Khafra, his name in the Greek language is Mykerinos.

The 3rd major pyramid at Giza Plateau is attributed to king Menkaure, it is the smallest pyramid of the three pyramids but it very fine construction and quality, the pyramid was cased with granite blocks. The name of this pyramid in the ancient times is ntr (neter), which means the sacred, this pyramid has 3 small pyramids on the east side, Egyptologists mistakenly call them the pyramids of the queens.

Menkaure ruled Egypt around 2521 BC after his Khafra and he ruled for 18 or 28 years, we are not very sure about this because of the lack of information about him, there some opinion suggests that he wasn’t the direct successor of Khafra and a king called Ba-KA (son of Djedefre) ruled Egypt after Khafra.

His name is quite unique because it contains the word Ka in his name and he continued following the cult of Ra, by adding Ra (Re) in his name like his father Khafra, the name Menkaure means the stable Kas of Ra (the stable spirits of Ra).

When the pyramid was excavated at 1837 by Howard Vyse (English officer) and John Perring (engineer), they discovered a basalt box inside the so called burial chamber, this box has no writings but it has a kind of design is called the palace façade, in a side room they found fragments of wooden coffin and the name Menkaure was carved on the coffin, unfortunately the ship which was transferring the coffin to London was lost and we know nothing about it, but the box made it to the British museum and it is there now with some pieces of the coffin.

According to Herodotus the Greek travel to Egypt around 454 BC, king Khufu & king Khafra were cruel kings and they stopped so many of the ancient traditions like forbidding making statues except for the king, but Menkaure changed these laws which the ancient Egyptians hated it.

There are few details about the family of king Menkaure, we strongly believe that he is the son of Khafra from his mother Khamerernebty I, who could one of the daughters of Khufu.

 

King Menkaure wives and daughters :

We also believe that he had 2 wives:

– Queen Khamerernebty II (his sister !?)

– Queen Rekhetre (daughter of Khafra)

Menakaure didn’t have many children, he hade 3 sons or more, and one daughter or more.

His sons:

– Khuenre, he is the son of queen Khamerernebty II, although he is the eldest son, he didn’t inherit the throne.

– Shepseskaf the younger son of Menkaure and his successor

– Sekhemre, we know about him from a statue belong to him

His daughters

– Khentkaus I, it is high possibility the Khentkaus I is the daughter of Menkaure

In the valley temple of the 3rd pyramid at Giza Plateau, 8 statues for king Menkaure were found, or we can call them group statues (it is more like triad statues), 4 of the them in the Egyptian Museum, 3 in Boston museum and 1 in Brussels museum.

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King Khafra

 

Khafra or Khafre is the 4th king of the 4th dynasty, Old Kingdom, most of the people think that Khafra is the successor of king Khufu, but this is not right, Djedefre is the successor of Khufu and Khafra is the successor of Djedefre. He is called Chephren in the Greek language.

King Khafra ruled Egypt around 2560 BC, his reign was around 26 years, and according to Manetho, Khafra is the youngest son for king Khufu.

The second pyramid at Giza Plateau is attributed to king Khafra and also the Great Sphinx, Egyptologists are very sure that Khafra is the builder of the second pyramid, but there are some doubts about who built the Sphinx.

The name Khafra (Kha-F-Ra) means He shines like Ra; his Horus name is Hor wsr ib (weserib or auserib) which means the strong of heart.

The name of the second pyramid at Giza Plateau is wr (wer) which means the Great.

The very beautiful stunning statue at the Egyptian Museum is attributed to king Khafra.

King Khafra        King Khafra

The statue is made out of a very hard stone called diorite ( it a special kind of the diorite called Khafra diorite).

   King Khafra

The pyramid complex of the second pyramid at Giza Plateau is considered the most complete complex in Giza Plateau.

The name Khafra is written in Abydos king list and he occupied the place of the 4th king in the 4th dynasty,He is the son of king Khufu and queen Henutsen (maybe queen Meritites I).

King Khafra had such a big family, he married more than 4 wives (we don’t know exactly how many).

The same thing about his sons and daughters, we don’t know how many exactly so we assume  he had around 12 sons and around 4 daughters.

He was married to:

– Queen Meresankh III, she is the daughter his elder brother Kawab and Hetepheres II.

– Queen Khamerernebty I, she is the mother of Menkaura (he became the king after his father).

– Queen Hekenuhedjet

– Queen Persenet (she is possibly a daughter of King Khufu)

Sons of king Khafra

– Menkaure

– Sekhemkare

– Nikaure

– Nebemakhet

– Misuerre

– Khenterka

– Ankhmare

– Akhre

– Iunmin

– Iunre

Daughters of king Khafra

– Khameremebty II

– Shepsestkau

– Rekhetre

–  Hemetre

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The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid is the main site in Giza Plateau, it is one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world, and it is the only wonder still exist, the other 6 wonders disappeared one after the other. This building used to be the tallest and biggest building on earth for thousands of years till the twentieth century.

The Great Pyramid is attributed to king Khufu, 4th dynast, Old Kingdom, and it is said that it is the pyramid number 5 in the pyramid constructions in Egypt, after the Step pyramid in Sakkara, Meidum pyramid in Meidum (south of Cairo), the Bent Pyramid in Dahsur and the Red pyramid in Dahshur. But there are remains of pyramids at Sakkara from the 3rd dynasty.

The Great Pyramid was built with more than 2,300,000 blocks of limestone, and there are around 50 huge blocks from rose granite inside the so-called king chamber. We don’t know exactly how many blocks (casing stones) were required to build the external smoothed surfaces, there are some few blocks still attached to the pyramid from the north and the east side.

The blocks are in different sizes, the smallest blocks are 1.5 tons and the average weight for the other blocks is around 5 tons, but we are not sure about the weight of the blocks deep inside the pyramid.

The limestone blocks were cut from a nearby quarry, the casing stone were made from what we call it fine limestone, and its quarry is at the east side of the Nile from Tura quarries, and rose granite is from Aswan. It is believed that the Great Pyramid lost its casing stones because the area was used as a quarry for centuries starting from the Roman time in Egypt, but there are other opinions suggesting that the pyramid lost its casing stones because of natural disasters like earthquakes.

The height of the pyramid was originally 146.59 meters (or 146.7m) nearly 480 ft, please not that because of the missing of the casing stones and the capstone we can not be very accurate when we measure the height or the width of the pyramid. The current height is 138.8 meters (455 ft).

The base of the Great Pyramid id a square base, each side is 230.33 meters (756 ft), the angles of the bas are perfectly 90° degrees, the angle of the slope is 51°52’40”

There are 3 chambers inside the Great Pyramid, or to be more specific, there is one room under the base of the pyramid, it is called the subterranean room, and there are 2 rooms inside the pyramid itself, the first room which close to the middle level of the pyramid is called the queen’s room, and the one in higher level is called the king’s room.

The subterranean room which is on the level of 105 under the base of the pyramid, is empty and there is a kind of a well, it is not deep and leads to nothing.

The so-called queen’s chamber is empty, and it has niche on the east wall but it is not is the middle of the wall as we expected, it is off center, in the north wall and the same in the south wall, there is a rectangular opening goes deep into the wall but no one could tell us any further information about what could be inside this shaft, and it used to be called air shafts.

the-greate-pyramid

But in 1993 a German engineer called Rudolf Gantenbrink designed a robot (crawler robot) to go inside the southern shaft, the robot climbed till 65 meters (213 ft) and found a limestone block (door !) with 2 pieces of cooper attached to it (like door handles), and in 2002 National Geographic explored the 2 shafts with a similar robot, but this time the robot had some extra options, the robot was able to drill through this block and send a camera inside, they found another “door”. The other shaft was very difficult to explore because of its sharp angles.

The ceiling of this room is an A frame ceiling and it consist of 2 layers of stones (2 A frame ceiling).

The third room which is called the king’s room is the only room in the pyramid has granite blocks on its walls, or we can say it was built like a granite vault inside the limestone pyramid, it is a big room, it is almost 10 meters X 5 meters. There is a granite box in the western side of the room, and this box doesn’t have a led, and we did not find any fragments of this led.

There are 5 rooms above the so-called king’s room, they call these rooms, the relieving chambers, thinking that these rooms are helping the ceiling of the king’s room to stand against the heavy weight above it, but I must ask this question, what about the queen’s room??

The was attributed to king Khufu, the second king of the 4th dynasty, Old Kingdom, and it has the name Akhet Khufu, which means the horizon of Khufu.

the-greate-pyramid

In the eastern side of the Great Pyramid we can see the remains of the so-called the mortuary temple, the whole temple is destroyed except the floor, we still can see the blocks of the floor which is made out of basalt stone, we see some scattered pieces of rose granite pillars, but without any writings or carvings, but there are very strange cuts in the sides and edges of the blocks, these cuts are very similar to the cut marks of the present tools (the advanced tools), that’s why there is a group of researchers, engineers and other scientists believe that there was an earlier advanced civilization in Ancient Egypt.

In fact, that the whole Great Pyramid has no writings except that questionable red ocher graffiti in the so-called Campbell’s Chamber, this fifth one.

In the southern side of the pyramid there are t pits, boat pits, the eastern one was discovered in 1954 and it was in a great condition, they called it Khufu boat, but the official name is the Solar Boat.

In 1985 they built a small museum in the southern side of the Great Pyramid to house the Solar Boat, to visit this museum you will need to buy an extra ticket.

The second boat is not in a good condition so there is a Japanese group is working on a project to restore the 2nd boat and put it back together. 

You can buy an extra ticket to visit the Great Pyramid from inside during the working hours (public visit), but in this case you will be able to visit just one room, the king’s room because the other rooms are always closed, but you can still have the chance to do a special permission to visit the Great Pyramid after the working hours (private visit), you are going to spend 2 hours inside the Great Pyramid and will have access to the 3 rooms (the 3 rooms will be open).

So, we can understand that the pyramid wasn’t an individual structure, it is part of a huge complex, the Pyramid Complex. According to what we know about the pyramids and the surrounding construction we can say the components of the Pyramid Complex are 13 components, the very important ones are:

– The pyramid itself

– The southern tomb (small pyramid)

– The mortuary temple

– The causeway

– The funeral temple (valley temple)

– The surrounding wall of the whole complex

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King Khufu

Giza Plateau

If you drive from Cairo towards the west and cross the Nile river and continue to the west, you will reach Giza Plateau.

By crossing through the streets which leads to the area entrance you will see one of the very famous hotels in Egypt and the world, it is Mena House Hotel, which has such great view on the pyramids of Giza Plateau.

Giza Plateau is the high ground located in the west side of Giza city (part of greater Cairo), the same area is being called as the area of Giza Pyramids.

 

Description of the Giza plateau

Giza Plateau is a vast area contains around 3 major pyramids, 6 small pyramids and more than 5000 tombs. The pyramids in Giza Plateau are attributed to the fourth dynasty, the Great Pyramid, The 2nd Pyramid & the 3rd Pyramid, or as the call them Khufu, Khafra & Menkaura.

Giza Plateau Tombs 

The tombs in Giza Plateau are from different dynasties, many of the tombs belong to the 4th dynasty like:

– Queen Hetepheres I, she was the mother of Khufu

– Tomb of prince Hemiunu, the famous vizier of king Khufu

– Tomb of prince Kawab, he was Khufu’s eldest son

– Tomb of prince Khufukhaf I, he was one of the sons of king Kuhfu

– Tomb of prince Djedefhor, he was one of the sons of king Kuhfu

– Tomb of princess Meresankh III, she was the wife of Khafra

– Tomb of prince Nebemakhet, he was one of the sons of king Khafra

– Tomb of prince Nikaure, he was one of the sons of king Khafra

Some tombs are from the 5th dynasty like:

– Tomb of Khufukhaf II, he served during the timre of king Nyuserre

– Tomb of Kaemtjenent and his wife Hathornefer

– Tomb of Iteti and his wife Senetankh

– Tomb of Khuenptah

And many tombs from the 6th dynasty like:

– Tomb of Qar, time of king Pepi I

– Tomb of Idu, time of king Pepi I (he is the father of Qar)

Giza Plateau

How long does it take to visit the Giza plateau?

If you want to get visit Giza Plateau you will need a full day trip to this vast site, it is not fair to visit Giza Plateau and another site in the same day.

The general ticket you will buy to visit Giza Plateau will give the chance to visit so many sites inside the area, such as:

– The complex of the Great Pyramid (but to visit inside the pyramid you will need an extra ticket), you can also visit the so called funeral temple of the great pyramid.

The floor of the temple still exist but the walls and the celling disappeared, the floor is made of Basalt stone, and the blocks of the floor contains strange cut marks which explained by some engineers as an evidence of the use of advanced tools.

On the east side of the great pyramid there are 2 tombs which you can visit (Idu & Qar), and you will see the 3 huge pits cut into the ground and called as boat pits, but if you want to visit the solar boat museum in the south of the great pyramid you will need to buy an extra ticket.   

– The complex of the second pyramid (but to visit inside the pyramid you will need an extra ticket), you can also visit the so called funeral temple of the second pyramid, this huge temple was built by using limestone blocks weighing more than 20 tons each and it used to be covered by granite blocks from inside and outside.

– The complex of the third pyramid (but to visit inside the pyramid you will need an extra ticket), you can also visit the so called funeral temple of the third pyramid, this massive temple is the biggest in Giza Plateau, was built by using massive size limestone blocks and it used to be covered by granite & granodiorite blocks from inside and outside.

– The Panorama are, it is an open high ground behind the 3 major pyramids, from there you can a good chance to see the 3 pyramid and take some good photos, also from there you can enjoy a camel ride to the 3rd pyramid or to the Sphinx.

– The valley temple of the second pyramid, this temple is next to the Sphinx and we usually visit it at the last part of the tour, the temple is built by using huge blocks of limestone which were covered by huge granite blocks from inside the walls and outside, the floor of the temple is made from very polished and shiny alabaster stone blocks, in general, this temple is the finest and best condition in the area.

– The Great Sphinx, you can visit the Sphinx from a shortcut through the valley temple of the second pyramid, or to be precise, from the causeway, so you will be actually outside the enclosure of the Sphinx but you will have great chance to see the Sphinx clearly, the Sphinx was carved from the bedrock itself, the height from the base to the head is 20 meters, the length  from the paws to the tail is 73 meters.

There are so many stories about the secret chambers under the Sphinx which contain the hall of records, but so far there are no clear details about such thing, you can still visit the Sphinx enclosure but after you do a permission for a private visit ( it will require extra costs).

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Built to honour the goddess Isis, this was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style. Construction began around 690 BC, and it was one of the last outposts where the goddess was worshipped. The cult of Isis continued here until at least AD 550. The boat leaves you near the Kiosk of Nectanebo, the oldest part, and the entrance to the temple is marked by the 18m-high first pylon with reliefs of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos smiting enemies.

In the central court of the Temple of Isis, the mammisi (birth house) is dedicated to Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. Successive pharaohs reinstated their legitimacy as the mortal descendants of Horus by taking part in rituals celebrating the Isis legend and the birth of her son Horus in the marshes. The second pylon leads to a hypostyle hall, with superb column capitals. Note also the reuse of the temple as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older hieroglyph reliefs, and images of the Egyptian gods carefully defaced. Beyond lie three vestibules, leading into the Inner Sanctuary of Isis. Two granite shrines stood here, one containing a gold statue of Isis and another containing the barque in which the statue travelled, but these were long ago moved to Florence and Paris, and only the stone pedestal for the barque remains, inscribed with the names of Ptolemy III and his wife, Berenice. Take a side door west out of the hypostyle hall to the Gate of Hadrian where there is an image of the god Hapi, sitting in a cave at the First Cataract, representing the source of the river Nile.

East of the second pylon is the delightful Temple of Hathor, decorated with reliefs of musicians (including an ape playing the lute) and Bes, the god of childbirth. South of this is the elegant, unfinished pavilion by the water’s edge, known as the Kiosk of Trajan (‘Pharaoh’s Bed’), perhaps the most famous of Philae’s monuments and one that was frequently painted by Victorian artists, whose boats were moored beneath it.

The whole complex was moved from its original location on Philae Island, to its new location on Agilkia Island, after the flooding of Lake Nasser. A major multinational Unesco team relocated Philae, and a number of other temples that now dot the shores of Lake Nasser. You can see the submerged original island a short distance away, punctuated by the steel columns used in the moving process.

Don’t miss the sound and light show at night, the least cheesy of the sound and light ‘extravaganzas’. On your feet, look out for the extremely creative guards who will do all in their power to get in your photos, or to point out the hieroglyphs that you can quite clearly see yourself, all for some baksheesh (tip)!

 

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In a country that’s home to some of the most ancient structures on earth, the city of Abydos is a standout destination for lovers of history, hieroglyphs and architecture. That’s because this city is one of the nation’s most historic—and home to perhaps the most well-preserved temple in the country. 

Travelers to this Middle Egypt destination can examine the exquisite reliefs of King List at the Temple of Seti. These finely-detailed carvings are some of the best kept in all of Egypt and the temple’s off-the-beaten-path vibe means it’s easy to explore without bumping into tons of other tourists. 

Archeologists say the carvings on the temple’s exterior are worth checking out, but it’s the interior reliefs that really showcase the craftsmanship of early artists. Seti temple, which is dedicated to the god of the underworld and afterlife, is an essential stop for anyone traveling to Luxor.

At an undetermined date, a great clearance of temple offerings had been made and a modern discovery of a chamber into which they were gathered has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles that show the splendid work of the first dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple hieroglyphs inlaid into a green glaze and tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces found. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this great pharaoh.

The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I in the sixth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40 × 50 ft (12 x 15 m) inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the eleventh dynasty Mentuhotep I added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Mentuhotep II, who unified the two lands of Egypt, entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pavement over the area, about 45 ft (14 m) square and added subsidiary chambers. Soon thereafter in the twelfth dynasty, Senusret I laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor. A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area and the new temple itself was about three times the earlier size. 

 

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Background

Abu Simbel is

  1. a)     a small village 280km south of Aswan and 40km north of the Sudanese border;
  2. b)     a former Nubian village of the same name on the Nile in Southern Egypt which was inundated by Lake Nasser during the creation of the Aswan High Dam (which also involved the relocation of 100,000 Nubians to parts of Egypt and Sudan);
  3. c)     the site of two temples built by Rameses II between 1274 and 1244 B.CE, now moved to higher ground, adjoining the present-day village of Abu Simbel and overlooking Lake Nasser.

Orientation

The airport was built to bring visitors to the monuments. A road runs from the airport through the village main street (Ramsis) to the temples, passing a petrol station, fire station, hospital, market square and commercial banks. A courtesy shuttle runs from the airport directly to the monuments.

Hotel locations and monuments

Abu Simbel has five hotels, all situated on or near Ramsis road. A further one (Tuya) isalmost completed.

As the airport road bends to the right across the first main bridge and joins Ramsis, it passes a petrol station on the right. Set back from the road, Abu Simbel Tourist Village (known locally as Hotel Abbas, with 30 rooms) is opposite the petrol station, offering the village’s cheapest accommodation.

After passing the new hospital, a turning to the left opposite the fire station marks the northern edge of the village and is the location of Eskaleh Nubian EcoLodge, a boutique hotel built from mudbricks with traditional methods and offering about six rooms.

A few yards after the fire station, the Nobaleh Ramsis Hotel on the right-hand side of the main road reasonable rooms at a modest price and marks the beginning of the village proper. To the left is the market square and souk. A few yards further on is the village centre, a popular gathering spot on Friday evenings. There are several shops and small cafes in this area.

The road passes across a long bridge with fishing boats to the right and a brightly painted frieze with viewing portals. On the far side is a junction with several commercial banks where currency can be exchanged. There are a couple of small cafes here as a road forking to the right leads to the Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort Hotel (6 suites and 136 rooms). The elegant Seti hotel is on one of two promontories, the other being occupied by the more functional Nefertari and the monuments complex.

The main road continues on the left fork on a gentle hill to the monuments. At the top of the rise, a long access road off to the right leads to the Nefertari Hotel. There are two long bays of market stalls selling tourist items. Behind the beginning of the market stalls, facing the Nefertari, is a small café selling items such as water and ice cream at tourist prices.

Passing through the entrance to the Abu Simbel monuments area, a small exhibition area is viewable just before the ticket office. There is a circular path leading from the ticket office, at the rear of the monuments, around the two artificial mountains which house the main temple, dedicated to Ra-Herakhte and Rameses II, and a smaller one dedicated to Hathor and Rameses’ wife. Nefertari. Both temples face outwards to Lake Nasser and are not overlooked by the mainland.

The 66-foot (20-metre) seated figures of Ramses are set against the recessed face of the cliff, two on either side of the entrance to the main temple. Carved around their feet are small figures representing Ramses’ children, his queen, Nefertari, and his mother, Muttuy (Mut-tuy, or Queen Ti). Graffiti inscribed on the southern pair by Greek mercenaries serving Egypt in the 6th century BCE have provided important evidence of the early history of the Greek alphabet. The temple itself, dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte, consists of three consecutive halls extending 185 feet (56 metres) into the cliff, decorated with more Osiride statues of the king and with painted scenes of his purported victory at the Battle of Kadesh. On two days of the year (about February 22 and October 22), the first rays of the morning sun penetrate the whole length of the temple and illuminate the shrine in its innermost sanctuary.

 

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