Philae Temple, Egypt

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It’s funny; it didn’t seem to matter how many temples we visited in Egypt, they were all so different, and all so beautiful in their own ways. Philae Temple was a favourite for me, because it felt so secluded, isolated, and so peaceful.

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Located on a little island in the middle of Lake Nasser, it’s believed to have been founded around 370 BC. “Philae” translates roughly to “the end,” because it’s location defined the southern limit of Egypt at the time it was built.

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Much like Abu Simbel, also located on Lake Nasser, the original site of Philae temple was actually flooded, making it yet another wonder that was thankfully relocated and therefore saved for countless generations to come. It’s not located on an island called Agilika.

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One of the things that really stood out for me were the intricate lotus petal designs that crowned the columns throughout the complex. The lotus features prominently in a LOT of the temples we saw, and held special symbolic meaning to the Ancient Egyptians, representing creation, rebirth, the sun.

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For the most part, the hieroglyphs were still incredibly in tact, considering the age of the temple, and we did see something that I thought was truly fascinating: ancient graffiti! Below is one of the images I captured of a Coptic cross, defiantly etched over the original hieroglyphs by early Coptic Christians. They actually made their way through the temple defacing a lot of the original reliefs and art work, and it’s believed that a Christian altar was actually erected around 500 AD, in the courtyard.

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My most concrete memory of this place, though, was the view that greeted us towards the end of our wanderings. Lake Nasser, in all its sparkly glory under the midday Aswan sun. It was perfect, and always will be in my memory.

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Saqqara, Egypt

We didn’t spend very long here, but it certainly left an impression on me; I think that’s primarily because of the absolutely magnificent weather we had the day we visited, and the way the perfectly blue skies offset the sand so beautifully.

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It’s one of the oldest burial sites in Egypt, and home of the original pyramid – the step pyramid of Djoser. As you can see in the picture below, it was undergoing a little facelift at the time we visited, but it was still completely breathtaking, having been built around 2660 BC (WHAT?!?!) and standing at 62m high.

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It’s one hell of a sight in real life – anyone else been there?!

Kom Ombo Temple, Egypt

A while ago I wrote a little post and put some photos up of our horse ride from Kom Ombo to Edfu Temple. But what about Kom Ombo? It was a pretty amazing space, actually.

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Built somewhere around 180 – 200 BC, this temple was constructed during the Ptolemaic dynasty and was unusually built to honour two gods, Sobek and Horus.

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What I found most incredible was the fact that there was still colour, clearly visible, on a lot of the columns and even ceiling reliefs, as you can see in my photos below. It was really hard to fathom the fact that this temple has been around for literally thousands of years, and the colour had managed to stand the earth quakes, floods, sand storms, and everything else that had been thrown at it…

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This wasn’t one of the biggest temples we saw, but it was a really beautiful one – the thing I remember most, other than the colours, were the ornate columns that you can see below. Very beautiful, very grand, and really made you feel so small… I loved it!

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Eat & stay here: Pharaohs Hotel, Cairo, Egypt

Pharaohs Hotel, 12 Lotfi Hassouna St. Dokki. Giza Egypt
www.pharaohshotel.com

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This was the view from a window in our hotel the morning after we arrived in Egypt. We’d had a very, very long journey to get there, and were woken unexpectedly at the call to prayer in the early hours of the morning. We were exhausted on that first day. Anyway, it wasn’t until the following afternoon that we started to really appreciate our temporary home, our hotel in Cairo. It was fantastic. At first glance, it may not have appeared so; it was just another building amongst the many, many others in the tightly packed city. As you can see, the view isn’t spectacular. But the rooms were clean and comfortable.There were travellers from all countries and walks of life staying there. And, surprisingly, the hotel restaurant was probably the best I’ve ever been to.

Hotels the world over are notorious for housing sub-standard “restaurants” and travellers often avoid them at all costs. After a day of walking the city streets of Cairo with our guide, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. Despite the warm weather, I was wearing long pants and a long sleeved top, socks and shoes, and left my long hair out to cover my shoulders and shield my face. Every single one of my tattoos was covered up, and I made certain to stay as close as possible to my husband without physically touching him. I believe that when travelling through parts of the world that have a very different culture to the one you are accumstomed to, it is only right to respect their customs. Despite my best, well-meant intentions, I was essentially a zoo animal let out of her cage for the day. A western woman with no veil, auburn red hair, freckles, and very pale skin, walking around with two men. I was stared at; men actually physically stopped in their tracks, halted mid-step to elbow the buddy walking next to them, to stop and stare at me. Even the women and children stopped to watch me walk past. It was beyond bizarre; it was also very confronting. But back to the point of this post.

After an almost full day of that, I was exhausted. We needed dinner, but there was no way I was going back out onto the streets of Cairo at night, without a local to look after us, and so soon after the riots. We decided to eat at the dreaded hotel restaurant.

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We picked out a few dishes from the menu, assuming that for the low prices they’d be small portions. That was our first mistake. We got a LOT of food. The falafels were hands down the best I have EVER had, anywhere – I can still remember how crispy and tasty they were! The pile of rice that came with the skewers was enormous, and the tabbouleh was amazing. So was everything, to be honest! Husband also remembers with particular affection the waiter, a lovely gentleman (and I do mean gentleman) who attended to our every whim, waiting far enough away to give us privacy while we dined, but close enough to come running as soon as he saw us run out of beer, water, bread, napkins. We were fortunate enough to be able to eat there a few more times before our time in Egypt was over, and I truly can’t speak highly enough of this place. If you ever visit Cairo, even if you can’t stay in this hotel, do yourself a favour and at least go to have a meal there! It’s one I’ll certainly never forget, and for all the right reasons 🙂

Visiting the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

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This place was regal. Beautiful. Completely surreal. And stunningly enveloped within high rock faces of Deir el Bahari. The day we arrived coincided with a strong sandstorm, which, believe it or not, only made the whole experience even more incredible.

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Quick history lesson:
– The temple is believed to have been built around 1480 BC, for the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut.
– She often depicted herself as a male, which you can see in some of the reliefs around the temple.
– The temple was built in dedication to the goddess Hathor, who was the guardian of the area, and you will also see a lot of statues and reliefs in her image around the site.
– Queen Hatshepsut has a reputation with modern Egyptologists as a prolific builder, and one of Egypt’s greatest Pharaohs, holding her reign for around 20 years.
– The site of the temple is often recognised not for it’s majesty and beauty, but for the massacre that occurred there in 1997, where 62 people (mostly tourists) were killed.

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I thought this temple was incredible striking. The monotone landscape in it’s shades of beige and brown, the swirling sand and dirt seemingly trying to envelope us, the colossal figures that completely dwarfed me, it all made for a really magical experience. I felt enclosed and tucked away by the surrounding cliffs, which only served to give me a sense of peace and calm for some reason. I find it hard to say it was one of my favourite temples in Egypt because they were all so infinitely fascinating, but this place really resonated with me…

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Egyptian feasting – now THAT’S what I call lunch!

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I really wish I’d paid more attention on arrival here and taken down the name of the place, the street it was on, something, anything to remember it by! We had a lunch stop between sights on one of the final days of our amazing Egypt tour last year, and we were taken to this amazing rooftop location for lunch. Unfortunately there were details, like the name of the place, that I don’t remember. But there are other things that have vividly stayed with me.

1. The food itself. It. Was. INCREDIBLE!!! We were served up a veritable feast by our very hospitable hosts, plate after plate appearing in front of us. I remember the super soft flat bread, unlike any I’d ever had before. I remember the smooth, rich baba ganoush dip. I remember the incredible stew of vegetables and goodness knows what meat, flavours I’d never had before, and ones I wanted to eat over and over again.

2. I remember my group’s wonder and awe, I remember everyone’s faces as we fell suddenly silent, devouring everything, looking at each other, smiling appreciatively and whispering our excitement over how good it all was.

3. I remember the other group we met up with, from the same tour company. We had crossed paths and our two leaders had us lunch together. We sat at opposite ends of the long table. While our little group devoured our food and sang the praises of the unfamiliar cuisine, I vividly remember some of the girls in the other group scrunching their noses up and complaining that they couldn’t possibly eat more carbs and rice and bread – they’d have the salad, thanks. Decidedly unconcerned about our figures at that point, and wanting to throw ourselves head first into this unbelievable experience, we exchanged glances of disbelief across the table, silently asking each other “why on earth would you travel to Egypt of all places if you weren’t willing to try the food?!”

4. I remember being happy, really and truly happy. I had successfully thrown myself into a culture and country that was as different to the one I came from as possible. I was sitting there, on a rooftop, having made it through a sandstorm, and was thoroughly enjoying food I was very unfamiliar with. It was a really happy day.

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Through my eyes: Colossi of Memnon, Egypt

Thought I’d take a quick Vietnam intermission and flash back to my trip to Egypt last year…

The Colossi of Memnon were not one of the dozens of Egyptian wonders I had heard of and read about before my trip to Egypt last year, which only served to make them that much more fascinating when we did see them.

Two enormous stone statues depicting the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, they have stood for almost 3500 years a stones throw away from the much bigger, well known and modern city of Luxor. These 23m high leviathans once guarded the entrance to Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple in Thebes, and have suffered a little damage, but they are still breath-takingly impressive. This is a photo husband took of me and one of our travel companions walking down to see them up close, in the middle of a sandstorm.

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