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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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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Somewhere between Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples in Egypt…

Around this time last year, I was getting home from the trip of a life time – I finally made it to Egypt, which was a life dream for me from a very young age (I wrote a bit more about this life-changing trip here and here, and I’m sure will have many more posts to come!). We spent 8 days there, touring the country with a small band of like-minded adventurers – another 2 Aussies and a Colombian, along with our brilliant guide, Medo. At one stage, it kind of felt like we were kind of on repeat – another temple, more hieroglyphs, more sand in our shoes… I think I was the only one still fascinated anew each time!

The photos below were taken on a little sojourn between a visit to Kom Ombo Temple, and our journey to Edfu Temple. After a long day of sight-seeing, we were thankful to be able to rest our weary feet on a horse-and-carriage ride for a while before making our way to Edfu (where the final photo was taken).

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I found it pretty incredible to be in such a different world to the one I had always known – riding through the streets and seeing these ramshackle, corrugated steel and wooden structures passing for shops (and more often than not, homes) was not something us Aussie kids were used to; we’re pretty lucky and privileged, it appeared, compared to a lot of the world. It really hit home for me during this ride. I feel like my privilege also extended to being able to actually experience this as well, when I know a lot of people would sooner sit at a fancy resort all day and turn a blind eye. Is it not a thing of beauty to be able to see a country in its entirety, and not just the shiny, pretty, brochure-worthy parts?

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

The streets were all but deserted, quiet and lonely – they were also, to a young, white female – a little intimidating and scary. You hear and read about the kind of things that can happen on these streets after dark, and again, it really hits home that I’m incredibly fortunate to live in a country where it is not only allowed, but the norm for young women to go out alone. To shop alone, to study, to hold a job and earn (and spend) their income as they please. To wear whatever they want without fear of repercussion, to choose their own husbands, to love who and what they want. I felt suddenly so relieved at the fact I had been born geographically where I had, and not where I currently was – I’d have never survived. I’d have been one of those horrible stories or tales of caution, I’m sure of it… This is not to say that it’s all doom and gloom and bad news over there. For the most part, all of the locals we met and interacted with were absolutely lovely, kind, generous and patient. But they were also all men – the only woman we were introduced to in a week was the lady at the papyrus factory.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

But it’s these experiences that shape us and make us who we are. Without experiencing that, I wouldn’t appreciate my fortunes as much. I would have continued to take for granted everything I had assumed should be an unquestionable right of mine. I’d never have given another thought to the fact that I chose my own husband, and as long as I contribute to our monthly mortgage and bills, he doesn’t care if I buy myself a new pair of shoes with my pay. That ride, as well as opening my eyes and provoking those thoughts, also made me much more culturally aware, and fascinated with the differences that all lives experience. It just fuelled my wanderlust and thirst for knowledge even more.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014