Flashback Friday: A night at the Temple of Edfu, Egypt

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Flashback Friday!! Hooray! It’s that time when you’re counting down the minutes to the end of the work week, and letting your mind wander a little more than usual. For me, that usually means thinking about packing my bags and leaving again. Which also makes me think of adventures passed; the time I spent in Egypt almost two years ago often comes to my mind when I think of “adventure”. Back in April, I wrote about the journey that took us from Kom Ombo Temple to Edfu – thought it was time to re-visit that day and talk about how it all ended. Welcome to the Temple of Edfu.

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The Temple of Edfu, dedicated to the God Horus and located somewhere between Aswan and Luxor, was one of the best preserved temples that we saw, despite building having been completed somewhere around the year 50 BC.

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We arrived to find that we were in fact the only tour group there at the time…. amazing!! That meant we got to walk around uninterrupted, not needing to wait around to look at anything, not having to worry about getting other tourists in our pictures, and having a great time taking photos like this, that will remind me of the trip of a lifetime for the rest of my life…

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We saw the most beautiful things in that temple, fascinating, too. One of the things that I remember most vividly and struck me hardest was the painting on this ceiling – the colour was still largely in tact. After thousands of years, the original colour was still there.. how incredible is that?!

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It was a pretty amazing temple to visit, and as the sun went down, it only got more beautiful… this statue of Horus was the last thing I saw when we left; it was perfect.

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An interesting encounter at the Temple of Karnak, Egypt

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We arrived at the Karnak Temple complex after a quick visit to the Colossi of Memnon, and bang in the middle of a sandstorm. It was one of those things you see in movies or travel documentaries that looks kinda cool, but is actually just crap in real life. The sandstorm, not the temple.

An absolutely stunning, staggeringly enormous open air museum of sorts, it’s the second largest temple complex of it’s type in the world (Angkor Wat takes the title). While it’s hard to pick favourite parts, some of the more impressive sections, in my eyes, included the great Hypostyle hall of columns, the rows of ram-headed sphinxes lining the entrance to the complex, and the few obelisks scattered around.

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It was a really amazing complex, quite large and diverse compared to a lot of other sites we visited. It stood out for another reason though; I had quite a confronting experience there.

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Our tour group was comprised of myself, husband, another young lady and two other guys, all of us being around the same age. Us two girls hadn’t had too much trouble during the trip, which we were very thankful for, but what happened here certainly tested our nerves. While we were looking around the lake, we became quite conscious of the fact that we were being circled by a few young Egyptian men. They’d have been somewhere between 18 and 25 years old, if I had to warrant a guess. Anyway, I guess the cockiest one, with the oiled, slicked back hair, tight fitting singlet and gold neck chains got a little bored of staring from a distance – I hadn’t really registered that he’d disappeared from my sight until I turned around to look back at the lake to find him only a few inches in front of me and my fellow female travel companion, camera pointed in our faces, clicking away like a possessed paparazzo.

Needless to say, we were pretty freaked out! We turned to face each other as closely as we could, so that he could only see our backs, and our amazing local guide, Medo, stepped in pretty quickly to get rid of him (thank goodness!). Once he was gone and we’d gotten over our initial shock, we asked what the hell it was all about. Medo explained that the big temple complexes attracted a lot of young guys coming from the “country side” (remoter areas) where they don’t get Western tourists. They come to the big tourist spots with their cameras to capture the foreign women they see, so that they can take the pictures back home to their friends and brag and exaggerate about what they’d seen and their holiday conquests. Because I wasn’t already feeling like enough of a zoo animal, being porcelain doll-white, auburn-haired and freckled.

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While it freaked me out, it was also a really interesting experience; I think I’d kind of expected to encounter this sort of thing the whole time we were in Egypt. But this was the seventh day of our eight day trip, and it was the first confrontation of that type we had. I think I was also so taken aback because us Melbournians aren’t really all that surprised or intrigued by different cultures to that extent. Melbourne is a stomping ground for any and every culture under the sun – Fijians, Chinese, Americans, Italians, Vietnamese, Indians, Brits, Greeks, Jews, Muslims, Catholic nuns, Buddhist monks… They all coexist in our city without any of the outlandish curiosity we were shown in Egypt. Hell, I’ve seen a mature-aged gentleman of what seemed to be eastern European descent standing in the middle of the CBD dressed in a skirt and heels, holding rosary beads, and no one blinked an eye at him as they walked past. It made for a very interesting social experiment, and really made me wander about my own upbringing and how much I’ve completely taken for granted exposure to other cultures from such an early age. Even as a kid, with friends who looked so clearly physically different to me, I don’t think I ever really wandered (or cared) why, yet here were these young adults making special trips from their quiet, secluded home towns to see what foreigners looked like and take home proof that they’d seen these fantastical creatures…

Anyone else ever experienced something like this on their travels?

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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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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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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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My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An, Vietnam

My Son Sanctuary
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/949

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After seeing some stunning photos of it, Sib & I knew we needed to see the ruins at My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My Son, dated from the 4th to 13th centuries AD, is the former capital of the Champa Kingdom. Set in stunning green, mountain surrounds in the Quang Nam Province near Hoi An, it houses the remains of the Cham temple towers.

The Cham people came from Indian origins, and were renowned for their unique building techniques; the towers have been constructed, as our guide explained, without any use of binding agent or mortar, simply brick against brick.

Enough of the history lesson now though – here’s the beautiful space we had the privilege of wandering around for the morning.

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Vietnam.. You’ve been amazing :)

Well my travels in Vietnam are drawing to a close, so here’s a bit of a visual summary of the trip… Once I’m back home, I’ll have heaps of posts coming to cover the food, the sights and the people – there’s been way too much to even start writing about now!

Some of the amazing things I’ve done have been..
– kayaking Ha Long Bay
– eating my weight in street food
– a market tour and cooking class at Morning Glory
– cycling the islets of Hoi An
– visiting the Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum
– eating more amazing street food
– crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels
– shooting an M16
– saw the beautiful Cham ruins at My son
– walked the riverside of Hoi An surrounded by lanterns
– I ate a lot of really good food. Did I mention that?

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