Aswan and the Philae Temple

Aswan is the most beautiful of Egypt's cities, noted for its healthy climate and cool evenings. It is 400 feet above sea level and 558 miles from Cairo with a population of 1 million. North of Aswan is the modern world, south into the Sudan is the past. Date palms grow up to the shore of the Nile but inland is nothing but desert where the heat becomes unbearable.

Aswan has been a favorite tourist site to Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Egyptians! The finest relic in Aswan is the Pullman Cataract Hotel which appeared in the movie, Death on the Nile.

We visited the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan in the Western Desert. The Aha Khan used to winter in Aswan and when he died his wife built a mausoleum of rose granite for his burial site and she is the only person whose felucca on the Nile is allowed to have a red sail. We also got to spend an afternoon sailing the Nile on a felucca around Elephantine Island and the Temple of Khnum.

The most interesting place in Aswan besides flying to Abu Simbel (See the Chuck in Front of Abu Simbel menu item for a description), is the temple complex of Philae. Philae is/was located on a sacred island but was moved due to the Aswan Dam. The island is actually located in Nubia but both the Egyptians and Nubians worshipped the goddess Isis. Her magical powers it was thought, brought back her husband Osiris after he was slain by his brother Set, and her spells saved her son Horus from a poisonous snake. Visitors came in Graeco-Roman times to see the priests performing their sacred duties. Even as late as 453 AD the goddess was worshipped by the Blemmys, a tribe of the Eastern Desert. The monuments of Philae represent the last outpost of ancient Egyptian tradition. The temple known as the "Pearl of the East", the temple is the only monument dedicated to a single goddess. It is a beautiful complex and was built during the dynasties of the Ptolemy.

Another very interesting area was the granite quarries where the obelisks were carved out of living rock and then somehow slid down the hill onto boats on the Nile to be transported to Thebes. The largest one to be carved is still in the hill side as it was almost cut out and then discovered that a crack or fault was in the stone! It is 137 feet long or as tall as a 12 story building! If it had been completed, it would have been the largest piece of worked stone in history, weighing 1,320 TONS. I am sure a lot of people were very unhappy. You can see where the workmen chipped the rock by hand using other stones and probably also fire as it has been found that by creating a very hot fire, the stone will flake, making it easier to chip the stone. What is hard to imagine is the ability to move a stone that might be eight or ten stories tall, get it on a boat and sail it hundreds of mile to Thebes, dress it until it is smooth as glass and set it up right without breaking it! Queen Hatshepsut had two obelisks cut, polished, moved and put in place within less than a year! Unbelievable!


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