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|LUXURY ON THE NILE|
|Posted: 15th June 2011|
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Egyptologist, George Hart relives his journey aboard the most luxurious vessel on the Nile
SS Misr is by far the most elegant vessel on the River Nile. It cruises at a gentle speed which is essential to be able to drink in the rhythm of life on the banks of the Nile.From its decks you can observe the dramatic division between the fertile flood-plain and the arid majesty of the deserts flanking the river. See traditional village life contrasting with the dynamic growth of towns and occasional industrial investment for the prosperity of 21st century Egypt.
You approach the ancient monuments just as the Egyptians in the days of the pharaohs did - from the River Nile itself. The first visit is to the most complete temple surviving form Ancient Egypt, the temple of the god Horus at Edfu.To start with Edfu Temple gives an understanding of the complexity of a major religious centre as well as a realisation of the seclusion and darkness in which the priests celebrated their cults. In contrast theTemple of Kom Ombo is a splendid skeleton of columns and architraves with its dual sanctuary today open to the sky. It also reminds us of the longevity of Ancient Egypt where you can see in the forecourt carvings showing the Roman Emperor Tiberius wearing an exotic array of crowns, emblems of a civilisation emerging into history over three thousand years earlier.
The rescue of the temples of Philae and Abu Simbel from the threat of drowning under the waters of Lake Nasser was a bold international enterprise earning universal admiration. It was in the temple of Isis that the last ever hieroglyphs were carved and the goddess herself was the final deity of pharaoh’s Egypt to be worshipped before the advent of Christianity suppressed the “pagan“ cults. In the case of Ramesses the Great’s temples at Abu Simbel - one dedicated to himself and three major gods and the other to Nefertari his favourite queen in her role as the goddess Hathor - not only the stupendous rock-cut facades impress us but the quality and colours of the interior reliefs are perhaps the finest legacy of his reign
We end our cruise amongst the monuments and tombs of Thebes, the religious capital of Egypt during Egypt’s Golden Age.There is no real way to comprehend the intense building projects under the pharaohs except by wandering through the pylons and courts and passing the statues and obelisks of Karnak, the site sacred to Amun-Ra,King of the Gods. I often try to imagine the initial impact these gigantic structure had on the minds of the artists and scholars accompanying Napoleon’s expedition in 1798 who were to open the eyes of Europe to the magnificence and magnitude of Ancient Egyptian monuments for the first time.The Temple of Luxor, primarily built for the celebration of the New Year Festival at the time of the Nile Inundation, is in my opinion at its best viewed at night when artificial lighting reveals the crispness of its carvings to a far more dramatic effect than in sunlight, a sight of course the ancient priests were never to see. Perhaps I should end by mentioning a visit which for me is always a highlight of this cruise, namely to the Luxor Museum. Here the display is one of the most modern in Egypt and you will see some of the artistic masterpieces of Thebes. I cannot extol enough the quartzite statue of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III , discovered remarkably preserved in 1989 in the Luxor Temple Cache, look at the face of the pharaoh with its serenity and you can get a glimpse of the idea of the god-king which pervaded ancient Egyptian civilisation.