A friend of mine had recently summed up Edfu as ” the people are hospitable, the sunsets immaculate, the memories everlasting”. Edfu had been all of that and more. We had reached there very early the next morning and I had woken up fresh and excited after my first night on the Nile cruise boat. The journey had been extremely comfortable and our previous evening had been very enjoyable. Post Kom Ombo temple visit, all the guests had dressed up for dinner and dance programme at the dining hall and the evening had been filled with good food, music and belly dancing. A swirling dervish performance too had been staged and post dinner, we had lounged on the top deck under the blue Nile sky. Stars had shone down upon us from a blue black firmament and they had looked close enough to be touched. Away from the blinding city lights, the long dead celestial bodies had sparkled bold and big and the night had been very generous with its beauty. The Nile breeze had been soft, with a wonderful caressing quality and it had been pretty late, by the time, we had left all those pleasures to retire for the night.
The gentle lapping movements of the boat had lulled us to a deep sleep quickly and I had woken up early to catch a brilliant sunrise breaking over the Nile river. It had been a very fine silver morning and the river had been at its bluest, when a gentle sun had woken up lazily. It had seemed to have had all the time in the world and the sunrise had been a luxuriantly lazy one. The elephant backed broad mountains along the bank had glowed dull gold in the soft light and the palm trees had shimmered a rich emerald. The entire scene had been beautiful enough, when a traditional felucca had come gliding by with its huge white sail billowing dramatically against the awakening sky. A wooden sailing boat, feluccas are quintessentially Nile mode of transportation and they are quite popular in the Red Sea and eastern Mediterranean coast as well. One or two big lateen sails are its signature feature and the blue water of the Nile had been delightfully dotted with these rigs. I had lain in bed, watching the spectacle of a Nile sunrise unfold and the blissful experience had seemed to me, to be the best luxury that money could have bought.
Efu had arrived shortly after the lovely sunrise and we had dressed in hurry, to enjoy the temple town to the fullest. Located on the western bank of the Nile, Edfu had been a charming provincial town whose main industries had been tourism, pottery and sugarcane. The wonderfully preserved temple of Horus had been its claim to fame and although short, our visit to Edfu had been a memorable one. Rows of waiting horse carriages had taken us from the river side to the depths of the old town and in the morning light, Edfu had looked charmingly quaint. School children had trooped behind their mothers and old men had smoked water pipes under shade of swaying palm trees. Mud brick houses had stood in neat narrow lanes and hens had scattered noisily at the sound of our carriage bells. It had been very photogenic and in the midst of streaming fingers of young sunlight, the little town had seemed very pretty. The huge hulking temple of Horus had stood somewhere in the middle of Edfu town and I had taken aback by its size, when the carriage had disembarked us in front of it.
The temple of Horus had indeed been the second largest temple in Egypt, after Karnak and its slightly elevated location had helped it escape Nile’s annual destructive floods. Thus its architectural beauty had been well preserved and the temple’s stunning reliefs had offered invaluable information about priesthood and temple rituals of ancient Egypt to archaeologists. Dedicated to the falcon headed god, Horus, the temple of Edfu had been as powerfully impressive as the legend of its patron. The child of Isis and Osiris, Horus had been positioned as the sky god of Nile Valley. His eyes had been said to be the sun and the moon and he had been raised in the swamps by his mother after his uncle, Seth had killed his father Osiris. Upon growing up, Horus had avenged the death of his father by defeating Seth and good had prevailed over evil in that epic battle. All pharaohs had claimed to be the living incarnation of Horus and the falcon headed son of Isis had been one of the major deities of ancient Egypt. His temple in Edfu had been massive and we had entered the cavernous interior through the high mud brick boundary wall.
A beautiful colonnaded Birth House had stood inside the enclosure and it had been the venue of annual coronation festival of the pharaohs. Evocative reliefs of Horus suckling his mother Isis as an infant as well as a young man had covered the columns and the gateway of the pylon had been fronted by two giant black granite falcons. Edfu temple of Horus had been magnificent and we had soon lost ourselves within its maze like depths. The early morning sun had cast elongated glow upon the otherwise gloomy, relief filled corridors and the checkered play of light and shade had made the Hall of Offerings, Festival Hall, Hypostyle Hall, Sanctuary etc all the more fascinating. History and mythology had mingled in an intoxicating way in Edfu temple and Horus had presided there in his full glory. While the New Year Chapel had shown traces of dark blue relief of reclining Nut, the sky goddess and the Festival Hall texts had revealed the delightful beauty of festivities once celebrated within them.
Recipes of lotions, potions and magic spells had been written all around us and Horus had been claimed to have been pampered, indulged in fragrant floral anointment, entertained and pacified by the priests inside the temple. Ancient Egyptian religious rituals had covered the temple from top to bottom and apart from symbols where Seth, had been seen killed in the form of hippo, most of the reliefs had entailed Horus in some way. Interestingly, the temple of Horus at Edfu had been by the Ptolemy rulers, who had been Greeks by origins and they had ruled Egypt as successors of Alexander the Great. Ptolemies had presented themselves as pharaohs to the native Egyptians and the Horus Temple had been commissioned by them to be built over earlier existing structures. They had enacted pharaonic traditions, architectural styles and rituals and thus the temple at Edfu had symbolized all their aspirations.
It had been a highly ambitious project which had seen glorious days at the peak of its importance and with the introduction of Christianity, the monument had rapidly fallen into disuse. The ban on paganisn had lead to defacing of many of its beautiful reliefs and the temple had been found buried under piles of sand by Auguste Mariette, who had excavated it back to its erstwhile beauty during the 1860s. In my eyes, Edfu had been an example of magnificent restoration work and while Philae had been beautiful in every way, Horus Temple had retained its powerful soul. The shell like vastness of its structure had been more alive than Philae or Kom Ombo and I had felt more alive walking down its ancient granite paths, than on busy streets. The old stones had been softened by footsteps of thousands of devotees throughout centuries and the walls had echoed with palpable stories. Time had gone back and forth with our steps in and out of its maze and corridors and by the time, we had returned back to the boat, Edfu’s Temple of Horus had left lasting impressions on our minds. Needless to say, we had fallen in love with Edfu.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE