The drive to Luxor was slower than expected, though it did include some amazing history. Our driver from the trip to Abu Simbel had agreed to drive us to Luxor while stopping at most of the historic sites in Aswan on the way. He had also promised to include a meal in my fixed price. Little did I know that he would want to include dinner in an all-day trip and expect that we hold on to the hunger all day – more on that later.
We checked out of the hotel after breakfast. The driver was on time (7 am) and we soon headed to the Philae temple in Aswan, about 30 minutes of drive and then a 5-minute boat ride away. Just like Abu Simbel, this temple also was reconstructed on higher ground after it was submerged in the reservoir of the high dam. The drive was eventless and our driver dropped us outside the temple and told me how to negotiate for the boat. It mostly worked and a boat driver who spoke no English dropped us at the island after a short ride in a motor-powered row boat. The temple complex is stunning, one of the best I would see on the trip. The oldest of the temples was devoted to Godess Isis and it was known by that name until a different ISIS happened. There are many other structures on the island that were built in the years after the initial temple was built in 350 BC. All of these structures were relocated to the island they are currently on.
We stopped then at the Unfnished Obelix – a pure tourist trap and totally skippable. You hike up a granite mountain to find a large piece of granite cut in the shape of an Obelix and then with a crack up the middle. No decorations or sculpturing. The only positive was an excellent bookshop we found at the exit. We skipped the high dam as it wasn’t historic.
The next real stop was the Kom Ombo temple and the mummified crocodile museum. Kom Ombo is a mixed word meaning the “Hill of Gold”. Kom is a hill in Arabic while Ombo is gold in Heiriogyphics. The temple itself is devoted to Sobek, the Nile crocodile God, and Horus, the Falcon God. It is a unique double temple from the times of King Ptolemy V. He is depicted next to kings going noble deeds and crushing their enemies in depictions across the walls of whatever remains of the temple. This is one of the temples that would have been massive, but not as much remains. There is a very interesting museum right at the exit of the temple with many real mummified crocodiles and some information about their relevance to the Egyptian history. While it is a relatively new temple (200-300 BC), it has felt the wrath of time and a large part of it is broken. We spent an hour here followed by a snack in their coffee shop – only packaged junk food and freshely brewed coffee/ tea.
The next destination was the Edfu temples. Both Kom Ombo and Edfu are major stops on the famous Nile cruises. Neither seemed worth the time the major cruises spend there. Edfu temples were in a middle of a small but very dense town where all roads seemed dug up. The cruise ship tourists were being ferried across in horse carts to appreciate the culture and maybe the poverty. The temple seemed more commercial at the outset but inside was quite incredible. Compared to some of the other temples, this temple is nearly fully preserved. It was apparently forgotten and buried in the sand for centuries before being found and dug up. This is another temple dedicated to the Falcon God Horus and built in the Ptolemic period.
The temple is a stunning structure with almost no damage and graphic wall art on the sandstone insides. There are depictions of 3000-year-old rituals and stories – an incredible walk down history. In some places, the structure is as high as 20 meters and these were the parts that stuck out of the sand mounds and led to the discovery. This temple still sits in the middle of that dig, just giving it a very natural appearance. I was fascinated by all the art on the tall and majestic pillars, but that art is really tough to click in pictures.
Post Edfu, we drove straight into Luxor. Hunger was at its peak, we had survived on some sugar cane juice, coffee, and packaged junk like cookies. It took a while to find the place that our driver wanted to show us. It was in Oldtown Luxor, a 15-minute ride beyond our hotel. The food was delicious, though still the typical Egyptian fare. We did pass the Luxor temple on the way – true to the word, Luxor is an open-air museum. A very long day did come to an end and everyone was happy (and a little tired) – we with some incredible history and food, and our driver with the money.