Thursday, December 21, 2017
When we woke we found that we were docked at Kom Ombo. This is a small town, home to many Nubians who were displaced by the creation of Lake Nassar when the Aswan High dam was built in 1970. “Kom” means mound; many excavated ruins in this country are called “Kom XXXX”, as they were identifiable because they were under a “mound” of sand that had to be removed. The temple of Kom Ombo was first found in the 1890s. It is unusual in that it is dedicated to TWO gods: the left side to the falcon god Horus, and the right side to Sobek, the local crocodile god.
Yes….this area of the Nile had an abundance of crocodiles, and as our guide explained, the people felt that if they worshipped a crocodile god, then the real crocodiles might stop eating them! So they made a god with the body of a man and the head of a crocodile. We’re not sure if this strategy worked or not. These days, there are no crocodiles in this part of the river, as they cannot move past the dam. Construction was begun in the 2nd century BC and lasted about 100 years. There are many beautiful walls, ceilings, and columns, some still showing the original colors.
Just down the road is the Crocodile Museum! Here they tell the story of the crocodiles: how they represented fertility, and there are also about 40 mummified crocs! You read that right. Once they had Sobek, they began to mummify some of the crocodiles. And these were big ones! Once again, though, no pictures were allowed in the museum. So you will have to visit for yourself to really appreciate it.
Back on the boat, we continued upstream towards Aswan while they plied us with champagne and snacks on the top deck….
…followed by a yoga session……
…followed by lunch up there as well!
A postprandial rest while the boat docked, and then the group went on a short ride in a feluca. The felucca, a small boat with a single triangular sail, is believed to be the oldest vessel used in ancient times. We were told that relaxing on a felucca is a favorite leisure time activity for Egyptians and it is truly relaxing. The breeze and lovely river scape are delightful. Over the course of 45 minutes, we hardly moved at all! But, we did learn a few things. No commercial fishing is allowed on the Nile. Egyptians prefer eating fish from the Red Sea (which is more expensive than Mediterranean fish), not Nile River fish. The prohibition of commercial fishing is to keep the river relatively clean. No sewage can go into the Nile. More facts about the Nile per se: longest river in the world (approx. 4,400 miles long), average depth is 75 feet with depth in some areas 5 to 6 feet only. The deepest part of the river is at the Delta where the two rivers merge—1,500 feet deep!
Ossama also explained the role of the cataracts stone blocks that hold back the water in spots. These also provided defense from invaders to the south as no boats (let alone ships) can get through this area
And that takes us to yet another highlight of the trip. High tea at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. What a treasure! This is a very exclusive spot (opened in 1902) with exquisite views, and is much favored by kings and queens and presidents and Prime Ministers through the years. This hotel was also featured in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, which she wrote while staying here. (We didn’t see Hercule Poirot anywhere but perhaps he was relaxing in his room.) The hotel was lovely and the veranda where we had our tea was absolutely breathtaking, as we had a view of the river, the cataracts, and the sunset.
And the treats weren’t bad either. Like most authentic high teas, there was enough food to keep us sated well through dinner…
…but of course we forced ourselves to have a light dinner anyway 90 minutes later! That takes us through Thursday; we’ll catch up again tomorrow (er… that would be today)—December 22 our 43rd wedding anniversary!
Be well and love,