Egypt 2: Along the Nile

Cleopatra: He’s speaking now, Or murmuring ‘Where’s my serpent of old Nile?’ — Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 4

This is Part 2 to my post about our brief trip to Luxor, Egypt. As I look through Uwe’s photographs from that week I’m struck by his images of the Nile.

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There is something sensuous about this river… One of my very favorite Shakespeare plays is Antony and Cleopatra. Here is the description of Cleopatra floating down the Nile:

Enobarbus: The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
The winds were love-sick with them, the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes.

…From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her, and Antony,
Enthroned i’ the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too
And made a gap in nature.

Agrippa: Rare Egyptian! (Act II, Scene 2)D31_8592_DxO10

The Nile is iconic. It’s the longest river in the world, around 4,160 miles or 6,670 kilometers The Nile originates at Lake Victoria and Lake Tana, and ends at the Mediterranean. It flows northward through Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Egypt.

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It is the largest oasis on the planet. When we visited in May 2013 tourism had declined so far that there were no longer any direct flights to Luxor. Instead, we flew to Hurghada on the Red Sea and a van met us. We drove for four hours across the barest desert landscape imaginable. No nomads, no towns, no vegetation or animal life to be seen. When we reached the Nile, visible signs of life appeared again.

D31_7870_DxO8 D31_7871_DxO8 D31_7872_DxO8All of the great ancient cities we visited are on the river’s banks. Karnak, Luxor/Thebes. Dendera, Edfu. From our hotel balcony we gazed directly across the river to the Valley of the Kings. The Valleys of the Kings, the Queens and the Nobles are on the west bank of the Nile River as you must be buried on that side in order to enter the afterlife.

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We sailed downriver to Dendera, enjoying the scenery that flowed slowly past. D31_8555_DxO8

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The fertile Nile was the original source of Egypt’s wealth and today 40 million Egyptians (50% of the population) live near its banks. There was life on the shores and in the water everywhere we looked.

Cleopatra: …we’ll to th’ river: there, My music playing far off, I will betray Tawny-finned fishes. (Act II, Scene 5)D31_8562_DxO8

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D31_8627_DxO8Antony: The higher Nilus swells, The more it promises; as it ebbs, the seedsman Upon the slime and ooze scatters his grain, And shortly comes to harvest. (Act II, Scene 7)

The Egyptian calendar was based on the Nile’s three flood cycles. According to Wikipedia, “[t]hese seasons, each consisting of four months of thirty days each, were called Akhet, Peret, and Shemu. Akhet, which means inundation, was the time of the year when the Nile flooded, leaving several layers of fertile soil behind, aiding in agricultural growth. Peret was the growing season, and Shemu, the last season, was the harvest season when there were no rains.” [1]

As I looked out at the river and thought about my mother, I sensed the rhythms of life and death more clearly than ever before.

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D31_8557_DxO8To the ancients, the Nile was the River Ar meaning “black” because of the rich, fertile sediment left on the banks from the Nile’s flooding. When the Aswan Dam was built in 1970, the annual flooding ended. But by the time we left I knew why Shakespeare’s hero confessed,

Antony: Egypt, thou knew’st too well My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’ strings, And thou shouldst tow me after. (Act III, Scene 9)

NOTES: [1] Wikipedia: Season of the Harvest

http://interesting-africa-facts.com/Africa-Landforms/Nile-River-Facts.html

http://www.ancient-egypt-online.com/river-nile-facts.html

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/nileriver.html

All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s pictures from Egypt and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve moved. You’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.

 

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Egypt 1: We had the entire Valley of the Kings to Ourselves

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Karnak with almost no tourists

 

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Medinet Habu, the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, with none

Let’s get one thing clear right away: Uwe and I are NOT danger chasers. We don’t pick areas to visit that are experiencing unrest or natural disasters. D31_7958_DxO8When we went to Luxor for a week in May 2013, tourism in the area was wa-a-y down. But it’s so far from Cairo that we never felt threatened.

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Edfu – Temple of Horus

A week after we were there Egypt imploded, and we would not have made that trip. As it was we had Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, and the ruins up and down the Nile banks to ourselves. What an experience, like getting a private tour of the world’s greatest antiquities!

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Dendera Temple

 

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Egypt was a special wish of mine for decades.  My mom was a teacher, and when she died the last unit she was teaching was on ancient Egypt. At her funeral my family was touched to receive drawings from the children she’d taught. They’d drawn mummies, and Mom’s spirit as a bird. There was even a drawing of a mummified feline with a caption: Mrs. Campbell’s cat.

Luxor

Luxor Temple

Pillars like lotus

Pillars like lotus

D31_7925_DxO8Some of the world’s most spectacular ruins, and there were almost no other tourists. Occasionally a lone bus pulled in with a group from a cruise ship or daytrippers from Hurghada on the coast, but most of the week we wandered in amazement all by ourselves.

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Deir el-Bahari, Temple of Queen Hathsephut

I can’t even begin to understand Egyptian iconography. Gods with the heads of cows?

Hathor

The goddess Hathor

or an ibis? how about an alligator? A giant scarab as an object of worship — huhhh? It’s so foreign to me that Luxor was a glorious dip into an age that I didn’t even bother trying to grasp.

The scale of what we were looking at was also beyond my imagination, both in age and in sheer height! At each site we admired impossibly high ceilings. We could see the original paint, thousands of years later.

Original blue paint 1

Original blue paint

Original blue paint 2D31_8458_DxO8D31_8459_DxO8Even the air feels like it contains the dusty molecules of ancient dynasties…. We sat each evening on the hotel balcony and enjoyed the view and the heat. On the day that I became older than my mother was when she passed away, I sat looking out over the Nile.

The ageless Nile River

The ageless Nile River

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Aside from dishonest horse carriage drivers, the Egyptians were all kind, helpful, and incredibly friendly. I look forward to returning!

Waiting.

Waiting.

NOTES: All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s images from Egypt and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve moved. You’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.