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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Egypt Day 13 - Kom Ombo, Nubian Village, Aswan Souk

Horus the Elder
Itinerary Day 13:  Kom Ombo / Aswan
"Enjoy the privilege and luxury of days gone by as we sail to Aswan, the gateway to Nubia and the Sudan. We arrive in the early afternoon , we will join our guide to visit to High Dam, the Unfinished Obelisk and granite quarries then to souk of Aswan if you wish to buy some of special spices in Aswan. Lunch on board. In the evening, You will have lots of time to prepare for our EGYPTIAN EVENING OF FUN, with Egyptian cuisine, Arabic Music. Dress in your bespoke Gallabeyah."
The itinerary took a bit of a detour. The Unfinished Obelisk and High Dam will wait for a couple of days as Ismael had this day jam packed with other sites.

Our guides compare notes, discuss the itinerary ,& managing their clients.
Our first stop ...

Greco Roman Temple at Kom Ombo

"Greco-Roman" tells us the Temple was constructed quite late in the long arc of Egyptian Dynastic history. The temple is highlighted in guidebooks as unique the among panoply of  Egyptian Temples for it's split personality. It honors two gods with symmetric construction of two halls and two sanctuaries. Which begs the question - Why two gods when most Egyptian temples are dedicated to one? This is where a guide like Ismael comes in handy. He explains the core insight needed to understand this temple. To whit:

The priests supported themselves and the temple with  the offerings of worshipers. The temple was initially dedicated to Sobek the Crocodile God. Crocodiles infested the Nile, and crocodiles being crocodiles, would occasionally eat an unwary Egyptian or their livestock. To protect themselves offerings were made to Sobek at the Temple to appease his appetite.  Problem being, over the years, the faithful noticed that they were still being eaten by crocodiles no matter how much they offered to Sobek. So they started diverting their offerings to more appreciative gods. This becomes an existential problem for the Sobek Temple priests.

In Silicon Valley, we'd call the problem a failure to monetize intellectual property amid a declining base of Average Daily Users. Net net - our Priestly Venture Capitalists needed a marketing plan to actualize increasing eyeballs.  The solution: Repurpose assets and relaunch the temple to a new target demographic.

Enter "Horus the Elder"as distinct from "Horus the Younger".  Horus the Younger - the Falcon God, was the most famous and revered of all the Egyptian Gods. The son of Osiris, Horus fought evil Set, unified the kingdom and spawned a line of  Pharaoh god kings that ruled throughout Egyptian history. But Horus the Elder is not that god. He just sounds like him. Since Horus the Younger already had a spectacular Temple just up the river, our priestly entrepreneurs needed a different god just for them at Kom Ombo. So they create Horus the Elder out of whole cloth, vaguely related to Horus, with a new separate symmetric entrance to the temple and a new source of funds for the Temple. It's kind of brilliant really.  Behold the Temple of Sobek,.. But Wait!!

There's More!! You also get the Temple of Horus the Elder! 
Also at Kom Ombo Temple, the Nilometer offered a fascinating insight into Ancient Egyptian life. As explained by Wikipedia:
"The ability to predict the volume of the coming inundation was part of the mystique of the Ancient Egyptian priesthood. The same skill also played a political and administrative role, since the quality of the year's flood was used to determine the levels of tax to be paid. This is where the nilometer came into play, with priests monitoring the day-to-day level of the river and announcing the awaited arrival of the summer flood."
The Nilometer 

Nubian Village

The next stop was a tour of the Nubian Village Gharb Soheil. Getting there is half the fun, with a water taxi motorboat run through Nile River cataracts and past Elephantine Island.

This is a relocated village, as Nubians in this area were displaced to make way for the High Dam. The people were froced to transition from fishing and farming to attracting tourists to survive. We do our part. We walk through the village along the Nile, take in the brightly colored homes and spices in the village souk (market).

In the village itself we tour a "typical' home. The extended Rabee family lives there. Tourists traipse through their home as they go about their business of cooking, cleaning, selling craft items, and tending to penned baby crocodiles used for photo ops.

Sigrid takes the opportunity to engage in her favorite form of travel photography, shooting portraits of the locals.

It was already a long day, but at dusk we had one more stop...

The Aswan Souk

Ismael told us we could buy anything here, and I wouldn't argue.  

We were interested in spices, herbs and tea while in the Nubian village, but Ismael advised us to wait for the Aswan market. He lives near Aswan, shops here himself and took us to the store he patronizes, saying this was the place for spices. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the store or the friendly proprietor - but the carved concrete relief of the building where the store resides says "El-Azhar Agency - Established in 1937 - Hussien Shata. MW Recommended.

Saffron, teas, dried hibiscis flowers, and herbs were among our selections...

Now all we have to do is get it all past Customs. Just kidding (not kidding).

A long day, a fun day, but we had one more surprise. When we returned to the boat, I had a traditional gallabeyah presented to me by the captain and was instructed to wear it for dinner.   A gift for my birthday, or perhaps a farewell gift from the crew. I wasn't quite sure.

It was the last night for most of the other passengers, some departing that night some the next day, so it was a night of celebration, with traditional music by the crew, singing, dancing, and a terrific feast.

Everything was great. Sigrid was theoretically shooting the crew performance on video, but all we got out of her efforts with the camera was this one out of focus shot:

And the memories. We have the memories.

Editors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Egypt and Jordan adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Internet access is always a crapshoot. My hope is that by pre-loading the itinerary it will be easier to add some pics and journal commentary as time and the internet permits. If there are no pics or commentary, you'll just have to wait until we get back. 

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