This morning we set sail for Aswan which was the southern frontier of ancient Egypt and provided a gateway to Africa. It is here that granite quarries are found and supplied the rest of Egypt in the building of temples and pyramids. The Ptolemies ruled here from 323-30 BC and built the remarkable Philae Temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. Isis was the goddess of fertility and motherhood. She was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. Her name literally means Queen of the Throne and she was often depicted with a headdress that was an empty throne chair belonging to her husband Osiris. In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was often portrayed as her child and sat on the throne she provided. Philae Temple was built during the reign of Ptolemy II and continued by Ptolemy IV, V, VI, VII, and XI. The temple was submerged after the first Aswan dam was built in 1906 and was later saved and moved by UNESCO to Agilika Island after the building of the Aswan High Dam in 1971. Agilika Island was modelled after Philae Island and the temple was moved stone by stone and took 9 years to complete!
Early this morning, we arrived at the docks to board a speedboat taking us to Philae Temple on Agilika Island
The first 18-meter pylon of Philae Temple has two towers and an open forecourt leading to the second pylon. The mamisi or birth house here has scenes depicting the birth of Horus by Isis and Horus as a falcon in the swamps of the Delta. The second pylon leads to the hypostyle hall where you can find Coptic crosses carved into the walls when the temple became a Christian place of worship during the early Byzantine times. From here the three vestibules lead into the inner sanctuary where a golden statue of Isis and her barque used to stand. On the west is a door leading to the Gate of Hadrian with reliefs depicting Hadrian making offerings to Osiris, Isis, etc. as well as Marcus Aurelius making offerings of grapes and flowers to Isis.
Forecourt of Philae Temple
Birth House of Philae Temple
Coptic crosses can be found on the columns when the temple was used as a coptic church
Pharaoh making offerings to Thoth with the head of an ibis. He was the inventor of writing and the messenger of the gods.
Horus in the form of the falcon wearing the double crown
Isis suckling the young pharaoh who was deified as Horus
The giving of life to the pharaoh represented by the ankh
Inside the inner sanctuary with the granite base which would have held the sacred barque bearing the image of Isis.
A relief depicting Isis supporting the mummy of Osiris with her wings. Legend has it that Osiris was murdered by his brother Set. Isis, Osiris’s wife, restores his body to posthumously conceive their son, Horus, who then avenges his father Osiris The Osiris myth is integral to the ancient Egyptian concepts of kingship, the conflict between good and evil, and the idea of the afterlife.
The small Temple of Hathor decorated with reliefs of musicians among which was an ape playing the lute and Bes, the god of childbirth.
Bes, the dwarf god, who was the patron of childbirth and children
Not far is the unfinished pavilion called Kiosk of Trajan or Pharaoh’s Bed. It was a favorite subject of the Victorian painters with their boats moored beneath it.
Temple of Isis on the left and Kiosk of Trajan on the right.
From Philae Temple, we were taken for a ride on a traditional Egyptian sail boat called a felucca. We went around Lord Kitchener’s Island and Elephantine Island. We returned to our cruise for a relaxing lunch before we took a speed boat to visit a Nubian Village about 45 mins away.
Felucca sailing near Aswan
Cruising on our felucca
Lord Kitchener’s Island houses the Aswan Botanical Gardens with many exotic and rare plants.
On the hill stands the Agha Khan Mausoleum built in honor of Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III. He was the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and briefly served as President of the League of Nations in 1937. The mausoleum was built using pink granite and white carrara marble. His widow would leave a read rose on his tomb everyday until her death in 2000. As per her request, a rose would still be laid on his sarcophagus till today.
Arriving the Nubian Village near Aswan. Many Nubians had to be relocated with the building of the Aswan high dam. They have darker colored skin and their own indigenous language. As warriors, the ancient Nubians were excellent archers and often fought for the pharaohs.
En route back to Aswan
Our 4 nights on the Nile cruise quickly came to an end We saw a lot but there is so much more to see. Next post will be on Abu Simbel, my favorite temple visited on this Egyptian adventure. Stay tuned!
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