16-27 January, 2013
Extension to Bahariyah Oasis & Alexandria, 27 Jan - 2 Feb
WALKING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GODS
Egypt with Freddy Silva
Long before the pyramids were built, Egypt's northern and southern territories were ruled separately. About 5000 years ago a young prince by the name of Narmer (Menes) unified the Red (North) and White (South) kingdoms and became Egypt's first Pharaoh. As brilliant a politician as he was a warrior, Narmer chose the site of Memphis as his capital, situated at the then Nile Delta tip along the North-South border, about 25 km south of today's downtown Cairo.
For the next 800 years the first Capital of the ancient Egyptians prospered under the rule of Zoser, Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), Menkaure (Mycerinus), Unas, and others. It became one of the most influential and powerful cities in the world and housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Photo courtesy of National Geographic
Constructed on the Giza plateau, a necropolis of the city of Memphis on the Nile's west bank, the three Great Pyramids are the ultimate manifestation of political stability and power of the ruler during the Third and Fourth Dynasties. Khufu's son built two of the Giza pyramids.
Photo by Freddy Silva
Dashur · Saqqara
Built by Pharaoh Sneferu, the Bent Pyramid at Dashur dates from about 2600 BCE and was the first pyramid to have been planned as a true pyramid, as opposed to a step pyramid. The ancient formal name of the Bent Pyramid was either "The Southern Shining Pyramid" or "Sneferu is Shining in the South," depending on the translation.
While Memphis was the capital of Ancient Egypt, Saqqara served as its necropolis. The most striking feature is the Step Pyramid of the Pharaoh Djoser from the third dynasty. The Step Pyramid is the oldest complete hewn-stone building complex known in history. There are another 16 pyramids on the site and that of the fifth-dynasty Pharaoh Unas houses the earliest known example of the Pyramid Texts. These inscriptions with instructions for the afterlife, used to decorate the interior of tombs, were the precursor of the New Kingdom Book of the Dead. Because the necropolis was lost beneath the sands for much of the past two millennia, many of these have been superbly preserved with both their structures and lavish internal decorations intact.
Photos by Freddy Silva
Old Cairo is known as Masr al-Qadima and stretches down to the sub-area often called Coptic Cairo, predating what is now Cairo. Some Egyptologists believe that there was a settlement here as far back as the 6th century BCE. Later, the Romans built a fortress here and some of these Roman walls still exist. Later, it became a Christian stronghold, with as many as 20 churches built within an area of one square mile. There are five remaining, along with the earliest Mosque ever built in Egypt.
Market area of Khan al-Khalili
Photo by R Nowitz, National Geographic/Getty Images
After the fall of Jerusalem around 70 CE the area saw an influx of Judaism where the oldest synagogue is located. If the modern world can be said to have four major religions consisting of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, then three of those are represented by some of their most ancient relics in Old Cairo, a truly a multi-faith area where Jewish, Coptic and Islamic monuments all stand next to one other.
Sultan Hassan mosque
Dome and lanterns in the courtyard
Abydos, Temple of Osiris, Osireion
Abydos is one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt. Considered one of the most important archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, including a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed.
Abydos became notable for the Great Temple of Abydos, of Seti I, which contains a tunnel displaying the Abydos King List, a chronological list showing cartouche names of most of the dynastic pharaohs.
The worship at Abydos was of the jackal god Wepwawet who "opened the way" to the realm of the dead, increasing from the first dynasty to the time of the 12th dynasty and then disappearing after the 18th. Anhur appears in the eleventh dynasty; and Anubis, the god of the western Hades, rises to importance in the Middle Kingdom and then vanishes in the 18th. The worship here of Osiris in his various forms begins in the 12th dynasty and becomes more important in later times, and Abydos was considered sacred to him.
Photo courtesy of Mikey and Lou Samson
The Karnak temple area is a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is probably the second most visited historical site in Egypt, second only to the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. Karnak is a group of temples surrounded by one enclosure wall that is dedicated to the god Amon-Ra - the chief god of the Theban Triad, his wife Mut, and their son Khonso. The temple covers an area of about 60 acres. In ancient Egypt, the temple was called "The House of Amon" or "The Most Sacred of Places." In addition to the main sanctuary there are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries located outside the enclosing walls of the four main parts, as well as several avenues of ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amon-Re and Luxor Temple, and a vast sacred lake, which was used for purification.
The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction work began in the 16th century BCE. Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features are overwhelming.
Photo by Freddy Silva
Luxor temple was one of the most important temples in ancient Egypt. Amenhotep III built a whole temple for the god Amon. Later, Ramses II added a new open court, a massive facade representing its entrance, a huge pylon, and two seated statues of the king. The name of the temple in ancient Egyptian was "The House of Amon in the southern holy of hollies," or "The southern Harem." Originally two large obelisks stood in front of the pylon. However, now only one remains, while the other one stands in the Place de la Concorde, Paris.
Photo by Freddy Silva
The Temple of Edfu, located on the west bank of the River Nile between Esna and Aswan, is the second largest temple in Egypt after Karnak and one of the best preserved. It the largest temple dedicated to Horus and was the center of several festivals sacred to the god. The inscriptions on its walls provide important information on language, myth and religion.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
The Sanctuary of Horus, with ritual barque in front and black granite shrine in back.
Photos by Freddy Silva
Front view of the Temple of Nefertari
Abu Simbel is among the most magnificent monuments in the world. The temples were threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser after the Aswan high dam was constructed. With the UNESCO’s help, the two temples were cut into large blocks and moved to a higher location.
The larger temple is for King Ramses II. The temple’s facade has four colossal statues of the King and is topped with 22 baboons whose arms are raised in the air to worship the rising sun. Ancient Egyptian architects positioned the temple in such a way that the sun’s rays penetrate the sanctuary on October 21 and February 21. These dates are believed to be the king's birthday and coronation date, respectively.
The smaller temple was the first temple ever dedicated to a queen. It is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Nefertari, Ramses’ most beloved wife. It commemorates Ramses’ victory in the Battle of Kadesh, intimidates his Nubian neighbors, and honors his most beloved wife. The facade is decorated by six colossi, four of Ramses II and two of Nefertari, which are separated by a large gateway.
Photo by Freddy Silva
Philae Temple to Isis and Osiris
Philae is considered to be a very beautiful and magnificent temple in the Nile valley. It is dedicated to the goddess Isis and the god Osiris. The temple became submerged in the Nile after the first Aswan dam was built in 1906. During the 1970’s with the help of UNESCO, Philae temple was completely moved from Philae Island to its new location on Agilika Island.
The main temple was converted to a church during the reign of the Emperor Justinian and even now, crosses are visible throughout the temple. The temple has scenes depicting the birth of the god Horus by his mother Isis, which is similar to the birth story of baby Jesus. The temple is built in the same style as the temples of the New Kingdom, as well as some other elements, which appeared in the Greco-Roman period, such as the Mamisi (the House of the divine birth), and a Nilometer. In addition to the main Temple of Isis there are other monuments here such as the Kiosk of Trajan and Chapel of Osiris.
Come and take your place during private entry and ceremony in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid and within the powerful energy field between the paws of the Sphinx.