Thursday, November 19, 2015


Last night we climbed up the embankment walked a dusty road past a few houses and fields of crops to take a 35 minute Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride into Aswan to go to the souk. Aswan is known for its spices and that is what was on the agenda for the night, but first we wandered through the very colorful and busy bazaar taking in all the sights and smells.

Aswan is the place where the Nubians were relocated when the high Aswan Dam was built and now live.  They have their own traditions, dress, culture and even language.  If you make the mistake and call one of them Egyptian, they are quick to proudly tell you they are Nubian.  The traditional dress for a Nubian woman is a very colorful underdress over which is either a black lace or net overdress allowing the bright color to shine through.  It is very elegant and eye-catching .

As we were preparing to take the van back to the boat Ahmed explained that the first driver had been drinking (thus the wild ride) so he told him not to bother coming to pick us up.  Ahmed found us another van and driver - a local who picks up transport as he can.  We climbed aboard are amused, when starting out of town, all of a sudden he drives to the other side of the road to say hello to friends.  He also had a habit of honking his horn on a fairly regular basis.  Then I noticed he was talking non-stop on his mobile phone.  This means driving with one hand or no hands when shifting or honking.  I was told he was speaking to his girlfriend to brag how he had a van full of tourists!!!  I then said to Ahmed that driving and talking is as dangerous as driving drunk.  With that the talking was over.

In the morning we sailed to another spot close to a Nubian Village outside of Aswan.  This was market day and also a supposed camel market.  First we stopped at the most amazing house. 

Entrance To Nubian House
The house was huge and decorated in the Nubian way with inland stone, and hanging curtains made of bamboo and dohm (a spice for use in stomach ailments and reducing blood pressure) pods painted a red/black.  The owner of the home has spent 27 years creating the decorations in the house.  He also makes the same decorations for Nubian restaurants and coffee shops which we saw later as we wandered the souk.  He showed us his workshop and gave us a tour of his house. An amazing place as you will see from the pictures below.

Walking Through A Tunnel of Bamboo

Ceiling of Dohm Pods Painted Red/Balck

Wall Decoration Over A Bed

Lacy Doorway

Outdoor Pavilion 

Nubian Couple Faces

The faces to the right show the headdress of the woman and the caps worn by the men. This one is white but they are usually bright colors and patterns.

Then we hunted for the camel market, but could only find an enclosure with about 15 subadult camels.  Since motorization has become more the norm the camel trade
All The Camels We Could Find
is dying out.  Progress!!! Or is it????

We were truly in with the locals when wandering the souk.  No tourists here and the goods on offer reflected that.  It was also election day adding a bit more excitement to the visit.  It was very peaceful, but active around the voting place.  Tuk Tuks careened around the market along with motorbikes delivering goods and people.  Gone are the days of donkey carts and horses loaded with goods as the norm.  There are still a few, but not as before.

This was the last day on the Dahabyia.   I had a flight back to Cairo while the rest of the group was to spend a bit more time in Aswan then board the train for Luxor where they will spend a few nights take in a few more sights, go hot air ballooning and when finished, board a plane from Luxor to Germany.

But first we sailed to the other side of the Nile where we bid farewell to our crew, boarded a van and drove out to where we caught a motorboat to take us to a place called Kalabsha. 
Approaching Kalabsha Temple In Boat
This site has several temples that were rescued and relocated here when the High Aswan Dam was built and Lake Nassar created.  It also has stones with petroglyphs from prehistoric times - a very rare find.
Petroglyphs Similar To Wadi Rum in Jordan

Can You See The Elephant?

Kalabsha, the main, largest and most complete temple, was built in the Roman era during Augustus’s reign (about 30 BCE) to honor the lower Nubian sun god called
Sun god Mandulis
Mandulis.  The temple was originally located about 50 km south of Aswan but was relocated in cooperation with Germany.  When Christianity was introduced to Egypt, it was used as a church.  

A smaller temple built for Ramses II by his viceroy is called  Beit-al-Wali dedicated to the god Amun.  It has the typical scenes of fighting and conquering his enemies in this case Syrians, Libyans and Ethiopians.  There are statues of Ramses II in miniature compared to other temples like Karnak and Abu Simbel.

The third temple, a skeleton called Kirtassi, is dedicated to Isis.  Even though dedicated to Isis, it is famous for its two Hathor columns.

Close Up Of Hathor on Column Top

Bidding farewell to Kalabsha we took the motorboat back climbed into the van, drove to the airport to drop me off and where there were farewell hugs all around.  It was such a wonderful journey.  I shall miss the laughter and the camaraderie.

Thanks for sailing with me on my Dahabyia Journey, now on to Sierra Leone!!!

Much Love To You All,

Sara/Mom/Grandma Syrup

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Dearest Family & Friends,

Sleeping with the windows open, the cool breeze wafting in along with the light of a full moon made for a peaceful and restful night.  After breakfast we climbed the steps to visit Sa Sila (aka SilSilla).  This site can only be visited by dahabyias as there is no place for a river boat to dock.  We were the only ones at the site - spectacular.

The temple is located on the edge of the sandstone quarry and is for the benefit of the workers so they could worship at the site and not have to travel into Luxor.  The workers lived across the Nile in a village on the opposite bank and came to work each day in the quarry.

Because this temple was built by Horemheb for the workers, the art was not as sophisticated as the temples built for the pharaohs themselves.  That being said, it was still quite impressive inside with scenes honoring Amun (AKA Amun-Ra, the Sun god and protector of all pharaohs), Sobek (crocodile god of the Nile), Khnum, (god of procreation and protector of the source of the Nile)Satet (goddess of Elephantine Island in Aswan),Hapi (god of the Nile), Anuket (goddess of Sahel Island) and others.  

Later pharaohs, Ramses II, Merenptah, Amanmes, Siptah and Ramses III, added to the decorations depicting many scenes of jubilees, and a list of Hebseds (held at the beginning of each pharaohs reign and then every 30 years where he shows his agilities and strengths are still as a young man)celebrated over the 65 year reign of Ramses II. One very impressive scene is of Horemheb carried in a portable chair during festival.

Flanking the door was a carving of a lion headed figure
One Of The Guardians of the
Portal of The Underworld
holding a knife in each hand with a mirror image of the same figure on the other side of the door. As I am always wanting know about any lion headed figure I see, I asked Ahmed who this was.  He said it was one of the guardians of a portal in the underworld and seeing it in a temple was most unusual.  Scenes of the portal or gates in the journey through the underworld are 
usually found in tombs.

After studying the scenes in the temple we walked to the quarry.  Ahmed led us up into a narrow opening which opened out to a “window” type of ledge overlooking the Nile.  The view was breathtaking. 
Entrance To The "Window" Cave
Ahmed took portrait pictures of each of us there sitting in the “window”.

My Portrait

Climbing out of the cave we walked further into the quarry where we could see the markings of how they carved out the blocks of sandstone used to build the temples of Denderah, Esna, Edfu, Karnak, Kom Ombo and Luxor.  Along the path are slots in the rock leading down to the river where wood used to slide the blocks down to waiting boats below was placed.  I couldn't resist and put my hand in one side and out the other acting like I was trapped.

The rest of the group climbed up over the mountain to go to the tiny temple of Seti I.  I started the climb, but
Meditation Spot
realized my footwear of flip flops just would not do, so climbed back down to sit and look over the Nile to  meditate and “feel” the atmosphere.

As we sailed on towards Kom Ombo we passed the tiny temple of Seti I which was really just a facade.  Thus I was able to see and enjoy it without the climb!!!

Seti I Tiny Temple Facade

We docked at the foot of Kom Ombo at sunset.  Kom Ombo is really two adjacent temples side by side.  One side is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the other to Horus, son of Isis and Osiris.  It is the only temple still right on the river and is one of my favorite.  One section shows
Adjacent Temples Kom Ombo
carvings of surgical instruments including a scalpel and forceps for help in birthing.  There are other scenes of women on a birthing chair and even one of the baby falling out through the hole. 

 Another section shows the calendar of 10 day weeks and 30 day months making 360 days.  Then there are 5 days of celebration increasing the total of the year to 365 days!!!  It also shows the figures representing numbers up to 1,000,000.
Part of the Calendar

There is one of the best examples of a Nilometer, a deep well wth markings carved in the side at different levels, found outside of the Sobek Temple. As the water rises during inundation it fills the well from the bottom.  This allows the priests of the temple to predict the yield of the upcoming harvest based on the level of the water. Then the taxes owed are determined by the projected yield of the harvest.  The priests can also predict famine this way and thus encourage rationing of grain.  There were three seasons: planting, inundation, and harvest. Today the High Aswan Dam prevents the ebb and flow of the Nile as it did in old and ancient times.

To the side of the Nilometer is another pit where a crocodile was kept.  It was thought this would bring luck and abundant crops.  When the crocodile died it was mummified and put in a sarcophagus as a sign of honor to the god Sobek.

A very large museum on the premises (new since last I visited in 2009) displays many mummified crocs of the 300+ found in the vicinity in different sizes and stages of wrapped and unwrapped.  Pretty fascinating, but those who have a fear of crocodiles might find it a bit daunting.
Unwrapped Mummified Crocodile

We sailed on to another remote spot to tie up for the night.  When I say tie up, it was quite a production.  Young, strong men from the crew climb around on rocks finding just the right place to pound a huge metal stake into the ground with a sledge hammer, drag ropes up the steep bank to tie around trees and placed long wooden logs to wedge in the rocks against the side of the boat. 

The metal stake takes two men: one to hold it and one to pound it in place with the sledge hammer.  The first time I witnessed this was with my heart in my throat as the hammer came crashing down appearing to be very close to the head of the holder-of-the-stake.

Much Love To You All,

Sara/Mom/Grandma Syrup

Monday, November 16, 2015


Dearest Friends & Family,

The morning after the visit to Edfu was to be a full day of sailing.  With sails billowing we slowly sailed towards Aswan headed to a spot called Sa Sila.  It was a great day of leisure and relaxation as we passed scene after scene along the way.
Donkeys & Cattle On An Island Grazing

 I found it fascinating that all along the river on small to large islands there were cattle and donkeys grazing. I was told they are loaded in boats in the morning bringing them here with the reverse happening in the evening to take them back to the villages. I would've loved to have seen the boats loaded with animals, but we were never by an island at the right time of day. 
Larger Island

Grass Huts For Shelter On the Bank

Over the days the journey progressed I learned more and more German words.  One of the first was the word for cinnamon.  I have it in my coffee each morning and was in the habit of sharing it with Renata so when the rest joined us I offered it to them as well.  I was pronouncing the word as Simnt, but Gabriele said it was actually Tsimnt with a ts sound at the beginning.  As I tried that on for size I spit all over Gabriele!!!! We all had a great laugh over that and from then on I covered my mouth either by my hand or a scarf when trying any of the words with a ts sound at the beginning.  It seemed to me ALL the words I was learning started that way.

Gabriele, Uwe & Me One of
Many Laughs
I knew the word for thank you was Danke, but one day I wanted to say Danke Danke for some assistance and it came out Danke Donkey!!! That became a big joke throughout the rest of the time together.  We had so many laughs each day I cannot remember when I have laughed so much in such a short amount of time.  It was wonderful!!!

Later in the afternoon of the day of sailing as I was taking a snooze in my air conditioned cabin to get away from the unrelenting heat, I realized the boat had stopped and the crew was frantically securing the boat to trees and rocks at the edge of the Nile. Then I could see rain drops in the water through my windows and hear the sloshing of waves against the boat!!!  I promptly ran up on deck in time to witness the lightning and thunder along with the wind and sheets of rain.  Gabriele told me there had been a sand storm just prior. I could feel the wind still held tiny grains of sand.  The village people started gathering on the bank to watch the action waving at us until the rain and wind became too much.  We watched the storm for a bit then retired to the salon below as the rain was soaking the deck as well as us!!

After the storm was over we assessed the situation to find varying amounts of water coming through the ceiling into our cabins and the salon.  These boats are not built to shield against torrential rainfall because it is such a rare occurrence.  Meanwhile the crew was working madly on deck to mop up the water to stop the leakage.  

I had very little water in my cabin, but across from me in cabin 5 Heike’s mattress was soaked, so I offered the mattress I was not using to take its place.  I was willing to have the boards of the bed exposed but the captain would have none of that insisting on putting a sheet, duvet and pillow over it so it looked like a sunken bed.  Once back up on deck we realized the storm had broken the heat wave and it was deliciously cool.



I was so happy for the day at sail because I really had an opportunity to speak with and get to know Gabriele.  She and I really connected as we discovered we are spiritual sisters of the heart and have a mutual soul connection to Egypt.  I am so blessed with people who have come into my life in the past few years and who turned out to be kindred souls and dear friends to join with the ones I have have been blessed with for a long time.  The song comes to mind: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  Through alchemy of the heart silver turns to gold.

As the sun was setting we reached Sa Sila, a temple built by the pharaoh Horemheb, celebrating primarily the god Amun but also other various gods and goddesses of the Nile.  He built it for the workers of the sandstone quarries to have a place to worship. But more about that in the next blog.

Sa Sila Under The Full Moon

Much Love To You All,

Sara/Mom/Grandma Syrup

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Dear Family & Friends,

After visiting Esna Temple we boarded the boat to continue our journey up the Nile (remember the Nile flows south to north so going south is up!!!) towards Edfu Temple.  And for the first time we sailed - really sailed!!!  

Steps To The Plateau Of The Tombs
First we stopped at a site called El Kab only accessible by road or Dahabyia.  After the boat is tied up we walked through the town of Nekheb El Kab down a dirt road, across railroad tracks and then a paved road to enter the site of the tombs.

This area and town date back to predynastic times continuing into Ptolemaic times and is one of the oldest if not the oldest areas in Egypt and boasts ruins from many dynasties.  As we walked down the dirt road we passed a massive area still walled in with mud brick walls.  This once was the temple dedicated to Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt (southern Egypt).  Its area surpasses the area of Karnak Temple in Luxor!!! For those of you who have visited Karnak you can imagine the immensity of this site.

Carefully looking both ways for vehicles careening down the tarmac road we crossed and entered the site of El Kab’s four tombs called rock cut tombs because they are cut into the mountainside. Mounting the many stairs we arrived at the top where in front of us, all in a line, were the entrances
Entrance To A Tomb
to the four tombs open to the public. 

My favorite was the tomb of Pahari who was the mayor of Nekheb, the chief of the priests of Nekhbet and teacher for prince Wadjmose the son of Thutmosis I in about 1500BC. The paintings in this tomb are bright and well preserved plus there is a niche in the rear wall that contains the statue of Pahari with his wife and mother. 
Statues In Rear Of Tomb
If memory serves (should have made notes!!), this tomb also contained texts of accountings of Pahari’s duties. 

Accountings Of Pahari's Duties

Pahari Teaching Wadjmose

The other three tombs were interesting especially the tomb of Ahmose:

Ahmose served in the Egyptian military under the pharaohs Ahmose I, Amenhotep I and Tutmose I. Under Ahmose I he was prominent in the wars of liberation against the Hyksos rulers when they laid siege to the town of Avaris in the Delta.  He is described as the “Captain of Sailors” while serving under Tutmose I.   
Ahmose Next To Text Of Autobiography
His autobiography has survived and is intact on his tomb walls. 
This is very unusual making this tomb of great historical value.

Tomb 3
Setau was a priest in the service of Nekhbet during the reign of Ramses III.

Tomb 4
Renni was a mayor and high priest of Nekheb during the reign of Amenhotep I.

Back on board we continued our sail, yes sail, towards Edfu Temple.  While we were sailing Hieke and Ahmed boarded the motor boat that pulls us to take pictures of us sailing. 
Sailing was just the BEST - quiet and serene, but with a delicious breeze cooling us from the intense heat of the day.
Our Captain Maning The Sails

It was getting dark as we arrived and tied up close to Edfu temple.  We were to visit the temple after dark and see the newly developed sound and light show.  Ahmed arranged for us to take Caleshs (horse drawn carriages)to the temple.  I have never visited this temple at night and it was impressive in the dark.  The moon was almost full lighting our way into the site.  Since the sound and light show is new, I have not seen it and was eager to do so.

The show was very well done and similar to Karnak and Philae where you walk through the temple as the story is told. The story is about Isis and Osiris and Horus as is the one at Philae. What really made this show truly unique is the lighting and use of the inner sanctuary where the barque (boat) of the god Horus is located.  In ancient times each temple had a barque for the particular god of the temple, but this temple is the only one with the barque intact.

Below are two pictures of Edfu lit up for the sound & Light Show:

Barque of Horus

Much Love To You All,

Sara/Mom/Grandma Syrup