Wake up in paradise, drifting slowly along a never-changing landscape of palm trees, birds, and green rushes. Up on top deck for pre-breakfast warm-up before the sun gets too warm. Have left Isna en route to Idfu.
Bear-walk, cup-of-tea throwing, thrust and break Just things you can practise in your own room at home, or alternatively in sheer luxury whilst waiting to be called to breakfast.
Good news at breakfast! First tombs coming up. The only way to get there is to walk or by donkey. Wishing to save our legs for later training, we opt for the donkeys. Also view it as a training opportunity to see how supported horse-stance feels. The donkeys and the young boys who look after them were all delightful. Unfortunately the donkeys did not come in a choice of widths. Well, that’s not strictly true – there was narrow across the back, and then there was knife-edge. The men in the group had an opportunity to practice tucked-in stance to avoid permanent damage to equipment they may later find a use for. For me, it was a reminder that this was a women’s style and someone in the mists of time had a sense of humour.
The tombs at El Kab were of officials rather than pharaohs. The paintings inside are beautifully preserved. We have seen the Valley of the Kings and other tombs, but for some reason these more modest places had a feeling of purpose. The paintings recorded the lives of the people interred. For example the life of the accountant who was responsible for keeping records of the grain. So the growing and harvesting and counting are all depicted. It was shocking to see the hierograffiti in the first tomb (which must have been opened earlier). I bet Monsieur Mangles was feeling the heat on 15 August 1812.
The final tomb was of an enbalmer, and so the whole process is shown in sequence. Whilst the comparison with a cartoon strip might seem flippant, the sense of story-telling was compelling. The idea that knowledge could be passed on in this way reminded me of the importance of the ancient chinese martial arts books, closely guarded and passed from hand to hand, the commentary passed on by word of mouth and annotations. All that from a morning in some dusty
Lunch back on board and then there is some news. Have you heard the joke about Schrodinger’s cat? Mr Schrodinger goes to the vet to collect his cat, and the vet comes out and shakes his hand saying, “Well sir, there is good and bad news…” So speaking to Egyptair about my Schrodinger’s luggage, the good news is that the bag is at Aswan, and the bad news is that it is in Customs and I have to go personally to collect it. So I will get it a couple of days before we leave unless I want to do the 12-hour plus round trip to collect it from where we are. Hmmm, I think I’ll have a look at some more ancient artefacts.
And lo and behold, here we are at the Temple of Edfu, by horse-drawn carriage this time. It’s almost too much culture in one day. This place is gigantic, built during the greco-roman era, it took 180 years to build. We had a bit of a discussion about how this type of edifice requires the availability of a huge peasant/slave labour force. “Would you rather work building an enormous temple by hand for the rest of your life, or work in a call centre for the rest of your life?” Hmmmm not a straightforward answer…
We were taken around by a knowledgeable, passionate guide who wanted us to understand and appreciate the wonders of this place of worship. Al surfaces were covered in reliefs and hieroglyhs, telling tale after tale, laying out rituals, recipes for perfumes. Many of the faces had been defaced over time but many more were out of reach. All cultured up, it’s back to the boat for training until dinner time.