Star Date:  November 2015
Egypt II - Tomb Raiders: Dendara, Sohaj


Hello Dear Family & Friends!


Wa alekum es salam?
Izayak(m) Izayek (f).

(How are you?  I am fine.  Arabic)



"If you don't become the ocean - you will be sea sick your whole life."
(Leonard Cohen)



Tomb Raiders!  Driving north of Luxor we had a wild adventure searching out obscure symbols and hidden corners in the magnificent, yet seldom visited, Temples of Dendara then Abydos.  Joseph and I have read numerous books and articles and watched endless documentaries on the Secrets of Ancient Egypt.  Well prepared and with the personal notes of our new friend, Reynor from Iceland, a fellow crazy travel person, we set off in great excitement.  Buzzing as we entered the temple gates, virtually alone which was relief, we began to unravel the mysteries of this enigmatic place.  With ease we found the chamber in the back which contained the replica of the 'zodiac stone' on the ceiling. Unfortunately the original remains in the Louvre in Paris, where I also saw their Egyptian Exhibit.  All twelve sign of the zodiac are pictured, as seen in the days of Pharaohs.  As was the case when one group is conquered by another often the temples are destroyed by the new kids on the block.  Many of the temples had the noses, faces or symbols hammered away, replaced by the new artistry.  First Egyptian temples were defaced by Muslims, then wiped clear by Christians only to later be altered by Muslims and on and on.  Tap,tap, tap, history marched on.  Luckily the Egyptians were such prolific craftsmen it was virtually impossible to wipe them out.  Next we went in search of the "Dendara Light".  Covering most of the chambers we resorted to flashing a dollar in front of one of the guards and pantomiming the big light bulb.  Awwh!  Around first one corner then the next we were led to the back where a locked chicken wire trap door revealed a set of feeble stairs.  Down we climbed with our tiny travel light shining.  At first we thought, "What if he slams the door shut and locks us down here?  Fear has no place in the hearts of Tomb Raiders!  Like "Camera Hunters' we simply had to get the shot.  At the bottom of the stairs we had to crawl through a narrow dank, dark passage on our bellies.  Fear crept back in.  "Egypt has earthquakes, what if we get entombed down here?"  Being a slight bit claustrophobic, it was a real concern. Once again we brushed the fear aside and pushed on.  The passageway opened up and we found ourselves standing in a small chamber with several of the infamous large light bulb devices displayed in the carvings. Now this is seriously cool!  We were in our element, smack dab in the center of one of the mysteries of ancient Egypt.  We love the fringe, grey areas of life.  Black and white gets boring after a while and it is in-between where things get interesting.  Just read Forbidden Archeology or Childres',  Hidden History of the Human Race for a glimpse into mankind's unwritten history, revealed by discovered then destroyed or hidden relics that don't conform to the status quo history taught and swallowed unquestioningly.  Also watch on youtube: The Mysterious Origins of Man.  Travelling while thinking outside the box reveals a whole new world of possibilities.  We have seen pyramids around the planet, mummies in Northern China, heard stories and myths of aliens or 'the ugly ones' or 'nagas' in Australia and on the border of Tajikistan and seen stone walls with blocks so big modern technology couldn't move them, let alone place them together in such precision.  You decide.  There are always a million naysayers in life.  That's the easy route. Research, question, decide for yourself before slipping back in conformity.   Changes have been made in history by so called 'fringe' open thinkers. The world is counting on you.

The Dendara light is one such occurrence.  And we were standing in front of it!!  Due to lack of lighting, most temples have been blackened by lampblack from torches.  Mirrors used for lighting in places could not reach a hidden chamber such as this.  And so the large tube like light bulb is displayed.  Was it really a form of ancient electricity?

Next we crawled back up to fresh air and went in search of the Temple of Isis. There in the back, far left corner up on a wall, was another carving of the light bulb.  We later discovered 6 or 7 hidden away in back chambers.  An image of Cleopatra was carved on the back of the temples main walls.  Beside the dry sacred lake, or ritual pool we once again became "Tomb Raiders" and crawled down a long slanting underground passage leading to a fresh underground pool.  There we paused to splash our hot dusty faces with the sweet cool waters of Dander's underworld.  Quite an adventure!

Pictures 'bagged' we entered Abydos Temple, an hour down the road.  We were greeted at the entrance of the Temple by a journalist who begged to take our photos enjoying the site.  We later heard our pictures made front page of the Newspaper Al Ahiran.  Would have been fun to see the article.  When entering Abydos, up and to the left lies another fun mystery of the ancient Egyptian world.  Clearly carved in great detail are a helicopter, a 'tank' of some sort and an airplane. Gawking in amazement we were happy to have found another prize.  Working our way around the temple we were followed by a young man in a pink shirt.  Thinking he was yet another 'wanna be' guide looking for a few bucks we finally turned and said politely but firmly, "We don't need a guide, Thank you!" - which is the only course to take in Egypt, with their swarms of mosquito like touts.  As he turned to fade into the shadows I noticed a gun in the waist line of his pants.  He followed us at a distance to the outside Osireion. Here the carving of the 'Flower of Life' is on one of the main pillars just before the water enveloped this special temple.  It was here where an Englishwoman, Dorothy Eady, claiming to be an incarnation of a temple priestess and lover of Seti lived for 35 years, performing rituals until her recent death.

The mystery of the lone gunman unraveled as we got into our jeep.  Military and policemen surrounded the vehicle and told our driver which route to take to Sohaj. We were tailed by two trucks, two guys in front and four in the back with machine guns. They would speed ahead and try to control our speed.  They were getting quite annoying and Joseph told them to hang further behind.  When we arrived in Sohaj we were met by another car of the local police department and they accompanied us to the train station.  All tickets to Cairo were sold out for 3 days but a young man walked in and offered me 2 seats on the next morning's train.  Things like this happen to us all the time.  Life just opens up if we allow it!  The police car led us to look at a couple of hotels, one too skuzzy and the other too expensive.  The third one was 'just right', across the tracks and in a perfect little neighborhood.  Once we were registered the police escort clowns left us alone.  We wandered around the souq or market of our hotel's back streets and absolutely loved it.  Everyone was out either buying fruits and vegetables, eating in small cafes or smoking 'sheeshas' (water pipes) and drinking coffee.  We saw our driver by chance and shared a 'chai'or tea with him.  If we hadn't scored those tickets we would have definitely stayed another night.  Walking along the narrow alleys we tried to buy vegetables for a salad on the train but everyone kept giving us the cucumbers or tomatoes for free.  Yah, a real bunch of Muslim terrorists!  Stay away from CNN.  Forget about the played and replayed incidents of a small percentage of CRIMINALS!  Travel to see the truth.

The next morning we headed down the stairs towards the train station.  Standing at the bottom of steep stairs were 2 policemen in camouflage fatigues trying to act inconspicuous.  We spotted them and decided that heh, if they are going to trail us today we'll ask them to carry our suitcases up the stairs.  Shocked they said, "Well ok, I guess so", or something like that in Arabic.  Surprise of surprises we found them 4 seats back in our car on the train.  Whenever we left the car to go to the bathroom or look out the open door between carriages one of our 'trails' would follow us.  We did things like open the bathroom door suddenly and say, 'Boo' or make spy glasses with our fingers and survey them for a while.  We did get them laughing a couple of times.  Getting off the train in Cairo we were 'trailed' until we left the exit and hit the taxis in the madhouse of Cairo traffic.  We turned around and they had disappeared.  All of a sudden we felt abandoned and a bit sad and alone.  The task, it seems of the police and military in that central region, is to see foreigners safely out of their jurisdiction.  Good job guys, we would never have suspected!    

Ramadan.  A month of unity for the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world. It is considered the holiest month (9th lunar month) of the Islamic calendar and is a time of chanting, fasting, charity, good deeds and settling debts.  During this month, in 610AD, Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to deliver the verses of the holy book, Quran, to the prophet Mohammed.  Islam concerns the religion of Islam and its adherents, Muslims. "Muslim" is an Arabic word meaning "one who submits to God".  Islam is thus the youngest of the great world religions.

Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, abstaining from all food, drinking, smoking or sex.  This is a challenge in a hot climate when most people close shops early and rest.  Traditionally the fast is broken with dates, as did the prophet Mohammad.  This was followed by a simple meal, which has expanded into a feast.  At the beginning of Ramadan 'iftar' or 'break- fast' is eaten with the extended family and is a time of forgiveness and love and an opportunity to solve family conflicts and disagreements with friends. Lamps 'fawanees' and lights are lit and the town dons a festive ambiance.  Many lamps are the craft of the 'lamp makers' and some date back hundreds of years.  Voices high in minarets announce the setting of the sun and the time to break fast.  In Cairo, before the explosion of loudspeakers they started firing a loud cannon, decades ago, to mark the long awaited time.  People eat until they pop and smoke up a storm while loudly socializing half the night.  About 3:30 the Mesaharaty walks the streets pounding a small drum waking people to eat before the dawn call to prayer, 'fajir'.

A wonderful tradition of generosity in Egypt is to line the streets at dusk with tables full of food and fruits and drinks and anyone is invited to join in for free food.  Poor people are the first to sit down and when full anyone is invited.  We were even invited up to a rooftop in the bazaar Kan al Kahlili to sit on mats and share in rice and vegetable stew as the sun set.  Just another way the Muslims of the Egypt and the world make you feel Welcome!

And so it goes.........................................Next  Down the Nile to Alexandria
Until then relax in the peace of the ocean, become the ocean.  Otherwise we are tossed about like ping pong balls on the waves our whole life!  Keep in Touch!


Peace and Joy to you and yours for the Holidays and
throughout the year!




Love, Light & Laughter, 


xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph





Travel notes:

1 US Dollar equals 7.63 Egyptian pounds 



Abo Elwafa Hotel:  Across the tracks from the main train ticket office  150el   All the hotels on the main road are dirty!  This hotel is clean and if you get a room away from the tracks it is reasonably quiet.  The best part is the alley 'scene' at night!  Wonderful!



Recent email from our readers:  These emails keep us going!

Joseph and Nancy,

   I thought I would be sad that I can no longer travel the world, until I met you.  I have a wonderful time following your travels, especially the heartwarming stories.  It feels like I have not seen such gorgeous photography even in National Geographic, which was my favorite 'escape '.




















Hidden steps leading to an underground lake at
Dendara Temple.


The temple of Dendara is full of inexplicable ancient symbols.


We made friends with one of the older temple guardians.
With lack of tourists he was bored, and although we didn't
 share the same language, we pantomimed then drew what
 we wanted to see.


The first treasure we stole a look at was down a stone
staircase, then on our hands and knees to reach a chamber
where the infamous large light bulbs were carved on the walls.
With no soot on the ceilings from torches, how did the work
men carve in the pitch dark?  Think outside the box.


 The temple guardian excitedly offered to unlock door and show
us a whole world that most tourists never get to see.


Egyptian carvings are rich in symbolism.


The famous Dendara horoscope, with the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The original was stolen and now resides in the Louvre.  A
plaster cast was made and replaces the original.


Tall majestic columns line the entrance.


Original, well preserved paintings in Dendara Temple.


The hot dry climate was the perfect condition to preserve
the paintings, made from pigments of stone.


The blue paint was made from turquoise or lapiz azule.


A carving of Cleopatra, next to the Temple of Isis,
in the back area of Dendara.  We caught a glimpse
of Elizabeth Taylor...............


Carriages sheltered form the mid day sun.


Head coverings are a must in the intense heat!




A vegan's delight.  Fresh cooked eggplant, mixed vegetables,
and falafels, all waiting to be wrapped in a piece of hot, fresh bread
from a cart piled high down the street.


Donkey express.


Home from the market.


Not many cars in local Egyptian villages.


A proud rider.


A colorful carved and painted mural in Abydos Temple.


The famous carved panel near the entrance of Abydos Temple.
Unmistakable images of ancient boats, a bee, and hold on:
a helicopter, tank and possible spaceship!


Keep open to the possibilities.  Find this helicopter in the
previous photo.


Osireion is behind Abydos. Here the carving of the 'Flower of Life'
 is on one of the main pillars just before the water enveloped
this special temple.




Men relaxing with coffee and sheeshas (water pipes) in
the traditional side streets of Sohaj.  People were so
unaccustomed to seeing travelers that they were
extremely friendly, welcoming and stand after stand
 gave us vegetables for our salad, instead of charging.

Our relaxing train ride along the Nile.




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