Karnak Temple is one of the main attractions in our mystery city. Also nearby are the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Hatshepsut. These are all must-see sites for visitors to Egypt. The city, about 300 miles south of Cairo in the Nile Valley, was the capital of ancient Egypt during its most prosperous and powerful time and the cult center of the god Amun. Even after its prime, the city was legendary throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond for its wealth and beauty. The ancient Greeks and Romans called it Thebes. To the ancient Egyptians, it was Waset. Today it is known by a different name.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of the early New Kingdom pharaoh Thutmose I and his queen. The only surviving son of Thutmose I was by a secondary wife. In terms of dynastic succession, this was not an ideal situation. Still, a son by a secondary wife, was better than a daughter by the queen. As was the custom, Hatshepsut married this son of a secondary wife, her 1/2 brother Thutmose II, and became his queen. Together, Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had one daughter, no sons. But Thutmose II did have a son with a lesser wife, just in the nick of time. When Thutmose II died, Queen Hatshepsut became regent for her infant stepson, Thutmose III. Continue reading →
We began the day with a delicious breakfast buffet, which included a variety of fresh fruits, flakey pastries, crusty breads, cheeses, olives, a ful bar (that’s ful with one ‘L’ – the traditional breakfast of mashed fava beans garnished with any or all of the following – olive oil, chopped boiled egg, onion, tomato, cucumber, parsley, lemon juice… Click to see a recipe for ful.), omelettes and pancakes made to order, yogurt, cereal, fresh juices, coffee, and tea.
Then we headed out for a morning of touring on the west side of the river. Tombs and mortuary temples are located on the west because the sun sets in the west. Continue reading →
For thousands of years, Hathor was one of the most beloved goddesses of our mystery country. Her attributes and powers broadened over the centuries as she mingled with and absorbed a number of other deities. She was “the mother of mothers,” patron of women, fertility, childbirth and children. As the “mistress of life,” she represented joy, love, beauty, art, music and dance. She was a sky goddess, who gave birth to the sun god Ra each morning and conceived the coming day with him each night. In the underworld, she welcomed the souls of the newly dead with motherly reassurance as they made their way to eternal judgement. She was often represented as a cow or as a woman with cow ears, as above in the Chapel of Hathor at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor.
Probably the most recognizable Ancient Egyptian symbol, the ankh hieroglyph represents eternal life. Egyptian gods and pharaohs were frequently shown holding the ankh or in close proximity to it. Fundamental life-giving elements, such as water, air and sun were often represented by the ankh. In some tomb paintings ankhs are shown pouring over the resident pharaoh from an upturned vessel or being blown into his mouth.
Kom Ombo Temple
tomb of Nefertari, Valley of the Queens
The origins of the symbol are lost to the mists of time but some suggestions are that it first represented the ever-holy sun sitting on the horizon, with the sun’s path stretching below; male and female reproductive parts, separated by the fruit of their union; or a sandal strap. It’s easy to see a connection between eternal life and the sun or the male, female and offspring, but a sandal strap, not so much. Imagine this – the loop of the ankh fits around your ankle; the arms of the ankh wrap around your foot, and there you have it, a sandal strap. The word for sandal strap ‘nkh’ was very similar to the word for life ‘ankh’ so the symbol was used to represent both words. That’s one theory anyway.
Click to see tours to Egypt, the birthplace of this powerful and enduring symbol.