Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Adydos and Dendera day trip April 5, 2011

Luxor:  Abydos and Dendera Day Trip

We slept well--neither of us woke up until hubby sounded the alarm a full 45 minutes early (he misread his clock…). We showered and enjoyed the spectacular breakfast in a beautiful dining room at the Old Winter Palace.

About the OWP: It was the winter retreat of King Farouk’s daughter and is where heads of state, dignitaries and the rich and famous stay while visiting Luxor. It is gorgeous and stately. But, “sorry, sir, my lobster’s a little too buttery” moment number 3: the service is not up to the standard of the Mena House Oberoi or the Sonesta St. George I Nile Cruise boat. It’s good but not great (which is something Ahmed Hamed Yousif had told me about when we booked the cheaper Pavilion wing rooms--he said previous guests who booked the expensive OWP felt it was not worth the money. I’ll reserve judgment until we check out in three more nights though). Small examples, no drinking glasses in our room, only one small cake of soap (yes, it’s my favorite L’Occitane, but I need two), lackadaisical staff at the pool, breakfast plates not picked up when we left the table to go back to the buffet. Small things for sure but what we’ve come to expect. I know…lol!

Hot air balloons in the early morning

Old Winter Palace main floor hallway

Old Winter Palace piano room

 Mohammed and our driver were waiting for us. The furthest Temple, Abydos, is about 3 hours drive from Luxor. It was a very interesting drive through the countryside. Similar in some ways to the drive to Dahshur and Saqqara but longer and seemed more rural. We drove through lots of farm lands, many villages which were teeming with kids going to school, adults going to work, animals carrying their loads and trucks with sugarcane going to the factories. We drove through Qena which was very nice and per Mohammed the Cleanest City in Egypt in 2005. It is still clean and pretty.

We arrived at Abydos after an interesting pit stop for my bladder (very nice of the guards to let me use their "toilet"). After the relief, I was stopped by a cute young girl for a photo. Per Mohammed, she wanted me to be her pen pal! Gosh, the children of Egypt are so friendly and curious. We get waves and smiles wherever we go. They get it from their adult role models because we have yet to encounter a mean person; even the touts are nice when they realize and accept you won’t buy anything.

Donkeys are important modes of transportation

Camel in the fields
Sweet girl wanted to be my pen pal

Camel in the village

Abydos is dedicated to Osiris and was built by Pharaoh Seti I. He didn’t finish it before he died so his son, Rameses II, did. It is a very interesting place. Very quiet and tourist free. It had seven shrines devoted to different gods and goddesses but the most important and impressive one was for Osiris. Also neat to see was the “King’s List” which spells out in cartouches the names of all the pharaohs but omits Hatshepsut (female) and three others (unimportant or heretical). Mohammed interpreted a couple for us--he is a smart and agreeable guide who is putting up with “our” (mostly my) silly questions…

Walking up to Abydos Temple

The big yellow pilar like thing represents stability

Huge, colorful columms

All the pharoahs names are here (except some they didn't like so much, like Hatshepsut)

The carvings were very intricate and beautiful

And then they added COLOR!
Hubby made a new friend, got his card so we can keep in touch and visit him. He said he wants us to come back and stay with his family. Like I said, Egyptians are very nice people and we have felt nothing but welcomed here. They need their tourists back, come on y’all!

Next up is Dendara. This was a Greco-Roman era built temple to the goddess Hathor (she has cow ears in one of her forms). It has huge, Karnak-sized, columns with a roof covering them so the colors are still there. Half of the hall is under restoration so those scenes are still in black--age and fires from Christians who hid in the temple--but the other half the scenes are vivid blues and yellows. Just gorgeous. The Christians also chipped away at the faces and cartouches, particularly of the goddess Hathor, so the pictures are pretty damaged. Still discernable and interesting to see.

Mohammed showed us cartouches of a helicopter, a tank and a submarine. He said those have not appeared anywhere else. We teased that the aliens left them as some sort of sign! He doesn’t think we’re as funny as we think we are, lol!

We climbed to the second floor to see a copy of the zodiac (original is in France) but I couldn’t locate my Water Bearer. One of the tomb guides very sweetly (and for baksheesh) helped me up the long narrow stairs. They all keep telling me “slow” (or go slow) when they see me coming. One guy said “nice shoe!” I wish we spoke Arabic because it would be fascinating to talk to them.

Dendera Temple is most famous for having a relief of Cleopatra herself. Yup, the famous one from the movie with Liz Taylor. She’s seen with her son Caesarion on the back wall of the temple. It's a very interesting Temple but very quiet so hubby contributed a little to the local economy by buying a souvenir book. He made another friend and got the gentleman’s photo, too.

Beautifully carved wall

Goddess Hathor's image was defaced by Christians

Helicopter, submarine and tank cartouche (had to be the aliens!)

Mohammed, hubby and bro discussing the details of the gorgeous Dendara Temple

On Dendara's roof


Hubby and Egyptian friend
Back to the car for our return trip to Luxor. It was a long drive but again the countryside is fascinating to see. I laughed at the children grabbing sugar cane out of the trucks as they passed by. I marveled that camels roam the fields--somehow I only associated camels with the desert, not green farms… Many people tried to hail our minivan which looks similar to their local minibuses. Lots of smiles and waves and curious glances. Fascinating.

Boys pulling sugarcane out of moving trucks (one wipped out pretty good!)
Boys enjoying sugarcane
Fresh, fresh produce

School girls

We got back to the hotel around 4:30pm and have an 8am pick-up time tomorrow for one last tour of the West Bank with Mohammed.

We showered, spoke with the parentals, had a drink on the Old Winter Palace terrace watching the sunset, then hailed a taxi to Sofra for a delicious meal. Now back in the room, hubby already asleep. I’m done too, this means I’m caught up!

We are winding down our trip already. We’ve seen a lot and met some very interesting people. Egypt is a great place to visit and I thank Ahmed Hamed Yousif for arranging our trip because it has proceeded perfectly smoothly. We are all relaxed because the details are taken care of--now that’s what I call a vacation!!!

Each day a new towel sculpture welcome us back

Drinks on the Terrace at Sunset--now this is living!

Delicious vegetable tagen at Sofra


  1. I found your blog through TripAdvisor, and am very glad to hear that you are enjoying Egypt so much! I have been there 6 times myself and have been leading the trip for others on my last 2 trips, so it is very nice to see people having a great time in my favorite place.

    Some of my friends from the US and New Zealand where I live have had reservations about coming on my next trip due to the news coverage. Would you mind if I referred them to your blog to reassure them that it is indeed safe and that the Egyptian people are wonderful and friendly folks?

    Oh, and I can give you the story behind the "helicopter", "tank", and "submarine" if you are interested. ;)

    Have fun on the rest of your trip!

    James Whitfield
    Wellington, New Zealand (originally from Atlanta)

  2. Please feel free to refer them to the blog, James, that's why I am writing it--to reassure our family and friends that we are ok since they were so worried about us coming to Egypt. We are really loving it here and would encourage anyone, I mean anyone, to visit.

    BTW, one of my favorite places in the world is New Zealand. I still long for it since our trip 3 years ago. I say "no worries" all the time!


  3. Great to hear that! I'm always happy to hear about people having a good time in Egypt. It is such a great place. You and your family would almost certainly be welcome back here anytime.