We awoke to a glorious day.The Nile shimmered under the rising sun. We had left Luxor and travelled by night to the town of Efu located on the West Bank of the Nile. Here we were going to visit the Temple of Horus. Our guide had warned us that our mode of transport may upset us but that the temple was a must to see. He wasn’t wrong.
We departed this view on one side of us, walked through the five boats that were moored closer to the wharf than we were and arrived in a hot, dusty town where the shrill noise of men shouting and horse and carriage rattling on the pavements was deafening. Each person was given a spot in a carriage with one or two other people. Strict instructions were given that we had to take the number of the carriage because that would be the carriage that returned us to the dock.
Roger and I clambered into our carriage and off we took at a gallop, the horse being whipped to speed. I was scared stiff and clung on, unable to take any photos of the town that would have looked quite interesting at a slower rate. Where the road would take two carriages I felt as though I was back in Queen Boedica times as the chariots went full pelt trying to overtake. On the other side of the road empty carriages returned. The race to pick up the tourists was on.
On our arrival we disembarked at a rudimentary shelter thankful to have arrived alive and dreading the trip back. We then had to negotiate what had become known after the Valley of the Kings as the Valley of the Vultures whilst the ever present watchful eye scanned us for any hint of terrorism. The only act any of us felt like performing was on those horse handlers.
The Temple of Horus is the best preserved temple in Egypt being situated high enough above the Nile to be safe from flooding.
This temple was built 237 BC and is important because its intactness allows the reading of the heiroglyphs to tell full stories. It also tells details of its construction and the drama between Seth and Horus. It was completed by 57 BC. In 391 whilst under Roman rule pagans were persecuted and non Christian carvings were damaged as they removed faces and other bits and pieces of the reliefs.
The blackened ceiling in the hypostyle hall is thought to have been the result of arson intended to destroy the non christian imagery.
Everywhere in the temple are doves (perhaps pigeons) roosting. I like to think of them as doves as they represent the divine, showing the hand and presence of God – an apt symbol to be in a temple I thought. Our guide however, saw them as bit shitters whose excrement was damaging the structure and the process of cleaning it off damaging it some more.
Over time the temple became buried beneath 12 metres of sand. Locals built houses on top of the temple. By 1798 the only thing visible of the temple was the upper portion of the entry pylon seen by a French expedition. In 1860 excavation of the temple began and continures today.
We left the temple of Horus, back out through the Valley of the Vultures to await our carriage. Whilst waiting we saw one coming in quickly and overturning throwing the tourist out. None of us wanted to return by this form of transport and we begged our guide to get us a taxi. Not possible he told us. The carriage trips are these men’s only form of income and without it they wouldn’t survive the depth of poverty that they would have to endure. To prevent this the town’s council had forbade taxis and toktoks were not permitted in the vicinity.
For one of our group this was too much and we decided that we would write and tell the tour company that although the Temple of Horus was well worth a visit we would prefer to forgo that rather than travel with men who sped and didn’t take good care of their horses. I don’t know how many of us did end up writing. I admit by the time I arrived home I had so many other things I was thinking of I didn’t but on writing this now I wonder what is the right thing to do. Perhaps the tourist company should say that it will only send their clients with horses that are not whipped and are fed well.
Back on the boat we prepared for another night on the Nile.