December 16, 2008

Luxor, Abydos, Dendera

We are finishing our final evening in Luxor. There would have been more intervening posts in the blog, but Internet was not as easy to come by as I had hoped it would be and we had some logistical and scheduling issues so that I didn't have the time to sit and write the way I might have liked to. In any case, I am checking in now to share some thoughts about our time in and around Luxor and north of it toward the temples of Abydos and Dendera which we visited this afternoon.

During our time here we have visited many temples and tombs. We have honored Amun-Ra and His holy family at the great temples of Karnak and Luxor and poured ritual water for royalty in Their tombs beneath the Peak of the West. We have sailed the Nile, after having visited Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna temples along our way downstream, northward, from Aswan to Luxor. We have been into the Duat to see Nut give birth to Ra on the great ceiling of Ramses' tomb, and climbed into the face of Meretseger to read the rituals of Menkheperra Djehutymose. In the Luxor Museum we paid our respects to the king Ahmose, founder of the New Kingdom empire, and a second mummy widely believed to be that of Menpehtyra Ramses (I), and Tem found a Sekhmet statue that made the usual ones seem pocket-sized.

Today we managed to be the very first group inside the great terraced temple of Wesir built by Menma'atra Seti and Userma'atra Ramses at Abydos. It was only as we were finishing our time there that another group, a group of schoolchildren, managed to come inside, filling the ancient, silent halls with laughter and activity. Somehow it seemed appropriate that those who should break the stillness of that place be children, and that they be the descendants of those who had once only sung in its great chambers. The sweet smell of lotus perfume greeted us at Nefertem's chapel, causing all of us to ask each other if we could all smell it as we thought it a hallucination. The waters captive in the Osirion behind the Wesir chapel were green as usual, reflecting upward and drawing the eye backward, westward, toward the break in the mountains where the door to the Duat beckons, above Umm el-Qaab the greatest of all Kemetic cemeteries. For us, as I explained earlier to our guide Ali, who had been asking about the significance of the various temples to our religion, Abydos is Mecca, the place we and all the ancients wished to visit at least once in our lifetimes. I whispered the names of our dead as I walked Seti's halls, knowing as we passed each carved false door their kau would hear and understand. We were alone in the temple, and yet we were not.

The ride to Dendera was quiet, as we contemplated our earlier experience, then suddenly there seemed to be a lot of joking and laughter. The fields gave way to flowers. It really does seem rather cliche but as we entered Qena and then headed toward Dendera the land simply becomes more joyful. Again, we were the first to enter the temple, and spent nearly the entire time there alone except for a handful of guards. Some of us went down into the crypts below the main sanctuary to view the images carved there; others, including myself, opted instead to climb upward into the high vestibule where the images of Hethert were kept, to say prayers asking for joy and prosperity and love for everyone from the Lady of Joy Whose smiling face gazes down from all the column tops. We climbed the ritual stairs to the roof, said prayers in the Sokar chapels, climbed down singing and laughing. We visited both the mammisi chapels and the Coptic church standing outside the temple, and walked its perimeter. In the first screen court I found a small boy sitting on a carpet, watching people coming in and out of the temple; he was the son of a guard. As I was taking photographs of the restoration work being done on the court's ceiling he grinned at me and then beckoned me over to take his picture. When I showed him the photo (it is a digital camera), he laughed, and the laughing echoed through the huge hall.

There is so much more I could write about, and I will, once I've gathered all my thoughts. For today though my ka is full, and tomorrow morning we make another set of pilgrimages: back to Karnak at sunrise, then out to Medinet Habu and the tombs of the nobles and the workmen, before we go back to the airport and return to Cairo for our last two days in Kemet. You will hear from me again very soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment