Gerard M. Foley

Travel & Photography Collection

Abu Simbel to Luxor

After our day visiting ancient sites near Cairo, very early in the morning we flew from Cairo Domestic Airport, a few miles northwest of Cairo International, to Abu Simbel. Our Egyptair flight was in an Airbus A300-600, and stopped at Aswan, something more than a hundred miles north of Abu Simbel.

About 70 percent of the water of the Nile comes from Lake Tanganyka, in east central Africa. It flowed down a series of cataracts (rapids), the first of which was a little south of Aswan. In 1902, when Egypt was under British control, a low dam was built at Aswan which produced some electrical power, and could control, to a degree, the flow of water to lower Egypt, making the irrigation by the annual rising of the Nile more productive. During the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the mid 1950's, it was proposed to build a high dam at Aswan to increase the production of electric power. The withdrawal of American support from this project led to a war in 1956 involving Egypt, Israel, Great Britain and France. After the cessation of hostilities, Egypt accepted the assistance of the Soviet Union to build the high dam. It has produced the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Nasser.

More than three thousand years earlier, Ramses II, a king of the XIXth Dynasty, some time after the reign of Tutenkhamen, built two large temples at the base of a cliff along the Nile at Abu Simbel. The colossal statuary of these temples make them of international artistic and architectural importance. They would have been covered by hundreds of feet of water when Lake Nasser filled.

An international engineering effort, led by Egyptians, literally cut these enormous temples out of the rock and raised them to the top of the cliffs. The international contributions to this effort resulted in permission being given to many donor countries to remove smaller temples, which would have been inundated, from Egypt and to reerect them elsewhere. One of these, the Temple of Dendera, is now part of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

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Lake Nasser, approaching Abu Simbel
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Temple of Ramses II
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Second Temple of Ramses II

We returned to Aswan in the same airplane, which must have been busy with something else while we admired the temples.

There we boarded the Presidential Nile Cruises Nile Admiral, which would take us to Luxor. PNC has several such boats which run frequently between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan.

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Back of hill built to hold the raised temples
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Nile Admiral
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Lunch on Nile Admiral
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Sunset at Aswan
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Ancient Village with Mosque above
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Hundreds of Tourist Boats ply the Nile
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Low Dam
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Spillway controls on High Dam
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An Egyptian Dog
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Cross Section of High Dam
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Different Cross Section of High Dam
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A boat going to Philae

When the low dam filled, the lake behind it flooded the large Greco-Roman Temple of Philae. An International effort, like that which raised the Ramesside Temples at Abu Simbel, built a coffer dam around the flooded temple, emptied the water, and moved the Temple to a nearby island, higher than the one on which the Temple originally stood. The temple lies in the water between the Low and High dams. After we saw the High Dam we visited it.

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More boats for Philae
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Temple of Philae
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Temple of Philae

We then boarded Nile Admiral again to go down river to another Greco-Roman Temple at Kom Ombo

At a large number of sites along the Nile in ancient times Nilometers were built. They are essentially large cisterns connected to the Nile, so that the water level in the Nilometer is the same as that in the river. The readings of the Nilometers were relayed downstream to tell the height and progress of the flood, so that preparations could be made to arrange the irrigation most efficiently.

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Temple of Kom Ombo
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Rainbow at Kom Ombo was the first that some of the Egyptians had ever seen!
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Nilometer at Kom Ombo

The boat stopped at Edfu to visit another Greco-Roman temple. I preferred to save my energies for sights that might interest me more. I walked along the street by the Nile.

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Sandstorms are common with a thousand miles of Sahara to the west
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Bull or Buffalo?
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A Small Tour Boat
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Tourist Police as we waited to pass the lock in the low dam at Esna
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A fancy tour boat
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The Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri is on the west side of the Nile opposite Luxor. Hatshepsut was the female Pharaoh of early XVIIIth dynasty who developed Egyptian trade.

Her temple has been reconstructed. It was modeled on a ruined Middle Kingdom temple south of it.

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Temple of Hatshepsut with ruined XIIth Dynastry temple to the left
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Temple of Hatshepsut
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Helene and Duncan
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Temple of Hatshepsut
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Temple of Hatshepsut
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Murals in Temple of Hatshepsut
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Murals in Temple of Hatshepsut
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Collossal Memnons
Statues of Amenhotep III, predecessor of Akhenaten
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Luxor Guide in 1964
We saw none of these gorgeous cottons in 2001
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Tame Pelicans
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In Luxor restaurant