On Tuesday morning, the Sun Boat IV left Luxor and headed north. "North?" you say. "But isn't Aswan south of Luxor?" Yes, indeed, it is, but we weren't headed to Aswan just yet. We had another visit to make, one that I'm very glad was included in the cruise.
Dendera is home to the Temple of Hathor, which was recommended to us so highly that we were encouraged to spend an extra day in Luxor to visit it if it wasn't included on the cruise itinerary. (Dendera is about an hour's ride by car from Luxor, just across the river from the city of Qena.) It didn't take long to see what all the fuss was about.
The surroundings were absolutely beautiful--lush green fields against the stark brown desert and bright blue sky. The temple compound was large and imposing. Most of it was very well preserved, the exception being some images of Hathor that were defaced by Christians who hid in the temple during a time when they were being heavily persecuted by the Romans. Before we went inside the temple, we spent some time walking around it, seeing the carvings on the exterior walls. The carvings told stories of Cleopatra and her son offering gifts to the gods, particularly to Hathor, the goddess of love, music, and fertility.
After seeing the outside of the temple, we went inside. Hesham told us to look up. We did, and were amazed. One half of the roof was pitch black; the other half clearly showed artistic patterns complete with bright colors. The colored half of the ceiling has been restored--not repainted, just cleaned. The black half shows how the temple was found. Apparently, when the early Christians lived in the temple, hiding from persecution, the sand had partially covered the site, making the ground close enough to the ceiling that the soot from their fires turned the ceiling black. But the colors underneath hadn't faded; all it took was a good cleaning to reveal them in all their splendor. The pictures were beautiful, and the colors were vibrant. The colors were most vibrant where they had been restored or where they had been covered with sand; they were least vibrant on the unrestored portion of the ceiling (obviously) and on the parts of the walls that had been touched by way too many tourists. Here are a few pictures of some of the vibrant designs:
After seeing inside the temple, we went onto the roof and into a smaller chamber up there, a small temple dedicated to Osiris. In that room is located one of the highlights of this temple: the circular zodiac. Unfortunately, the original zodiac is not there; it's in the Louvre. However, there is a replica zodiac that at least looks like the original looked when it was found--unfortunately, they didn't realize that there probably were colors underneath the black exterior, so the replica also replicates the layer of soot over the colors.
After that, we headed back to the ship for lunch and a leisurely afternoon while the ship traveled back to Luxor. Jeff and I spent the time on the sun deck, reading, sipping lemon juice (me) or water (Jeff), and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful sights. Of course it probably struck some as funny that we were up on the sun deck, and I kept shifting seats to stay in the shade ... but I didn't want to wear sunscreen or get burned, so shade was my only remaining option.
After tea, we went on an evening excursion to Luxor Temple. It's located on the east bank of the Nile, so it was a temple for the living. It was dedicated to the god Amun-Re, his goddess wife Mut, and his god-son Khonsu. I have to be honest here and admit that I was tired, a little chilly, and probably didn't pay as much attention as I should have to what Hesham told us about this temple ... I wish now that I remembered more of it, but I don't wish it quite enough to do a lot of research about it. I'll settle for linking to a few websites that contain information about the temple and showing you some of the pictures we took.
After we visited the Luxor Temple, it was back to the ship for dinner. But after dinner, the fun wasn't over--we still had a show! That night, a belly dancer and a whirling dervish both performed in the lounge. I wasn't as impressed with the belly dancer as I expected to be--I'm not sure if it was this particular dancer, or if I'm just not a fan of belly dancing in general. (It was my first time seeing a belly dancer, so I have nothing to compare it with.) However, the whirling dervish was amazing. I was very impressed with his balance and endurance.
This first video is part of the belly dancer's performance. It's about a minute long.
This next video is part of the whirling dervish's performance. It's around four and a half minutes long. It starts getting more interesting just shy of the 1-minute mark, and it starts getting even more interesting just before the end (sorry for the inopportune ending time).
Tomorrow (hopefully, no promises): Day 3 of the Nile cruise, including a visit to the Temple of Horus at Edfu and the Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo.