Saturday 10 January 2009 – Along the Nile, Upper Egypt
Keenly anticipating a shower and sit-down facilities, we were glad leave our felucca and its wonderful crew to be back on land. But naturally there were temples to be visited before those delights were to be enjoyed.
The Temple of Horus at Edfu is another vast Ptolemaic pile and is said to be the most complete remaining one. It is also well on the tourist trail and we encountered the biggest crowds we’d seen thus far.
Given the size and value of the tourist industry to Egypt, it is a pity that this country is not better at delivering the experience to visitors. Prices of between LE30-100 are charged for entry to every site, but there is little useful interpretation.
Instead, guards lurk in dark corners, leaping forth to point out perfectly obvious and useless features to passing tourists then expecting baksheesh of ridiculous sums for so doing. When a site is quiet, rather than usefully employing their time in activities like emptying bins or sweeping up rubbish, staff guards and the ubiquitous tourist police loll about chatting and physically obstructing public access to their sites.
When one has paid for entry and had a fairly poor experience, one is forced then to run the gamut of the bazaar on the way back to the bus. There is such a bazaar at EVERY site, selling a predictable range of junk and with hawkers spreading their arms out to catch passing tourists, who have to forcefully push through this undignified melee.
After the crowds at Edfu, we were the only tourists at Esna. This temple, excavated from the centre of a town on the west bank, was a surprise. Mike had been trying to visit for 20 years, but this was the first time he had been able to do so. The convoy system had made it impossible for tour groups, and he said that bus drivers and taxis had refused on other occasions to take him, prior to the convoy system’s introduction.
The temple at Esna is dark, dingy and covered in pigeon crap, but is well preserved by having been buried for so long – no defacing mars the reliefs – and there is much colour remaining on columns, walls and ceilings. Quite a find.
We finally made it to the Mina Palace Hotel around 4pm. After a shower, unpacking and a bit of a rest, we had dinner at the Champollion Restaurant at the nearby Mercure Hotel.