Saturday 17 January 2009 – Abydos, Egypt
Breakfast at the Emilio is a more substantial affair than we have enjoyed at other places. A huge pan of Ful, the staple bean dish of Egypt, is a given. It is accompanied by other dishes of potato and changing offerings including wee pancakes, grilled tomatoes and a very odd dish that looks like processed bran in milk. A chap makes omelettes to order and these are good. Bread and pastries are stale, and two cycles through the antique motorised toaster does little to add colour or flavour. The provided coffee does have a little more relationship to the roasted bean than we’ve become used to…. not a lot, but a small improvement is appreciated.
We set off on a big bus (a functioning toilet has been decided to be a necessity on longer journeys) northward down the Nile to Abydos. The major attraction here is the very large and (thanks to some restoration work) one of the most complete extant temples in Egypt, that of Seti I. The protection offered by its surviving roof has protected the fine limestone carving and much of the colour. It contains the last so-called ‘King List’ in Egypt in its original location (others have been removed to various museums, including Cairo and the British).
Behind Seti I’s temple is a partially buried site believed to have been a cult centre for Osiris, consisting of huge granite blocks and beams and some very nasty looking ground water.
A short hike across the desert, a second temple – that of Rameses II – has well-preserved scenes of the Battle of Kadesh on its surviving outer walls, and some more excellent carving and colour on the inside.
A quick rest at the tatty cafe outside the temple (which naturally incorporated a small bazaar) and we were back on the bus for the three-hour trip back to Luxor.
One senses that the journey would be about half that duration if not for the constant weaving through police check points. They don’t actually stop the traffic, but it is reduced to one lane as only one direction at a time is allowed through. Our bus was stopped once in each direction at a checkpoint just outside Luxor, where the particulars of our journey were checked. The convoy system only recently having been discontinued, they are clearly still taking few chances.
Enroute back to Luxor, we paused at a roadside pottery stall where I purchased a couple of traditional terracotta cooking pots to take home.
After a rest back at the Emilio, we set off in a taxi (eight plus driver – my head at right angles to the roof and the rest of my body) we dined at La Mamma Italian restaurant, in the grounds of the Sheraton Hotel at the far end of Five Star Alley. They did a reasonable imitation of a fettuccine carbonara, with real bacon bits and something approximating parmesan cheese – at least it wasn’t mozzarella.