Day 4: Kom Ombo & Edfu

In the morning, we docked at Kom Ombo.  The temple there is the only double temple in Egypt, dedicated both to the falcon god and the crocodile god.  This meant that there was a sacred crocodile and a sacred falcon captured, kept fat and happy at the temple, then mummified and replaced every new year.  Kom Ombo was a medical temple, where the ill and ailing would come from all over Egypt to receive treatment.

Ancient Egypt was remarkably advanced in the medical field.  They completed successful amputations, contraception (mandatory breastfeeding until the child reached 2 years of age, sheepskin condoms, crocodile dung & honey contraceptive pills), dentistry (a mummy was found with the first bridge in history, gold wires binding two teeth together), veterinary science, ophthalmology, surgery, prostheses (one mummy was found with an artificial toe and several had joint replacements. Sometimes this was done postmortem to ensure the person would enjoy full health in the afterlife), midwifery, pharmacy (they had an ancient form of aspirin), and aromatherapy (over 700 different perfumes used to treat all kinds of illnesses). 

They even had a system very similar to the Chakras, with seven key points or targets in the body, as our guide explained.

You can see here a depiction of the doctors and medical professionals healing a patient, pouring ankhs over him, literally pouring life back into him.

The sick would often spend a long time in line, even a night or two, so people passed the time as we do nowadays—they doodled.  But instead of our scribbles in the margins of our notebooks and on fliers for flu shots, the ancient patients doodled in stone.  The graffiti of the sick and the grateful are still around.  Here are two footprints carved into one of the walkways. 

There were a lot of local kids running around who greeted us very enthusiastically.

Next we sailed and took a carriage ride to another huge temple, Edfu.

This one is special because it was the stage for the first play in recorded history.  It was called The Triumph of Horus and was performed by priests and priestesses, not for a mortal audience, but to entertain the gods.  It tells the story of Horus avenging his father’s (Osiris) murder by Seth, the god of darkness and chaos, who is portrayed as a male hippo.  In the final act, a giant hippo  cake was presented (it would be sacreligious to kill a real hippo) and cut into 14 pieces, in retribution for Seth’s cutting Osiris into 14 pieces.  When Christians came along, they saw this as the story of George and the Dragon, the triumph of good and light over evil and darkness.  The play was reenacted in Elizabethan England, according to our guide, and a copy is available online from the University of California Santa Barbara.

The holy of holies had a huge black basalt altar and three skylights to help priests keep track of the times for prayer and offering.

We took the horse and carriage back to the boat and off we went to Luxor.


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One response to “Day 4: Kom Ombo & Edfu

  1. Pingback: Video Essay: more getting around in Egypt | The Cultural Sponge

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