Our guide took us to a local alabaster workshop, where we were shown how alabaster and basalt are made into jars and figurines and how limestone tablets are carved with hieroglyphs and painted for tourists’ enjoyment.
It was neat to ogle the tchotchkes and we got some tea compliments of the eager owner, clearly itching for a sale, but as tempting as real basalt cats and models of ancient rulers are, I had to decline politely. There were some really lovely pieces and I had my eyes on a limestone carving of Cleopatra that my Grandma Anne would have loved, but the image of lugging it on trains and boats and planes, worse yet dropping it in the middle of the Cairo Airport International Departure Hall (imagine lots of wailing and scrambling for little colorful pieces scattering hither and thither among sun-sick tourists and smirking taxi drivers), was enough to shake the thought from my head completely. I’ll find more portable–and more culturally authentic–bits and bobs to bring back anyway.
Luxor temple was very crowded, but a great sight nonetheless. It was built by the deified Ramses II and portrays propaganda for his political and military successes, as every major ruler from Mena to Alexander was fond of doing. Ramses II included a panel that symbolizes the unification of Egypt, with two men facing each other and pulling on opposite ends of a square knot tied with papyrus and lotus flowers (a square knot because it gets tighter the harder you pull).
all of the following photos are by Hannah J.
Many of the blocks from the original structure were used as building materials during the Middle Ages and the temple was forgotten for centuries, covered over by earth and rubble. There was even a mosque built right in the middle of the complex on top of a temple wall, that’s how oblivious everyone was. The mosque is still active, but the old main entrance is no longer an option… it’s 20 feet in the air.
Like many of the other temples we visited, the temple was converted into a Coptic church. There is a fresco of the last supper in one of the final rooms. An open-air museum around the temple periphery displays carvings and sculpture throughout the centuries. I got a kick out of watching geckos warming themselves in the lamplight on 3000-year old plinths.