Cairo to Aswan: The Long Cruise: El Ashmunein, Tuna el Gabal and Tel al Amarna

A heavy itinerary for the day had us up and out of the boat by 7am. The air was cool and the air heavy with haze as we made our way through small villages and sugar cane fields towards our first stop. We passed many small factories transforming the sugar cane into molasses with smoke rising in black clouds. It was hilarious watching the kids running out of their houses and fields to wave at the buses.

Stopping first at the town of Malawi the area known as Hermopolis, we visited the statues of Thoth,

the God of all knowledge and patron of scribes, before moving a little further to El Ashmuein to view the remains of the Coptic basilica, built upon the site of a pharonic temple.

There was an eerie feel about the place in the haze, and surrounded by security with balaclavas and machine guns.

The poor shepherds with their sheep were herded away from the tourists!

The security measures seem way over the top and I’m still not sure whether it reassures or scares the pants off tourists.

After a further drive we arrived at Tuna el Gabal.

First we visited the tomb of Petosoris a high priest of Thot who lived around 300BC.

The wall paintings are a mix of style

from the old kingdom and Greek style.

The Tomb of Isidore dates to the second century AD with little decoration but with the mummy of Isidore on display.

who apparently drowned while crossing the river to visit her fiancée, or so the story goes.

Crossing the sand to the catacombs our guide pointed out many pieces of pots which he said are pharonic artefacts……

The visit to the catacombs starts in the small room where the mummification of the sacred birds and animals took place,

the heavy odour in there certainly wasn’t of the perfumes used in the process!

Proceeding down the steps we entered the underground catacombs.

Firstly, was the most important find made here, the complete mummy of a baboon. We had seen this on Bethany Hughes documentary on Egypt before we left so it was fascinating to see it close up. There were a number of long corridors with compartments for the mummified remains to be stored, some small, and the guardian brought what he told us was a mummified ibis bird.

Some large for buffalo although how they got them down I’m not too sure. There was also many remains of the pots

which must have contained the plentiful supplies for the next life.

Passing yet more small villages and sugar cane fields we arrived at the Northern Palace of Akhenaton for a quick viewing before heading up the stairway up the mountain to visit the tombs of Tel Al Amarna.

The sun was by now fierce, the stairway steep and I much doubt the credentials of the architect who designed then!

The tombs here have been defaced following the death of Akhenaton.

The Tomb of Ahmes who was a fan bearer to the pharaoh is unfinished yet shows how the preparations of the wall painting were made, his statue remains looking over the tomb.

The Tomb of Penthu has been defaced and little remains other than the evidence of the sun ray symbols of Aten.

The Tomb of Mery-ra, the high priest is the most decorative, depicting scenes of the royal family, but is also unfinished, particularly the inner sanctum.

This was perhaps the most interesting aspect, viewing the tomb as it was cut out in the bare rock and before any preparations could be made to it.

Back down the steps and a little further along the road were the remains of the ‘small temple’ or Aten temple.

We had little time to view the visitor centre at the dock which looked quite interesting before we were whisked away on our journey towards Assuit, arriving there after midnight and leaving before dawn we didn’t get to see the city at all.

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