From Aswan we sailed north to Edfu to visit the Temple of Horus, which is arguably among the very best preserved buildings from the entire ancient world. It’s also relatively new for ancient Egypt, as it was built by the Ptolemaic pharaohs (Greek descendants of Alexander the Great) between 237 BC and 57 BC. Its roots go back back a bit further, since the Ptolemies built the current temple on the site of an older, smaller one.
But despite its tender age of a little over 2,000 years, it’s been through a lot. Like many monuments from ancient Egypt it suffered greatly at the hands of Christian zealots after the Roman Empire banned non-Christian worship in 391 AD. Throughout Egypt, devoted Christians thereafter destroyed “pagan” images in temples, often scratching out the faces or whole bodies of carved figures. They carved crosses into various parts of the temples to convert them to churches. And they blackened painted surfaces either through burning candles or intentional arson.
As the centuries wore on and the Egyptian gods were forgotten in favor of Christian and then Muslim teachings, this temple and many others were slowly buried by Nile silt deposits and drifting desert sands. The upper reaches of the Edfu temple only barely stuck out from the sand when French explorers found it in 1798. In the late 19th century, French Egyptologists began to remove the sand and mud, thus to discover a remarkably well preserved temple.
After one night docked in Edfu we sailed on toward Luxor, the capital of Egypt during its golden age in the mid-second millennium BC. While we are not big fans of cruises (or most other kinds of organized group travel) there is something pretty magical about floating along the Nile. We love the colors of the deep blue water, the lush green strip of farmland along the edges, the rose-colored sands and mountains beyond, and the bright blue sky above. We love floating past bustling cities. And we love the glimpses of little villages that appear to have hardly changed since ancient times.