On Sunday morning, November 12, we met with our tour guide, Emam, for
the three hour drive to Abydos. For safety reasons tourists travelling
overland have to travel in police-escorted convoys. Our convoy consisted
of about seven buses and twelve mini-vans with armed guards at the front
and rear of the convoy. At every major crossroads, armed soldiers were
highly visible. Armed guards where also scattered on the road throughout
Abydos lies on the West Bank of the Nile, about 90 miles north of Luxor.
The site became a cult center for Osiris during the Middle Kingdom, when
a tomb was identified as the "burial site of the god Osiris".
It was here that the Egyptians believed that Isis found the last part
of Osiris's dismembered body and restored him to life. This emphasis upon
Osiris caused the city to become a pilgrimage site for the early Egyptians.
The mortuary temple of Seti I (1294-1279 B.C.), constructed by him and
his son Ramses II, looks somewhat unimpressive from the outside, but the
interior of this temple, with its beautifully painted walls, is in the
best condition of anything we saw in Egypt. The temple also contains the
"Table of Abydos"; a chronological list showing cartouche names
of every dynastic pharaoh of Egypt from the first, Narmer/Menes, until
the pharaohs of the last dynasty. The Table of Abydos has been called
the "Rosetta Stone" of Egyptian archaeology.
Our next stop with the convoy was Dendara and the Temple of Hathor. We
entered the temple complex through the huge Roman gateway. Dendara is
one of several temples in Egypt that was built by the Ptolemies in an
effort to show their dedication to the main Egyptian gods.
With the exception of the supporting pillars, which had capitals sculpted
in the image of Hathor and were defaced by the Christians, the walls,
rooms and roof of this Temple are complete and well preserved. The stone
steps of the spiral staircase are time worn but still used to ascend to
the roof, where there is a small chapel decorated with Hathor-headed columns.
This is the only temple we visited where visitors were allowed on the
roof of the structure.
On an outside Temple wall is a relief of Cleopatra with her son, Caesarian.
At the end of the tour, our convoy headed back to Luxor.