Sunrise on the Nile. A line of date palms stand black against the first, rosy glow of dawn. The air is filled with the chirruping of countless crickets, and the first, plaintive cries of the local Muezzin, making his early morning call to prayer. On the ancient river, a felucca ghosts silently across the glassy, gun metal expanse, cutting the faintest furrow on the surface. In Egypt, such scenes have echoed right down through the centuries.
The Nile is, without doubt, the greatest river in history. It winds in a sinuous, serpentine sprawl for over six thousand miles along its length. Far more than a river, it is the very life blood of Egypt; the source and the wellspring of what was once the greatest civilisation in human history; the land of the Pharoahs.
The river was the golden, gilded highway traversed by the likes of Akhenaton, Ramses The Great, Tutankhamun and, of course, Cleopatra, as they rode downstream at sunset on impossibly fabulous, gilded barges. It was the route that allowed all the stone quarried from Aswan to be carried upstream to create the staggering pyramids, as well as the colossal temples of Luxor, Karnak, and Kom Ombo, to name but a few.
In the next series of articles, we will be visiting many of these fabled sites. From the awe inspiring Karnak, with its one hundred and thirty four ageless, awesome hypostyle columns that still loom against a powder blue sky after centuries, to the temple of Sobek, the evil crocodile god, at Kom Ombo.
Egypt, the Nile, and the gods worshipped by the people form an inviolable, eternal triangle, as inextricably linked together now as they were some five thousand years ago. More than seven hundred animal and human deities were venerated in temples of staggering size, scale and complexity, raised mostly along the length of the east bank of the river. This alignment along one bank of the Nile had particular significance for the people.
Rising each day over the east bank of the Nile, the sun symbolised life to the ancient Egyptians, and so, too, did that side of the river. When the sun set over the west bank, it was seen as the death of the day; the end of a complete cycle. The next day would see the rebirth of the sun as it rose, once again, in the east.
Thus, all the Pharoahs and notables of Egypt were buried on the west bank. Here, carved into the vast, limestone quarries of the Valley Of The Kings, are the resting places of at least sixty two kings of Egypt, with possibly many more still waiting to be discovered.
Death, life and rebirth. The cycle keeps repeating right across this amazing land, one so magnetic and compelling that it has an almost supernatural allure. A silent, impassive enigma, shrouded in the ghosts of its past glories, and tormented by the troubles of the present age. And yet….
For all of that, Egypt remains eternal, and more enigmatic than ever. Politicians, generals, and their vain, bloody ambitions come and go like drum rolls. But the Nile still rolls on, just as it always has, and always will.
Over this next series of blogs, I’d like to introduce you to some of the treasures and highlights of this fabulous, surreal expanse. A new take on a timeless tale. Memories that will stay with me until the day I die but, in the life span of Egypt itself, nothing more than a grain of sand.
Intrigued? Good. Now we may begin……