Friday, August 7, 2015

EGYPT: KOM OMBO TEMPLE AND THE CROCODILE MUSEUM

After visiting Philae Temple, our next stop was Kom Ombo Temple and the nearby Crocodile Museum, which are located about 30 miles down the Nile from Aswan, which means north of Aswan as the Nile flows south to north, something that was hard for me to get used to.
I never got tired of seeing the Egyptian men in their galabias, but I did get REALLY tired of the videographer who followed us wherever we went.
By the way, there are more ways to spell the name of those long dress-like garments than there are people who wear them. I've seen djellabah, galabiya, gallibaya, jellibiya, and galabiah, among others, and I've heard several different pronunciations.

Back to Kom Ombo, which was built under Ptolemy VI in about 180-145 BC with additions made in the 1st century AD by the Roman emperor Trajan. It is unique in that it is a "double temple," meaning that it honors two different gods, Sobek the crocodile god and Horus the falcon god. Kom Ombo was constructed in a bend in the Nile River favored by crocodiles, but Egyptians believed that if they honored the powerfully fierce crocodile as a god, they would be protected from attacks. However, Sobek and Horus were enemies, and the Egyptians felt the need to placate Horus as well so as not to draw his wrath. Therefore, the temple has two of everything and is perfectly symmetrical along the main axis.

Much of the temple was destroyed or defaced by Copts, who used it as a church, by the weather and waters of the Nile, by earthquakes, and by builders who pilfered its stones for other projects. It was restored in 1893 by the French director of antiquities in Egypt, Jacques de Morgan. This is what it looked like when he began--still pretty amazing for a 2,000-year-old structure:
From Wikipedia
However, it looks a lot better now:




Places like these require selfies. Some day I'm probably going to have a hard time believing I stood among these ancient ruins. Actually I have a hard time believing it already!

Numerous truncated pillars suggest what a magnificent structure this once was:



Imagine lifting those stone beams that are resting on the pillars:
Touches of the original paint colors can be seen in areas protected from the weather:
The underside of the lintel above still has brightly colored vultures backed by blue sky:
There are less dramatic touches of color in many other places:
Hieroglyphics cover every inch of space:

The ankh, or "cross with a handle" is a common symbol throughout Egypt. It is also known as "the breath of life" or "key of the Nile":

  

I must have taken the picture below on Horus's side of the temple. See him there on the right at the end of the relief where our guide's flag is pointed?
There he is again in the center being patted by the goddess Hathor:
Note that both figures are holding an ankh:
Hathor apparently doesn't play favorites. Here she is stroking the crocodile god Sobek on his side of Kom Ombo:
I'm pretty sure the hieroglyphics around this cubby read "Please do not disturb the resting birdies."
Why have one door when you can have four or five?



I was able to get a lot of pictures with few or no people in them. Our group of 90 enjoyed relative solitude here and at Philae. That's what you get when you 1) travel in March rather than July, and 2) travel post-political turmoil when tourism is down to 14% of normal.

One of the things Kom Ombo is known for is its depiction of medical tools, especially those related to childbirth. Look closely at the images below. What do you see?
This is the obstetrics and maternity section of the wall. I can only assume those are instruments used in the delivery process. As for the bee/wasp, I have no idea, but I'm glad I gave birth in the 20th century AD rather that the 1st century BC. And that poor little baby falling to the ground during birth! Not a pleasant way to begin life.
Many of the reliefs are in near perfect condition, showing even the ripple of muscles in the forearms of the gods. Their broad shoulders and skinny waists and hips is a look very much in vogue today:
Whoa. Is that BOTH Horus and Sobek on the same panel facing the Pharaoh? And why are there TWO Horuses, one wearing the sundisk crown and one with the crown of Upper Egypt? By the way, check out Sobek's unique crown of ram's horns (did he eat the ram?), a sundisk, and feathered plumes.

I have a feeling that it would take a lifetime of study to be able to interpret these intricate images.

I do better understanding simple building blocks:
But wait! There is the issue of how these multi-ton behemoths were moved and lifted into place:
Perhaps this fellow is meditating on how to get that block he is leaning on to the top of the wall:
Maybe his block completes one of these headless figures:

The Kom Ombo Temple was strategically located to control the trade routes from Nubia to the Nile River Valley, but as previously noted, this site was also a popular crocodile hangout.
Over 300 mummified crocodiles were discovered at or near Kom Ombo (friends for Sobek in the afterlife?), and some of them are on display in the nearby Crocodile Museum that opened in February 2012:
Mummified crocodile eggs and baby crocs are part of the exhibit:
There is an example of the embalming and wrapping process:
Visitors can view 22 full-sized mummified crocodiles ranging in size from six to fourteen feet long:
The crocodile carcasses, bandages removed, look like they might reach out and bite your head off just for fun:
There are several that are still enclosed in their mummy wraps:
Worshippers of Sobek created these mummies as a way to honor and appease him. Just like human mummies, they were buried with funerary items:
. . . including mini-crocs to play with when they got bored:
There is even a crocodile sarcophagus on display. Pretty amazing. I can see why the apostle Paul got so uptight about the multiplicity of gods among the non-Christians.

Coming next: Edfu Temple--our third Egyptian temple in a single day!

4 comments:

  1. I love the crocodile god and the mummified crocs. I believe all of the crocs in this part of the Nile have been an-Nile-ated. Same with the hippos. Too bad. The Nile would have been even more fun with a Disney-like jungle adventure with hippos and crocs emerging menacingly out of the water and a hunter with a gun to shoot them before they destroyed our boat. Fun to be in Indiana Jones country.

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  2. I can't believe I forgot about the videographer. Good grief, I must have blocked the trauma of it out. I have to agree with Bob. I expected to see crocs and hippos, and was disappointed to learn they are gone. I would have loved seeing them---from the safety of a fair amount of distance, of course.

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  3. What was up with the videographer? Was he trying to sell you a video of your tour?

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    1. Exactly. I think he was employed by the cruise ship. No one was really interested in his product, however, and I felt pretty sorry for him.

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