Yesterday’s mammoth day of sightseeing was nearly matched with another very full day close on its heels. The magnitude of this day, however, was not in the number of ancient sites visited, but the time it took to get there – three hours each way. When we first found out about the travel time of this excursion, we nearly backed out, but it was totally worth the travelling, especially when one could nap in the van!!
Abydos is a place of mystery, in both its ancient tales and a very particular 20th century one. While Abydos was the ‘Mecca’ of the ancient Egyptians and the Osirian devout wished to make their pilgrimages there, either in their lifetimes or through their relatives posthumously, it also drew a British woman named Dorothy Eady, later known as Omm Sety (‘Mother of Seti’). Dorothy was born in 1904, and when she was three years old, fell down the stairs in her home in London. The doctor thought she was dead, but when she woke an hour later and wanted to “go home”, no one knew what she was talking about. When she was four, her parents took her to the British Museum and she broke from her mother’s grasp to run through the Egyptian halls, kissing the feet of the statues, claiming these were from “home.”
By the time she was 29, she was an expert in hieroglyphics and ancient Egypt, had married an Egyptian student and moved to Cairo. Her vivid dreams about Abydos (recorded in her diaries) and her conviction that she was a reincarnation of a temple priestess drew her to the site in 1956 where she lived out the rest of her life. Her belief was that she had had an affair with Seti I (the father of Rameses the Great) and became pregnant as a result. As a ‘virginal’ high priestess, she would’ve been tried and put to death for her ‘crime’, so she committed suicide rather than bring shame upon the pharaoh.
There were far too many things known by this woman of Abydos as it once was and the lives of its ancient Egyptians for anyone to scientifically explain or for her to be dismissed as a crackpot. She was a highly respected Egyptologist whose contemporaries turned a blind eye to her traditional rituals and worship of the ancient gods, and she was a source of information that led to extraordinary discoveries in various parts of Luxor and surrounds, including the tomb of Nefertiti, the garden of Abydos and the Hall of Records. There is much about this fascinating woman online, but this might get you started…
Beyond the allure of Omm Sety’s Abydos is the core of the attraction – the ancient structure itself. The craftsmanship of the carvings in this complex was of such a high calibre, that even after days of similar sights and art, we were still in awe of what stood before us. There was no doubt – it was worth the lengthy drive to get there!
Dendera Temple Complex
A two-hour drive back towards Luxor gave us respite in the form of a very long nap (if you can call two hours of sleep a ‘nap’!). The main attraction at the Dendera Temple Complex was the Temple of Hathor, the ‘cow goddess’ who personified the principles of joy, music, feminine love and motherhood. She was one of the most revered deities throughout ancient Egypt.
This temple had many defaced walls, thanks to the various inhabitants throughout subsequent years who took offence at any number of details in the pictography of worship considered heathen to their own beliefs. But there was still vibrancy in the blue ceilings covered in creation pictures and astrological symbols. Even with the details of her face chipped away, you could still recognise the distinctive, rounded ‘cow ears’ of Hathor at the top of the temple columns.
It was a relatively short journey back to Luxor from Dendera, and we were grateful to reach home to rest a short while before being impressed and overwhelmed by Chef Amr’s Egyptian feast for our last night at Mara House. Everything was perfectly prepared and presented, and while most of the dishes were already familiar selections, they were the best of their kind that we had sampled in Egypt.
Our Luxor adventure continues…
Accommodation: Mara House
Read our full Luxor story here:
Part 1: Arrival
Part 3 (current): Abydos & Dendera
Part 4 (still to come): Karnak & Luxor Temples