Thursday Doors: Walking Tour of Bamberg, Germany

Day 7 (July 1, 2019) of our Viking Grand European Tour river cruise was spent in the beautiful city of Bamberg, Germany.  We arrived at the picturesque harbor in the early afternoon.
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Bamberg was founded in 902 and is famous for its symphony orchestra and rauchbier, smoked beer. The city marks the northern end of the Main-Danube Canal. Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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This is the first interesting door we saw, somewhere along one of the narrow streets of the old town.

We walked through the market square on this hot afternoon and headed for Bamberg Cathedral (official name Bamberger Dom St. Peter und St. Georg), a large structure built in Romanesque architectural style.
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It is the burial place for Pope Clement II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, among others.

 

 

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We entered through this door, flanked with statues.
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A main entrance to the cathedral

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Interior door

Inside the cathedral

 

Cathedral clock tower
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We then walked to the Neue Residenz (New Residence) of the prince-bishops on cathedral square, which is L shaped because it was never finished. However, its opulence was immediately evident! The palace was begun in 1604 and the two wings built by Johann Leonhard Dientzenhofer in 1697-1703.
20190701_145545 Neue residenzThe palace has more than 40 state rooms with stuccoed ceilings, in which, as in Wurzburg, we were not allowed to take photos. So I took these photos of doorways outside the building.
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We wandered the expansive, manicured rose garden behind it, the hedges and flowers surrounding statues scattered throughout, presumably of former prince-bishops who had governed Bamberg and lived in the palace.
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20190701_152034d.jpgOver the walls of the rose garden is a view looking down over the old town center of Bamberg.
20190701_152111 Bamberg rooftops from the Rose Garden
20190701_152114 View from Rose GardenHowever, I thought the old palace, or Old Court, was a prettier building. It had been built in the 11th century. Today it houses a history museum.

 

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The Neue Residenz is visible through this arch.

I got a close-up shot of one of its doors, with some beautiful ironwork decoration.20190701_150407
The walking tour continued through the old town center.
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Most impressive was the old Town Hall, which dates back to around 1467. Gothic in style, it received some Baroque and Rococo touches in 1756. The murals on the sides of the building were painted by Anwar Johann.
20190701_153159 The old town hall

 

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This building is wedged between two bridges over the Regnitz River. The photo below, which shows this, is not mine. I downloaded it from a Wikipedia website about Bamberg. Credit goes to:
By Qole at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2323883
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The story goes that the town hall was built on an artificial island because the bishop didn’t want to give up any land. An armed (!) conflict between the mayor and the bishop ended with an agreement that the citizens couldn’t build their burned-down town hall on land. The bridges connect the building with the city center.

Kayakers paddle under the bridges.

 

We of course saw much more of the old city center and some members of our tour found a brewery to sample Bamberg’s famous smoked beer.

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Sign above the entrance to Schlenkerla Brewery

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Stumble stones in front of a house denote where Jewish residents of Bamberg lived, who later were killed during the Holocaust. Both of these people died in Auschwitz.

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The resident of this house needs to collect their newspapers!

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Small entrance to a crowded shop

Picturesque buildings lined up along the river – this area is known as “Little Venice.”
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The spires of Michaelsberg Abbey rise above the riverfront.
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After free time, our tour group meeting place was in front of this building, with a bull over the doorway.
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I hope you enjoyed a “walk through Bamberg” with me! This post is also for Norm’s Thursday Doors photo challenge. Check out the posts by other door fans!

 

Journey to Egypt, Part 18: The Crate Maker of Fares Island

December 31, 2018

Our dahabeya Aida docked this morning at the island of Fares. We were going to see a local craftsman, the last crate maker in Upper (southern) Egypt. Transportation to the crate maker’s home was via “tuk-tuk,” two passengers per vehicle!
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We bumped and jostled along the dusty roads of Fares village, observing our surroundings through fringed open sides.
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We could peek at our driver through a heart-shaped cut in the material in front of us.
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Our little caravan of tuk-tuks finally arrived at the crate maker’s home and were taken around to the back of the house.DSC_0416
We saw piles of date palm reeds, the raw material of the hand-made crates, which were stacked up behind the craftsman’s work space.
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The crate maker’s work space

Mohammed (the crate maker – not to be confused with our guide of the same name!) has his reeds shipped to him from elsewhere, from mature date palms (at least a year old). The reeds have to be dried but no longer than 20 days. The dried reeds are strong, yet pliable for splitting and cutting holes in them.

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One of the crate maker’s assistants

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years.  We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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First, he cuts the reeds into the lengths needed.
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Mohammed uses pieces that have already been cut at the correct length to measure other pieces.
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He then cuts the section of reed lengthwise with a scythe, which requires great precision.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.

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Mohammed steadies the section of reed while he uses a large nail and makeshift hammer to cut holes along its length.
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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

However, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week.

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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

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Sample of one of Mohammed’s more elaborate creations, which was passed around among us.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.
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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years. We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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These piles of reed sections are ready for assembling the crate – the pieces with holes drilled in them will anchor the side pieces (the narrower pieces in the other pile) that fit through the holes.
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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

SONY DSCHowever, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week. Because he was kind enough to invite us to see him at work, three women from our group became his temporary assistants!

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Mohammed hands Lizz some materials…
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…and shows her what to do.

Through demonstration and imitation,…
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Assembling the base of the crate

…Lizz, Kathy and Michelle were able to be efficient crate producers, and with their help, Mohammed was able to finish twice as many crates in the time we were there!

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The vertical pieces are fit through the holes on the horizontal pieces.

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12 horizontal pieces and 4 vertical pieces form the frame.
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They’re almost finished as Mohammed fits in the bottom cross pieces.
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Michelle takes over to help make the next crate.

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Michelle slides a horizontal piece through two verticals to construct the frame.
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Photo op! Mohammed will not actually have Michelle make the lengthwise cut!
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Michelle helps finish a frame.

A small crate with a handle was given to Lizz as a gift for being a great assistant! Everyone was given an ankh made of date palm reeds.
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Kathy was the last volunteer.

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Kathy hammers a length of vertical piece into a hole.

Two of the finished crates!
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We thanked the craftsman and his assistants and family and said good-bye, then we headed back to our tuk-tuks for the ride back to where Aida was moored.  As we approached the pier on the river, I saw a snake handler with several cobras! (Fortunately, we were some distance away; I took this photo with my telephoto lens!)
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Journey to Egypt, Part 17: Horemheb’s Temple & Gebel Silsila Quarry

December 30, 2018

This afternoon we arrived at the narrowest stretch of the Nile, an area that the Egyptians called “Khenu” or the place of rowing. At Gebel Silsila, high sandstone cliffs come down close to the water’s edge.DSC_0387
20181230_150716dThe Temple of Horemheb is small and not well-known.
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Nile cruise ships don’t stop here because they are too large to moor in this area.

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Cruise ship passes us by as we stand on shore. To the right is another moored dahabeya, which possibly had a famous passenger – the queen of Belgium! She is apparently working with or observing archeologists at the site.

The temple itself is not in great condition compared to others we had seen and would see over the next few days. It was interesting because of the different inscriptions, not just hieroglyphic writing, but also hieratic script, demotic writing of later times, with Greek influences, and Coptic script from early Christian times. Early Christians stopped here to shelter and escape persecution during the early years of Islamic reign in Egypt. They are likely the people who wrote some of the later-age inscriptions. For this reason, this site is of particular interest to epigraphic studies (study of inscriptions).

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Thoth, depicted with the head of an ibis, was important to ancient Egyptians, for he was the god who gave them the gift of writing. In fact, what we call hieroglyphics (a Greek word), was medu-netjer to the ancient Egyptians, meaning “the god’s words”.  Note the modern writing (graffiti) that a more recent visitor carved, to Thoth’s lower right.

The temple dates from the end of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Horemheb, who dedicated the temple to Sobek (the crocodile god), …

Amun (pictured below, distinguishable by his large feather headdress),
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…and other gods, including Thoth.

Thoth, in ancient Egyptian belief, was born with immense knowledge, the most important of which was the power of words. Although he gave this knowledge to humans, he expected them to take it seriously. The main purpose of writing was not decorative or literary. It was to provide a means to bring into existence concepts and events. If something was written, it could be “made to happen” again and again.

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Hieroglyphics consisted of phonograms, logograms and ideograms. Phonograms are alphabetic signs, where one hieroglyph represents a single consonant or sound. There are 24 of these in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and they are the most common. Phonograms could also represent 2-3 sounds, like diphthongs and blends. Ideograms (pictures conveying a concept) were often at the end of words.
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Egyptian writing could be written from left to right, right to left, up-down or down-up (and sometimes started in the middle!). Symbols of people or animals, however, always faced the beginning of the text, so if an image of a bird or a woman was facing the right, the text was meant to be read right to left.
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This photo shows an example of hieratic writing, which was a faster script, using simplified versions of hieroglyphic symbols. Hieratic writing developed early in the dynastic periods, after hierpglyphic writing had been firmly established. Around 800 BCE, hieratic developed into a cursive script.
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This is an example of demotic writing, which replaced hieratic script c. 700 BCE. Demotic writing was called sekh-shat, or document writing.  It was developed in the Nile Delta region and spread southward during the 26th Dynasty (c.1069-525BCE). This became the most popular script for the next 1,000 years.

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Note the different costumes worn by the people in the carved image to the left of the writing.

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At the top of this photo is an image of people fanning the pharaoh with large palm fans as he is carried on a platform. Below is yet another type of writing – Coptic script. Coptic script was that used by the early Christians. Demotic writing had continual use until it was replaced by Coptic script during Roman Egypt. Coptic script uses the Greek alphabet with some additions from demotic script. Hieroplyphic writing only fell completely out of favor with the rise of the new religion, Christianity.
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Rosetta stone image (downloaded from Bing): The Rosetta stone provided the key to reading hieroglyphic and demotic writing. The text is a proclamation written in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic script from the reign of Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE). All three are the same text, in keeping with the Ptolemaic ideal of a multicultural society. Until the Rosetta stone was discovered, no one knew how to read or interpret hieroglyphic or demotic writing.

Information on the history of ancient Egyptian writing was taken from the online article Ancient Egyptian Writing by Joshua J. Mark.

Horemheb’s Temple was one of the earliest examples of temples made from sandstone. During the reign of Akhenaten in the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian temple builders switched from limestone to sandstone.
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The pharaoh, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, offers sacred lotus flowers to the god Thoth.
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Although this looks like a repeated image and hieroglyphics, on closer inspection, one can see that it isn’t. On the far left are two figures seated side by side, and each of the other single figures has some differences – the second on the left, for example, is holding an ankh in one hand, and the cartouches with names of pharaohs and priests contain some different symbols.
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Someone crossed out one of the figures, which appears to be a pharaoh wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

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Sandstone is lighter in weight and the area of Gebel Silsila had abundant sandstone. In fact, this site was used as a quarry for constructions as far away as Luxor and Amarna, 800 km to the north.
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There was a steep path leading up to this hole, which was once part of a temple. Some people in our group, including Mohamed, climbed up and had their pictures taken!

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Little niches, or holes, on the rocks near the river’s edge, were where boats were tied next to the shore.
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The archaeologists’ felucca

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DSC_0399That night, back on the Aida, we were enjoying a delicious dinner when several crew members appeared, playing instruments and singing! The captain danced with a couple of the women in our group.
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CFFC: Signs Along the Way

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is about signs. It is part of her “which way” series, so it refers to the types of signage you see as you go along, whether by car, on foot, bicycle, etc. These kinds of signs tell where things are and which way to go.

On a motorcoach on a tour of Israel, I often took photos of places we were arriving at so I would know where I was when I took those pictures. Road signs seen from a bus:
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Urban signs taken from a bus:

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Driving through Jericho, Palestine

 

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The Arabic writing over this store in Cairo, Egypt looks like a design, not words.
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We did not stop at this restaurant, but I liked the sign, purporting to be a “Biblical” restaurant,  but showing a man holding a pizza!

Signs can be helpful especially if you are in a foreign country (that is, if you can read them!), such as this street sign in Quebec City.
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Signs help you locate things when you are from somewhere else, such as hotels…

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Would you like to stay at the Nefertiti Hotel in Cairo’s old market area?

…and – most important of all – restrooms!

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A most welcome respite when traipsing all over Old Jerusalem!

Signs are helpful on walking tours as well, especially in a popular place like Jerusalem. Some of these are even decorated with pretty designs. I’m particularly partial to multi-lingual signs!
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This sign is a mosaic map, but it helps orient the tourist!

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Back home, many signs I see along my way advertise someone’s business. I took this from our car on Chicago’s northeast side.
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Worship in the Middle East

Frank Jansen at Dutch Goes the Photo has selected worship as his photo challenge theme for Holy Week. I share the sadness of the world for the devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. But there are many holy places around the world that inspire awe where people worship.
Below are photos of worship from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and the ancient Egyptian religion.

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Prayer at the symbolic tomb of King David (not his real tomb) – Jerusalem, Israel

 

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The Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem is the only remaining vestige of the ancient temple of Jerusalem. Every day people come here to pray for loved ones, either those lost or those far away. It is customary to write the name of the person you are praying for on a scrap of paper and insert it into a crack in the wall. Every week these papers are collected by rabbis and kept in a sacred place – they are never thrown away. When a person is finished praying at the wall, they walk backwards, still facing the wall. Some maintain this all the way across the square; others after a short distance from the wall.
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A Muslim man praying in the “mihrab” at Al-Azhar Mosque – this niche in the wall of a mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. Muslims must face Mecca when they pray.
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Open courtyard at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, with two of its minarets rising up behind. Five times a day, verses from the Koran are broadcast from these minarets, calling Muslims to prayer. 
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Altar at the Church of the Virgin Mary (or the “Hanging Church”), a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo. Those of Orthodox faith do not have statues in their churches, which are considered idolatry. Instead they have icons, or images, of the Holy Family, disciples and saints.
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At the Garden Tomb site in Jerusalem (where it is believed that Jesus was buried), groups of Christian pilgrims gather for holy communion.  The “wine” (grape juice, actually) was served in tiny cups made of olive wood, which we were given to keep as a remembrance.

The ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods that they worshipped, and many of their temples contain images of pharaohs and others worshipping the gods.

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Altar and shrine in the sanctuary of the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt. Horus was one of the most important gods for the Egyptians and is often depicted with the head of a falcon.

 

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A typical scene portraying a pharaoh making offerings to a god. The image on this pillar in Kom Ombo, Egypt shows the pharaoh (left) making an offering to Horus, the falcon god (right).
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Akhenaten was considered the “heretic” king because he tried to introduce monotheism to the Egyptian religion. He banned the worship of many gods, claiming that Aten (the Sun, represented by a disk with rays flowing downward) was the one and only true god. In this relief at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, Akhenaten (in front) is shown worshipping Aten, along with his wife, Nefertiti, and two of their daughters, by offering up lotus flowers (the sacred flower of ancient Egypt) to the sun god. After Akhenaten’s death, the Egyptians reverted back to worshipping their many beloved gods.

Journey to Egypt, Part 10: Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut & Memnon Colossi

December 27, 2018

All the funerary temples and tombs are located on the west bank of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians believed that death was associated with the sunset, and thus all the temples to the deceased were to be built on the side of the setting sun. All temples of the living (such as Karnak) were built on the east side of the Nile.

As we drove toward Hatshepsut’s Temple, the landscape was littered with caves and archaeological excavations.

As we approached  the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, it looked like a modern building. Its appearance surprised me. Fodor’s Egypt (2009) calls it “a sublime piece of architecture” built by the architect Senenmut. It is composed of three double colonnades rising on terraces built into the limestone cliff on which is was built. Senenmut modeled it after the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, who founded the 11th dynasty in the Middle Kingdom. Mentuhotep II’s temple is right next to that of Hatshepsut, and it served both as a model and a quarry, for by that time, a thousand years later, there was not much left of the older temple, eroded by time and vandalism.
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I was tired after having visited the Valley of the Kings and Howard Carter’s house that morning and felt somewhat sick. I climbed the first set of stairs to the large terrace between the first and second colonnades, talking to Laura, an older woman in our group. She was coming down with something and suggested I join her in “sitting this one out.” She sat down on a ledge and I was tempted to join her, but no – this was one of the places I most wanted to see!
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A friend of mine who is really into ancient Egypt told me that Hatshepsut was her “favorite queen” so, curious, I read up on her. Hatsheptsut of the 18th Dynasty was the most important woman ever to rule Egypt. In fact, female rulers were exceedingly rare. She was brought up to be self-confident and she was also ambitious. Already queen, having been married to Thutmose II, and stepmother to his successor to the throne, Thutmose III, she acted first as regent when he was first named as ruler – the boy was only about three or four at the time. As he grew and learned more about the duties and responsibilities of a king, she continued to rule alongside him and declared herself pharaoh, an unprecedented move for a woman.

As a girl, Hatshepsut had been well educated and taught to perform religious duties, and as queen she became “God’s wife,” the most important role a woman could normally have in ancient Egypt.

Instead of waging war to expand Egyptian territory like her male predecessors, she chose to consolidate the country, built monuments and organize expeditions to the land of Punt to bring back myrrh, incense and offerings for the gods – and a tree.
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The reliefs inside the first colonnade are damaged and we didn’t go into the lower level, but they include a detailed scene of how the queen’s granite obelisks were transported on boats from Aswan to Karnak.

We took the ramp up to the second court. On the left is a chapel dedicated to the goddess Hathor.  The tops of the columns are carved in the shape of a face of Hathor as a woman, with cow’s ears and a sistrum on top.  (A sistrum is a musical instrument of ancient Egypt used in many religious ceremonies, especially those dedicated to Hathor. It consisted of a handle and a metal frame with crossbars that had small rings or loops. When shaken it makes a jangling sound, like the modern tambourine which has largely replaced it.)
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In this image, Hatshepsut associates herself with Hathor’s offspring Ihy and takes the child’s (or calf’s) place suckling from Hathor as a cow.

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To the right of this chapel is the second colonnade. The first half commemorates expeditions to Punt (scholars are not sure exactly where Punt was) and show the many products brought back from Punt.
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On the right is the colonnade celebrating the divine birth of Hatshepsut. Showing that she was of divine origin legitimized her reign.
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On the right of the 2nd terrace is the better preserved chapel dedicated to Anubis, the god depicted as a jackal, who ushered souls into the afterlife and was the protector of graves.

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This image of Anubis shows the jackal god seated in front of offerings. Anubis is the god who oversees the dead, who takes the brain out of the deceased’s body and puts four other organs in canopic jars, prior to mummification. The heart is not removed because it is believed to be the source of intelligence and reasoning.
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Above the door to the chapel, notice a line of cobras just below the ceiling with red disks above them. Also notice two vultures with their wings spread wide, with a red disk in the middle and cobra heads on each side. Cobras and vultures on a wall meant unification. Cobras and vultures on a ceiling meant eternal life. The red disks represent the sun, the source of all life.
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This relief in the Anubis chapel shows Thutmose III (right) worshipping Horus (left), the falcon god.
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A beautiful relief of the vulture goddess, Nekhbet, with her wings spread. She carries a shen ring  in her talons. Nekhbet was worshipped locally in predynastic times as the patron goddess of the city of Nekheb and later became the patron goddess of Upper Egypt. After unification, she was one of two patron deities of all Egypt. The shen ring, a circle with a line tangent to it, in hieroglyphics stood for a loop of rope. The shen ring represented eternal protection.

The third terrace is reached by another ramp flanked by two statues of Horus.

In front of the colonnade is a row of statues of the pharaoh. They are generic in terms of facial features, including the false beard portrayed on many such statues.

In the hypostyle hall are carvings showing priests carrying barques with statues of the gods and the pharaohs followed by musicians and dancers. These barques represent the connection between the living and the dead.
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At the back of the third terrace, cut into the rock cliff is the sanctuary of Amun, the “Holy of Holies” where Amun’s boat would rest awaiting the next day’s festivities.
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Entrance to the Sanctuary of Amun
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This depiction of a pharaoh wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt was carved in granite, which is one reason why it is well preserved.
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At the bottom of this photo is Thoth, whose name means “He who is like the ibis” and is portrayed with the head of this sacred bird who was also kept as a pet in ancient Egypt.
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To the left of the doorway is the god Amun, identifiable by his crown of double feathers. Noticeable also on this wall (just to the left of Amun’s crown) is demotic Egyptian writing with its influence of Greek and ancient Egyptian hieratic and hieroglyphic writing. This was etched on the wall many centuries after this temple was built and in use.

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In spite of the damage to these images, I marveled at their intricacy and color, and imagined how beautiful they would have looked in ancient times.

 

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This doorway leads to the sacred chamber of the sanctuary.
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Ceiling of the outer sanctuary which was painted like a starry night.
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The carving on this rock is some kind of plant – perhaps wheat, possibly one of the products brought from Punt.
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The lower part of columns that once filled this terrace.

Here is the third court as seen from above. In the lower part of the photo is the entrance to the Sanctuary of Amun.
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Although he apparently bore no ill will toward her, upon Hapshepsut’s death (apparently from an abscess after extraction of a tooth!) Thutmose III went about erasing his stepmother’s name from all monuments and expropriating her temple to honor himself and his accomplishments. So thoroughly was her name and image erased from ancient Egyptian records that her existence was unknown until the 19th century! Thutmose III did this to assert his power as ruler and he even backdated the beginning of his rule to the date when she became regent during his early childhood.

Upon leaving the Temple of Hatshepsut, we briefly visited the colossi of Memnon. These statues of the seated pharaoh Amenhotep III rise over 50 feet tall and are the main vestiges of his mortuary temple. Alongside the legs of the colossi are standing figures of the king’s mother and his queen, Tiye. Tiye and Amenhotep III were the parents of the “heretic” king Akhenaten (whose name was Amenhotep IV before he changed it to honor who he believed was the one and only god, Aten), and the probable grandparents of Tutankhamen.
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This article was written from my notes and the following sources:
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, gen. ed. Helen Strudwick (2006)
Fodor’s Egypt (2009)
Nekhbet – Wikipedia article
The Temple of Hatshepsut – article by Joshua J. Mark (July 18, 2017) for Ancient History Encyclopedia
Hatshepsut Temple in LuxorMemphis Tours article
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut Wikipedia article

Lens-Artists Challenge #36: Around the Neighborhood in Des Plaines, Illinois

Lens-Artists’ weekly photo challenge this week is Around the Neighborhood. I selected some photos from my photo archive of the last few years that are “typical” of Des Plaines, Illinois, the Chicago suburb where I live.

More and more of these signs have popped up in people’s yards since the beginning of the Trump administration. This is becoming an increasingly diverse and open-minded city.  Des Plaines had been a predominantly Republican town, but as younger and more diverse people have moved in, this is changing. Republican or not, people want to show that we are welcoming.
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Des Plaines is known for traffic delays due to trains passing through. We have 37 street-level railroad crossings within the city limits! Both freight and commuter trains rumble through several times a day. This railroad track is a block from our house. Nearby, it meets up with two other sets of railroad tracks. It must be a nightmare to coordinate all this train traffic!
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Our neighborhood has a variety of wildlife, mostly birds, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, insects and an occasional deer. A fox has been spotted in the neighborhood from time to time. Lately, people have become aware of the decline in the monarch butterfly population due to urban development which has drastically reduced the plants they feed on. Now we are seeing a return of the monarchs as people make their gardens monarch-friendly!
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My husband and I often take walks around our neighborhood at any time of year when the weather cooperates. There are many forest preserves and walking/biking trails in our area. Here I am on the Des Plaines River Walk. The Des Plaines River gave the name to the city and we have historically had annual flooding problems. Heavy rains and snow melt cause the river to rise enough to overflow its banks in low lying areas.
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Besides wildlife, we have many pet lovers and usually we see people walking their dogs when we are out. There are also many outdoor cats. This one belongs to a friend and his name is Pal.
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People around here take great pride in their gardens and decorating their lawns. Some have kitschy lawn statues. This is a tasteful and pretty fall display.
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Autumn is the most beautiful season here. A few years ago, we had the most glorious fall colors. This is a typical neighborhood fall scene.20151021_151033.jpg
Because there is a Metra station in downtown Des Plaines, many people have moved in and rented or bought condos in the downtown area. But now there are condos going up everywhere – soon Des Plaines will be known more for its plethora of condo complexes  than its trains! (Planes, Trains and Automobiles really applies here – we are also near O’Hare airport.) Here is a typical condo/townhouse complex. And they keep building and building on whatever land is available. In downtown Des Plaines they are demolishing a whole block of stores and restaurants (including our local camera store) in order to put up a big apartment building!
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One more fall scene in the ‘hood!
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I forgot to list above one of our most often forgotten wildlife species – snakes! We don’t see them often and they are harmless. Three years ago, it was warm enough in February for a pair of garden snakes to make their appearance and lie sunning on a rock next to our house.
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It’s not common to see deer right in our neighborhood, but in nearby forest preserves it’s normal to see a buck, or a doe or two. I took this photo while on a walk in the Des Plaines River Forest Preserve (part of the complex of trails that includes the River Walk).
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Canada geese migrate and make their home here during the warmer months. It’s only March and we are already seeing signs of them. Hearing their honking as they fly above in V formation is a sure sign of spring! They come in flocks of vast numbers and occupy our lakes, ponds and fields.  At Prairie Lakes Park, they share space on the ponds with ducks.
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One of the best things about Des Plaines is our public library. It offers many services and programs, including concerts, solo performers, lectures, book groups, computer and photography classes, activities for kids of all ages and more.

This is a mural that was recently painted in a hallway.
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On the first floor, you check out books by scanning your library card and the bar code on the book or DVD.
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There are flyers of the current activities that you can help yourself to.
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When you can’t get to the library, or when you are out with your kids, you can borrow a book and leave a book in these “little libraries” that are scattered around town.
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I hope you enjoyed this tour of my neighborhood!