The Orton's on the Nile - 2005


More Temples: Esna, Edfu, and just a glimpse of Kom Ombo

So with the heartfelt warmth of knowing a boat load of Krauts missed the trip we managed to get a quick spot of sunbathing in before tea time. This eating lark was getting to be a habit! What’s more Luke had by now decided to try reconstructing the folded napkins that were decorating the tables, not with much success, but to the great amusement of a regular waiter who looked a bit like the crazy eyed moustached one from Sparks. By the end of the trip he could just about refold them into a deformed copy of the original.

The meals were all generally tasty and always included cakes; breakfast, lunch, dinner – all with cake. No reason to go hungry then!! Even some of those Froggy croissant thingies, some with chocolate coverings. I have to say a slight edge over Rotdorn’s rationed bread rolls and cold boiled eggs.

Anyway, bad news was yet another early call and off to Esna and the temple of Khnum, the baby of Egyptian temples with most of the work being done under Roman rule about 300 AD. It was so new you the plaster was still wet! I lie – nothing stays wet long in this heat!

As usual the entrance is lined with market traders watched wearily by a bored tourist police officer armed with usual lethal looking sub-machine gun, probably more lethal to him if he tried to fire it by the look of the age of it. Bit useless pretending to protect the tourists if you build every entrance with a market hall by it.

This time we are ready for the heat. We can hardly walk under the heavy burden of water, well I can. Everybody else has lumbered me with the full bottles and are just wandering about happily with a small bottle, returning every now and then for a refill. But, I don’t care – I have water!!! No son of a camel monger is going to rip me off for a bottle of H2O this time.

We run the gauntlet of; “Come in side English, we love you, no hassle! Please look.” “I give you very good price because you have nice face” The cries are all identical and we soon get accustomed to the patter. They are very persistent, but the Orton’s are very tight with money. By the end of the week they would be asking us to go away in despair!

The temple was as awesome as any; it is difficult to appreciate them truly unless you are there. You cannot imagine any modern structures surviving as well. Would old Nelson's column last 3000 years or Empire State building if left abandoned? Closest you could probably get for a match of the preservation of the paintwork is to look at the upstairs landing in my house – lasting at least 10 years, only 2,990 to go.

Start to get a bit knowledgeable on their relief carvings. Deep relief, high relief – different periods, deep relief from the pharaohs that have just defaced all the previous rulers’ names with a chisel; not going to make it easy for there successors. Statue with left leg forward – dude still alive when carved. Legs together – married woman!!! No that is a joke, well not if you are the married bloke, but it means dead dude and they normally have arms folded across chest, both married women and dead dude’s statues.

Just when we are ready to be tempted into the clutches of the traders to escape the heat it is time to head off to Edfu and the temple of Horus, a slightly older temple built by the Ptolemy dynasty about 230 BC. Still a baby temple really, if it was a wine it would be still maturing. Yet more gob smacking awesome sights. Brain is starting to go into temple overload and it is only day two.

There is a feeling of accomplishment and disappointment in most of these temples. So much wanton destruction by jealous pharaohs or worse still early Christians who quite cunningly tell everyone it was the Muslims that did it when you can quite clearly see crosses carved all over the hieroglyphs. Never mind, every cloud has a silver lining. Coptic Christians mean we get to have alcoholic drinks!! Still the sight of beautiful carving stretching up to the sky with huge chunks chopped off the faces is a tadge depressing.

Quick whiz past more traders and we are off to see the alabaster carvers. This a rare treat, our first chance to see were our guide wants us to shop. We are guaranteed that they will give a fair price, but we could haggle down by about 30%, it is expected!! Yeah right! Orton rule of thumb; What would it cost in UK? Half it - if you think it is worth it.

Sure enough, the sight of three old Arabs turning lumps of coloured alabaster into translucent vases or delicate statues, using nothing more than a bow string, chunk of wood and sand is quite impressive. No doubt as soon as our bus left they would switch on the lathes again and knock out another few hundred souvenirs. Inside, welcoming cool air and that god-awful fruit drink or mercifully the option of a cup of mint tea. Take my advice choose the tea! Not only has the most honest Arab in all Egypt got a shop full of alabaster gift ware to rival any Tupperware warehouse, but also hand carved brass statues of all shapes and sizes. Most of these pots I have to add despite being very ornate and decorative, are of the size that Aladin would hide in to escape from his evil uncle. Obviously aimed at the Miranda size suitcase. In a nutshell you could buy a valuable piece dirt cheap and pay twice its value to take it home.

Annette and Adam saw some statues(Anubis and Horus??) they took a shine too so I was left to negotiate. As suspected, thirty per cent of this guy’s price would leave a profit guaranteed to alleviate the third world debt. We haggled, he was not impressed. I was going to bankrupt him. He was not going to make me take out a second mortgage. He could not go any lower. He could. I played the trump card – started to walk way. He grabs our ankles wailing and agreeing our price, assuring us that his fourteen children would have nothing to eat for at least a week because of this. I feel guilty at this and suggest he should keep his lumps of brass and we’ll keep our cash. More wailing – no a deal is a deal. Annette and Adam were happy.

Adam I have to say took to haggling like a duck to water. Luke was just plain mad. Luke’s haggling was to hear a price e.g. 200 EP and say ‘No 10 EP’. Adam has learned well and he was soon beating them down as harsh if not harder than his old man. Only trouble was he sometimes got confused as to when some one legged beggar in rags was genuinely in need of 20 EP for his hand made bead necklace and when it was a shopkeeper with gold teeth out to make a killing.

First souvenirs safely packed up we were off for lunch.

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Copyright 2005 D.J.Orton and A.G.Morris