Visiting The Temple of Horus in Edfu on an Egyptian Ferrari

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As the ship glided into the docking area, the warmth of the early morning sun promised another a beautiful day. After a hearty breakfast on board the Oberoi Philae Nile cruiser, we were setting out on a visit to the Temple of Horus in Edfu nearby.  Edfu is a small city of about 60,000 people located near Aswan on the Nile river valley.  A morning tour to the Temple of Horus meant we could return to the shelter of the ship before the sunshine turned fierce in the afternoon.

Temple of Horus at Edfu

From the top deck, I could see a couple of men were sitting in a cafe by the side of the road near a cluster of caleches in which the drivers were busy playing on their mobile phones.  As the ship pulled up beside the Nile bank, the caleche drivers sprang to life gathering in a (somewhat) orderly queue by the gate of the dock.  The process was hardly soundless because nothing in Egypt is done quietly.  The drivers were yelling, the passing cars were honking and even the bystanders had something to say.  It looked like a taxi rank. And, indeed it was.

 

Temple of Horus at Edfu

The Egyptian Ferrari Experience

I was delighted to find that we would be taking one of the caleches to visit the temple of Horus at Edfu.  Nicknamed Egyptian Ferraris, caleches are limited to two passengers. My friend Emily and I found ourselves with one of the younger drivers, Abdullah, and his horse, Ceasar. Abdullah was chatty and let us take turns sitting beside him up on the driver’s perch.

Temple of Horus at Edfu
Abdullah with his chariot of fire.

A frustrated F-1 driver, Abdullah negotiated the traffic clogged streets of Edfu expertly and quickly. Holding on tightly, we found the experience exhilarating. Nothing like the colourful chaos of Egyptian street life and traffic to clear away any morning sleepiness the double expresso had missed.

Temple of Horus at Edfu
I’d hold on tight if there was anything to hold onto.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
These guys are transporting cows in the back of a truck.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
This horse cart is going down the wrong way on this street. NB this was a two way street but presumably the driver wanted to get to somewhere on this side of the street.

For a gallery of more street photography from Edfu, check out my Steller story.

The Temple of Horus in Edfu

Located only a few kilometres away from the Nile, the Temple of Horace in Edfu is not only the third biggest in Egypt but also the best preserved.  The sands of time (literally) covered large parts of the temple so that only a small section at the top was left visible above ground.  People used the above ground parts for shelter which is why the roof is covered in the soot of thousands of years of open fires.

Temple of Horus at Edfu
You could see how high the rest of the city is in this photo. They dug thousands of years of sand away to get to the floor of the temple.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
The carvings are well preserved because they were sheltered underground.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
An outer courtyard where the Temple priests could perform ceremonies.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
The ceiling and the top of the pillars are caked with soot and grime.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
The holy relics were placed in this container when they were moved for ceremonies.
Temple of Horus at Edfu
The temple is linear and rises at it goes towards the holy of holies in the back. The commoners in the front can’t see into the holy of holies section but the High Priest and the pharaoh can see down.

A Tourism Industry in Flux

Tourism in Egypt is down 75% from the previous year. Having been to Egypt last April, I noticed for myself the difference. Everyone relying on the tourist industry in Egypt is suffering from the vendors selling tourist trinkets to the hotels and restaurants.  For locals in small towns such as Edfu, any visitor is an opportunity to make a sale.  They don’t know when the next set of tourists will show up.

In the outskirts of the temple, we soon found ourselves surrounded by hawkers who were mostly called Mohammed. Our group negotiated our way through Mohammeds 1 through 4 to find the temple itself near empty.

As we were entering a gaggle of school kids on a field trip were leaving.  Some of them shouted cheery hellos and then scampered away giggling.  Others were too busy comparing their lunch boxes and trading their contents.  The youngest of the children were dressed as princes with paper crowns and kohl-rimmed eyes.  They asked if they could take photos with us.  I can’t imagine why I would possibly be interesting for a photo but was happy to oblige.

Temple of Horus at Edfu
Kids on a school trip to the Temple of Horus at Edfu

After the school children left, we had the gigantic Temple of Horus complex to ourselves.  The decline in tourism has been a disaster for the economy, but it is a boon for tourists.  Obviously, for the budget-conscious there are great deals to be had. Even better, in my opinion, though is a chance to enjoy Egypt’s treasures in tranquility.

Temple of Horus at Edfu
A temple guard posing in front of the pillars. The bottom of the pillars are decorated with a symbolic carving of papyrus reeds.

It was an amazing experience to enjoy the grandiose carvings unmarred by the voices of a busloads tourists and their selfie sticks.  I imagined the solitude was similar to how the early visitors would have found the monuments prior to the onset of mass tourism.  You can stand around and examine details without someone in your way.

I know one of the major concerns with Egypt is safety. The Egyptian government seems to be on high alert in terms of security.  We saw security teams everywhere.  In addition, we were told about the out of sight security measures in place.  For example, the city of Luxor has a security command centre with dozens of camera screens capturing life on the streets and the monuments.

Egypt has been a popular destination for visitors in the past and, no doubt, will be so again.  I was delighted to have this window of opportunity to experience Egypt without hordes of tourists.

I travelled to Egypt as a guest of Cyplon Holidays. Four day cruises of the Nile River on the Oberoi Philae include visits to the temples with an Egyptologist and full board.  Flights to Luxor and returning from Aswan can be booked via EgyptAir.  For more information on Egypt, visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority’s website.

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26 thoughts on “Visiting The Temple of Horus in Edfu on an Egyptian Ferrari”

  1. Wow, your photos brought back so many memories. We did almost that exact same cruise/itinerary nearly seven years ago and I love that it all still looks the same. I am really hoping to take my kids in the next few years. I love Egypt and its warm, friendly people!

  2. I love experiencing all the different modes of transport in another country – they always make a good story and great photos! I’d love to explore Egypt and its ancient history – I’ve never been! A Nile cruise is something I’d love to do at some point. It’s a shame tourism has dropped off (although, as you found, it certainly has its advantages) but I can understand why…I have to say it’s not top of my list at the moment after recent events. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    1. Yesterday the USA put all of Europe on a security threat alert. I have no intention of packing up and leaving London. It’s all about what your perspective is.

  3. What fantastic photos – I visited the temple at Edfu on my trip to Egypt years ago, although without the caleche ride I think (shame, it sounds very fun!). But it’s really interesting to read how different tourism is there now. I knew it had been very badly hit by terrorism, although I’d also heard how much effort the government was making at security: fascinating to see what’s being done in Luxor. And it’s certainly somewhere I’d love to go back to with my daughter one day. #citytripping

  4. Very intriguing title! The ‘Egyptian Ferrari’ really made me smile but I had no idea what you were referring to until I read the post. Egypt was very high on my bucket list for a long time, but because of the political turmoil in the world right now I am sort of reluctant to travel that way. Great pictures!

  5. Oooh, you did a tour I have been longing to do! I’d not considered that some are available with Egyptologists. Yup, that’s for me.

    Seriously! I hadn’t realized that this temple was so well preserved or so large. Definitely must be sure to see it because I took a course in Egyptian hieroglyphics in college and still find it fascinating. It’s a shame how much it is suffering from the lack of tourism; I wonder what else they do for income. All the better for those of us who like to take photos though, because as you said it’s best when you have no crowds to hassle with.

    1. It’s well worth having a good Egyptologist. We learned so much. The one from the cruise was great but the one for the Cairo Museum less so. Definitely if you want to have a complete experience since its kind of a 1x in a lifetime thing I’d definitely recommend a good guide.

  6. We visited Egypt and did a Nile Cruise years ago. Because the Esna Loch was closed at the time we had the Nile more or less to ourselves. There were 13 of us on a boat which should have had 80 tourists. It was magical to be able to wander through the temples without the crowds. I would love to do that again – but like so many others I am worried about safety. It is a chaotic destination. We had an appalling experience with EgyptAir, probably the worst travel experience we have ever had. I don’t think I could cope with all the normal problems of travelling in Egypt, when major safety worries are added to the list.

    1. We had 10 people on a cruiser that had space for 80 as well. The Oberoi Philae dis a cruise in December that had only 2 people on it. Not cost-effective but the hotel group wanted to live up to its bookings.

  7. What a fantastic journey! I remember Egypt before all of the current troubles and it was still a major tourist destination. Crowds and crowds everywhere, still, we were part of those crowds so can’t complain too much! It seems like they are doing as much as possible to try and draw those crowds back in, I hope they are successful in the long run. We just need to get back there before it is too busy again.

    1. Right? I want to take the kids back sooner than later just so they could have the same crowd-free experience I did. It’s pretty special to see a place pre-mass tourism as its so rare now.

  8. This is my one of my favorite temples in Egypt. Your photos bring back great memories. Would love to go back (this time with my husband)

  9. Egypt is wild. Lived and worked there. It’s a country where everything is broken, rotten or corrupted. It’s also a place of epic romanticism. Wouldn’t mind going back to Luxor, just to see the golden sunset.
    Keep rocking.
    Rik aka tapirtales

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