We started our Nile Cruise in Aswan, and went sailing along to Luxor over 4 days. During the days, we were brought on tours of several ancient temples, and Philae Temple was the first one we experienced. To get to Philae Temple, we transferred from our large Nile Cruise ship onto a smaller dinghy.
The little boat went quickly across the river. We landed, got off the boat, and then voila, we were there!
According to Wikipedia, Philae Temple is about 380x120 metres - approximately 4500 square metres - and the first thing that struck us was how EMPTY it was. For most of us in our small group of 8, it was our first or second day in Egypt, and we hadn't really understood yet just how profoundly the revolution had affected the tourism industry.
This temple, though one of the smallest ones we saw, was the perfect way to start our Egypt trip. It's stunning facade has us literally, standing in front of it, jaw agape at its sheer scale and intricate carvings.
This temple was also memorable because of the 3 dudes who sat in there, almost making it feel like you'd be transported to ancient Egypt. From what I've seen of other peoples' trips here, the SAME 3 dudes are here everyday, just recreating the dramatic experience for the tourists. Don't be fooled though - they look like priests, but they just want you to take their photo so they can ask you for money in exchange. (Not much money, like 60 cents AUD, so pretty easy to comply!) Plus, it made for a good shot.
Inside this huge temple was breathtaking. Sheer expanses of 2 storey walls, covered in the most minute and intricate carvings you can imagine. All done in a time with no machinery or proper tools.
The amazing thing is, the etching isn't done INTO the wall - if you look carefully, you'll notice that all the pictures and text are RAISED off the wall, almost like they're embossed. Imagine the work involved in that!
Then you have to consider the fact that this temple SAT UNDERWATER for 50 years due to being flooded in the construction of the Aswan dam, then got transported to its present site. That's right, outstanding quality that outlasts being submerged in deep water for 50 years.
There's also a smaller temple feature right behind Philae Temple - it's called the Trajan's Kiosk. It was also beautiful. And majestic. And little. But you wouldn't know it looking at the picture below, and how big it is in comparison to us!
Philae Temple is situated beautifully overlooking the Nile, and you can see just how close we were to the water in the picture below. The loveliness of it was viewing that stunning facade of the temple, and out the corner of your eye, seeing the deep blue of the Nile River behind it.
The beauty of it all wasn't hampered by the fact that Philae Temple is surrounded by tall columns that are almost Romanesque (but I know I know, the Egyptians were totally on the columns-pulse before the Romans!) - and still retain their top hats of papyrus or lotus leaves. See the petals up the top?
All in all, the trip to Philae Temple took no more than a couple of hours, and it was truly the perfect introduction to Egypt and its rich history. It merely gave us a taste of what was to come over the next few days, and some idea of what everyone raves about when they go to Egypt - its history, its artistic achievement, and the sheer scale of it all being somewhat overwhelming.
And this was the one of the small temples. Breathtaking.