Cruising down the Nile to Kom Ombo

We embark on a four day voyage down the Nile River on the Sonesta Star Goddess between Aswan and Luxor.

Via Magic Carpet Journals. Story and Photos by M. Maxine George
The Sonesta Star Goddess
The Sonesta Star Goddess

Our home for the next four days was a cruise ship, the Sonesta Star Goddess, a large, white, vessel that plies the Nile between Aswan and Luxor bringing visitors to see those ancient Temples to be found along the route, while viewing life along the Nile River. Climbing the gang plank, we were welcomed aboard by a uniformed crew member. Our guide Shrief, who has looked after us since we arrived in Egypt, took care of everything. There were four decks, passenger cabins on three, and the dining room on the one below the main deck. Once registration was complete, we were invited to go to the dining room for a leisurely buffet lunch. After lunch we were able to move into our suite. The suites on this ship were quite comfortable. We had a writing desk with chair near the entrance, a sitting room with lounge, easy chair, and a TV, with a view of the Nile beyond the sliding glass doors. The adjoining bedroom had twin beds and its own window. A full bathroom with tub/shower, and a dressing area with sufficient closet space to store most everything we had with us. The sliding glass doors opened onto our own private balcony, a comfortable place to watch the constantly changing vista.

Chef waits to fill our breakfast order aboard ship

Leaving Aswan, in the morning, our ship began to slowly cruise down the Nile. The Egyptians believed that the east was for the living and the west was for the dead, therefore birth was traditionally on the east bank and burials were on the western side of the river. Some burials have taken place in the caves high in the distant cliffs that we could see to the west of the Nile.

Mosque on banks of the Nile
Mosque on banks of the Nile

The Valley of the Nile is lush and green with palm trees and dense vegetation on both sides of the river. The desert begins where the valley ends, therefore, almost all Egyptian agriculture is concentrated beside the Nile. There were cattle grazing, also herds of goats and camels. Someone with binoculars thought they saw a couple of small elephants amongst the camel herds.

Long-legged cranes, stood in the shallow water, surveying the vegetation along the banks of the river. The ibis, the holy bird of the Nile, a grave black and white bird, spread his wings in graceful flight.

Our guide explains the double temple at Kom Ombo
Our guide explains the double temple at Kom Ombo

We soon passed through the locks and after a while we docked at Kom Ombo. A short walk along the road by the river, took us to the temple. This double temple was dedicated to two gods. One side was dedicated to the crocodile god, Sebek, the god of fertility. The left temple was consecrated to Horoeris or Horus the Great, the solar god of war. These two symmetrical temples were once surrounded by a large outer wall, which opened onto the Nile via two gateways. I soon realized that there has been a lot of restoration done here at Kom Ombo since my last visit. It appears they keep finding more of the pieces of the puzzles that make up these ancient monuments. Obviously the Egyptians are taking their responsibility, as custodians of these historic treasures, very seriously. Progress is slow and painstakingly made, but then these places were not built in day. Most of the temples were in continuous construction throughout the reigns of several pharaohs.

Note the fancy capitals on the columns kom ombo
Note the fancy capitals on the columns

Ten splendid columns along the propylon, had ornate and delicate leaf capitals. These massive columns were no less than one metre in diameter and at least ten metres high. Inside the temple, the hypostyle hall contained three rows of columns with ornate capitals. The centre columns divide the temple, providing two aisles, leading back towards two separate sanctuaries.

kom ombo columns
Column on Kom Ombo with ornate capital

The walls were inscribed with pictures of the gods: Sebek, the crocodile headed god; Horus, the falcon headed god; and the goddesses Shu, with her ostrich feather; and Hathor, with her horns or the ears of a cow. These gods and goddesses were easily recognizable because of their association with the specific birds or animals. One wall relief showed the Emperor Tiberius giving offerings to the gods.

The walls still tell their stories kom ombo
The walls still tell their stories

Sebek was believed to be the creator of the world. He was the god of fertility. I was told that when the men went to war, they left their women in the care of the god Sebek. When they came home, all the women were pregnant.

colorful column at kom ombo
Notice the colours still on this column

Looking into a new stone building, we discovered the dried mummies of a number of crocodiles, who once lived on the bend of the river, here at the ancient city of Pa-Sebek. Crocodiles ceased to live here on the river, after the dam was built. Conservationists might look askance at that, but I imagine the locals were glad to see the last of those vicious creatures.

Mummies of the ancient crocodiles that lived on the Nile
Mummies of the ancient crocodiles that lived on the Nile

Shrief showed us what looks like a well, made of blocks. Looking down into it, one can see water showing the level of the Nile as it fluctuates throughout the year.

Used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the Nile
Water at base of well to measure Nile

We went up on deck after lunch and sat on deck chairs, under a canopy, watching the passing river banks as the ship continued on to Edfu.

Article and Pictures by M. Maxine George

Thank you to Sonesta Star Goddess for PR Picture of Ship

Last Updated January 19, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster

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