|Papyrus and Cypress Trees, Temple of Horus, Edfu|
This past winter (December 2018-February 2019) I decided that it was time to visit Egypt. I've been exploring the Mediterranean region for several winters, including two trips to Spain and Morocco, three to Italy, a winter in Greece, and trips to Lebanon and Turkey. I also traveled in Jordan and Israel on this last journey. This year I plan on traveling overland from Paris to Greece via Lyon and Marseille, Northern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Albania from early December to March.
|A model of a house with a courtyard garden planted with fruit trees surrounding a fish pond, meant to provide a comfortable home in the afterlife, The Egyptian Museum|
The desert country that we know as Egypt was once covered in Savannah grasslands, where great herds of elephants and gazelles grazed and hunter/gatherers subsisted. About 7,000 years ago a drying climate forced inhabitants to retreat to the fertile shores of the Nile as the grasslands turned to desert. And there they started to garden.
|Ox drawn plough and date palms and fruit trees along a canal from a wall painting, Tomb of Amennakht, a workman at Deir el Medina, the West Bank, Luxor|
|The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt|
|Irrigation methods developed by the ancient Egyptians are still utilized in many parts of the world. These are small vegetable plots near the beach in Aqaba, Jordan|
At the same time a belief system developed integrating the natural world in to a sophisticated mythology merging life and death and the perceived afterlife. Lower Egypt, around the Nile delta, and Upper Egypt, stretching in to Nubia and the cataracts on the river at Aswan and further south were thought to be unified as a kingdom by the ruler Narmer around 3,100 BC.
|Oxen being led to sacrifice to the Gods|
|The Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara was the first giant pyramid to be built in Egypt, in the 27th Century BC|
|Reed bundle like carved stone columns at Saqqara|
|The original Pyramid Texts illustrated on the walls of the tomb of Unas|
|The Pyramid of Khafre still has some of its original limestone cladding at the top. The taller Pyramid of Khufu stands behind it in this photo. The limestone was ground to a polish that would have had a brilliant whiteness.|
|A procession bearing offerings in relief on the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut|
Depictions on temple walls of offerings processions show a level of extravagance that is astounding. Tomb carvings depict grand processions bearing bountiful quantities of meat, fowl, vegetation, incense, and perfumed waters.
|Making an offering of perfumed water to Horus and Isis, Kalabsha Temple, Aswan|
A false mountain was built to hold the rock cut temples dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramesses II and his wife Nefertari and the monuments were ingeniously reassembled, closely aligned to their original relationship with the Sun's angle on October and February 22nd when light penetrates to the inner most sanctuary. You can read more about the temple's construction, meaning, and relocations at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simbel_temples
Its a long day trip from Aswan, and I was able to make the trip at a later time than when the tourist vans go, so I had the place mostly to myself, which was an incredible experience. The temples were once located on a bend in the river in a location meant to impress travelers along the river. But I digress, this monument is meant to impress the power of the Pharaoh and his divinity. Back to the garden...
|The Ramesses II temple at Abu Simbel|
|Ramesses II kneeling before a tree of life, making an offering to Thoth, the Ibis scribe god in the Temple of Karnak|
|The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut beneath the Deir el-Bahari|
|Relief depicting men transporting large baskets containing Frankinscense|
and Myrrh trees
Reliefs on the temple depict an expedition to the land of Punt where plants were transported back to Egypt in large baskets by boat and then overland in an ardous journey to this desert valley. These are the earliest known depictions of people transplanting trees. The Punt is believed to be the coast of present day Somalia.
A beautiful relief carving of coconut palm groves along canals graces one of the walls in an elegant, natural style. Coconut palms are not found along the Nile because of infrequent rainfall. Deep rooted date palms thrive along the river and are seen in great number.
|Coconut palms from Punt, with ladders for picking the coconuts|
|Looking at the trunk of a tree planted 3,500 years ago|
It must have required a sophisticated system and enormous amounts of labor to transport water from the Nile to this distant garden.
|Groves of date palms create an atmospheric scene at the Temple of Karnak|
|A contemporary illustration of an ancient Egyptian water garden surrounded by gardens filled with egrets|
|Multi trunked Doum Palms, Hyphaene thebaica have edible fruit, and are associated with the Ibis diety Thoth, the scribe. Seen here along the Nile near Aswan|
|Rectangular pool with an island symbolizing the place of creation|
|Isis? praying to Sobek, the alligator god of fertility and creativity, painted on Papyrus paper|
|Horus, the Falcon God, Osiris, and Babi, the Baboon God of the underworld behind a pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings standing on a papyrus stalk|
|Soaring Papyrus columns at the Karnak Temple at Thebes (Luxor)|
|A beautifully rendered papyrus capital from the Temple of Philae, Aswan|
|A pharaoh seated on a throne in a garden before a procession of gods at the threshold of the afterlife, Valley of the Kings|
|Garden panels in the Botanical Garden of Thutmose III, Temple of Karnak, Thebes (Luxor)|
|Another panel from the Botanical Garden of Thutmose III, Karnak|
A garden would have been a highly sought after feature of the afterlife. Gardens provide a peaceful haven that humanity craves, especially in desert environs. Water and shade and sustinance bring about wellbeing.
Plants had associations with various gods. Hathor and Horus are connected to water lilies and papyrus, date palms to Re and Min. Osiris is paired with the Tamarisk, and Isis and later Hathor with the Sycamore, Ficus sycomorus. In the Pyramid texts, Horus, the falcon god seeks refuge beneath an Acacia Tree. Ziziphus jujuba, the Jujuba tree is tied to the alligator god Sobek. Alligators were kept in ponds in gardens, and the magnificent temple of Kom Ombo between Aswan and Luxor was dedicated to Sobek. When the domesticated alligators died they would be mummified for eternity, as were a number of other animal species connected to the gods. The Pyramid texts mention that ba, or the soul can rest in the branches of the Jujuba tree.
|Mummified Nile Alligators found at the Temple of Kom Ombo|
|Stilts along the banks of the Nile in Aswan|
|A grey heron in the Egyptian pantheon of the gods is Bennu|
|Bennu, riding on the prow of a boat|
There was a great deal of bird life along the Nile and depictions of birds in heiroglyphs are common. The characteristics of a specific type of bird would be portrayed in the divine wearing various crowns with meaningful embellishments that tell a story. One could spend their entire life studying Egyptology.
|A beautiful depiction of a flock of ducks at the Temple of Abydos|
|Horus, the Falcon God|
|A mummified falcon|
|Detail of waterfowl and waterlilies in a painted floor from the palace of Pharaoh Akhenaten in Armana, Egyptian Museum|
|Remains of a statue of Akhenaten from Armana|
He moved his capital from Thebes to Armana in the Minya province north of Thebes, where he built temples, palaces, and gardens in the harsh, rocky and less hospitable environment. I didn't visit Armana as little remains, but there are texts that describe terraced gardens cut in to the rock leading down to a series of pools. If you want to go in to great detail about the life of Akhenaten, read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten
|Akhenaten, and a much smaller Nefertiti making offernings to Aten|
|A remnant of a painted floor depicting gardens and a pool, from Pharaoh Akhenaten's Palace in Armana, in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo|
|Tutankhamun and his wife depicted on a golden throne|
|The ruins of the worker's village at Deir el-Medina|
The dry climate has preserved the pigments in paintings in a remarkable state. When the workers weren't laboring on their commissions they often embellished their own tombs. The afterlife was such a part of one's existance that death was a highly anticipated event to be prepared for.
|Agricultural scene from the tomb of Sennedjem, Dier el-Medina|
|Fields along the Nile near Aswan|
|Oxen pulling a plow with irrigation canals, on papyrus, Egyptian Museum|
|Sennedjem and his wife Lyneferti kneeling before the Goddess Hathor as a Sycamore Tree in the worker Sennedjem's tomb at Deir el-Medina|
|A bundle of offerings in the Tomb of Sennedjem|
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey
|The soul being guided to the place of judgement|
|Navigating the passage to the afterlife|
|Aswan Botanical Gardens, Kitchener Island, Aswan|
|The Nile River in Cairo|
|Hyroglyphs at the Temple of Karnak|
|Shorebirds carved in to pink granite, Kom Ombo|
|An ornamental detail, Valley of the Kings|
|Ram headed Sphinxes, Temple of Karnak|
|The Sacred Lake at Karnak was used for ritual cleansing, navigation rituals, and as an aviary for aquatic fowl.|
|Date Palms, Karnak|
|My garden in October|