Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kom Ombo Temple or "Just one more thing..."

Our boat
leaves moorage in Aswan and we motor with the current up the Nile toward the city and temple of Kom Ombo. This temple, relatively speaking is newer in that it is only 2,300 years old sans a few home improvement type additions added by a couple Roman emperors.

We travel with the current passing scenery reminiscent of the illustrations in catechism texts of my stint at St. Gabriel’s parochial school. Cattle herders, mostly boys wearing the traditional Egyptian galabia, a long flowing ankle length shirt – tend to their cows. Fisherman row small color faded boats back and forth near the shore, one manning the oars another beating the water with long poles, chasing their catch of Nile perch and catfish into nets.

At the banks of the river date palms and other greenery hold the desert at bay with varying success, sometimes only a couple yards sometimes nearly as far as one can see, but always eventually the sand and heat wins. Here and there floating pump stations the size of two car garages aid and abet the greenery while some farmers employ smaller and louder diesel engines coughing black smoke into the air, everybody along its banks wants a piece of the Nile.

Our MS (motor ship) Sherry Boat docks in the town of Kom Ombo and our group walks the ten minutes to the temple. Kom Ombo temple is considered Greco-Roman as it was built during the time of the Greek occupation of Egypt by Alexander the Great. The temple took 400 years to complete and was finished in 80BC. The unique detail about this particular temple is that it was built to worship two of the over one thousand Egyptian deities. Generally temples were built in honor of a single god. In this case though, the duo is Horus – the falcon headed god of divine protection and Sobek the crocodile god of evil (pronounced eeeeeeevil by our tour guide Magdi.)

It was hoped that by erecting a temple in the honor of the crocodile god that the actual crocodiles which used to bask in this area of the Nile would refrain from snacking on the locals. Of course a town could be considered suspect if they had a temple to the god of evil so it was decided to split the thing with a much more reputable god Horus.

The country was under the occupation of the Greeks at the time of the temple’s groundbreaking Alexander the Great and after him the Ptolemys understood that in order to get the populace to submit to foreign rule they had to show respect for the local culture and customs. Rather than erecting temples to the Greek gods, these guys depicted themselves in the style of the established Egyptian divinities, employing a “you catch more lies with honey” style of governance. This technique seems to have been lost to some more recent heads of state.

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