Hieroglyphs in the Sun – Chapter 5

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 20/05/2024

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 Karnak and Luxor

The next day began with brilliant light and a cheerful atmosphere. The weather was wonderful, and the group from Cyprus was excited because after their visit to Karnak, they would board the cruise ship and begin their Nile cruise.

Karnak is the largest archaeological site in Egypt and one of the largest in the world. It covers an area of about 200 acres and is dedicated to the deities Amun-Ra, his wife Mut, and their son Khonsu. For nearly 2000 years, the Pharaohs each added something unique to this site to honor the deities and leave their names to eternity. It is connected to the Luxor temple by an avenue, 2.7 kilometers long, adorned on both sides with ram-headed sphinxes.

Although Karnak consisted of temple complexes, only the temple of Amun-Ra is accessible to the public. It is an impressive hypostyle hall covering an area of 5000 square meters, including 134 columns, on which the Pharaohs inscribed their military achievements with beautiful hieroglyphics.

Arriving at the site and seeing the enormous columns towering majestically against the bright blue sky, Sophia felt awe. Archaeological sites always moved her because she sensed the energy that so many people, lost in anonymity, had dedicated to building such monuments. This energy expressed not only the culture of that era but also the divine breath of creation. Of all those people, only the names of the Pharaohs remained carved on the columns. These monuments were built for those individuals. However, without them, this brilliant civilization would not have been preserved.

-Everything has its significance, she said to Nefeli. The Pharaohs’ desire to remain in eternity and the human drive to create and progress. The paths through which evolution advances are incredible. Everything has its significance, she repeated, confirming her initial thought.

-Yes, Nefeli replied. For the ancient Egyptians, it was essential for their names to be spoken. This way, they would live forever in eternity.

-And they succeeded. Thousands of years have passed, and we still say: Akhenaten, Thutmose, Ramses, Tutankhamun, Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, and so many others.

-Surely, that was their aim. But not much has changed since then. Today, we call it a posthumous reputation. And how much do people sacrifice for a bit of publicity, for a line in the history book with their name!

-Don’t forget the star system. The fruit of our era!

-Yes, but with the star system, if I may say, hot air is produced, whereas then, they produced culture and laid a stone in the path of humanity’s progress.

-I agree, that is the distinguishing difference.

Their group advanced with difficulty among the crowd of tourists. It was very easy to lose each other. Sophia walked beside Nefeli, watching around for the blonde woman. Hans was also close by. Every now and then, their guide stopped to explain one of the hieroglyphics carved on the columns. It was mainly the achievements of Ramses II and Thutmose III, a history book through the eyes of Egypt’s Pharaohs.

When they reached the end of the hall, which today no longer has a roof and is bathed in sunlight, the guide showed them the obelisk placed there by Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Initially, there were two obelisks, but one is no longer there. The one they saw before them resembled a very tall square column ending in a pointed pyramid-shaped top, the pyramidion.

-From this point, the ancient Egyptians believed that the energy of the sun was channeled. It was something like an energy collector, Nefeli explained to her.

-They had a different perception of the world and its forces, Sophia replied. Who knows, maybe it was better than ours. But I will sit somewhere, she continued. I’m very tired.

She found a stone and made herself as comfortable as possible. Nefeli sat next to her and started searching for something on her phone.

-I found it; she said after a moment. I have always admired Hatshepsut. This woman, 3500 years ago, in a male-dominated society, dared to declare herself Pharaoh and govern perhaps the most glorious country of that time, in a peaceful manner. On this obelisk, she wrote a message, an excerpt of which I have noted on my phone.”

And she began to read:

“So, I sit in my palace and think of the one who created me. My heart commanded me to erect for him two obelisks of electrum”.

And it continues further:

“My spirit is thrilled at the thought of what people will say when, many years later, they see this monument and talk about what I did…”

-Amazing! Sophia said. I got chills from the way she understood her duty to remain in history through her works.

-Hatshepsut was an admirable woman. We will visit the temple she erected tomorrow, I think. Then I’ll tell you more about her.

At that moment, Sophia saw a local young man approaching Hans and speaking to him. She became curious because she saw with the corner of her eye the blonde woman, somewhere in the background, watching. Hans stood up and followed the young man. Like a spring, Sophia stood up and without saying anything to Nepheli, followed them.

The young man led Hans to an adjacent area that had once been another room. There was no one there. The crowd of tourists seemed to be very far away. Sophia noticed that he saw her out of the corner of his eye and immediately began showing Hans a hieroglyph on the wall, simultaneously asking for his phone to take a picture of him.

When the photographing was finished, he also offered to take a picture of Sophia, but she declined. Then the young man began asking for “baksheesh,” a tip. Sophia gave him something to leave them alone, and they quickly returned to Nepheli, who was anxiously looking for them.

-It’s nothing, Sophia said to Nepheli. “A young man wanted to make some pocket money.

-Come on, though, the others have moved on. They’re going to café by the lake. We’ll get something there and then continue to the riverboat.

The sacred lake, which had been there for more than three thousand years, provided a breath to the soul with its bluish-green color amidst the yellow desert landscape.

-The water of purification, Nepheli said. “People have always and everywhere immersed themselves in water to cleanse their bodies and souls and to accept God within them. The same happens in Christianity and all religions of the world.

-Yes, the purifying power of water, Sophia repeated. Indeed, it is present everywhere in our religion as well.

Leaving Karnak, they boarded the riverboat that would take them to Aswan. It was Sophia’s first time on any kind of boat, and initially, she felt a bit anxious. But now that she was on board and settled into her comfortable cabin, she was excited. At lunch, as they had their first meal in the dining room with its lavish buffet and impeccable service, she wondered for the thousandth time why she had lived such a conservative life with Kyriakos when they had every opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the world.

-I must be grateful that even though it’s late, I can still experience, even for a little while, the good things that our time and world offer. Amidst so many evils around us, we must not miss the opportunity to enjoy the positives when we can. We don’t know if they will be there tomorrow.

Their next tour would be in the evening. They would visit the Temple of Luxor. They had the opportunity to enjoy it at sunset, during the so-called “blue hour,” and as darkness fell and the lights came on, the forms would be more mysterious and the spaces magically primordial. Just like then, when the priests would perform their religious duties and chant hymns to their gods.

When they arrived at the Temple of Luxor, the sun was setting, and the place was full of tourists of every race and nationality. The colorful crowd moved slowly towards the gate leading to the temple, adorned with two gigantic statues of Ramses II. Behind them was the avenue of stone sphinxes that started from Karnak and reached here, where once the Pharaohs, accompanied by the priesthood, would arrive in procession to celebrate, and honor their gods.

As their guide informed them, it is said that the original temple was built by Hatshepsut and later Amenhotep III constructed the great colonnade. It consists of two rows of seven columns, completed by Tutankhamun and Horemheb. Ramses II also made many additions to the temple. He added the outer courtyard decorated with statues of himself, a tall pylon, and two obelisks (one of which is now in Paris). Finally, in a hall of the temple, there is a granite shrine of Alexander the Great. A little further out, there is a mosque built, and part of the temple was once used as a church.

-The history of Egypt in built form,” Sophia commented. “From Hatshepsut to Christianity and Islam, with Alexander the Great in between. When this Greek conqueror took over Egypt, he managed to be accepted by the locals and was declared Pharaoh. Later, his successors, the Ptolemaic dynasty, ruled the country until Cleopatra’s defeat by the Romans. And all this can be encountered by visiting one temple.

-Yes, that’s how it is, Nepheli replied. Stones last longer than any written text and tell their stories for millennia. I wonder, how will our civilization be perceived a thousand years from now, let’s say, when all our achievements are stored in ephemeral materials?

-That’s a good question, Sophia said, laughing.

But as they moved towards the illuminated sanctuary at the back of the temple and squeezed among the crowd, a strange feeling came over Sophia. Whether it was the lit statues creating strange shadows, or the sanctuary itself provoking an odd anticipation as you approached, a sense of reverence overcame her.

-This place has sanctity, she thought. It’s like Good Friday when everyone wants to venerate the epitaph and push to reach where they expect to touch the divine.

But she didn’t stop watching Nepheli and Hans. She kept close to them because you never know what could happen in this crowd. Besides, she had the impression that she had seen the blonde lady somewhere in the distance. Fortunately, nothing unpleasant happened this time.

When the tour of the temple was over, they moved to the end of the road that came from Karnak with stone sphinxes. One couldn’t walk it because entry was forbidden, but you could see the sphinxes standing still, discreetly lit, holding secrets of centuries in their stone hearts.

-The whole scene has swept me away, Sophia thought. I need to get a grip! What am I thinking?

That night, Sophia couldn’t sleep. The events of the day swirled in her mind. She tried to assess whether they were significant or trivial. She tried to understand if that young man at Karnak was just a random occurrence or if he wanted something else from Hans by luring him into that lonely room, so close to the crowd yet so isolated. Something similar had been attempted by the vendor with Nepheli at the El Khalil market.

-A country with hidden rooms in open spaces, she thought. Is it the magic of the East, the fairy tales I read as a child, that make me think all this, or does everything really operate in a mysterious and strange way? On the other hand, are Nepheli and Hans what they seem, or are they hiding something? They are also a bit strange and distant.

At some point, she fell asleep and in her dreams, she wandered through ancient temples, oriental markets, and hidden rooms that led to dead ends.

However, when she woke up in the morning, she felt strong and ready for adventure. She decided that nothing would deter her. She had the first opportunity of her life to experience adventure, outside the establishment and the familiar, and she wouldn’t let it go to waste. She would welcome the mystery, the unexpected, and whatever might come. Her white hair didn’t leave her many options. Now was the time.


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