Category Archive for Egypt

Hail Horus! Ancient Egyptian temples Edfu & Kom Ombo, Nile felucca boat tour, Luxor hot air balloon ride.

horus statue egypt bird god statues

Hail Horus, falcon-headed son of Osiris and Isis!

My head still spins when I recall all the epic activities we did in Egypt, thanks to Travel Talk Tours. Today, we’ll explore the temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo — home to bird gods and mummified crocodiles.

At the end, I’ll announce my next destination… it’s somewhere French-speaking, and you can follow along on my Instagram @lacarmina

(Outfit details: Heart bag by Lola Ramona, long black skirt Charli Cohen, and Ghoul Gang top from Unique Vintage. I’m hiding from Ra (the sun god) with my Gottex Belladonna hat from UK Swimwear.)

hot air balloon ride egypt

When I said we did a lot of wild experiences in Egypt, I wasn’t exaggerating. We’ll go up, up and away in a hot air balloon over Luxor and the River Nile…

felucca tour nile river egypt

… and sail on the Nile in a felucca, or Egyptian traditional wood boat.

sailing on nile cruise tour

Let’s begin on the River Nile, which flows north through Egypt. I’m wearing a Cryptic Apparel cropped sweatshirt with a winged Egyptian goddess print: perfect for the occasion.

I was tempted to Photoshop out the foot next to Yukiro, but decided to leave it in…

egyptian sailor nile boat ride

… as it was this foot that was doing the hard work, in steering the felucca! This Egyptian sailor was a master of multi-tasking: he expertly worked the canvas sail and tiller (long stick that turns the rudder) against the wind, while puffing on a cigarette.

sailing river nile egypt travel talk tours

I’m glad we got to experience this ancient form of sailing, which is a gentle ride over the Nile’s waters. Feluccas are still used today by locals, and you’ll see their white sails gliding peacefully over the river.

But I want to be a pirate… Instead of a puffy shirt, I wore a Cryptic Apparel top and skirt by Charli Cohen.

late ancient egypt architecture

Onward to the temples. Our Travel Talk Tours group went by bus to Kom Ombo temple in Aswan, and our guide taught us about the history beneath these columns.

The Greco-Roman influences indicate that this was built in Ptolemaic times (the last era of ancient Egyptian civilization) — much like Philae temple, which we also saw.

egypt hieroglyphs aswan komombo

In these times, Egyptian medicine was the most advanced in the world. Our guide pointed out some intriguing medical carvings that depict surgical instruments, and two goddesses perched on birthing chairs.

crowning pharoah egypt coronation kom ombo temple

Kom Ombo temple’s layout stands out for being perfectly symmetrical. This design includes two matching entrances, hypostyle halls and chambers.

The eastern part is dedicated to the crocodile-headed god of the Nile. The western axis is the domain of Horus, the bird-headed deity.

 The Temple of kom ombo

I’m striking a dramatic pose in front of one of the most striking reliefs in Kom Ombo. The carvings show one of the later Ptolemies being crowned as pharoah by Sobek and goddesses.

ancient egypt ankh arms

The rounded figures also reveal that this is a late-period temple (compare this to the stiff poses and fabrics of Abu Simbel). Note how even the ankhs have arms!

temple kom ombo horus sobek

Traveling with a tour let us easily see many sites all over Egypt, and learn fascinating aspects about each place. At Kom Ombo, our guide pointed out an ancient graffito, and reliefs that were later defaced by Coptic Christians.

lion goddess sekhmet egypt

Check out the curves on Sekhmet, the fierce lion-headed goddess. According to the tales, she’s the greatest warrior as well as as goddess of healing, and her breath formed the desert. (Sekhmet is a solar deity, hence the circle over her head).

kom ombo pharoah sobek coronation relief

The bas-reliefs at the Temple of Kom Ombo are remarkably well preserved.

kom ombo mummified crocodile museum

Don’t miss out on the Crocodile Museum next door (or as the sign said, “Crocodile Mus.”) We weren’t allowed to take photos, so you’ll have to imagine a giant glass case with dozens of mummified crocodiles!

The cold-blooded creatures are huge and black-skinned, with rows of sharp teeth — very Gothic death metal. The “mus” also features crocodile art that honors Sobek.

egypt giant ankh carvings

As vampires say, “drink from me and live forever”… or as the Egyptian carvings reveal, “eat the ankh and enter into eternal life!”

egyptian poses tourists travelers

By now, Yukiro and I are well-versed in the art of striking Egyptian poses.

edfu temple entrance pylon

Next, Travel Talk Tours drove our group to Edfu Temple, which also dates back to the Hellenistic period in Egypt.

Edfu’s magnificent pylon (decorative entrance) was one of the largest in Egypt. The gigantic carvings show ruler Ptolemy VIII vanquishing his enemies, while Horus the Elder looks on.

tour temple edfu egypt interior

Edfu Temple is dedicated to Horus, son of Osiris, the god of the underworld. Inside, this spooky staircase looks like a pathway to the afterlife.

edfu egyptian temple carvings aswan

Our guide took us into the inner chambers, and showed us the various forms of Egyptian writing (demotic, hieratic, hieroglyphic). We also saw an unusual carving of Isis breastfeeding young Horus.

edfu temple inside shrine boat

We peered into the Sanctuary of Horus, which houses a ceremonial barge and altar used in rituals.

egyptian horned god satan baphomet

Quite a few horned ones graced these walls.

Banebdjedet, the ram-headed god, became known as the “Baphomet of Mendes,” as he was worshiped in the ancient city of Mendes. The Satanic Baphomet figure was based on his horned appearance.

horus statue edfu temple

Yukiro blends in with the bird-god. We’re enthralled by the rich imagination of the Egyptians, who dreamed up an animal-headed pantheon.

courtyard temple edfu egypt

Edfu’s builders had a knack for drama. Imagine wandering through these tall outdoor passages, in ancient times.

egyptian temple tour aswan

So far, I’ve shown you the wonders of ancient Egypt. However, we also got to see day-to-day life in the cities today.

egypt women in burkas

While on the bus, we passed by this gathering of locals in the streets.

aswan local market egypt

We took a gander at Aswan market, where locals go to buy daily necessities.

egyptian man motorcycle

This Egyptian man’s tricked out motorbike has Mad Max vibes.

spice market aswan egypt

Many of the stores sold spices. We eyed the mounds of coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and more.

cleopatra coffee, egyptian aswan coffeeshop

Wouldn’t you like to stop by for a cup of Cleopatra Coffee?

cat statue souvenirs egypt

Most of the markets are geared to tourists, and the vendors sell “made in China” trinkets. I avoided these shops, and instead, picked up a local, handcrafted robe and sheath dress made from Egyptian cotton.

(I wrote other insider, hidden tips for Cairo on Touring Bird, the new Google Area 120 site — including a Fair Trade Egypt boutique.)

view aswan city night

View of Aswan at night, from our hotel room. We weren’t able to spend much time here, as there was yet another early wake-up call…

aswan balloon flight egypt

We left around 3:30am, and took a van and boat to this field. The early start was worth it… for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Luxor!

egypt hot air balloon rides

I had never flown in a hot air balloon before, and was excited that Travel Talk offered this as an optional excursion in Egypt.

Passengers can only bring a small bag and iPhone (no DSLR cameras). The basket is divided into several standing areas, each holding about three people. At take off and landing, you must brace yourself and hold on to the ropes — but otherwise, it’s a smooth ride.

luxor hot air balloon ride safe

Yukiro found it ironic that Pokemon’s Team Rocket claimed to be “blasting off at the speed of light” in their hot air balloons… when in fact, the process of inflating the envelope and getting off the ground took quite a while!

view egypt desert from hot air balloon

The pilot adjusted the burner flame and repeated a single joke over and over, as we slowly flew higher into the sky. Below, we could see the ruins of temples, and stretches of desert that reminded me of an alien planet.

hot air balloon luxor safety

I’m happy that I finally got to experience riding a hot air balloon, and in Egypt of all places. Everyone relaxed and took in the 360 aerial views of Luxor.

ride hot air balloon egypt

The winds were in our favor that day, and we glided over the Nile.

Touching down was a bit bumpy, but we were in safe hands and a van was right there to drive us back.

horus bird temple egypt edfu

A final hail to Horus, also known as “he who is above.”

And now, “Team Rocket’s blasting off again…”  I’m happy to be returning to Quebec City and Montreal this week! If you have any travel tips for French Canada, please let me know — and you can follow along the journey on my Instagram @lacarmina


Goths in Egypt! Visiting Abu Simbel in Aswan, relocated temples of Ramses II. Philae Temple tour.

ramses ii statues abu simbel girl traveler

I heart Egypt!

No Photoshop here… I still can’t believe that I got to see ancient marvels like these all throughout the country.

My 12-day journey with Travel Talk Tours included two ancient temples that were — believe it or not — relocated during the Aswan Dam construction. Let’s wander inside the magnificent Abu Simbel (honoring Pharoah Ramses II), and late period Philae Temple. 

Outfit details: Hope heart bag by Lola Ramona, sunhat by Tenth Street Hats, and dress by Jawbreaker Clothing.

Temple of Hathor goddess abu simbel

Our Travel Talk Tours group tour provided plenty of optional excursions. In Aswan, everyone had the opportunity to add on a morning trip to Abu Simbel. Yukiro and I jumped at this opportunity — it was worth leaving at 3:30am to arrive at Abu Simbel before other tourists.

Although we were sleepy on the ride over, we woke up as soon as we glimpsed this ancient Egyptian monument, carved into the side of a mountain. The immensity of the statues made our jaws drop. (For once, Yukiro is not the tallest person in the photos!)

ramesses ii giant statues

Abu Simbel is located southwest of Aswan, close to the border with Sudan.  The main temple is decorated with four gargantuan statues of Ramses II, the most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

Temple of queen Nefertari egypt

The iconic ruler built several grand temples in Upper Egypt (as the southern region leading to Nubia was known). Ramses II wanted to demonstrate his power in this region, since the Egyptians were continuing to expand into Nubia at the time.

Next to his temple, there’s a smaller but equally impressive Temple of Hathor (above) — dedicated to his queen Nefertari.

abu simbel temples carvings statues

Our Travel Talk Tours guide shared the story of how these ancient ruins were discovered. After the fall of Egyptian civilization, the entire complex became buried under sand.

However, in the early 1800s, an Egyptian boy named Abu Simbel stumbled upon one of the statues sticking out of the sand. He led European scholars to the site, and they began to excavate the “lost world.”

travel talk tours aswan abu simbel

Yukiro jumps for joy in front of the Great Temple of Ramesses II. In the 13th century BCE, the two structures were carved out of the mountainside, in an amazing feat of engineering and architecture.

ramses ii temple moved abu simbel

The four kingly statues once overlooked the River Nile. In the 1960s, Abu Simbel was at risk of being submerged during the building of the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser.

abu simbel carved mountain temple archaeology

As a result, archaeologists relocated the entire complex to higher ground! From 1964-68, the structure was carefully dismantled, moved, and reassembled nearby.

ankh key door gothic egypt

Appropriately, the key to the temple door is a giant gold ankh! This Egyptian symbol represents the key of life, making it a dramatic entrance to Abu Simbel. (My nails are by Glam Nail Studio in Vancouver.)

egyptiah goth fashion ankh

It doesn’t get more Goth than this. I’m standing next to a typical “walk like an Egyptian” carving from this period, featuring a profile pose, bent arms, and stiff triangular skirt.

weird carvings inside abu simbel

Yukiro and I first went inside the temple for Nefertari, the chief consort of Ramses II. It also honors Hathor, the Egyptian cow-goddess of joy, music, and motherhood. 

egyptian pillars columns ramses

The pillars featured carvings of ladies in kohl eyeliner and curled hair. This is the second Egyptian temple ever dedicated to a queen (the first, established by Akhenaten, honored his wife Nefertiti).

Seth and Horus crowning Ramses II abu simbel

What’s the deal with the “bowling pin hat”?

This unique royal headgear combines the white hedjet crown of Lower Egypt with the red deshret crown of Upper Egypt — symbolizing the pharoah’s rule over the entire country. The bas-relief shows Seth and Horus (the falcon-headed god) crowning Ramses the Second.

egyptian royal queen carvings art

The ancient Egyptians were certainly creative with their headpieces. These “bowling pins” and “bunny ears” had symbolic meanings and were associated with different deities.

For example, the central figure is Hathor. She’s depicted with cow horns and a sun in between, representing her bovine and solar powers.

ancient egypt art abu simbel tomb

The temples are surprisingly large. You can enter various chambers and tunnels filled with carvings (which made me feel like Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.)

bas relief wall carvings abu simbel

It’s remarkable how well the friezes inside the Great Temples have endured over the millennia.

interior inside abu simbel ankh goddess

We loved seeing depictions of queens and goddesses. Here is Nefertari, wearing a plumed or double-feather headdress with a solar disk. She’s flanked by Hathor and Mut, the wife of Amon-Ra.

four pharoah statues ancient egypt

A pyramid pose for Abu Simbel, which is a UNESCO heritage site and as impressive as the Pyramids of Giza.

best photography spots abu simbel aswan

How many head decorations can you count? Ramses II wears the double-crown or pschent, as well as the nemes (a striped headcloth, such as the one worn by King Tut). A uraeus, or coiled serpent, emerges from his forehead to symbolize sovereignty.

Then there’s me, in Tenth Street Hats.

huge standing statues egypt

The Temple of Hathor and Nefertari stands out, as the king and his consort are of equal size. (Usually, the wife is depicted smaller.)

relocated temples abu simbel

Fun fact: Ramses II spawned around 100 children. You can see carvings that represent his other wives and children beneath his seated figures.

nefertari temple ancient egypt

As always, our Travel Talk Tours leader struck a balance in sharing information, and then letting us explore on our own time.

bearded queen egyptian

Time to go inside Ramesses II’s temple. It opens into a huge hypostyle hall with eight pillars; they depict the pharoah as Osiris, the god of the Underworld.

horus carvings egypt

In contrast to the queen’s temple, there are many action-packed military carvings here. Ramses II commissioned art to commemorate his victory over the Hittites, in the Battle of Kadesh.

spooky goth ankhs occult

We Goths appreciated the proliferation of ankhs. (This favored symbol represents both mortal existence and the afterlife.)

egyptians eating ankhs

“Eat the ankh… eat it!”

We were amused to see Egyptian deities placing an ankh against the lips of devotees. This revitalizes the soul and brings them into the afterlife.

haunted egyptian temple inner shrine abu simbel

Deep inside the main temple, you’ll encounter this spooky sight (no wonder the ancient Egyptians are associated with curses and the occult!) This sanctuary houses four seated divinities: Horakhty, a deified Ramses, Amun-Ra, and Ptah.

temple hathor egypt paintings

Many of the paintings still retain their pigment. The delicate skill of these ancient artists is astonishing.

 Rameses II carvings abu simbel fighting Battle of Kadesh

The story of Ramses II’s military victories cover several walls. These bas-reliefs show the Battle of Kadesh, which is probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, with up to 6000 vehicles.

anubis jackal headed god afterlife mummies

Hail Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife. The man without a face probably had his head scratched off by the Christians in a later era…

travel talk tours blogger reviews

Hard to believe the majestic Abu Simbel was almost lost to the sands of time. More mysteries of ancient Egypt are revealed every year… I wonder what we might learn next about this fascinating civilization.

Bag Lola Ramona, sunhat Tenth Street Hats, dress Jawbreaker Clothing.

boat to philae temple egypt

Later that afternoon, Travel Talk Tours took the entire group to Philae Temple (this was one action-packed tour!). We boarded a boat and sailed to Agilkia Island, where Philae now rests. (It also was dismantled and moved here, during the Aswan Low Dam construction).

philae temple goddess isis aswan

Philae Temple is dedicated to Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. The important goddess helped children and those who were ill, and celebrated life and magic.

philae temple pylon entryway entrance

Philae Temple was built during the rule of the Greek Ptolemies (around 380–362 BCE). This was the final Egyptian dynasty, which ended with the death of Queen Cleopatra VII. 

Isis’ temple features a grand pylon entrance carved with deities. Philae was probably the last active site of the ancient Egyptian religion, which disappeared after the end of the Ptolemy era.

egyptian roman pillars aswan

As Philae was built in Hellenistic times, you can see the Greco-Roman influence in the architecture. I’m standing in the gateway of Trajan’s Kiosk, a hypaethral (open-roof) temple made by the Roman Emperor, Trajan.

philae temple isis worship egypt

Such a fascinating combination of Greco-Roman and New Kingdom Egyptian art. The ladies look a bit like the ones in Nefertari’s temple, but this one is sticking her tongue out!

temple of philae pillars complex

Some parts of Philae Temple look straight out of Greece or Rome, such as this long flank of fluted columns.

 Temple to Isis, Horus and Osiris on Philae Island

Inside Philae Temple, you’ll encounter a hypostyle hall, and chambers dedicated to other deities like Hathor.

late kingdom egypt carvings

As you can see, Egyptian art looks different in this late era of the civilization. The headdresses, poses, and hieroglyphics are similar to what you’ll see in Abu Simbel and Karnak

Sekhmet lion head goddess egypt

… however, the bodies are more voluptuous, and the carving style is dissimilar (look at the hair and finger detail for example). Here’s a close-up of Sekhmet, the lion head goddess, holding an ankh.

osiris winged god carving philae

This beautiful relief shows goddess Isis protecting her husband Osiris with outspread wings. A pharaoh (identifiable by his bowling pin crown) offers a libation to the gods.

temple of philae outside exterior

We learned so much about Egypt’s history throughout the tour. Not everyone knows that the final rulers descended from Ptolemy (including the famed Cleopatra) were ethnically Greek. They built temples like this to placate the Egyptian population, and legitimize their rule.

aswan dam temples moved reconstructed

After Cleopatra and Mark Antony died, Egypt became a Roman province ruled under Octavian. Egypt would no longer be ruled by its own people until the 20th century.

guided private tours egypt aswan

Egypt is everything I look for in a destination. Yukiro and I were glad we got to travel safely and see so much of the country, thanks to Travel Talk Tours.

Where am I off to next? Announcement to come soon, so stay tuned and check out my Instagram @lacarmina for regular updates!