, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Beyond the Cataract and into Nubia | Walking Through Egypt ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

May 13, 2012

Beyond the Cataract and into Nubia | Walking Through Egypt

Beyond the Cataract and into Nubia

Above the cataract, the land we see now is a very different land from that described, for example, by the German Prince Puckler- Muskau. The Nile Valley has entirely changed its appearance; temples have been moved, or even shipped overseas in gratitude for help given with the rescue of monuments during the creation of Lake Nasser. Only by looking at old drawings and photographs, and reading past accounts can we comprehend the change wrought on the landscape by the creation of the two dams at Aswan. The cataract once barred the way to Nubia, and ascending and descending it was a hazardous undertaking. Now, only by standing on the Aswan Dam (built 1898 1902), can one gain some idea of the cataract as it once was: the water swirls round the jagged rocks, it froths but no longer roars. That dam created a reservoir during the annual inundation, and under its waters sank the island of Philae, so winter visitors drifted in boats between the temple columns. The High Dam, completed in 1970, created Lake Nasser: 510 kilometers long, stretching far into Sudan; its width ranging from five to thirty- five kilometers across; its surface about 182 meters above sea level, so one sails on it above the crags of Nubia.

Fifty countries, including some of the newly independent African states, joined together to fund the Nubian Rescue Campaign, and temples were moved above the flood to sites as near to and as similar as possible to their origins. The temples on Philae were moved to nearby Agilkia Island; the temple of Kalabsha was moved fifty kilometers north, the temple of Dakka, forty kilometers south; the temple of Dendur, coveted by Prince Puckler-Muskau, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum in New York; the temple of Den- crossed the Nile; Qasr Ibrim, built on a towering headland, is the one ancient site to remain where it was built though the headland is now an island. Not everyone knows of the movements of these smaller temples, but the dramatic rescue of the two rock-cut temples of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel is rightly recognized as one of the world’s greatest cooperative efforts. As Jocelyn Gohary comments in her Guide to the Nubian Monuments on Lake Nasser, “How gratified Ramesses II must be feeling in whatever afterlife he is enjoying!”

But the ordinary Nubian people fared less well. They were moved too, to other areas of Egypt and into Sudan, and under the waters of Lake Nasser are their homes and farms, their villages and towns. At the Nubia Museum in Aswan and in some villages along the Nile one catches a glimpse of the village life and folklore that has disappeared under the water. Only an occasional fisherman remains to remind one of the people who once lived here. Yet so successful was the rescue of the ancient sites that many of the observations and emotions that the writers of another age left us continue on as vibrant and understandable as in their day. For many of today’s travelers this is the end of the journey; once people pressed on to Wadi Haifa, the beginnings of Sudan, the Second Cataract, and the rock at Abusir where they often left their marks.


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