Over our three years we were blessed to visit many of the temples and tombs of Egypt, especially in Luxor, down to Aswan, and as far south as Abu Sembel. Wonderful.
My favorite temple is Phillae, brought up out of the rising Lake Nasser by Swedish archeologists and engineers and placed, stone by stone, on a tiny island. Talk about a jigsaw puzzle! The short boat trip out to the temple brings you to this lovely spot, surrounded by water. So many of the temples (Karnak, Luxor, Dandera, Edfu, etc.) are wonderful to see but I just find this one the most intriguing, probably because of its "watery" location.
It is the colors used on the temple frescos and in the tombs which one does not first imagine. All the National Geographic pictures ever taken do not bring the reality of this to life as it does to stand close to the hieroglyphics or temple walls/pillars and imagine all the bright colors that were used. The passages down into the tombs are so impressive. Amazing. Red. Yellow. Blues of several shades. Orange. The early Egyptians had a broad palate for color and were not into pastels. They liked their colors bright!
Of course, much of this is gone as is all the gold and silver and precious stones. Robbers already took them or more legitimate archeologists shipped them off to London, Paris or New York. I even saw some of this in Vienna where it was beautifully displayed. Egypt is now, well, everywhere.
The sands of time and the sad humidity of millions of visitors breathing in these enclosures is too quickly removing the colors. It does take a lot of imagination, especially on exterior walls. But make no mistake about it, the ancients both knew how to paint and did a lot of it. I am sure it was once breathtaking. It is certainly surprising and revealing today.
- a reflection of our three years in Egypt by Steve Gorman, PCUSA Liaison to the Synod of the Nile