Tuesday, November 25, 2008


First, an apology to those who commented on my last post, on 10th November. Sorry I didn’t respond. My excuse – and it’s a good one, I reckon – is that I was on my way to Egypt at the time and didn’t have access to the internet.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Any one who has visited Pompeii will know that graffiti is everywhere. It’s not just a modern thing.

One of the things I learned on my Nile trip was that 19th century travellers all seemed to journey with a chisel in their pocket. The graffiti are everywhere. Look at this, for example, from the temple of Philae at Aswan:

You’ll notice that Mr Cradock was there in April 1823 as was another with an indecipherable name. There was also a gentleman from Rome whose name seems to be something like Cav. D Riga. A cavalryman, or perhaps an Italian knight?

Another interesting example from Philae is this, which was done by the French Navy in order to show how good their navigation was. The numbers at the bottom are the latitutude and longitude of Philae. The numbers are actually wrong! That’s because the temple was moved to a different, higher island, in order to avoid the rising waters of Aswan when the High Dam was built. The original numbers were right at the time, I understand.

You’ll note, too, that the heading is R. F. (which I assume to be République Française) and the year is seven – an 7 – which should be 1799 or thereabouts. That’s round about the time of the Battle of the Nile (1798) which, as I’m sure you’ll recall, the Royal Navy won, under Nelson.

Men were not the only graffiti culprits. I found one example of a female working with her chisel, also at Philae. The lady in question was called Sarah Day. And above her is a very decorative mark from a certain Mr Hughes in 1822. Were they there together? Impossible to tell, since Sarah didn’t put a date.

I am also proud to say that I overcame my fear of heights enough to go up in a balloon to see the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor at sunrise. Isn’t it stunning?

And this is the temple of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, taken from the balloon.

This is what her temple looked like in broad daylight, when I had my feet safely back on the ground. Quite an edifice for 1500 BC, isn’t it?



Jan Jones said...

The photos are very impressive, Joanna. But the graffiti! However long must they have stood there, chiselling away? And most of the inscriptions so even too. Beggars belief.

Jane Odiwe said...

What a fantastic adventure and a very interesting post-I am a might envious as I look out over the London suburbs in the cold!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic phots, Joanna - and fascinating how the passage of time makes vandalism an interesting historical document.
I'm following in your footsteps and will be up in that balloon next winter - hope my nerves hold!

Anonymous said...

There truly were graffiti everywhere, but I only found the one that was definitely female. But in those days, the British and the French did whatever they liked in that part of the world and the locals weren't nearly so concerned about protecting their heritage. Nowadays, you'd be arrested. Some of the graffiti must have taken hours to do, as Jan says.

One other interesting point. The Egyptian antiquities department believes it is on the point of discovering another tomb in the valley of the kings, belonging to one of the missing Ramses pharoahs (though I can't remember his number, possibly VII). Whether it will be an empty tomb, or a treasure trove like Tutankhamun, no one knows. I don't envy them the digging though. Even in November, it is fiendishly hot there.