Saturday, 21 December 2013


Ramses II drawn with Derwent drawing pencils on mi-tientes paper.
We returned to Luxor for the last 2 nights on the cruise boat and had the opportunity to look around the town on the Friday morning.  Bob and I chose to visit the museum and took a taxi from the rank near the mooring. There was a lot of competition to get passengers and a bit of haggling over the price but we got a very good deal and the taxi took us wherever we wanted for a few hours.
Luxor museum is one of the best I have ever visited, full of wonderful artifacts, well labelled in English and beautifully laid out. I could easily have spent the whole day there.  This statue of Thutmosis really struck me and I almost felt in the presence of the long departed pharoah. There were displays of some artifacts that had only recently been discovered in 1989 and 2004 as well as a lot of the household objects found with Tutankhamon like his bed and chariot.
Every town in Egypt has these caleches which are used to transport tourists around.  We went on one for our visit to Edfou which was fun as the driver was showing off how fast he could steer through the traffic which was mostly old vans and motorscooters.
In Luxor we saw this amazing structure on a roundabout at the edge of town. Huge and very colourful.  The town itself is on the banks of  the river Nile with views across to the fields and low hills on the other side.  The sides are lined with cruise ships, sometimes moored up to 6 abreast so you have to go through all the other boats to get to yours.
Since the terrorist attacks a few years ago the Egyptian authorities have set up a system of armed guards around all the main tourist centres.  It gave us peace of mind but was a bit scary to see guns sticking out of the watchtowers everywhere we went. On the Friday afternoon we set off in our coaches to see the temple of Denderah, accompanied by our armed guards in a land rover and on the Saturday we had an escort all the way across the desert to Hourgada for the second week of our holiday by the Red sea.
The life outside the towns in Egypt looks much the same as it must have thousands of years ago with peasants using donkeys to transport their goods to market and bullocks to help plough the fields. The clothes look just like those paintings in my bible I had as a child!
We had a holiday of a lifetime and I can heartily recommend it to anybody as long as they have the stamina to keep up the pace and are prepared to suffer a bit with the tummy troubles. I haven't tried to describe too much of what we saw at the temples and tombs, it would take too long and I really only wanted  to give a flavour of the trip so that my readers may be interested in taking a further look at a fascinating part of human history.
Please feel free to post some comments on my blog, it's so nice to get feedback. 
Seasons greetings to all of you around the world!

Monday, 16 December 2013


A fellow sketcher has just reminded me about the art of David Roberts. In 1838 he travelled to Egypt to record the monuments that had recently been discovered buried in the desert sands.  Have a look at his drawings if you can and you will see the temples we now know so well from documentaries half covered with sand and people were able to walk almost on the level of the decorations at the tops of the columns.  I bought a book while we were on the cruise and was totally captivated by the beauty and accuracy of his pictures, some of which almost match the photos I took from the ground.  The archaeologists and restorers of Egypt have done a phenominal job excavating these amazing monuments for us to see.
Back to the trip now: on the third day of the cruise we were woken at 6 am to visit the temple of Kom Ombo. This temple is dedicated to Horus and Sobek, the crocodile god and we saw a 2000 year old mummified crocodile there. The reason for the very early starts was that so many people visit these temples and the heat of the sun in the daytime makes it more pleasant to go at dawn. 
We were back on board by 0830 and cruising on down to Aswan where the boat tied up alongside several other cruise boats. We were about the 4th boat out from the dockside! After lunch we were taken to see the temple of Philae (above) which had been completely rebuilt on another island when it's original island had been flooded after the construction of the Aswan dam. I can still fel the hot sun I felt on my back as I drew this sketch.
After the temple we went to a perfume factory and another papyrus shop where we were expected to spend more money! At this stage we still had no Egyptian pounds as all the shops took euros and the street sellers preferred them, often exchanging them for Egyptian small change which we could use to buy small items.
The next day some of our fellow passengers were up at 3 am to visit Abu Simbel temple a few hours further south of Aswan but we had decided to spend the morning exploring the town itself and going out to see the dam which was very interesting. 
The afternoon was brilliant, we had a trip on a fleet of feluccas which took about 20 people each and were powered only by the wind in their huge sails. We sailed up the river, around several islands and then back in the sunset, when the wind dropped and we had to be towed the last few metres by a motor boat.
The next day (5) the boat set off again heading north back to Luxor and the wind was against us most of the way, making it pleasantly cool on the sundeck but making quite a splash on the side of the boat. We realised at lunchtime that the boat wasn't completely waterproof as our bags were quite wet when we picked them up after lunch in the dining room which was at water level. We had to stop at Esna on the way to await our turn through the lock and although we didn't go ashore we were moored right by the bustling harbourside and able to watch all the activity for a few hours till we were on our way again.
The view of lake Nasser which was formed by the construction of the Aswan dam was quite beautiful, fading into the distance in shades of blue  and purple.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


Our second day in Egypt was quite different from the first. We set off before dawn to cruise along the Nile so that when we woke in the morning we could see the banks of the river passing our window. I should say that we were on one of the lower levels of the ship so that we were quite close to the water.
It was a delight to be slowly moving along past sandy hills and clumps of palm trees with a few islands dotted here and there in the river with the occasional mosque or a group of traditional buildings to break up the scene. Our boat had a wonderful sun deck with shaded seating areas, a swimming pool and sunbeds so we spent a lovely morning chatting with the other passengers and drawing in my sketchbook.
We saw many feluccas, the local style of boat as we cruised along, some fishing, some ferrying people across the river.  The life here looked the same as it has probably looked for the last 3000 years.  Eventually we came to Edfou where the boat stopped and tied up for the afternoon.
We were taken off to see another temple, this time built by the Greeks and finished by the Romans about 1000 or 2000 years after the original temples built by the Egyptians. Tarek explained that the decorations of the later temples were poor copies of the originals and that the physical proportions of the gods and pharoahs depicted in the friezes were incorrectly drawn.
We sat on the top deck at sunset at teatime and were rewarded with this fantastic sight as the colours changed through all shades of pink and purple.
This is another drawing of Ramses II from my collection along with the one of Tutankhamon at the top of this post. Both are done in coloured pencil.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Our first day in Egypt continued after the visit to Rameses II tomb with a visit to the Valley of the Kings.  The weather was  beginning to get rather hot by this time and it was very pleasant to go down into the coolness of the tombs.  We saw 3 different tombs but didn't go into Tutankhamon's as the queue was very long. I was fascinated by the quality of the paintings on the walls and sides and even the ceilings had been painted with stars and dark blue paint.
Our guide was excellent at explaining the different styles of sculpture and the tops of the columns were interesting for all their varying styles.
We left the valley of the kings at midday and headed back to the boat for lunch, having been sightseeing since 6 am! After lunch we were back in the coaches to go to Karnak to see the famous temple which took us most of the afternoon.  I loved the hall of columns there, carved with different scenes from the life of Rameses II.  This statue towered above us and the small person at the base is his wife Nefertari, about normal human size.
Then we toured a papyrus factory where we were persuaded to purchase their hand made pictures.  I did buy a few which appealed to me but I would prefer to have been able to buy some blank paper for myself!
Our last visit was to the temple of Louqsor which had been timed to take place at sunset and wow, what an experience! The whole place was bathed in golden light which continued after sunset with floodlighting.  More fascinating stories from Tarek and hundreds of photos of course.  This is a copy of my favourite photo of the head of Ramses with the light casting beautiful shadows, drawn on papyrus.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


We set off for our trip to Egypt in 2007 on November 30th going to Paris by train, staying overnight in a hotel at the airport ready to catch the plane to Luxor in the morning. We finally arrived and were taken to our cruise boat on the Nile, arriving just in time for dinner followed by a talk by the guides about what we would be seeing during our week on board.
We were woken very early the next day in time for a quick breakfast and then on to our coach to start our day of sightseeing at 6 am! The sun was just rising as well as a group of hot air balloons taking off nearby.  I drew this as we sat in the coach waiting to set off.
Our first port of call was the Colossus of Memnon and we were staggered at the size of these giant figures, that really is a man standing in front of it to show the scale!
 Then we were back in the coach and on to the temple of Ramses II .  Our group was named the Crocodiles and led by a charming Egyptian called Tarek.  Because we had booked the holiday in France through a local travel agent, the tour company and all the other passengers were French.  naturally they were quite curious about why we English people would be on a French guided holiday.
Tarek took care to speak clearly and slowly enough so that we could understand his explanations of the histories of the amazing places we saw.  We met many interesting people and especially the group on our table in the dining room, some of whom I kept in touch with for a while after our return.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Last night I watched a fascinating documentary about life and death in Egypt and I was reminded of a period about 7 or 8 years ago when I spent a winter drawing pharoahs.  I had bought a magazine which turned out to be full of beautiful photos of ancient sculptures.  This first one of Khephren is my favourite and it hung in our hall for many years until I decided to give it to my niece Esther for her 18th birthday as she loved it so much.  Luckily I photographed it before parting with it!
When we later visited Egypt in 2007 I was totally overwhelmed by the buildings, artifacts and the history contained within them and took many photos.  This is a drawing of one of the columns at the tomb of Rameses II.
We spent a week on a cruise boat and travelled from Luxor to Aswan, stopping off to visit various places along the way.  This is a statue of Thoutmosis III which I saw in the museum at Luxor along with many fascinating items found in the tombs of Toutankhamon and  others.
This is another statue from the museum, drawn on papyrus which I purchased when I returned home, having seen how it was made on one of our guided tours.  I don't know why I didn't buy any in Egypt, maybe because the shops wanted us to buy their own hand painted images.  I still have a sketchbook and more pictures to scan so watch this space for more egyptology!