CAUGHT IN A SANDSTORM
The von Hallwyls visit Philae, near Aswan, on their way both up and down the Nile, but only after having been caught in a sandstorm:
“25th of Jan. The Count’s birthday. Last night there was a violent thunderstorm; the lightning bolts lit up the mountains and the bends of the Nile in the most beautiful colours and then the rain came and caused a landslide along the railway all the way to Esna, which interrupted the rail service.
This morning, the weather has been fairly stable, and after lunch we wanted to ride to Philae. But such a storm blew up that we could not go outside, as the air was thick with sand. We stayed inside in the saloon, which was not so much fun.
“27th of Jan. In the morning, at ten thirty, we rode off to Philae with a packed lunch. We crossed the Nile by boat to the island of Philae to see the main temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Isis. We saw the outer court of the temple just next to the place where the boat landed, with a quay wall and several sets of stairs leading up to the island, which has similar stairs on the southern side.
The temple's outer court is surrounded by covered colonnades and the capitals of the 31 columns are all different. On the walls, there are artistic reliefs the colours of which are well-preserved. The first pylon is 45 m wide and 18 m high, it has two towers and a central portal, all with reliefs depicting the pharaoh, Isis, Horus, etc. Through the left pylon portal you arrive at the birth house. The right pylon with a beautiful gate and similar reliefs. The birth house is completely surrounded with colonnades, the walls are covered with reliefs and inscriptions. When it comes to the former, the one at the centre is remarkable, depicting Buto, goddess of the North, playing the harp to a young naked Horus wearing a double crown on his head and with his mother Isis sitting behind him.
The second pylon is smaller and more dilapidated than the first. It is 32 m wide and 12 m high, with inscriptions about gods and kings on the sides. You can also see niches for flagpoles. The hypostyle hall shows an admirable display of colour, the ceiling has astronomical motifs and the walls and columns are covered in reliefs and inscriptions. On one of the walls, there is an inscription in Greek: ‘Bishop Theodorus commissioned the ‘good deed’ of painting over the Egyptian idols to use the room for Christian services’.”