Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elephantine Island

Elephantine Island is located in the middle of the Nile River at Aswan. It was traditionally the border between Lower Egypt and the Nubian lands further south. It’s also only a few kilometers north of Philae Island (check out the next posting).
People have lived on this island for thousands of years – there are literally layers of structures built one on top of the other over the centuries. Some have completely vanished, others are even now being excavated and reconstructed. It’s amazing that they can identify not only the large structures, temples, homes and such but they can also tell who built them. Quite amazing.
You can wander through some of the large excavations at the south end of the island (I think it was on the south side) and see housing, winding streets and large temple structures. It is also where one of the famous Nileometers is located – while no one uses it any more, you can still see markings along the walls that must have been records of the Nile’s rising and flooding.
Now, you might wonder why it’s called Elephantine Island…some think it’s because of the large grey boulders along the edge of the island, other’s say it’s because the island is in the shape of an elephant’s tusk. Still others say there used to be an elephant market here. We just may never know.
These days there’s a Nubian village located on the island. The streets wind around the various houses and markets and goats freely roam the streets. There’s also a pretty decent Aswan Museum with a lot of artifacts to see, along with the enterprising souls who talk to you and then expect baksheesh (tips).

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