Monday, April 7, 2014


AT last you will be able to visit the most sacred ... and most mysterious ... temple in Egypt at night and even explore the fabled Tomb of Osiris.

Desperate to boost tourism, Egyptian authorities have announced plans to improve the long-neglected Temple of Seti at Abydos ... where for thousands of years, Egyptians made pilgrimages to pay their respects to Osiris.

The Temple of Seti will be outfitted with lighting to enable visitors to see it in all its glory at night, Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said in a surprise announcement.

In addition, the subterranean Tomb of Osiris ... called the Osireion ... will be drained of water and cleared of reeds and waterlilies and will be included in tours of Abydos, he said.

Most tourists bypass Abydos, which would be unfathomable to the Ancient Egyptians, who considered it the most Sacred City.

In a way, Abydos was the Ancient Egyptian Mecca or Lourdes ... a place where pilgrims converged for prayers and meditation and to attend the annual Passion Plays which explained the cruel death and mutilation of Osiris and the grief of Isis and the miraculous resurrection of Osiris as Egyptian god of Victory over Death and King of Eternity.

The Tomb of Osiris is a subterranean chamber fed by an underground channel from the nearby Nile, which created a moat inside the chamber. The chamber was accessed by priests via a long, dark passageway.

A mound of earth covered the tomb, symbolizing the original mound which rises out of the cosmic depths in the Egyptian creation myths. 

The mound, which is a feature of illustrations in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, is thought to be the inspiration for the first pyramids.

But that raises the controversial issue of the true age of the Tomb of Osiris, an issue hotly disputed by experts.

The Temple of Abydos was begun by Pharaoh Seti, but completed by his son Rameses the Great after his father died befored it was finished. It features exquisite reliefs in amazingly bright colors. 

Most importantly, from the viewpoint of Egyptologists, one entire wall along a long passage provides a list of all Egyptian pharaohs from the beginning of their history in chronological order.

The temple was largely neglected until the 1950s when a self-taught English Egyptologist named DOROTHY EADY helped with restoration efforts. 

Using insights she claimed to have gleaned from a past life incarnation as a priestess at Abydos, she led archaeologists with uncanny accuracy to the location of such things as the temple library.

She became official Keeper of Abydos and was instrumental in piecing together fragments of bas relief stones ... so that Abydos is now one of the most completely restored Egyptian temples. 

Many books and films have been made about her. Witty and full of life, she loved to regale visitors with tales of her past life.

She brazenly observed ancient rituals at the temple to the astonishment of her Islamic neighbors ... she lived at Abydos year-round for decades.

With her winning smile and encyclopedic knowledge, she won the respect of scholars.

Dorothy Eady, affectionately called Omm Sety by her friends and neighbors, never returned to England, dying in old age at her beloved Abydos.

The Osireion (also spelled Osirion or Osireon) is outside of the temple, behind it. It was discovered by Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray by chance in 1902. For more than a century, experts have argued over the age of the Osireion. 

Some experts insist it was built in the 19th Dynasty by Seti or Rameses, making it 3,300 years old. 

But others point out that the stone work is similar to the Sphinx Temple at Giza ... which would make it at least 4,500 years old.

The Osireion draws New Age pilgrims who flock to the site in the footsteps of the Egyptians of ages past. 

But the derelict state of the Osireion meant that visitors had to stumble across rocks and sand dunes and then climb down a steep ramp to a veritable swamp overgrown with bullrushes and waterlilies.

In this photo, the reeds have been cleared, but often it is totally overgrown.

Priest Hernestus has vivid memories of leaving his tour group and heading off alone ... finally finding the Osireion ... descending the rickety and slippery ramp ... and being confronted by a toothless Egyptian man who popped out of the reeds, brackish water up to his hips, brandishing a machete.

Hernestus thought, "Well, what better place to die than the Tomb of Osiris?" But it turned out the man was trying to clear some of the undergrowth and only wanted baksheesh (pocket money) to help feed his family.

Nonetheless, the Osireion is one of the eeriest and most mysterious places on Earth ... and you will soon be able to pay a proper pilgrimage to it ... as the Ancient Egyptians did.

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