Thursday, April 4, 2013

Preparing for Egypt, Part Four (Elephantine Island)

A not-to-be-missed experience in Egypt is to take a felucca ride (basically it's a sailboat) on the Nile, and so while we're in Aswan, we'll be doing just that--to see Elephantine Island. Now, I'm not sure how the island came about its name, but the shapes of the rocks look... well, kind of like elephants. It's also said that, from the air, the island is shaped like an elephant's tusk, and this island--right near the First Cataract--was the hopping off point for excursions into Nubia to get ivory, gold, oils, perfumes, and so on.

I'm not sure if we're just sailing around the island or if we'll stop and go exploring on it a bit, but there are ruins of old temples there, many of which were built over older temples. One of the earliest was for the goddess Satet, joined later by the deities Khnum and Anuket, all of whom were seen as guardians of the Cataract.

And then there was a Jewish temple. There's quite a story behind it, too. After the Babylonian Exile, in which the First Temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered, a small community of Jews settled here and built a small temple. We know this from a cache of papyri written in Aramaic (there was some quarreling back and forth between the Jews and the priests of the Temple of Khnum), and from them we also know that some of the Jews were soldiers, the rabbis Levites, and that actually they had set up a small military fortress. I point this out because it's said the Ark of the Covenant was actually hidden in this temple fortress for a time, prior to be taken to Ethiopia. You can read about this here.

Intriguing theory.

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