Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel and the Festival of the Sun

If you're fascinated at the grandeur of this temple in Egypt, wait till you hear what takes place within its walls twice a year.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel or Sun Temple of Ramses II was built in dedication to Ramses II, as well as the gods Amon Ra, Harmakhis and Ptah.

Ramses II was one of the most famous pharaohs. He ruled Egypt from 1304 – 1237 BC (different sources state different time frames) and is regarded as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian empire. Ramses II is also known as Ramses the Great.

Four gigantic statues of Ramses II, each more than 20 metres tall guard the entrance of the temple. It is intended that the statues unblinking stare would be the first thing that visitors, travelers and especially enemies see when they enter Egypt from the south.

The Festival of the Sun or Coronation of Ramses II falls on 22 February (Ramses II’s birthday) and 22 October (his coronation day) annually.

I was lucky to visit Egypt in February 2008 during the festival. So I travelled south to Aswan to witness this sunlight phenomena.

As I made my way inside the temple, I looked up and gasped at the sight of these statues.

So what happens during the festival?

In the most sacred part of the temple lies the statue of Ramses II, together with that of Amon Ra, Harmakhis and Ptah. This part of the temple is shrouded in darkness throughout the year.

However, twice a year on 22 February and 22 October, sunlight penetrates the entire length of the temple and floods the statues of Ramses II, Amon and Harmakhis. After about 5 minutes the light disappears.

What makes it interesting is that the statue of Ptah is never hit by the sunlight because Ptah is the god of darkness. Cool, huh?!

This is one of the reasons thousands of tourist flock to this magnificent temple to witness this phenomena. Sorry no pics to show you cause photography is not allowed inside the temple.

A temple dedicated to Nefertiti, Ramses II's wife is located beside Abu Simbel. Nothing beats looking at these 2 marvels of ancient architecture with your own eyes. The feeling of owe and wonder never seizes to amaze me.

A = Cairo, B = Aswan, C = The Great Temple of Abu Simbel

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel is located beside Lake Nasser. Its rising waters used to threaten the temple. What happened next became one of the greatest stories in archeological history, which I'll tell you about in my next entry.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Film Location: Ipoh for Lust, Caution

Ipoh was the one of the film locations for Lust, Caution, a movie about a group of university students who planned to kill a special agent by using an attractive young woman to seduce him into a trap.

The movie featured 2 of the biggest stars in the Far East - Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Wang Lee Hom. Academy Award winning director, Ang Lee directed the movie.

During a trip to Ipoh, our host brought us to the location where the movie was partially filmed.

Hearing that an international film maker and actors were in town, some of the Ipoh-mari fellas (translation: guys who come from Ipoh) waited at the location hoping to catch a glimpse of their idol.

They also said that Ang Lee filmed late into the night because of the many retakes in the name of perfection. I guess it's because of habits like this that won him the 2010 Best Director Academy Award for Brokeback Mountain, which btw is banned in Malaysia.

Anyway, this is where filming took place in Ipoh for Lust, Caution. Too bad the place has been demolished.

The building that used to stand here was one of the the film locations for Lust, Caution.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

6 Tips Before Visiting Petra

Petra is one of the most magnificent sites in the Middle East.

It was built by the Nabatean people who were ancient Arab tribes originally from the Arabian Peninsular. They created this city of temples and tombs by half-building and half-carving it into the reddish sandstone.

Situated at the crossroads between the East and the West, Petra was a major trading centre for incense, silk and spices. It began to prosper from the first century BC and had a population of more than 30,000 people in its glory days.

Petra is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and was voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007.

If you're planning to visit Petra to marvel at how ancient carving and building skills could create something so outstanding, read these 6 tips to make the most of your time there.

Tip 1: One day is not enough

It would be a shame to travel all the way to Petra and spend only one day marvelling at the main sites like the Treasury and the Monastery (Ad-Deir). Get the 2-day pass so that you'll have ample time to explore the main sites, tombs, museums and trails. And if you're really gung-ho, then get the 3-day pass.

Tickets are sold at the Petra Visitors Centre at the entrance of the park.

There are various passes available depending on the duration of your trip. Click here for the latest ticket prices. I was lucky to visit Petra in October 2010, cause prices went up one month after that.

The centre only accepts cash. So you can't depend on Visa or Mastercard if you're cash strapped.

Remember to bring along your passport for the ticket seller to print your name on the ticket like this.

Tip 2: Arrive early in the morning

Try to get to the Treasury early in the morning cause this is where visitors love to take photos while standing in front of it. In case you don't know, this is the Treasury:

If you can reach the Treasury early, you'll have the whole place to yourself and can snap as many photos as you want without too many people in it.

The main trail from the entrance of the park to Qasar al-Bint is 4km long, with the Treasury smack in the middle. So plan your time accordingly.

Tip 3: Wear sturdy sandals

Petra is a sandy place, so sandals are a better option compared to covered footwear. We all know how irritating it is to have sand in our footwear, which is even more difficult to get rid off.

If you're planning to do some hiking, make sure your sandals are sturdy enough to endure the terrains and long walks.

I wore a pair of ballet flats and regretted it. But when I saw some ladies wearing heels, it made me feel better, hahaha.

                                          The sandy terrains of Colonnaded Street.

Tip 4: Be prepared to walk, walk and walk

See how far we walked. Photos courtesy of Aud.

A complimentary horse ride from the park entrance to the Treasury is included in the ticket. However, the guide told us that we would need to give baksheesh (tips) to the horse owner when you reach the Treasury.

Note that if you take the 2-day or 3-day pass, only 1 ride is complimentary. However, there are many horses and carriages for hire. A ride is approximately JD 25 (depending on your barganing skills).

Tip 5: Explore the hidden trails

Most people would just follow the main trail from the park entrance to the Treasury and then to the museums which are located towards the back of the park. But let me tell you a secret - the offbeaten trails are the ones that gives you the best views like this: 

It was a torturous 2-hour climb to this spot cause there were no proper paths (or so we thought). On our way down we found a defined trail that we had overlooked. Talk about irony. Look at my ballet flats. Pathetic, right?

Click here for a list of trails you could explore in Petra.

Tip 6: Bring your own food and drink

Hiking the off beaten trails may take a couple of hours which may eat (no pun intended) into your meal times. So bring your own food and drinks to quell hunger pangs. You can sit and admire the sights and wonders of Petra as you chomp into your food.

Packing your own meals is also an economical option, especially for budget travellers.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Where Have I Been?

My last blog post was on Valentine's Day and you must be thinking I had disappeared from the face of the earth. So here's what happened to me.

Just after Chinese New Year I fell ill. My fever did not go down for 5 whole days! I did not have any appetite and felt like throwing up everytime I ate. Finally on the 5th day of my ordeal, I forced myself to eat nasi kandar and the fever was gone. No kidding!

However, the nauseas feeling and lack of appetite still remained. I was incredibly weak and this lasted for the next couple of weeks. I lost a lot of weight as a result.

I did not have the energy and passion to work, to blog or to do anything. i struggled to get to work everyday. In the evening when I returned home I'd just lie on the sofa till it's time to go to bed.

All my freelance writing projects became stalled. One Editor was already breathing down my neck and another client threatened to look for another writer.

Now that I have regained my health and completed a writing project, I'm all ready to revive this blog!

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