Category Archive for Art + Design

Goths in Egypt! Visiting Abu Simbel in Aswan, relocated temples of Ramses II. Philae Temple tour.

ramses ii statues abu simbel girl traveler

I heart Egypt!

No Photoshop here… I still can’t believe that I got to see ancient marvels like these all throughout the country.

My 12-day journey with Travel Talk Tours included two ancient temples that were — believe it or not — relocated during the Aswan Dam construction. Let’s wander inside the magnificent Abu Simbel (honoring Pharoah Ramses II), and late period Philae Temple. 

Outfit details: Hope heart bag by Lola Ramona, sunhat by Tenth Street Hats, and dress by Jawbreaker Clothing.

Temple of Hathor goddess abu simbel

Our Travel Talk Tours group tour provided plenty of optional excursions. In Aswan, everyone had the opportunity to add on a morning trip to Abu Simbel. Yukiro and I jumped at this opportunity — it was worth leaving at 3:30am to arrive at Abu Simbel before other tourists.

Although we were sleepy on the ride over, we woke up as soon as we glimpsed this ancient Egyptian monument, carved into the side of a mountain. The immensity of the statues made our jaws drop. (For once, Yukiro is not the tallest person in the photos!)

ramesses ii giant statues

Abu Simbel is located southwest of Aswan, close to the border with Sudan.  The main temple is decorated with four gargantuan statues of Ramses II, the most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

Temple of queen Nefertari egypt

The iconic ruler built several grand temples in Upper Egypt (as the southern region leading to Nubia was known). Ramses II wanted to demonstrate his power in this region, since the Egyptians were continuing to expand into Nubia at the time.

Next to his temple, there’s a smaller but equally impressive Temple of Hathor (above) — dedicated to his queen Nefertari.

abu simbel temples carvings statues

Our Travel Talk Tours guide shared the story of how these ancient ruins were discovered. After the fall of Egyptian civilization, the entire complex became buried under sand.

However, in the early 1800s, an Egyptian boy named Abu Simbel stumbled upon one of the statues sticking out of the sand. He led European scholars to the site, and they began to excavate the “lost world.”

travel talk tours aswan abu simbel

Yukiro jumps for joy in front of the Great Temple of Ramesses II. In the 13th century BCE, the two structures were carved out of the mountainside, in an amazing feat of engineering and architecture.

ramses ii temple moved abu simbel

The four kingly statues once overlooked the River Nile. In the 1960s, Abu Simbel was at risk of being submerged during the building of the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser.

abu simbel carved mountain temple archaeology

As a result, archaeologists relocated the entire complex to higher ground! From 1964-68, the structure was carefully dismantled, moved, and reassembled nearby.

ankh key door gothic egypt

Appropriately, the key to the temple door is a giant gold ankh! This Egyptian symbol represents the key of life, making it a dramatic entrance to Abu Simbel. (My nails are by Glam Nail Studio in Vancouver.)

egyptiah goth fashion ankh

It doesn’t get more Goth than this. I’m standing next to a typical “walk like an Egyptian” carving from this period, featuring a profile pose, bent arms, and stiff triangular skirt.

weird carvings inside abu simbel

Yukiro and I first went inside the temple for Nefertari, the chief consort of Ramses II. It also honors Hathor, the Egyptian cow-goddess of joy, music, and motherhood. 

egyptian pillars columns ramses

The pillars featured carvings of ladies in kohl eyeliner and curled hair. This is the second Egyptian temple ever dedicated to a queen (the first, established by Akhenaten, honored his wife Nefertiti).

Seth and Horus crowning Ramses II abu simbel

What’s the deal with the “bowling pin hat”?

This unique royal headgear combines the white hedjet crown of Lower Egypt with the red deshret crown of Upper Egypt — symbolizing the pharoah’s rule over the entire country. The bas-relief shows Seth and Horus (the falcon-headed god) crowning Ramses the Second.

egyptian royal queen carvings art

The ancient Egyptians were certainly creative with their headpieces. These “bowling pins” and “bunny ears” had symbolic meanings and were associated with different deities.

For example, the central figure is Hathor. She’s depicted with cow horns and a sun in between, representing her bovine and solar powers.

ancient egypt art abu simbel tomb

The temples are surprisingly large. You can enter various chambers and tunnels filled with carvings (which made me feel like Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.)

bas relief wall carvings abu simbel

It’s remarkable how well the friezes inside the Great Temples have endured over the millennia.

interior inside abu simbel ankh goddess

We loved seeing depictions of queens and goddesses. Here is Nefertari, wearing a plumed or double-feather headdress with a solar disk. She’s flanked by Hathor and Mut, the wife of Amon-Ra.

four pharoah statues ancient egypt

A pyramid pose for Abu Simbel, which is a UNESCO heritage site and as impressive as the Pyramids of Giza.

best photography spots abu simbel aswan

How many head decorations can you count? Ramses II wears the double-crown or pschent, as well as the nemes (a striped headcloth, such as the one worn by King Tut). A uraeus, or coiled serpent, emerges from his forehead to symbolize sovereignty.

Then there’s me, in Tenth Street Hats.

huge standing statues egypt

The Temple of Hathor and Nefertari stands out, as the king and his consort are of equal size. (Usually, the wife is depicted smaller.)

relocated temples abu simbel

Fun fact: Ramses II spawned around 100 children. You can see carvings that represent his other wives and children beneath his seated figures.

nefertari temple ancient egypt

As always, our Travel Talk Tours leader struck a balance in sharing information, and then letting us explore on our own time.

bearded queen egyptian

Time to go inside Ramesses II’s temple. It opens into a huge hypostyle hall with eight pillars; they depict the pharoah as Osiris, the god of the Underworld.

horus carvings egypt

In contrast to the queen’s temple, there are many action-packed military carvings here. Ramses II commissioned art to commemorate his victory over the Hittites, in the Battle of Kadesh.

spooky goth ankhs occult

We Goths appreciated the proliferation of ankhs. (This favored symbol represents both mortal existence and the afterlife.)

egyptians eating ankhs

“Eat the ankh… eat it!”

We were amused to see Egyptian deities placing an ankh against the lips of devotees. This revitalizes the soul and brings them into the afterlife.

haunted egyptian temple inner shrine abu simbel

Deep inside the main temple, you’ll encounter this spooky sight (no wonder the ancient Egyptians are associated with curses and the occult!) This sanctuary houses four seated divinities: Horakhty, a deified Ramses, Amun-Ra, and Ptah.

temple hathor egypt paintings

Many of the paintings still retain their pigment. The delicate skill of these ancient artists is astonishing.

 Rameses II carvings abu simbel fighting Battle of Kadesh

The story of Ramses II’s military victories cover several walls. These bas-reliefs show the Battle of Kadesh, which is probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, with up to 6000 vehicles.

anubis jackal headed god afterlife mummies

Hail Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife. The man without a face probably had his head scratched off by the Christians in a later era…

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Hard to believe the majestic Abu Simbel was almost lost to the sands of time. More mysteries of ancient Egypt are revealed every year… I wonder what we might learn next about this fascinating civilization.

Bag Lola Ramona, sunhat Tenth Street Hats, dress Jawbreaker Clothing.

boat to philae temple egypt

Later that afternoon, Travel Talk Tours took the entire group to Philae Temple (this was one action-packed tour!). We boarded a boat and sailed to Agilkia Island, where Philae now rests. (It also was dismantled and moved here, during the Aswan Low Dam construction).

philae temple goddess isis aswan

Philae Temple is dedicated to Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. The important goddess helped children and those who were ill, and celebrated life and magic.

philae temple pylon entryway entrance

Philae Temple was built during the rule of the Greek Ptolemies (around 380–362 BCE). This was the final Egyptian dynasty, which ended with the death of Queen Cleopatra VII. 

Isis’ temple features a grand pylon entrance carved with deities. Philae was probably the last active site of the ancient Egyptian religion, which disappeared after the end of the Ptolemy era.

egyptian roman pillars aswan

As Philae was built in Hellenistic times, you can see the Greco-Roman influence in the architecture. I’m standing in the gateway of Trajan’s Kiosk, a hypaethral (open-roof) temple made by the Roman Emperor, Trajan.

philae temple isis worship egypt

Such a fascinating combination of Greco-Roman and New Kingdom Egyptian art. The ladies look a bit like the ones in Nefertari’s temple, but this one is sticking her tongue out!

temple of philae pillars complex

Some parts of Philae Temple look straight out of Greece or Rome, such as this long flank of fluted columns.

 Temple to Isis, Horus and Osiris on Philae Island

Inside Philae Temple, you’ll encounter a hypostyle hall, and chambers dedicated to other deities like Hathor.

late kingdom egypt carvings

As you can see, Egyptian art looks different in this late era of the civilization. The headdresses, poses, and hieroglyphics are similar to what you’ll see in Abu Simbel and Karnak

Sekhmet lion head goddess egypt

… however, the bodies are more voluptuous, and the carving style is dissimilar (look at the hair and finger detail for example). Here’s a close-up of Sekhmet, the lion head goddess, holding an ankh.

osiris winged god carving philae

This beautiful relief shows goddess Isis protecting her husband Osiris with outspread wings. A pharaoh (identifiable by his bowling pin crown) offers a libation to the gods.

temple of philae outside exterior

We learned so much about Egypt’s history throughout the tour. Not everyone knows that the final rulers descended from Ptolemy (including the famed Cleopatra) were ethnically Greek. They built temples like this to placate the Egyptian population, and legitimize their rule.

aswan dam temples moved reconstructed

After Cleopatra and Mark Antony died, Egypt became a Roman province ruled under Octavian. Egypt would no longer be ruled by its own people until the 20th century.

guided private tours egypt aswan

Egypt is everything I look for in a destination. Yukiro and I were glad we got to travel safely and see so much of the country, thanks to Travel Talk Tours.

Where am I off to next? Announcement to come soon, so stay tuned and check out my Instagram @lacarmina for regular updates!


Travel Talk Tours Egypt review: Luxor’s ancient ruins! Karnak Temple, Nubian village dinner, Dahab beach resort.

karnak temple luxor egypt tours

“All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don’t you know
If they move too quick (oh whey oh)
They’re falling down like a domino…”

Walking like an Egyptian, while in Egypt: goal unlocked, thanks to Travel Talk Tours!

ram headed row sphinx karnak

Yukiro and I were invited to join their Felucca and Red Sea Odyssey tour, which took us to Egypt’s major archaeological sites. In our first review, we saw Giza’s pyramids and the Great Sphinx (the mythological creature with the head of a man, and body of a lion).

On the second day, we encountered more sphinxes… but this time, they had ram-heads and were sitting in a row!

ancient egyptian cult occult weird

At the end of Day 1 in Cairo, we boarded the Travel Talk Tours bus along with about 30 millennial travelers. We drove to Luxor, and spent the night in a nice hotel. The next morning, our tour group got up early to see the magnificent Karnak Temple.

Read on to see this fabulous cult complex dedicated to ancient Egyptian gods. We’ll also take you to a Nubian culture dinner, and hang with Bedouins in the beach town of Dahab.

luxor stone carvings statues

Karnak Temple Complex sits on the east bank of the Nile, in Luxor (the city formerly known as Thebes). This spiritual site was dedicated to the god Amun-Re, but you’ll find tributes to other Egyptian gods and goddesses throughout.

A succession of pharoahs built the temple from the Middle to Late Kingdom (around 2055 BC to 100 AD).

ancient egyptian pillars luxor

There’s so much about Egypt that simply can’t be conveyed in photographs. The immensity of Karnak, for one: I was overwhelmed by the size and scale of these ancient monuments.

I learned from my guide that Karnak is the largest religious site ever constructed, spanning 200 acres. (We didn’t even get to see it in full, as travelers can only access the Precinct of Amun-Ra; the other portions are closed to the public).

egypt ankh carvings hieroglyphs

Thankfully, we had our Travel Talk Tours guide to show us the most fascinating parts of Karnak.

It doesn’t get much Gother than this: a wall of carved Ankhs! The Egyptian hieroglyphic is the symbol of life, and much-loved by Goths.

(I kept my face shaded from the sun with this Tenth Street Hats wide brimmed hat.)

egypt giant statue holding ankhs

This headless mummy-statue is extra Goth, clutching a double-ankh in his arms as he crosses into the land of the dead.

what women wear pack egypt trip travel tour

I felt like I was in a fantasy, standing beneath hieroglyphics and obelisks dating back thousands of years.

The tallest obelisk in Egypt once stood at Karnak, erected to honor Queen Hatshepsut. (My white halter resort dress is by UK Swimwear.)

egypt young group guided tour

There can be quite a lot of tourists at Karnak. We recommend going to the back areas, where there are fewer people and fascinating ruins like these.

hieroglyphic jewelry egypt ring designs

The complex is filled with a diversity of artistic styles and architectural features. Hieroglyphs are carved all over. (Incredible how we didn’t know how to decipher the ancient writing until the discovery of the Rosetta stone.)

I hailed the hieroglyphics with my Alex Streeter Marquise scorpion ring, a design inspired by the Egyptians. My nail art is from Glam Nail Studio.

karnak temple obelisks architecture

Our Travel Talk Tours guide struck a great balance between sharing historical information with us, and then giving everyone free time to explore and take photos. I let my imagination run free as we wandered.

karnak temple complex hieroglyphics stone carvings

These friezes in the Precinct of Amun Re have withstood centuries.

egyptian gods goddesses statues luxor

With primitive tools, the ancient Egyptians had the capacity to build structures that remain impressive today. Karnak features the first pylon, or giant gateway, and a wide variety of sandstone statues, pillars, and bas reliefs.

karnak temple amun ra rams

Feeling tiny next to this row of statues, honoring Pharoah Ramses II as Osiris, god of the underworld.

ancient egypt hieroglyphic art luxor karnak

The song “Walk like an Egyptian” by the Bangles ran through my head, as I admired these carvings (they show people bringing offerings to the gods).

karnak temple ram statues sphinxes

Karnak stands out for its Avenue of Sphinxes, which dates back to the era of Ramses II. This line of ram-headed sphinxes represents the god Amun. Each holds a small pharoah between their paws, symbolizing their protection.

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One of my favorite areas was the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re. There are 134 of these gigantic columns, each intricately carved and arranged in a 50,000 square foot hall.

travel talk tours egypt reviews

Yukiro and I took a million photos at Karnak Temple: it was one of the most impressive sites we visited on our journey. It’s not possible to grasp the full experience unless you come here for yourself — and I hope you do!

nile boat cruise tour night

Throughout all of their tours, Travel Talk gives you the opportunity to join optional excursions, which span a variety of interests (food, culture, outdoors). Yukiro and I opted to do most of them, which we recommend. Who knows when you’ll be in Egypt again; best to make the most of it.

When we were in Aswan, we were excited to join a homestyle dinner in a Nubian village. We rode an Egyptian boat to get to Soheil Island, where the community is based.

spooky haunted egypt ghosts

At night, the weather drops — so pack a light jacket and layers for Egypt. We sailed on the Nile and passed this lit-up mound. It’s the Tombs of the Nobles, a burial site in Aswan from the Old and Middle Kingdoms that is still being excavated.

luxor nubian culture village dinner

After walking though the village, we received a warm welcome from the Nubians. They’re descended from the ancient Nubians that lived along the Nile, in what is southern Egypt and Sudan today.

ankh kohl eyes mural

Nubia was one of the oldest civilizations in Africa, and they had an important trading role with the ancient Egyptians.

In the early 1960s, close to 50,000 Nubians suffered displacement due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. They were forced to leave their traditional villages, which would be flooded, and resettle north.

nubian egypt children kids

However, the Nubians have proudly rebuilt their community here, and hold tight to their heritage. At the dinner, we got to meet the local children, and hear about the village’s lifestyle and traditions.

nubian dinner luxor

As you can see in this house, the Nubian colors, buildings, and handicrafts are distinct from the Egyptians.

nubian food cooking nubia

Everyone eagerly awaited the signal for us to help ourselves to the spread of food, home-cooked by the Nubian family. The harira soup, with lentils a fresh lemon slice, was outstanding. We devoured the mixed rice, vegetable curries with okra and herbs, salads, and mandazi.

egyptian cat cats

The Nubian feast was the best meal we had during our time in Egypt. The village cats certainly agreed, and gathered around in hope of food.

travel talk tours bedouin dinner dahab

At the end of our tour, we joined a Bedouin cultural dining experience. At Dahab, we piled into the back of a four wheel drive, and drove through the desert to an area surrounded by sandy hills and stars.

egypt bedouin culture dinner fire

We sat around the fire, and drank hibiscus tea. Then, we helped ourselves to a spread of food from the back of a truck. The Bedouin people then played music on traditional instruments, and showed us how to play games (such as lying down with a cup of water on your forehead, and standing up without spilling it).

dahab egypt beaches sea

As you can see, we enjoyed a variety of places and activities through Travel Talk Tours. A typical tour simply takes you to the ancient ruins. However, our journey also included a relaxing stop in Dahab, a southern Egyptian beach town.

dahab paradise hotel review pool

After a lot of time on the bus, it was a relief to unwind at Dahab Paradise resort. I had never heard of this part of Egypt, and wouldn’t have made it here without the tour.

I felt like Cleopatra as I lay poolside, with palm trees and looming hills in the distance. (Under multiple layers of mineral sunscreen, a giant hat, and an umbrella of course!)

dahab paradise resort egypt beach hotels

Dahab is known for its excellent diving and snorkeling, especially at Blue Hole. The other members of our tour group took part in optional activities like a Jeep safari, quad biking, camel rides, and snorkeling in the coral reefs. We Goths were to happy to relax at the hotel, and watch 1980s horror movies in our room!

egyptian white wine glass egypt alcohol

Cheers (with a glass of Egyptian wine) to Travel Talk Tours for opening our eyes to the many wonders of Egypt.

travel talk tours review felucca odyssey red sea tour

“Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian…”

Did this photo diary make you keen to visit Egypt? More from our journey to come soon, including the Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel! If you have questions about anything at all, feel free to leave a comment in this post and I’ll let you know my thoughts right away.