Photo book on Egypt

Our photo book on Egypt is nearing completion: as I will need a total of 10 copies (at about $100 each, hard cover, 30×30 cm = 12″×12″) for members of our group, a prototype copy has been completed, has been reviewed, and we are approaching the point of no return (for a $1000 order).

Upper Egypt

In March 2010, our family went on a one week Nile cruise. The cruise covered the main sights in Upper Egypt from Luxor down to Abu Simbel (on the border with Sudan). The trip covered the highlights of Egyptian antiquity – with the notable exception of pyramids and Great Sphinx which are both in the Cairo area. These highlights will certainly be familiar to all who have visited Upper Egypt and sound familiar to all who haven’t:

  • Luxor (aka ancient Thebe) – this is perhaps the 2000 BC equivalent to visiting Washington DC
    • Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
    • Valley of the Kings
    • Colossi of Memnon
    • Temple of Luxor
    • Temples of Karnak
  • the Temple of Edfu
  • the Temple of Kom Ombo
  • Aswan
    • the Unfinished Obelisk
    • the Temples from Philae
    • the two dams
  • the Temples of Abu Simbel

There was also the option to take a hot air balloon (yup), drive quads in the desert (yup), sit on a camel (nope), visit lesser known temples (yup), visit a mosque (nope), cross the Nile in a small traditional sailing boat (yup), and tip almost every Egyptian you ran into (no thanks).

I originally had a bit of apprehension about cruises: those were for old folks and you don’t get the freedom that you have when you are on your own. This sounds especially scary if you are into photography. But this cruise (and the weather) was great: you get the benefits of somebody taking care of the logistics and food, you get a guide explaining the historical basics (an Egyptian who spoke a bit of Dutch), but we actually did get enough time to roam around and take pictures and occasionally even head out on our own.

The book

First page of the chapter on the Temple of Kom Ombo (click to view larger)

This is the first page of one of the chapters. After a bit of introductory text, the rest of a chapter is only photo’s. Captions with photographic and historical information are in an annex.

It was quite a bit of work to research the texts in order to get them accurate, interesting, and concise. The colored words are respectively the names of gods and pharaohs. Essentially every temple was commissioned by a pharaoh in the honor of one or more gods as well as the pharaoh himself/herself. Typically a pharaoh claimed to be direct descendant of the gods in order to justify their role in society.

Front cover of Egypt photo book

Cover for Egypt photo book (click to enlarge)

Egyptian History for Beginners

The last page of the book contains a time line that I designed to visually summarize Egyptian history. An engineer’s way to see history, if you will:

Time line of Egyptian history (click to see larger version)

The horizontal axis simply marks off the fifty (!) centuries of recorded Egyptian history. The vertical axis shows degrees of latitude and are aligned with the map of Egypt on the right. Egypt spans between 21′ North and 31′ North. Given that the Nile is roughly vertical on the map, and that major historical sites were never far from the Nile (the rest is desert), you can more or less locate any event in Egyptian history with just two coordinates: time, and location on the Nile. Thus the graph (actually an Excel scatter plot) allows you to see how far apart any two events are in time and roughly in space.

The final page also contains a companion table listing the historical 32 events included in the time line. The list is somewhat biased towards antiquity and the places we visited, but it does include British rule in Egypt, Egyptian independence, the building of the dams at Aswan.

Thus the diagram shows that the role of Thebe, as the capital of Egypt, spanned from 2000 BC to roughly zero BC. It shows that major monuments in Thebe were however primarily built between 1500 and 1100 BC (in the “New Kingdom”). In a bizarre episode in Egyptian history, the pharaoh Akhenaten essentially rejected established religion and government and created a new capital in Amarna, quite some distance North of Thebe. Unfortunately his “reforms” were undone and Thebe became the capital again shortly after his death. The dotted purple line links the Amarna episode to the rediscovery of Amarna by the German scientist/explorer/map maker Lepsius in 1843. Amarna is, incidentally archaeologically interesting because it was only inhabited for a few decades. The dotted cyan line links the golden age of Thebe to the discovery of tomb KV62 of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922 and the discovery of the next tomb, KV63, in the Valley of the Kings in 2005. Actually KV63 itself isn’t really that important (unless you are an egyptologist in search of funding), but it shows that new discoveries are still occurring.

The diagram also shows that Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Philae (Aswan, 285 BC) are not only relatively close to each other, but were built in the same (Greek pharaoh) period.

The diagram also shows that original activity in the Cairo area started slightly further South (Memphis, 3000 BC; Pyramid for Djoser, 2630 BC) before getting really close to where Cairo lies (pyramid for Khafre, Giza, 2560 BC). The dot at 969 AD is the actual founding of Cairo by the Islamic Fatimid people.

Want more information?

The current plan is that anyone can

  1. view the entire content of the book online (, click on Full Screen, and click to turn pages)
  2. or even order a hard copy of the book from (same link, costs cover only what Blurb charges)

A warning in case you order a book: the 160-page photo book contains roughly three thousand words of text in Dutch. That is not a lot (this text is a bit over one thousand words), but there are no plans to translate it into English or Urdu. But here is a copy of the text in case somebody wants to decode what it says.

If you want to use material to create a “derived” work of some sort, please contact me first: note that the text and photos are copyrighted! I am likely to react supportively. If you want to order the book, feel free to do so as long as the group permits this (but please consider contacting me first, comments below are fine).

Footnote on copyrights: The map used with the timeline graphic is by Wikipedia contributor Lanternix who generously made it available to all without any restrictions.

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