Armchair travelling at its best. The ancient sites of Egypt complete with their myths and legends
Although travel is now opening up a little, it is still difficult to reach all the places on our bucket list. So this latest book from Egyptologist Garry J. Shaw is a welcome addition to our bookshelves. He takes us on a tour along the Nile, through a beautiful and fascinating landscape which is populated with a rich mythology.
And this is why this book takes us on a different travel journey. It doesn't just describe the temples and monuments that you can see on your trip along the Nile, but it also tells us the stories of the ancient gods of this land, together with their enemies and allies in tales of vengeance, tragedy and fantastic metamorphoses.
A map of Egypt © New York Public Library
The myths of ancient Egypt have survived in fragments of ancient hymns and paintings on the walls of tombs and temples, spells inked across coffins, and stories scrawled upon scrolls. Shaw does the hard work for us, and takes all these different sources of information and puts it together for each site. He also writes in an entertaining style which makes the huge amount of information that he has gathered together easy to digest. Illustrations throughout the book bring to life the creation of the world and the nebulous netherworld; the complicated relationships between fickle gods, powerful magicians, and pharaohs; and eternal battles on a cosmic scale.
Looking out over the peristyle courtyard of Horus' Temple at Edfu. The winged sun disc, a symbol of Horus, stretches across a lintel. © New York Public Library
Each chapter describes the sites as they are today, even including a description of the smells you would encounter if you were standing there in person. Each site is then put into its context within ancient Egyptian history, as well as explaining which gods or goddesses were worshipped there, plus the myths and stories that formed the backdrop to the rituals and customs of everyday life. Each chapter ends with tips for visiting the ruins today and a table which highlights the key dates and remains of the site.
From the title of this book you could be forgiven for thinking it is just another book on Egyptian Mythology. But it is so much more. Shaw has made this the perfect companion to exploring the sites of Egypt by putting them in context with the myths of Egypt and the gods and goddesses that shaped its ancient landscape. His witty style also makes it easy to read and enjoy. A highly recommended read for those already interested in Egypt and for those who are just starting out.
A Traveller's Guide from Aswan to Alexandria
by Garry Shaw
Published by Thames & Hudson
Garry has contributed a number of articles to Timeless Travels magazine including:
Islands of Giants, Malta's Prehistoric Temples
The Other Rome: Adventures in and around Avignon