Medamud: Past-Present Continuum Revealed

A procession of corpulent male deities and busty female deities parade before me. Each one comes to the god’s house bearing gifts from their region. Some bring grain; others cattle, precious metal dishes, libations or incense.

 Glancing over the head of a goddess that herds goats before the god, I spy their modern descendants jumping over the ruins of the god’s house. Past and present become contemporaneous.

It is a quiet morning at the house of Montu, god of war. The only visitors are me, the goats, and a few antiquities guards, called gawfeers in Arabic. Montu has had a temple at Medamud, located about 8km North of Luxor, since the Middle Kingdom. Four millennia have passed and relatively little of the temple remains visible. Correlating the guidebook's plan with bits of walls on the ground poses a challenge. Medamud is in ruin. Perhaps this is why the site is not open for visitation except by request. But step forward. Narrow the eyes’ focus to the preserved details. Exquisite splendor is revealed. It is well worth asking the Karnak inspectorate chief for permission to visit.

Egyptian temples represent a microcosm of the universe. The carving that covers every inch of its surface conveys the sensitivity of the artists to their universe. Ducks flutter above an offering tray. New shoots bend in the breeze. A dado of papyrus buds and blossoms around the temple's inner walls recreates the mound of creation from which all life was born.

And in this universe, men play the harp and women dance with castanets. The countless hieroglyphs record a hymn: “The priest honours You with his basket, And the drummers take their tambourines. Ladies rejoice in Your honor with garlands, And girls do the same with wreaths.”

I conclude my visit with a walk along the Avenue of Sphinxes to the quay. From here Montu, carried by priests, boarded his sacred barque and traveled along the canal to his residence at Karnak. Here, too, worshippers disembarked bearing alms for their falcon-headed lord. I looked down and found graffiti footprints of some nameless ancient. Carved as an act of personal piety to express eternal devotion, the prints match my own. Once again, past and present converge at Medamud.


View Larger Map

Driving out of Luxor on Airport Road, turn North towards Qena. After 5.5 km along the Qena Road, turn West on a small road that crosses the canal and the narrow gauge railway for sugarcane harvest. The village of Nag al-Medamud is just ahead. At the first T-intersection, turn left. At the next T-intersection, turn right. Drive past the goats in the village square and you see the temple of Montu in front of you. Drive along the temple's north side where you will see the gawfeer's hut. Egyptian Monuments blog:
Tour Egypt article: The Temple of Montu, Rattawy and Harpocrates at Medamud
Archaeology of Ancient Egypt: Medamud
Musee des Beaux Arts, Lyon: Kiosk Gate from a Temple at Medamud
Luxor News blog: Medamud temple, north of Luxor
Neferuhethert: Hymn from Ptolemaic Temple at Medamud

No comments: