Two barrage bridges straddle the Nile at this point: one built by the British in 1906, and the "Electricity Bridge" built in the 1990s. Navigation, particularly, Nile cruisers ferrying tourists from Luxor to Aswan 155 km further upstream, can be held up for hours while vessels negotiate their way through the lock system.
The two main points of interest in Esna are its lively tourist-oriented market, which fills a couple of streets leading inland from the corniche. The other is the temple of Esna. The temple, which has only been partially excavated, is about 200 meters from the river and some 9 meters below street level.
Our Cruise ship crossed Esna ( Isna) Lock gate before dawn. It started at around 4.00 AM and continued till 5.00 AM . We were the second ship to cross the gate, so besides ours we also watched the ship before us to cross.
We were told the night before that we shall be crossing the Esna Lock gate around four in the morning, so we all got up grabbed our still & video cameras. It was very dark and almost deserted except a few workers. While I saw the other small digital camers produced only blurred images by my Nikon D 90, gave me crisp pictures with zoom set in Programmed mode with ISO 800.
It was just great to see the crossing of the gate.
We passed through the lock at Isna in the early morning before the sunrise.
Our boat had to go through a narrow and shallow lock in Isna. Facing the lock there must have been dozens of boats, each waiting for its turn.
We have been told that it normally takes about 45 minutes to complete this rather complicated process because only 2 cruisers can enter the lock at a time.
Two barrage bridges straddle the Nile at this point: one built by the British in 1906, and the "Electricity Bridge" built by the Italians in the 1990s. Navigation – particularly, Nile cruisers ferrying tourists from Luxor to Aswan, 155 km further upstream – can be held up for hours while vessels negotiate their way through the lock system.
You may learn more about Isna dam construction here.
By its epigraphy, this minaret, built in 1081, is attributed to Fakhr al-Mulk Sa'd al-Dawla Sar Takin, a high-ranking Fatimid official. Not only is this epigraphy important for its unprecedented use of the word mi'dhana (the place from which the call to prayer was given), but it sheds considerable light on our understanding of the nature of official patronage in the Fatimid period, particularly that pertaining to officials and dignitaries other than the imam (Fatimid caliph) and the "divine" household. The distinctive shape of the dome and its zone of transition find a parallel in the novel mausoleum of Aswan.
You may learn more about it here
A veritable forest of ornate columns hit you as you walk into the Hall, ornate, carved, decorously coloured (although some are defaced by early Christians). The images on the main shafts of the columns (24 in total) are from the three main festivals of the town - the creation of the universe by Neith, the raising of the sky by Khnum and Khnum's victory over human rebels. Atop the columns is the astronomical ceiling - but this is incredibly difficult to discern clearly.
The scale of the Hypostyle Hall and the uneven ground runnind round it provides easy access to get incredibly close to the deeply etched reliefs. The exterior walls provide some of the best reliefs, although this is in part due to the fact that natural light makes them visible! (The interior is dark and dingy and some of the more spectacular reliefs and frecoes are hard to make out with any great clarity).
The fact that it is a Roman construction replacing the much older original temple of Khnum provides a slightly bizarre series of reliefs - on the one hand, Egyptin gods abound - Khnum, Horus, Thoth (ibis headed) etc mingling with Roman Emperors and generals.
Khnum was originally the ram-headed god who created man on a potter's wheel and the guardian of the source of the Nile. He was later demoted to a mere underling to Amun-Re.
Many are disappointed with the Temple of Khnum as it sits in a hole in the ground, with only the Hypostyle Hall having been excavated. This is mainly due to the fact that the modern town sits on top of the ruins - literally. The hole in the ground and the reveal of the Hall provides the top of the roof at a level with the modern day street. To excavate more would be to demolish the town. This may happen in time (and some of the buildings around it look as if they would need very little help!) but the presence relatively modern Hypostyle Hall (built in the 1st century AD).
Personally, I loved it. Up close and personal and with the lack of tourist chintz, garbage in the corners and swept under the metaphorical carpet. And stunning reliefs and columns (see seperate tips).
If you arrive by boat, you can hardly miss it as the boat berths alongside the Corniche. It's a pretty busy spot - mainly due the fact that this is the point to pass through the Nile locks. Some don't even land and wait patiently for hours before going through the lock. But its still busy enough for boats to dock 2 or 3 deep and, to disembark, you pass from boat to boat.
The Corniche is the main throughfare for the town and is suprisingly grand (if somewhat faded grandeur) for such a small place and , to many, what is a disappointing Pharoahonic ruin - the Temple of Khnum. But Esna is only 50 or so kms south of Luxor and on the opposite bank of the river. Being on the west bank contributed to its growth - trade with Sudan and the interior of modern day Egypt and beyond.
Buried for centuries in the sand, the Temple of Isna was relatively recently excavated. The sand and water table has done some damage, as well as the soot from past armies' (like Napoleon's and British) camp fires have blackened the paintings on the ceiling. But none the less, the temple is being renovated and is worth the visit.
The site of the temple of Khnum lies some 9 meters below the level of the present town, and provides quite a contrast between old and new.
Much of the ancient town lies buries below the present settlement.
The roof of the Temole Of Khnum is supported by by four rows of six tall (twelve meters high) columns with composite floral capitals of varying design that retain some of their original painted colour.
The Temple of Khnum at Esna, is the reason that most people visit the town.
The temple was dedicated to several deities as well as Khnum, the most prominent of whom were Neith and Heka. This was the ram god that was worshipped through out this area and who fashioned mankind from mud of the Nile on his potter's wheel.
If you are travelling along the Nile by boat, it is at Esna where the lock is situated, that enables you to change levels in the river.
You are usually here for a while depending on boat traffic, but there is usually something to see on the banks to while away the time
The River Nile has to be the number one thing to see in Esna, in fact it's on it, that most of us probably arrived in the town.
The river has been the centre of life in this area for thousands of years.
On sunset, it was our turn to go through the lock. After hours of waiting, we excitedly moved to the front of the boat to get a close look at the action, and to take some photos of course.
It was such a tight squeeze! The boat was almost as wide as the lock. We entered and crept through slowly, close behind another boat.
And we were finally through.....and then we had to queue up again, to go through a second lock!