By Jane Richards
"Awesome, beautiful," Tepi was unable to think of any other way to describe to herself the huge temples that appeared on the horizon as the barge moved down the river.
As they got closer the huge pylons became clearer. The temple had giant columns hewn from stone into statues of the goddess Hat-Hor with a surrounding complex of other temples that seemed to all be connected into one large building!
"Nekhi have you ever seen such a temple?" "No, never," came the reply. Nekhi seemed to be just as awestruck as Tepi at this point.
The royal party disembarked from the barge and formed into a loose formation, High Priest first with the King and Queen, Nekhi and Tepi just behind and others according to their status. Up the pathway decorated with rows of the Hor-em-Aket [sphinx] they walked, toward the temple. At the entrance a priest and priestess greeted the royal travelers, bowing low before the King and Queen, as the chanting of an unseen group began. They were singing the praises of King SekhenereTao and Queen Tetisheri.
The royal Prince and Princess, Nekhi and Tepi were also included in this chant, as the Crown Prince SekhenereTao and Princess Ahhotep. As the ceremonial welcome ended they were all conducted to large rooms inside the temple to rest and cleanse themselves before a feast would be served in another part of the complex.
Tepi wished to find a place to relax, get away from all the ceremony and talk to Nekhi about the soldiers that had visited the barge before they had left. She asked a few questions of the servants here, found where Nekhis' apartments were located and in a few minutes they were sitting in a private garden with the familiar lotus pool. Even though it wasn't their own it would certainly provide a place in which to discuss what had been happening.
"What do you think the soldier told father?" asked Tepi of her brother. "I wonder if some troubles have begun again in the north?" Nekhi thought for a moment before answering. "Well, I've been hearing some gossip from the servants," he said, as he cupped his chin in his hands and gazed around the garden. Lowering his voice to a whisper he continued. "They say that a major offensive has begun somewhere around the old city of Memphis. It may mean that some of us might have to continue from Abydos to help."
Tepi thought about this information. "I could be of some help in the medical tents like I did before, you know. This war to unite our land is as much my business as it is yours' and our parents'! I want to go, too." Nekhi nodded in agreement at this statement. "I know you are very brave, Tepi. I saw how you saved me from the Hyksos before and how hard you worked in the medical tents. The priests told me you are very talented at helping them. If it were up to me you would certainly go with us but that isn't my decision to make, you know. I will talk to father. I may be able to get his permission for you to accompany us if we do go." Changing the subject, he arose and stretched. "I think it's about time for us to make ready for the ceremonies. Father and Mother wouldn't want us to be late."
All the traditional pomp due the King and his family were observed in the ceremonies to celebrate the coming of the New Year and inundation time. The cleansing rites in the sacred pool, located deep within the inner sanctums of the temple, the long procession of the priests and priestesses of the Temple held by the Sem Priest, and including the King were all accomplished. Sistrums were carried and shaken by the priestesses making bell-like tinkling sounds while the some of the priests used cymbals to accentuate the marching of the holy group. Down the steps they proceeded to the banks of the Nile where the Sem Priest made his predictions to the King of what the next year would be.
All those in the immediate royal party were aware that the Sem Priest had prepared for this prediction by sending some of the minor priests up the Nile River to check the devices called nileometers. The nearest was at the first cataract, also the location of the very ancient Temple of Isis. In the ancient past, at the time of the first dynastic kings, King Kasakhemy had opened trade with a more southern country called Nubia. When he did this he had caused a nileometer to be installed at this location. By the Middle Kingdom, Amenemhet I and his descendants had located another further south. These were used to show that the Nile was rising further south from the rains that fell there. These would eventually swell the Nile and create the inundation, or flood, that was so important to the Egyptians.
At midday when the Great God Re was at his zenith [noon] the New Year was declared to have begun by both the Sem Priest and the King while standing on a special roof enclosure atop the temple. With this last part of the rites finished everyone readied themselves for the celebration feast.
In a large, decorated room with many statues of Hat-Hor, as well as statues of other gods and goddesses standing in their niches around the hall, the dinner began. Foods of all kinds were offered by servants at several tables, all decorated with blue and white lotus blooms and papyrus buds. Several girls placed inverted cup-like cakes of perfumed lard on the tops of the guests' ceremonial wigs. These would melt as the dinner continued, providing an aromatic aura to the hall. Date palm wine was served to the adults, while several juices were offered to the younger members of the group. Fresh fruits, cooked meats, breads, and sweets were all loaded onto tables for every ones' enjoyment.
"I am stuffed," groaned Nekhi as he turned to Tepi. "I don't think I will eat again for a week!"
Nibbling on a stuffed date Tepi grinned, "Oh, come on Nekhi you always say that after a feast. I'll bet you're looking for a snack before the night's over. Let's find a quiet place to relax. It's hot and crowded in here and I need some fresh air."
The two excused themselves to their father and proceeded to their lotus pool where they had sat earlier. The goddess Nut with all her stars was just appearing in all her glory [the sky]. The moon symbol of Hat-Hor was beginning to rise over the eastern horizon. All seemed so peaceful and quiet here inside the temple compound. Tomorrow they would be traveling even further north to Abydos, the most sacred of cities in the land of Kem.