Our time here in Egpyt was flying by as we entered week four and this week would be full of history and community. When I look back at the photos each and every one brings me a smile as I remember how much we took from these experiences.
The week's hub began with a field trip out into the Tomb of the Nobles. This less well known landmark is often bypassed as people head for the more well known Valley of the Kings but it's really worth seeing both. This trip to the Nobles was so interesting and much less busy than it's bigger brother deeper into the mountains.
The hub minibus dropped us off and the kids rushed eagerly up the steps towards the first tomb. We had a kind guard/guide pointing us in the right direction and happy to answer questions. The boys and I were especially pleased to see the Tombs of Shuroy and Roy as we had seen lots of artefacts from their tombs during our time in Cairo.
If you've never been to the tombs, temples or pyramids in Egypt one thing you might not realise is just how beautifully preserved the colours and patterns on the walls are. As vivid as when they were first painted and utterly breathtaking, it's often hard to really take in what you are seeing.
The other thing that always fascinates me is how different people notice different things when exploring these places. For example you might be fascinated by how much detail there is in a painting of a handmaiden serving a pharoah and the next person won't see that at all but instead their eyes will be drawn to the delicateness of a field of papyrus. I learned to walk through corridors twice to try and take in as much as possible but in reality you could spend weeks in these tombs and still miss things.
The children enjoyed scrambling up and down rocks and stairs and the hub organisers gave out pencils and paper to encourage them to copy or create their own designs based on some of the paintings they saw. It was a great way of focusing their attention on what they are experiencing and it was interesting to see how they all completed the task in different ways.
The art theme continued through the week as the children had their second trip to the pottery studio to finish their creations from the week before and then got to visit an alabastar studio too. There were artists working on sculpting and modelling gorgeous designs out of the rock and later in the month the children would get the chance to create their own stone jewellery.
The friendships amongst the hub families were building now as well. It's not always plain sailing when children are put together and there were some heads butted amongst the teens at certain points, but the hub team, and parents, worked hard to smooth out any issues while also giving people time to step back and process. I was proud of the group for how they managed these bumps in the road.
One of our favourite moments from the week was an unscheduled group meet up by the Nile one evening. One of the families was going to chill out by the river with some drinks and they put a shout out on the WhatsApp group to see if anyone wanted to join in and a nice amount of families came out. We drank tea and soft drinks, ate falafel and chips and the kids made up games or sat and chatted to each other. One of the children really wanted to have a fire to sit around and the owner of the cafe was very happy to help facilitate and so we all sat around it, as the sun set over the water, chatting happily. (the only thing missing was marshmallows!).
This week would also include a very special day for me in particular as I got to visit the temple at Dendera with some of the other women from the hub. Leaving children and partners at home we set off on a minibus on the hours drive North of Luxor to Qena.
The Dendera temple complex is important as it contains the Temple of Hathor, believed to be the site at the centre of the cult of Hathor and houses the famous "Zodiac of Dendera", a map of the night sky showing planets, star constellations and even eclipses. (The original ceiling map is currently housed in the Louvre in Paris where it's been since it was removed in the 1800's although the Egyptian government has asked for it's return).
Hathor is important to women as the goddess of love, fertility, pleasure, music and dancing as well as being the protector of women and so it felt fitting to visit the temple as part of an all female group.
From the moment I arrived I felt very emotional to be there. A mixture of wonder at the site and all the beauty it contained plus being there alongside new friends with whom I shared an interest in spirituality and self discovery.
I need to take a small aside to explain that ever since I'd arrived in Egypt I'd been drawn to the images of Lotus flowers. Remember earlier when I said it was interesting that different people were drawn to different images, well for me the Lotus flower had been something I'd been drawn to time and time again during the weeks we'd been here.
Well the same was happening at Dendara, each wall, ceiling and sculpture I looked at my eye would land on the flower over and over again. As we explored the temple I found myself alone in a large, high corridor and, feeling very emotional, I leant back against a wall, closing my eyes and trying to settle my racing heart and mind. I began to feel calm and very happy to be in this place when I noticed one of my new friends, who lives in Luxor and has visited the temple many times before quietly watching me. She asked me if I realised where I'd stopped, and as I looked around, you guessed it, an image of Hathor herself and above her the largest Lotus flower was rising high above me.
My friend went on to explain that the Lotus flower is a symbol of creation, of rebirth and growth. It means regeneration and strength to rise again.
Well I don't mind admitting I fell to pieces, overcome with emotion as I thought of my own journey to this place. Overcoming my ill health, recovering from surgeries, working hard (alongside my dear husband and children) to get to a position where we could live this life, have this adventure.
I'm aware that many people will have different reactions to this story. Some will feel inspired and may remember their own spiritual encounters. Some may feel uneasy and want to explain my experience in a more logical way. I don't want or need any response other than the space to tell my story and to tell you that since that day I have felt stronger, calmer and more grateful and that's all that matters to me. Thank you to the women who joined me that day, it will continue to be one of the most special experiences of my life.
Next up was a real bucket list trip. This week started with a trip to the Valley of the Nobles and ended with a trip to the Valley of the Kings, and that's what I'm going to write about next.