The Victorians who travelled down the Nile before us called this place – the fairy temple of Egypt– and the writer Lucy Duff Gordon proclaimed it, ‘the most beautiful sight my eyes ever saw.’
It is without doubt the spiritual and earthly home of The Little Goddess and the source of its creation.
After the book was completed, quite a few years ago now, I had the very great privilege of coming to Philae with my husband. It was more beautiful than I’d dreamed sitting at my desk, thousands of miles away in England, working with just a couple of old photos and my imagination.
We booked the services of a boatman to ferry us across to the island before dawn with our packed breakfasts from The Old Cateract Hotel, several bottles of water and the completed manuscript safely stowed in my bag. Only a couple of temple guards were present when we arrived. They gave us hot, sweet, mint tea then left us free to explore the silent spaces of the temple that Jamila, the stories time-travelling heroine - and Mia and her mother –the priestesses she meets - inhabit in the story .
It was such a magical feeling, being alone, walking barefoot through the hushed interiors as the sun began to rise but we didn’t feel alone at all – it was as if we had joined a never-ending stream of pilgrims, travellers of yesteryear, priests and priestess, seekers of wonder and beauty through the ages, all just one long procession, weaving in and out of time and dimension, ordinary souls like us, mingling with the ancients and storybook characters alike.
There is a moment in The Little Goddess , where Jamila performs the ceremony of the rising sun for the first time. It came to mind vividly as the great orange orb rose before us that day.
“Great Star,” she begins,
“who is Mother and Father to the earth upon which I stand,
And to all the creatures within the orbit of your embracing rays,
I greet your rising.
As the flower lifts it’s head and opens its petals,
To the glory of your majesty,
So I too open my body and heart to the warmth of your embrace.”
As we left the island sun was quite high in the sky and the temple was flooded with golden light. The first tourist boats were starting to arrive. We were sad to leave and glanced back longingly several times but we had done what we came to do, to say thank you for the story and its inspiration,
thank you, thank you, thank you!
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