into an open courtyard with colonnades on each side. The people dispersed expertly to their offices and appointments. Sunset is an important time of prayer, in these days more so than ever before.
But this was a temple unlike any other I had seen. The great dark stone temples at Karnak are labyrinths lit by a few spots of intense white light, leading to ever more obscure chambers, all ensuring the god is kept perpetually hidden deep in the shadowy heart of his House, away from the ordinary light of the world and its teeming temporal worshippers. This was deliberately designed to be exactly the opposite, wide open to the air and the sun. Vast walls were decorated with thousands of images in panels and sections, almost all of them, as far as I could see, depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children worshipping the Aten. And the whole space was filled with hundreds of altars, arranged in rows, and all around the walls. At the back were chapels, again filled with altars. In the centre a main raised altar, surrounded by lotus-shaped incense burners, was piled high with food and flowers from both Upper and Lower Egypt. How clever to unite the offerings of the Two Lands in the one altar, and how ostentatious in our time of trouble. And everywhere one looked were statues, in all sizes, of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, looking down at their subjects not with the distant stare of official power, but with lively human faces, perfectly carved in the limestone, their hands intertwined or raised, cupped, to receive the divine gifts of the sun that on this evening, as every evening, were streaming down to them from a real sky. And people stood still, eyes wide open, their hands holding up offerings to the light: flowers, food, even occasionally babies.
I looked down at my own hands and saw that they were gilded by the warm evening light.
' "Since he casts his rays on me, bestowing life and dominion for ever and eternity, I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my father, in this place," ' Khety recited, and he smiled. 'The god is everywhere with us.'
'Except at night.'
'The god sails the darkness of the Otherworld, sir. But he always returns, reborn to a new day.'
'Speaking of which, should we not now continue to the appoint ment?' said Tjenry, amusingly bored by the spectacle of the worship.
They led, and I followed, through the crowds.
Whether or not this was the deliberate intention, I was dis orientated by the experience of the new temple and its worshippers. Yes, one hears about the new religion, and how we must now worship the sun disc, with our arms raised. Yes, one discusses its pros and cons. Yes, one has to consider one's position and one's future. For some it is a matter of life and death while for most of us it is a question of doing what is required and getting on with our lives. But now I do not know what to think. Standing in the sun has never been a wise thing to do.
We turned back out of the temple, left onto the Royal Road, and soon found ourselves outside the Great Palace. Connecting that complex to the King's House was a great covered bridge, with square archways to allow traffic to pass beneath. And in the centre, above the crowds, a large balcony.
'The Window of Appearances.'
'From where our Lord bestows gifts.' 'Have you received gifts, Khety?'
'This collar, sir. It is of fine workmanship. And the materials are excellent.'
He fingered the gold thread and azure beads. It wasn't nearly as fine as the one worn by Mahu, but nevertheless a piece of beauty and worth.
You must have done great works to deserve such a gift.' 'He's very reliable, sir,' said Tjenry, who wore no such collar.
'I am faithful,' said Khety. They glanced at each other.
'And here we are - the Great Palace,' said Tjenry expansively, as if he owned the place.
We passed through the guard gate and into a vast courtyard that spread out in the direction of the river. The sight of its flowing evening colours, and the feminine orchestra