It’s been a bit hectic lately. Our time in Aswan seemed to have lots of spare time built in, but it all disappeared fast. We took our first trip to a souq, and it was certainly an experience not to be forgotten. The first time out we really had no idea of prices, so ended up getting gouged. It’s hard when the prices start out as less than we’d pay for something similar at home, and then you find people afterwards who paid 1/3 of what you did for the same thing. We’re starting to get a better idea of prices now, but it’s still difficult, and tiring, to go to the market.
Our time in Aswan also included visits to API Call ErrorPhilae Temple, the API Call ErrorHigh Dam and a long drive out to visit API Call ErrorAbu Simbel.
Abu Simbel in particular is an amazing site. Two huge temples – one for Ramses II and one for his major wife API Call ErrorNefertari (he had 24 wives and 198 children) – that were originally cut into the cliffs above the Nile, but had to be moved to higher ground – by precision cutting the entire cliff and moving it into an artificial mountain above its original location – after the high dam was built at Aswan. The downside to visiting this site was that to get there we had to go with a police convoy that left at 4:30am, the result of which is that the entire day’s worth of visitors – at least 1000 people, we’d estimate – visits in the same 2 hour window, making it a very crowded site.
The high dam was also interesting, but more API Call Errorin theory than actually seeing it. It’s massive – 110 metres tall, and almost a kilometer thick at its base, it was built to stop the Nile floods and create more predictable growing conditions down river. The actual site is not so impressive, since it looks essentially like a really big, man made hill. All the water flow is through underground tunnels, and it doesn’t have the dramatic cliff appearance of dams like the Hoover Dam.
On our last day in Aswan, we visited some much less touristed sites around Aswan – API Call ErrorKitchener Island and API Call ErrorElephantine Island. Kitchener Island is a botanical garden, more of interest to Kathy than to me, but it was relaxing we got to lay with some stray cats, and heard some rather unique bird calls…kind of a gargling sound. (Recording not great, but you can hear the call at about the middle of it.)
Elephantine Island, while not as impressive as many of the ancient sites here, I found it to be the most interesting. The temples there only have bits and pieces left, and have been largely reconstructed, but what was really amazing was the town that they’re excavating. It’s only walls and stairways, but a walk around it is quite incredible, and a kept trying to picture what it might have looked like when it was in use. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really enough left to be able to get any clear picture.
We then left Aswan by API Call Errorfelucca. The felucca trip was one of those wonderful moments in Egyptian organization. Everyone involved gets told different things. For instance, New Zealanders Marcus and Amanda had been told to be there by 11:30am, as the boat would leave before noon. Ourselves and Adrian and Barb, also from New Zealand, were doing the morning island tour together, and had been told we were expected between 12:30 and 1. The last member of our group, David from Australia, had gone to Abu Simbel that morning and didn’t show up until quarter to two.
The actual saling part of the trip was kind of fun, despite Kathy having some misgivings about the boat constantly leaning to one side. Sanitation was a bit iffy though, since, while bottled water was used for cooking, dishes were washed by leaning over the side of the boat. I didn’t suffer any ill effects from this, but Kathy hasn’t been feeling that well lately, and we’re not sure if that might be a contributing factor to it.
We had to pass API Call Errorunder one bridge on our way north. We figured it would be easy as we’d just watched a large cruise shit go underneath with no trouble. Turns out our little felucca was actually quite a bit taller than the cruise ship though, but it was fortunately a bit better design than most sailboats, as instead of having to unstep the mast, we simply took the sail down, unhooked a chain, and we were able to tilt the mast in a pivot which was about 5 or 6 metres above the deck.
Our night on the felucca wasn’t all that restful. The whole length of the Nile (well, below the dam anyway) is inhabited, so there’s a call to prayer at 8pm (Kathy says there was another around 11, but I didn’t hear it) and 4am, and in between there’s still all sorts of noises…cars and trains, and stray dogs barking like there’s no tomorrow. We got through it though, but not so well rested as we needed to be to prepare for our adventure the next day.
Once again, we fell victim to Egyptian organization. Four of the seven on our boat had only one night, and the other 3 had signed up for two nights. Being part of the one night group, we gathered up our bags and walked up to the road to meed our ride. It didn’t come. After waiting close to an hour, Marcus was getting impatient, and got our captain to hail a taxi to take us to Kom Ombo, the next site our trip was supposed to include.
It’s a good thing he did, because we ended up meeting the ride that was supposed to pick us up on it’s way out from Kom Ombo. So we missed that site, and managed to make it onto a very hot and uncomfortable van ride. Kathy and I were crammed into the front seat with the driver and stick shift, it was close to 40 degrees out, and we had our day packs on our laps, having nowhere else to put them.
Once again, we made it through the ride. We had one stop at API Call ErrorEdfu, a Greek-built temple similar to Philae, only larger, and in its original location (like Abu Simbel, Philae was flooded by the Nile dams and relocated). The long, hot taxi ride finally ended in Luxor, where we’re staying at our nicest hotel yet, with air conditioning and a swimming pool. Almost like a western hotel, except the bathroom plumbing still only half works, but at least doesn’t leak like in most places. Also, our tour contact here is really pushy and keeps trying to sell us extras – trip to Karnak sound and light show, and when we turned that down, tried to sell us a horse carriage ride (something we see everywhere, but rarely see anyone using), or maybe just accompany us shopping. The sales pitches are getting tiring and I look forward to getting to less touristed places.
Our next stop is in Dahab, on the Sinai, the one place in Egypt that I’ve heard a lot of people say they’d like to come back to, so hopefully it will be restful.
I’ve managed to upload a few pictures. They’re a bit random, as I have a lot, and it does take a while to upload. Hope you enjoy them