Saturday, August 11, 2012
Aswan, Thursday, August 9, 2012
We arrived into Aswan station at 10am. As the train drew into the station, I saw another Memphis tour leader waiting for us. He introduced himself as Mustafa (Musti for short) and the driver as Etch (for short). They quickly loaded our luggage into the van, stopped off at one of Aswan’s best restaurants where they picked up boxed lunches of grilled chicken or beef, rice, buns and fries then we went to a parking lot to join the convoy going to Abu Simbel temple.
We met up with our tour guide for the upper Egypt part of the trip, Sayed. Sayed is a handsome, friendly father of a three year old girl, who he adores. I find the Egyptians that I have met very family oriented. They also take care of their parents. Usually when the parents get too old to live on their own, they move in with their kids.
Aswan is smaller than Cairo and much cleaner. There are less people to watch. Driving is also a lot less hectic here than in Cairo. There is more of an African feel to Aswan.
Armed soldiers joined our convoy of four vans heading to Ramses II’s famous temple. Soon after exiting Aswan, we were surrounded by desert and not much else. We continued to experience the mirage illusion. It seemed so real.
Sayed said that Abu Simbel will be the hottest part of our tour, well over 50 degrees…and I’m talking Fahrenheit, not Celsius.
It was already over 45 degrees C outside. Sayed had us touch our windows. Yikes, they were practically boiling hot. Thank goodness for air conditioned vans and window drapes.
With the drive to Abu Simbel being three hours each way, and just plain desert in between, we slept.
The blistering sun shone on us as we went down the path to Ramses’ temple…the one carved out of the mountainside flanked by four humungous statues of Ramses. It literally took my breath away.
We practically had the site to ourselves. Sayed explained to us about the temples, outside in a shady area and we went in on our own because guides cannot go into the temple….that rule was made to keep the crowd control down.
The guards had a huge gold Ankh key in the door of the temple. Inside was so much cooler than outside. As soon as you enter the temple, you are flanked by four huge statues of Ramses in the form of Osiris.
UNESCO saved this temple when they built the Aswan dam which flooded Nubia and created the worlds largest man made lake (200 metres deep). Block by block, they moved it up a bit to its present location. When it was first created, in Ramses time, the sun would reach the inner sanctuary twice a year on October 20th and ?. Now with the temple’s move, the sun reaches the sanctuary on the 22nd.
Cameron and Graham were thrilled to find bats in one of the back rooms, hanging upside down on the ceiling... The bats were hanging upside down, not Cameron and Graham. Don’t worry, we weren’t bit or scratched by the bats.
After Ramses’ temple, we walked to the one for his favourite wife, Nefretari. This one also had a golden key. The front of it had four large statues of Ramses and two of Nefretari. Inside were numerous clear carvings and hieroglyphics in the numerous rooms. There was one of Osiris with a particularly prominent member sticking out. Apparently, women would touch that part of the picture for help with fertility.
Because Sayed was fasting and couldn’t drink anything, this particular excursion was extra hard for him.
Since there was only our van going back to Aswan, (others stayed overnight), an armed police guard joined us in our van. My family all slept. When we dropped our police guard off in Aswan, he slung his semi-automatic over his shoulder like a carry-on bag.
It was dark when we arrived in Aswan and they took us to the docks and loaded our luggage onto the boat and transported us to our hotel (Movenpick) on Elephantine Island. It is too bad we didn’t have more time to enjoy the grounds in the daytime because they looked stunning. The hotel shares the island with some ruins and a Nubian museum.
Our suites were large and luxurious. The boys had their own suite with separate beds.
We opened the sliding doors of our balcony and listened to the call to prayer.
After showering (remember we could only sponge bath in the sink on our sleeper car that morning), my hubby and I went out to explore the hotel. The boys watched some North American horror flick on tv.
We ended up at the restaurant/bar of the top floor of the hotel tower. Windows surrounded the whole top floor, giving us a fabulous night time panoramic view of Aswan. Lights on our tower changed colour every few minutes just like they do at Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland.
In the bar, there was only us and a rather loud and large German man who had his bare feet up on one of the white chairs and munched from a bowl of potato chips as he talked energetically on his cell phone. From his volume, I could only assume that the person on the other end was partially deaf.
Hubby and I ordered a coke and mineral water as we sat and enjoyed the view. I was surprised to see a small lizard/gecko climbing around on the overhand of our window. I cannot imagine how it got up that high.