Published: July 11th 2007July 11th 2007
The overnight train wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Egypt doesn’t have sleepers only reclining seats, I was comfortable enough though to sleep almost the entire way. Arriving in Aswan was akin in one way to Jaisalmere, stepping off the train to be assaulted by a solid wall of 48' C heat, after the first natural attack I waited for the inevitable touts….. But they failed to materialise, I was instead offered greetings from proud and friendly strangers of "Welcome to Aswan" or "Welcome to Egypt" coupled with sincere smiles and nods. After making my way to my hostel, with heightened spirits from the local hospitality, and the unraveling of the ever familiar routine of storing my gear, I headed down to the magical Nile River to take a felucca down to a traditional Nubian village. This was a truly beautiful and amazing sailing trip. It is understandable that all the great cities revolve around a fundamental water source, but I have never seen something as absolutely extreme as this; the intenseness of the fertile green crops that border the Nile river, canvassed by the seemingly infinate and absolute glowing yellow Sahara ultimately framed by the deep blues of the
life giving Nile river is an amazing sight.
When the boat stopped at the Nubian Village, I felt again that I had an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, swimming in the famous Nile River. So I spent the best part of the day wandering the village and intermittently ducking back to the river for a surprisingly fresh swim. As the sun was going down I sailed back down the Nile to Aswan city for some dinner, where I fell in love with a little thing called "Sharworma". Egyptian pita, wrapped around the most succulently spiced strips of lamb, drowning in garlic sauces with peppers and tomatoes! All for 85 c from the street vendor on the side of the road, after my sharworma O.K two, alright three. I headed back to get some sleep as I was getting up at three am for a long anticipated trip to the temple of Ramses the Great at Abu Simbel.
So I was up at 3:00 am to join the military motorcade that was heading to Abu Simbel. It was a three hour bus ride, to within 50 km of the Egyptian and Sudanese border; somewhat of a volatile region
it has been made illegal to travel without a military escort, hence the early morning start.
Abu Simbel is a set of two phenomenal temples constructed for the pharaoh Ramses II, or Ramsesses the great who reigned for 67 years during the 13th century BC. The Great Temple is dedicated to Ramses II and a statue of him is seated with three other gods within the innermost sanctuary of the rock-cut temple .The temple's facade is dominated by four enormous seated statues of the Pharaoh, each over 20 meters or 67 feet high), although one has been damaged since ancient times it is still an awe inspiring sight.
This temple was especially poignant for me, as some of the little work that I did at uni was deliberately focused on Ramses the Great and his famous conquering of the Assyrian Hittites (modern day Iraq). He erected The Temple of Abu Simbel shortly after his victory and sprawled the insides with the somewhat familiar and intricate reliefs from the pinnacle battle of Kadesh.
Standing next to the monolith of Ramses the Great, was defiantly one the most amazing moments of my travels so far. The mere existence in
the 21st centaury AD of his great colossi is a testament to the strength not only of his architecture but also his belief system. I wish I could have stayed longer, but it is something I will absolutely never forget. After returning to Aswan I spent the rest of the day relaxing sharworma in hand, as I'm up early again tomorrow heading for Luxor.
There are more photos below