Published: December 15th 2006December 10th 2006
We were quite bummed to leave Luxor, particularly as we had to leave it at 6am. However, our destination held the promise of amazing temples and the start of our felucca ride so we were happy to be up at such a delightfully early hour. The reason for this departure time is that everyone has to travel in a convoy of buses. I don't understand the point as it is meant to be for our safety but what better to target than 20 bus loads of tourists with only one police car to protect them. Not that we had to worry about that for long as most of the bus drivers assumed that 'convoy' meant 'race' and soon sped off at various rates. By the time we were out of Luxor we were well and truly the only vehicle in sight.
The drive to Aswan gave us our first view of the blue waters of the Nile. Up until this point it had been a dirty brown colour that you find with many rivers that run through major cities. Add to that the palm trees that lined it and I found myself getting quite excited about the next few days.
But before the felucca ride, we had a few temples to visit.
The first stop on our travels (after visiting the temple of koshary - takeaway rice and beans dish), was Philae Temple. Philae Temple is located on an island in the Nile and is dedicated to the goddess Isis. It is an amazingly preserved temple, partially due to UNESCO efforts during the construction of the Aswan dam. It was also quite interesting to see the Coptic art on the walls. During persecution, Christians often hid in the disused temples. They carved crosses into the walls and sometimes destroyed the images of the Egyptians gods, usually scratching out the faces or entire bodies.
After our visit to Philae Temple, we had the option to visit a Nubian village for dinner. We decided that although we were extremely tired and still needed to get our bags organised, we would go. It was an alright dinner, even though we were freezing. We sat on the balcony of a mud brick home, had henna tattoos and ate great food. I guess the highlight for me though was seeing and holding the families pet crocodile. Such a cute little tacker!
were super tired once we got back from the dinner and this wasn't helped by the fact that we had to have all our gear packed and ready to go at 4am the next morning. I know, I know! We are meant to be on holidays! Yes, it was another ridiculous non-existant convoy. This time we were on our way to Abu Simbel. This was one of the parts of the Egypt itinerary that I was really looking forward to. You know how you read about something, see photos, documentaries etc and it gets you really excited about actually going there and seeing it? Well, that was how I was.
We boarded the bus at 4am Egyptian time (4.15am). The drive takes about three hours, most of which we slept. Once at the site, we piled out of the bus into the cold morning air. First stop - toilet. I know that I have written a lot about Egyptian toilets and it has become quite a talking point in our group. The toilets at Abu Simbel were 5 star. Out of this world. They flushed. They had (pink) toilet paper. They were clean. There was soap. I would have
I always wanted a puppy but now...
James explores the reptilian pet option
gone twice if I could. And all this for the bargain price of one Egyptian pound!
Once we passed the wonder of the Abu Simbel ablutions block, we paid for our tickets and started the walk to the temple. As you enter the area there is a large hill/mountain in front of you. As you walk around this, you see a great view of Lake Nasser. Because you are concentrating on this, the temple kind of sneaks up on you. One minute you are enjoying the view of the water and the next minute, you are gawking at the massive statues of Ramses. Awesome.
Our Egyptologist, Michael (who had an unfortunate habit of talking in a monotone) spoke about both the temple of Ramses and the smaller one of his wife Nefetari. There were lots of interesting facts included in his lectures, such as the reason for baboons in many of the carvings throughout Egypt (at Abu Simbel there is a long line of them atop the temple). The ancient Egyptians noted that when the sun rose in the morning, baboons would often put their hands over their eyes. They interpreted this as a kind of worship of
the sun god, Ra. Scientists now know that baboons can't stand the bright light.
After his explanation of the various features, we were allowed to wander through the temples. Unfortunately, like the Valley of the Kings, we were not allowed to take photos inside. This is to preserve the artwork, I guess, but it did not stop one idiot scratching a handful of sandstone off the wall and into his pocket. Seriously!
I'm sure there is much more I can write about this fantastic place but I am running out of time and energy. Will hopefully update when more inspiration strikes...
There are more photos below