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Published: October 23rd 2019
View from the balcony.
Our day started with a daytime view from our balcony. Although we were not able to visit the cliff tombs, it's one of the attractions that I most look forward to the next time I'm lucky enough to visit Aswan. I have heard excellent reviews about the lovely every day life decorations in a couple of the tombs.
The hotel, just like the Marriott before it, had an extensive breakfast buffet that was served on a delightful terrace with a view of the Nile. The new wing of the resort where we were staying was not too large, and I liked the airy openness of the lobby that all rooms opened to.
After breakfast, we boarded the cute ferry that ran constantly between the island and the mainland, for our ride to the airport and early morning flight to Abu Sinbel, the second of the anticipated monuments on this trip.
The trip to Abu Sinbel can be completed by vehicle or flight. I was happy not to spend the amount of time on the road it would require getting there, but that was silly. The amount of time we spent at the airport, going and coming back, must
have either equal or surpassed the amount of time spent driving. Another advantage I can think of would be the extra flexibility of a vehicle, rather than having to be restricted on time by flight schedules. I certainly wish I had more times at the temples.
The airports in Egypt subscribe to the same system I saw in India and Nepal. In other words, you go through security twice. The first one is the most lenient and the second, before getting to the gate area, is the more strict. For example, you may allow to have water on the first one, but never on the second one. In this particular airport, both security areas were ridiculously close, but they took their jobs extremely serious. Here, like in all the other airports, not only did we go through the scanner, but also got padded down once we went across. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
The flight is not long and the temples are faintly visible from the air during approach. The drive from the airport to the site is also quick. There is a large parking area, and the walk to the temples goes through a small market,
a visitors center, etc., and then the approach to the temples is from the back so that you see the smaller Nefertari Temple first, and then turn a corner and come face to face with the Ramses II Temple. Oh, my!
Like the great pyramid, I was very familiar with the look and, I believed, size of the temples. But to stand there and look at the perfection of those statues, the amazing scope of carving those masterpieces, and all the details around them is astonishing.
I was also surprised by the interior size of the temples. I believed, erroneously, that there was a long corridor ending on the magical spot with the four statues that see the rays of the sun twice a year, the holy of hollies. Not so much. The inside of the temple is ample, with several rooms and a hypostyle hall with enormous pillars and statues, and every wall and column is covered in carved images and hieroglyphics. I was overwhelmed. There wasn't enough time to appreciate it. Not for me. I know most of the people in my group were happy and satisfied, but I could have spent days inside that temple,
looking and admiring every single scene.
It is very hot inside the temples, and it was very crowded. I assume most people had also arrived on the same flight and were also departing on our schedule so, like in other sites, it seemed there was a tide and ebb of people all on the same schedule. Frustrating! But probably another rush of people would soon arrive on the next flight.
After our landing back in Aswan and on the way back to the resort, we took a short detour to have a look at the High Dam. It took almost as long to get through security as the time we actually spent at the site. It is very impressive.
Fortunately, I didn't have time to pout for long about leaving Abu Sinbel too quickly. There was a delightful excursion that afternoon that I was very much looking forward to. A late afternoon sail on the Nile on a felucca, the traditional Egyptian sail boat.
We sailed for about an hour along the east side of Elephantine Island, ending at the end where an ancient temple to Khnum is located.
There are some ruins on Elephantine
Abu Sinbel from the air.
Island, and the rocks along the shores are spattered with cartouches. There is also a small, modern Nubian village, and even a mosque close enough that we could hear the call to prayer from certain areas of the hotel. I was sorry I didn't have more time to explore more of the island, so seeing it from the water was a welcome alternative.
The most interesting site was an ancient Nilometer which was used to measure the annual floods of the Nile. An staircase led down to the river. When the river flooded, water rushed into the passageway. There were scales built or carved into the walls. If the water level indicated a strong harvest, the taxes would be higher.
The sail was relaxing, but we had to return before the sun set. Because of the heavy traffic of Nile Cruise ships in that area, the small sailboats are not allowed to be on the water after dark, but it was still very pretty and tranquil.
During the sail we found out what some enterprising children do during the time they are not in school. On small paddleboards, they rushed the boats passing by and, holding on
Driving to the site
to the sides of the boats, they most vigorously sang every song they could think of in both English and French in the hope of receiving baksheesh for their efforts. Our tour director wouldn't allow us to tip them. He said he wanted them to stay in school. I felt bad, although I could see his point.
But the evening was not over yet. Our tour director, Amr Hassan, guided all of us who were interested to the Souk, or market, that evening to buy spices and souvenirs. Oh, my gosh! If I hadn't had the one suitcase I would have walked out of there loaded down with bags of spices. It was very amazing. I did buy some saffron, and also the fresh Egyptian Mint tea that I had enjoyed. We were offered a few items to taste. The peanuts were goods, and the figs were amazing and different from what I'm familiar with. The whole market was very lively but I didn't really explore a lot, just contenting myself with a passing look as we walked to and from the spice shops area.
Another successful day had come to an end, and it was time to
View of Lake Nasser
start looking forward to the next day's adventures i.e. a boat trip to Gharb Sohail, the Nubian Village, and a visit to the Philae Temple of Isis.
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