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Published: June 29th 2011
Since Egypt was cooperating and decided to stop at toppling the government but avoid full scale civil war we left it on the itinerary. After learning a lesson from India we decided to start in the south of the country and work or way north… instead of backtracking and going north – south –north as we had originally planned.
We started our trip out deep in the south of Egypt (the upper Nile) in Aswan. Most people have never heard of Aswan but while researching the country I came upon rave review after rave review of the city. Most of the city’s fans focused on how relaxed and laid back the city was in contrast to either Luxor or Cairo, which can be a hassle as the competition for your tourist dollar there can be fierce.
We arrived at the Aswan airport after a bumpy descent and found that we were the only flight at the airport… after grabbing our bags and meeting our pre-arranged ride (great that they showed) we were off into Egypt for the first time. Shortly after leaving the airport we began driving north upon an all but deserted road and it really hit you
that you were in Egypt as there was nothing but desert and rocks as far as the eye could see, we continued on and our car made an abrupt right and we descended through a large sand dune and a village seemingly appeared out of nowhere… we continued on to our final destination, a small specialty guesthouse located on the far side of the Nile inside a Nubian village.
Aside from the famous archeological sites of Aswan, the other main point of interest came in the form of our accommodation… instead of opting to stay on the East bank of the Nile river, which is the developed side, we opted to stay at a guesthouse in a Nubian village on the West bank of the Nile. The Nubian people's history can be traced back to Egyptian antiquity as there were Nubian pharaohs that ruled over Egypt back in BC. Aswan has a large population of Nubians, who generally live on the West bank of the Nile river in villages that hug the riverbank. The Nubian population was apparently “relocated” to these areas before the dam in Aswan was built, which flooded much of their ancestral homeland… interestingly
enough, many of the archeological sites in Aswan are not in their original location as they too had to be excavated and relocated when the high dam in Aswan was built… ok back to the guesthouse.
Our time at the guesthouse was awesome and the nearly empty place (on account of revolution) was run by a bombastic Nubian named Abdullah who was a character and a half. Shortly after getting situated in our room we sat and talked politics and the revolution in his “garden” as he watered his trees and incessantly offered water, coffee and pomegranate juice. Listening to him state happily that he could finally speak out against Mubarak (or even critique him publicly without fear of possible arbitrary arrest) really resonated and made me feel that we take such things for granted in America… but to him, just to say that he didn’t like the man’s policies was a drastic change and a steadfast act of defiance and you could see the pride in his face that he could finally speak his mind… interesting to say the least. In the end he was very optimistic about the revolution and the political prospects of Egypt and I
hope he is right… but there is a lot of money, oil and political power at stake so I hate to sound like a pessimist but…
Aswan is in fact the laid back city everyone had been raving about while I was researching Egypt. We stayed on the West bank of the Nile but could take the “ferry” over to the East bank for all of 17 cents (although they routinely overcharge tourists). The city of Aswan was very low key, people tried to sell you taxi rides, and if you took a taxi somewhere… they would try to be your driver for the day as tourists were scarce but overall the vibe was very laid back and we enjoyed our time here. While in Aswan we visited Philae temple, the high dam, unfinished obelisk, the Nubian museum and took a felluca ride (traditional wind powered sail boat) which was a highlight of the trip… Venny was also pickpocketed, but she felt the little bugger snatch her money (you shoulda seen the look on her face as she told me “He just pickpocket me!!!”) and I got it back (see page #4 of husband contract).
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