Out and about in Aswan

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January 23rd 2013
Published: January 26th 2013
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Ahmed joined us again this morning when we met Hussein to arrange the transfer of our luggage to the Mövenpick Hotel on Elephantine Island and advise us that our Cairo hotel has been changed from the Hilton in the city to Le Meridien Pyramids out at Giza. Even before we left Australia we thought that this could happen because the Hilton is very close to Tahrir Square. After seeing just how close the Hilton was to the buildings that were damaged in the revolution of 25 January 2011 when we visited the Egyptian Museum, we thought it even more likely that we might be relocated to the hotel at Giza when we returned to Cairo. Of course our return to Cairo coincides exactly with the second anniversary of the uprising against President Mubarak.

With our bags offloaded to a motor boat to take them across to the island we were taken by minibus to the Aswan Dam. We drove across the old dam wall before driving on to the Aswan High Dam where no zoom photos are allowed. You are allowed to take photos with small cameras, but you are not allowed to take photos with SLR cameras or film with video cameras. The Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s to provide irrigation and electricity for all of Egypt. Considering the critical importance of the dam it's actually surprising that they allow tourists to see as much as they do.

After our quick visit to see this modern engineering marvel, we were taken by boat to yet another ancient engineering marvel; the Temple of Isis. This is another temple that wasn't so much saved from Lake Nasser as rescued. The Temple of Isis was situated between the two dam walls and it was actually flooded when the old dam was built and it wasn't rescued from the waters until after the second dam was built. Today the temple sits atop Philae Island a couple of hundred metres from its original location.

This temple was very badly defaced by the Coptic Christians and then damaged further by being submerged so, while it is yet another impressive ancient monument, we felt that it wasn't as awe inspiring as others we have seen. Or, perhaps, we are just getting a bit jaded from the sheer number of ancient Egyptian monuments that we have visited??

On our way back from the island we were again amused to see a boat full of tourists wearing life jackets. This group took their felucca cruise yesterday afternoon all kitted out in their orange life jackets and they had them on again for their motor boat transfer to Philae Island. We were very blasé about the whole life jacket thing and inclined to think that we could survive our boat sinking or capsizing, but fearful that we might die a week later from some dreadful water-borne disease if we did end up in the Nile.

From the temple we were taken to a perfumery where they introduced us to the pure essential oils that form the ingredients of many of the perfumes that we pay extraordinary amounts for ... after they have been diluted with alcohol. Bernie was very excited by this visit ... not! We also had some medicinal oils demonstrated. A few drops of mint oil in a cup of hot water certainly cleared everyone's sinuses.

Next we were all treated to a short aromatherapy massage which was lovely, but over all too soon. Then, of course, we were encouraged to make our purchases. We decided on some mint and some bergamot oil. I didn't think their 'L'Air du Temp' really smelt like what I wear, but Meredith was very taken with the 'Light Blue' essential oil so purchased some of that to take home.

As a coach load of tourists descended on the perfumery, Hussein whisked us off to the granite quarry that was the source of the pink granite that the ancient Egyptians used for many of their monuments. The quarry is the site of the Unfinished Obelisk which would have been the largest obelisk ever crafted, but the rock was flawed and it cracked. They tried to re-craft the piece into a smaller obelisk, but it cracked again and that section of rock was abandoned.

Our next excursion in Aswan was by motor boat to a Nubian Village. Our journey was along one of the Nile cataracts filled with rocky outcrops. The currents and eddies caused by the rocky outcrops were quite visible. The buildings in the village were very traditional and yet they were connected to electricity ... and most of them had satellite dishes on the roof. The Nubian language is a spoken language only, but most learn arabic as well. We visited a traditional Nubian home where our host spoke some English too. We drank mint tea with our host (Bernie had a Coke from the fridge!) before he took us upstairs to see the rest of the home which included a concrete tank of crocodiles!!

Hussein escorted us back to the Mövenpick Hotel and finalised out check-in before bidding us farewell since Ahmed will see to our transfer to the airport tomorrow morning. We had a (very) late lunch at the pool bar and then relaxed in our spacious and sumptuous rooms for a while. Meredith called us across to their room because there were people marching along the main street running along the Nile. Meredith and Alex had a city view, while we had a Kitchener Island view. Initially we thought that this could be a protest in the lead up to the second anniversary of the revolution, but then we decided that it might just be the celebrations for Mohammed's birthday.

And then it was time for high tea up in the restaurant/bar on the 13th floor. Because the sun sets so early we were able to watch the sun set while we had our afternoon tea. The staff in the bar confirmed that the street march was indeed a celebration for the prophet's birthday that would conclude in the square adjacent to the mosque where there would be lots of food stalls set up.

Steps for the day: 12,723 (8.68 kms)

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


14th February 2013

Photo is awesome
The 2nd to last photo of the boats on Nile with hotel in background is great! I believe that is the Hotel used in the Agatha Christie murder mystery movie "Death On The Nile". Great movie with an all star cast. I loved Egypt! Been there a couple times and cant wait to go back. I missed the Tomb Of The Queens :( Thanks for the fun blog.

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