I'd been forewarned that Aswan was going to be even quieter than Luxor, and so it was. With no especially famous or important monuments, Aswan is usually a quick stop off on the way to visit Abu Simbel around 300km to the south.
Naturally though, this is Egypt and I'm alongside the Nile so inevitably there's some
things to see. Aswan is the location of the quarry used all those years ago for the stones that built all the temples and pyramids of Egypt.
The ancients being the genius' they were, waited every year for the flooding of the Nile, where the banks would be flooded for six months of the year leaving the farmland un-farmable. The ancients used this to their advantage because it allowed them to sail further away from the river. This is how Egyptologists think they moved the great stones to the temples/pyramids.
The stone would be quarried, lowered onto a boat in the dock and sailed to the river, before being transferred onto bigger boats and sailed along the Nile to whichever temple was currently under construction.
Luckily by flashing my driving license and saying “youth” I managed to get a student ticket for the quarry, which made the price acceptable for what it is. As you can imagine it's a quarry so mostly just piles of rocks with the occasional hieroglyphics explaining who worked at the quarry and where the slaves came from. The main attraction is the “unfinished obelisk”, so named because of a crack that appeared in the process of quarrying it out, so it was left behind. The obelisk is estimated to be around 1100 tonnes! It's completely unfathomable that people who supposedly didn't have pulleys and other devices were attempting to move this. Modern day cranes can only just lift 1000 tonnes, as far as I'm aware. I calculated that it would take 1904 of the current worlds strongest man to move the obelisk.
I've raised this with a few people and guides and everyone says they had slaves from all over Africa and they would've chosen the strongest ones. OK, fair enough, but I can't imagine that even the strongest slaves were anywhere near as strong as the current world's strongest man. With all the sports science and diet that goes into weight lifting, it beggars belief. These people were slaves after all so their diet wouldn't have consisted of much sustenance. I really can't understand why people are so quick to defend the orthodox thinking when it clearly doesn't always make sense.
The other attractions in Aswan are the Nubian museum, which is the only place to learn of Nubian culture since the Egyptian government flooded their ancestral home land when they made lake Nasser. I didn't visit as just like the Luxor museum it had weird opening times that didn't suit my daily plan.
A little further outside of Aswan is the Philae Temple, which is the work of all the ancient civilisations which called Egypt their territory in antiquity. It's located on an island in the Nile, despite wanting to visit I was met at the ferry port by a set of arseholes (excuse my French). Being a backpacker obviously I'm always trying to save as many dollars as possible. So when I was told the price for a boat to take me to the temple, wait and then bring me back was E£100 I looked to other tourists to share their boat. The boat owners point blank refused to let me share a boat to keep the price down and insisted that because I was alone I would have to pay alone.
So after some verbals being exchanged I got my temple ticket refunded and didn't visit.
Perhaps I'm too principled with these things....but fuck those guys.
I'd booked a bus ticket for the following day to take me to Abu Simbel through my hotel for E£150.
Abu Simbel is roughly 35km away from the border with Sudan, there's not too much going on down there except the temple. The temple itself had to be rescued by UNESCO when the decision was made to build the Aswan dam and create lake Nasser, which flooded the whole area where the temple was. Believe it or not the government was happy to leave the temple flooded never to be seen again! A crime against humanity if ever there was one.
When you round the corner and first lay eyes on the temple it's quite a mind-blowing sight. Huge statues around 20M high of Ramses II, four to be exact but ones head's missing. One of the most recently discovered monuments of ancient Egypt it was buried in sand, with only one head and the top of another visible when it was found. It took around 10 years for someone to finally clear enough sand to enter the temple.
It was built near the border of the Egyptian empire as a reminder of strength and wealth to any travellers passing into their territory. Just imagine riding a camel through the desert in a time when stone buildings would've been relatively rare, especially ones with great statues on guard. It's quite overwhelming now, so it must've been extraordinary to the people of that time.
The following night I made the 14 hour train journey north, back to Cairo. Again sat next to an old Arab man who's phone was ringing off the hook! I don't know who's calling these old people in Egypt, but they're obviously popular.
I arrived in Cairo in the morning and hung out all day before getting the bus to Dahab in the Sinai region, famous for it's diving and laid back vibes.
Despite the warning on the UK government website against all but essential travel to the Sinai region, I'd met a handful of travellers in Egypt all heading to Dahab so it seemed like the place to be!
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