17 – Abu Simbel and then beyond…
13th Dec, 1900hrs, Nubian Oasis Hotel, Aswan
Again, no photos for this post yet. I am not on wifi instead am in the hotel lobby using the land line. Can’t be bothered to go up and dig out the cable to transfer pic. Just had a quick dinner, liver falafel (3 EGP each). Tomorrow morning I make my way to the Aswan dam (1.5 EGP by yellow train, sets of at 8am, to As-Sad Al-Aly, which means High Dam).
Started the day at 3am for the tour pick up. For once I am going with a tour (60 EGP for transport). The ticket to Abu Simbel is another 90 EGP. But the place is 260km south and takes 20 EGP each way by public bus. Which can take 4 foreigners only, and they’ll subjected to passport checks etc. So I just topped up another 20 EGP to avoid the hassle and join the tour
I packed the hotel breakfast and off we go. 8 in the minivan. We had to travel in a police convoy, after incidents in the 90s and the recent 2005 Cairo attacks. So the trip would be around 3 hours there, 2 hours to sightsee, and 3 hours back. Trip there, I slept more than I talked, the Canadian guy had one nice quip. We were talking about ancient sites like Abu Simbel built by Ramses II when he mentioned he was in Singapore before. He asks a Singaporean local if he can see an ancient building. Fella brings him to some building that is 50 years old. Ancient indeed! =)
Reached Abu Simbel, and was greeted by the 4 giant figures of Ramses II. The temple itself was moved block by block to the current location after the High Dam was created. The dam, which eliminates the Nile’s level’s flooding unpredictability, also created the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Nasser. To prevent the ancient temples by the river from being submerged, Abu Simbel and 9 other sites were moved. The Nubian villages along the river also had to be relocated.
The sight itself was spectacular, but like I mentioned, I was having monument fatigue so I did a quick 1hr 15 min loop and returned to the minivan. Returned to the hotel, did laundry (yes I do laundry) before taking a short nap. Took a lovely junk food lunch of Egyptian sweet treats (10 EGP, quarter kilo, for a variety of sweet cakes)
Woke up and made my way to Elephantine Island by public ferry (1 EGP). Aswan is lovely. The felucca captains along the corniche, even when asking you whether you want felucca rides, are not pushy. And I had more interesting conversations and small talk with locals here than anywhere else in Egypt. Even sat down with them while they were making the felucca sail (see pic above). On Elephantine Island, walked around the southern part, in the Nubian village. I think the Nubians are friendly and were actually more interested in getting to know you than getting a buck out of you. Of course, there is the offer to show me around or ride a felucca. But after I declined the conversation can still go on.
I have some really great sunset photos of the Nile overlooking Aswan and Elephantine Island that I will post the next time I get connected. In the meantime, off to Wadi Halfa I go. Tomorrow should be interesting. I’ve met some groups going across Africa on 4×4 and will be on the boat with them.