Aswan/Abu Simbel, Egypt

Aswan, Egypt
August 3rd 2010

Took the morning train from Luxor to Aswan. Journey was about 3 hours, after a train delay. Travelled with Shannon, an American girl I met from the West Bank tour in Luxor. Seemed like a pretty cool person. Did not have accomodation and was hoping to get a room upon arrival. Was lucky to get accomodation at first choice hostel (Keylaney). It was quite a long walk down the souk street under the hot sun and blazing Aswan temperature to get the the hostel.

(Mustafa in front of his home and place of business)

(Some kids who were curious of us tourists)

(Nubian women chatting with each other)

(Felucca on the Nile)

(A local Nubian pick-up soccer game)

Took a short ferry ride across the Nile to the Nubian Elephantine Island. Interesting to see life in a Nubian village. Everyone was greeting us and saying “Welcome to Nubia”. The Nubians like to discern themselves from Egypt I guess. Met a guy named Mustafa, who ran a hotel on that island. He invited Shannon and I in for some tea. I was hesitant but Shannon looked like she wanted to go in so I did as well. It was a nice home. He lived in one room, and any tourists wanting to stay rented the other. He also did felucca tours. As we were drinking some great tea, which helped my headache, I was getting ready for him to make a sales pitch. To my surprise, he didn’t. He was showing us pictures of the tourists he had taken in and around, their testimonies in his notebooks, his face in a Japanese magazine (some Japanese did a story on Elephantine and he was features in the story). But not once did he try to do a sales pitch. He gave us his business card, that was it. It had his name and website, tasteful and professional. I was surprised that this man knew Western business practice. He said websites were the way to go these days. I was impressed to say the least. At least this man knew how to move forward, unlike many Egyptian business owners.

(The kind man who helped us out)

We tried to find our way back to the ferry dock via a different route but got lost instead. As it was getting late, we sought the help of a man parking his felucca and he graciously helped us for no charge to cross the river. I tried offering a tip but he flat out refused. It’s always nice to find people who want to help you out just to help you out, which is quite rare in this country.

The main reason I went to Aswan was to visit Abu Simbel. I was contemplating skipping it but the Abu Simbel temple was apparently the “most striking temple” in Egypt. I was in the general area already, might as well travel another 3 hours to Aswan, and another 3 hours day-trip to Abu Simbel. Woke up at 2:45 am to get ready for the 3:30 am minivan. After meeting the rest of the convoy (yes, we had to travel with a group of other buses/minivans, and headed/backed by police cars), we journeyed 3 hours across what was mostly vast empty desert to Abu Simbel. I was stuffed into the rear corner and had trouble sleeping, unlike most of my van-mates. How do they do it…

(Abu Simbel Temple front entrance)

The temple itself was indeed pretty impressive looking. It was built into the side of a massive hill. Outside were several massive statues of the great Ramses II. Again, with no guide, hieroglyphics could only be appreciated for what they were, cool drawings. I’m sure archaelogists who knew what it all meant would appreciate it even further since they can understand the stories. The Temple of Hathor, right next to Abu Simbel temple, was also pretty “striking”. But the coolest part about the area? Lake Nasser. At least I think it was Lake Nasser. Massive body of water behind the temple, so blue and serene.

Decided to take the evening train back to Luxor, stay the night there, and leave the next evening for a long journey to Dahab (22 hour bus ride anyone? FML).