“There is no hassle in my castle!” Oh, and a little temple in Abu Simbel… =)
Tuesday, May 4th 2010: Abu Simbel, Aswan & Edfu, Egypt
Our 2:30 wake-up call felt like it came as soon as my head touched the pillow and everyone snoozed on the way to the airport. I wasn’t looking forward to having to fly again quite so soon, but the flight was quick and before I knew it we were making our way into the grounds outside the temple. It was just dawn when we arrived and the grogginess of sleeping most of the way there wore off once we rounded the corner at the top of a hill and the temples came into sight. It was a magnificent scene in the early morning light. The Temple of Ramses was close on the left, and next to it was the smaller temple he built as a wedding gift to his Nubian wife, Nefertari. We had a short history lesson from Sherif, and then he let us go as the sun began to rise. The weather was cool with a light breeze, the birds in the surrounding trees were definitely awake and chirping and Lake Nassar lit up as the sun came up over the horizon.
Time for the temples. Photography was not allowed inside, so there was a lot of snapping right outside the doors. The massive temple was in relatively good shape, considering it was excavated and moved to avoid being lost to a rising lake. The constant chatter and bustling of tourists was somewhat drowned out by the surprising number of small birds that were all around, and the temple itself seemed to be at peace with the three sitting pharaohs, unmoving and over looking the lake. Even though the fourth pharaoh was broken, the head sat on the ground at its feet, so there was still some sense of ‘wholeness’ and ‘completion’ in my mind. Inside there were, of course, your handful of rule breakers who were taking pictures, while trying to avoid the guard who was walking around. Each temple was dimly lit, lined with wooden floors put down to accommodate high traffic, had several rooms off to the right side and were text-book-perfect with carvings, drawings and paintings on every wall and column from floor to ceiling, and even on the ceiling in some parts.
On the way out, we made our way through the small marketplace and, as usual, were bombarded with numerous offers and sales pitches. After our flight back, and two small boxes of pineapple juice later, our next stop was the High Dam. We were able to appreciate a little more just how much life here depends on this river, from water for agriculture to hydroelectricity to regulating annual flooding. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a Nile croc or two at some point, but I suppose the Dam was the wrong place for that since there was a good bit of human activity. We stopped for a photo-op at a five pillared structure that was a gift from Russia, and unfortunately, at this point my 2:30am wake-up call started catching up with me so I missed the story behind it. But standing in the middle of the building and looking up made for some cool pictures…
This was the first day that I really noticed the temperature difference between Aswan and Cairo. By late morning into early afternoon, the merciless sun beat down on us as we walked into the rock quarry to see the Unfinished Obelisk. I lingered to the left of the group, eager to get to climbing over the quarry to get to the shade of yet another small marketplace on the other side. Sherif quickly explained the process of obtaining granite, and how relatively easy and inexpensive it is to get here (mental note #256: give him a holler if I ever decide to get granite counter tops in my future home). After we agreed to meeting at the book shop at the quarry exit, I was the first to quickly traverse the climb over rocks and steps and make it down to the corridor of shops, with Australian Peter right behind me. Funny how these tenacious vendors would almost sing to us ‘There is no hassle, in my castle…!’ but would still be in your face with supposedly the best deal ever. A shopkeeper was rather persistent with his offering of camels to Peter for me in return, but Pete was nice enough to not sell me. Thanks! A little further down, I struck a bargain with two merchants and was able to whittle down the price of a belly dancing skirt from 280E₤ to 30E₤. That would be from almost USD $60 down to a mere $6! I was pretty pleased – I had my skirt for the costume party that night, we all met up at the book shop and it was time to head back to the boat for some easy afternoon cruising up the river to Edfu. In case I didn’t make it plainly clear before, I loved the cruising. 🙂
After a quick lunch and some re-coop time, we were almost at Kom Ombo where we would stop to see the famous crocodile temple. The late afternoon weather was even more unforgiving than earlier. We walked and listened as Sherif, dressed in UF Gator gear for the occasion, spoke about different Gods, the increased use of colour in the column and wall paintings and the use of 3D effects in various carvings. The heat was getting the better of us though. It actually wasn’t unbearable, but having been up so early, and getting in a full day of activities, it was that much harder to bear the temperature. We had the rest of the time to roam freely and some went to the nearby market, but I opted for a cold drink with some of the guys. Funny how I’m from Jamaica, so people almost always expect that I’ve already smoked something or anything, but in truth and fact it took travelling clean across the world for me to have my first smoke. No trip to Egypt would have been complete with out trying the sheesha that was everywhere for a ridiculously cheap price right? I don’t think I’ll be able to get a pipe for USD $3 here at Off The Hookah. Heading back, we passed through a small farm that was also a sort of petting zoo, and walked by some fields where the farmers were tending to livestock. It had cooled down just a little, and we made it back to the boat in time to sit on the top deck and watch the sunset.
We had our ‘Galabiya Party’ later that night after dinner. All the gentlemen were dressed in traditional robes, and the ladies in belly dancing skirts. There was music and dancing with the ship crew and several Stellas (beer) later, I was more than exhausted. The ‘party’ moved up to the top deck, and ended with chatting and drinks. We were docked in Edfu overnight, and our next morning wake-up call would be for the Temple of Horus.