18.08.2011 - 20.08.2011 40 °C
After the heat of Sudan and the Nubian desert, a hotel with aircon was just what everybody needed. Aswan is a lovely city with a friendly, laidback feel. Our hotel has a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool overlooking the Nile and large sand dunes on the far bank. Because it's Ramadan, in the evening there are colourful lights everywhere and minarets from the many mosques are lit up.
Yesterday evening we visited a Nubian village, on the banks of the river, and had dinner in a traditional house. To get there, we took a boat up the Nile, stopping off on the way at a beach. Here we had a chance to swim and enjoy the sunset, casting shadows on the towering dunes.
In the village we walked past the market, encountered a few camels and were shown to a house, made to feel welcome and offered hibiscus tea.
View from the rooftop, where the family sleeps when it is hot in the summer. The row of lights on the horizon is the old Aswan low dam (not the high one - the other one).
Dinner was excellent and we stayed for a while afterwards, talking with the locals.
There were also a few pet crocs. Matt said he'd buy me a beer if I touched one of their tails... As I was looking at them, one lunged out of the water and snapped with such alarming speed, there was no way I was going anywhere near it!
On the boat back to the city, we sat on the roof watching the stars - a great end to a great evening.
This morning we got up extremely early and left (at 4am) to visit Abu Simbel. There is a compulsory police escort to get down here as the area is politically very sensitive - disputed border territory with Sudan and, of course, Lake Nasser itself: formed by the building of the dam in Aswan, to the anger of the Sudanese.
Abu Simbel is only 50ks from Wadi Halfa, where we caught the ferry from in Sudan. It seemed rather ridiculous for us to have to double back on ourselves so far. There is a perfect tar sealed road between the two places, but the border is closed, so we had to go up to come back down. Still, the ferry was good fun - plus we got to see Abu Simbel from the water, lit up at night, when the ferry sailed past, which was impressive and something not many tourists get to see.
The temple is stunning. Built by Pharaoh Rameses II over 3400 years ago, the scale is mind blowing. It was all carved, by hand, out of one enormous lump of rock, with statues and many different rooms all encorporated inside. What's equally as impressive is that the entire temple was taken apart, moved up the mountain and reassembled in 1968 because the creation of Lake Nasser would have submerged it.
You're not allowed to take photos inside, but in the entrance hallway there are eight giant carvings of Rameses, showing him in the form of different gods, hyrogliphics and floor-to-ceiling carvings showing the Pharaoh's great accomplishments. It's so well preserved, and so intricately detailed - simply incredible. The elaborate interior was almost too much to take in; one of the most extraordinary places I've ever been. Rameses wanted to make himself into a god; from the way this place was constructed, his people must have been convinced.
The following (interior) photos are from Google Images - they don't really do it justice, but are just to give a bit of an idea:
Very nearby there is a smaller temple, dedicated to the Pharaoh's wife, Nefertari.
Lake Nasser, across which we sailed only a few days ago.
The truck arrived today, after a couple of days in customs. Tomorrow we will pack all of our stuff up and take a three day sailing felucca trip down the Nile to Luxor. Should be great fun.