Aswan is just beautiful. The difference between here and Cairo is palpable: fewer cars, swaying palms, and our hotel is right on the banks of the Nile. It is also a lot hotter. Cairo was chilly most of the day, but Aswan is proper desert heat!
The pace has been much more relaxing here. After a dip in the pool to shake off the train dust, we headed to the most romantic temple in Egypt, called Philae. It is situated on an island in Lake Nasser (it had to be moved after the dam flooded its original location) and is dedicated to the goddess of love and beauty – Isis. Wali, our guide, used the group members as actors to explain the relationship between the Egyptian gods. Lofty ended up as Horus – pictured in this temple as a big baby! Hehe. We had a couple of hours to explore the stunning temple, which felt really unique owing to its island setting. We also had the place pretty much to ourselves. Lack of tourism has really hit Egypt and its people hard, but for us it allows an unexpected peace amongst the normally bustling temples.
A quick stroll through Aswan markets had us haggling for scarves and saffron, giving a few egyptian pounds to a persistent-but-charming Del Boy named Mohammed, but it was early to bed as we had a three am start to Abu Simbel. Where Philae was romantic and peaceful, Abu Simbel is majestic and awe-inspiring. In fact, as you come around the corner, the first temple you see is the temple dedicated to Ramses II’s wife, Nefeteri. There were many oohs and ahhs – until Ramses II himself’s temple came into view and all jaws dropped!
The story of how they moved Abu Simbel is really fascinating, although a few people questioned why it the dam was built with such little regard for the safety or preservation of such ancient wonders. But modern life must go on – and without the high dam modern life in Egypt would be nigh on impossible. And so it was up to Unesco and the Egyptian people to ensure the temple could be restored in a different location.
We stopped off at the dam on the way home and after a chilled afternoon, we boarded a boat to a Nubian village, where we treated to a tour of a home – including their feisty pet crocs- and yummy traditional food.
Tomorrow we are spending all day aboard a felucca, so more relaxation in store! It’s a hard Egyptian life…