I seriously wish I had left Cairo sooner and come to Aswan. It is cleaner, not nearly as busy, you aren’t accosted as much, and it is much warmer. I have actually gotten some of my tan back and was able to wear shorts and sandals for the first time in two months.
I’ve been very busy since I arrived. After a 14-hour overnight train ride from Cairo, where I barely slept, within a few hours, I was on a bus going to see the Aswan High Dam and the Philae Temple. The dam wasn’t as impressive as I thought it would be. It is a big dam and its significance being on the Nile makes it really important, but it wasn’t much to look at. Soviet construction seldom is.
Philae Temple was very impressive, however. It was moved piece by piece in 1977-80 by UNESCO after having been flooded by the original Aswan Low Dam in 1902. Unlike the pyramids, Philae had all the trapping of what you expect from Egypt. Hieroglyphs and carvings of Pharaohs. The temple didn’t just show signs of ancient Egyptians. All of the images of humans had by carved over by Coptic Christians in the 4th century. You can still see crosses in the stone and an altar inside the temple. When Napoleon invaded, he had academics go to Philae and carve a large inscription into the wall in French. There are also tons of 19th Century British graffiti carved in everything.
Yesterday I wasn’t planning on doing anything because I was still tired from the train ride and had to wake up extremely early the next day to go to Abu Simbel. I ended up with an offer for a free felucca trip on the Nile, so I grabbed my camera and went. There was no wind, so we took forever to cross the river. I took the opportunity to take the zip-off legs off my pants and get some sun. I got the explore the very crowded botanical garden for about 30 min before we switched boats and went to Elephantine Island. Unfortunately, it took so long to cross the river, by the time we got there it was closed. Oh well, you get what you pay for.
This morning I woke up at 2:45 am to go to Abu Simbel. It is 275km from Aswan and you have to leave with every other bus in the city in a big caravan. This is done to reduce the risk of kidnappings in the largely desolate stretch between Aswan and Abu Simbel. Arriving there in the morning was like being at the Disneyland when the gates opened. There were hundreds of people there. Like Philae, Abu Simbel was moved from its previous location because it would have been flooded by the waters of Lake Nassar.
Between everything, I saw I probably took close to 400 photos. It is going to take a while to get through everything.
Tomorrow I’m taking a cruise aboard a ship from Aswan to Luxor, with stops at several temples along the way. From everything everyone has told me, the temples at Luxor are really the best in Egypt. I will need to set aside some time after Luxor to go through my photos. I’ll have a lot and I don’t want to get too far behind. Because of the quality of the internet connection in Aswan, I did manage to upload all my photos from the Gulf, so I got that going for me.
6 thoughts on “Aswan”
I have not had the opportunity to go to Egypt. I am eager to understand and put my spin on the firsthand story and the comments. From the comments and your story, did you see anything happen, heard any stories while there, or yes feel threatened?
Considering Gary's posts are often his first impression and that there nothing wrong with first impressions, negative or positive, I think it's a bit rude to make an equally long post to complain. Seriously…
Anyways…. Gary, have you felt threatened at all while on the buses through those desolate areas? I just wonder about that since all that kidnapping of tourists in the news.
I am just stating a point. To learn about a country or an area, time needs to be spent in that area to figure out the dynamics.
The first impression to the Pyramids can be harsh, but that first, fast, visit does not tell the story.
You know you've made it to the big time when you have hecklers in the comments
Gary, your information is incorrect, a person does not have to get up at 2:45 in the morning to visit Abu Simbel.
I took the bus with Upper Egypt bus company at 11:00 AM, arrived around 1 PM at Abu Simbel, I checked into the hotel for two nights, I visited the temple when nobody was there and got pictures from inside the temple. I visit the town for a day in a half.
When I departed at 6 AM I took a microbus filled with locals back to Aswan.
They are playing a good game with you. If you would have the guide book you would have known how to visit Abu Simbel, including the Pyramids.
The problem is that your readers will have a certain perception about these places because they feel you know what you're talking about, which sometimes you don't.
The trick is to figure out the body language of the Egyptians, and their demeanor to detect if they are pulling your leg.
By the way your big article that you might write about the Pyramids will be related to your perception. Just wondering how many locals have you spoken about concerning the trash problem? Do you know anything about the garbage removal in Egypt? Have you observed how poor they are in Egypt? You really did not tell us how you went about it, did a taxi drive you in? Or, did you get scammed from the stables. I mean, I know you did not get there from the subway and microbus it out to Giza because you said the Internet showed the line didn't go out to Giza, well the guide book shows the route? I think you should visit Giza two more times before writing any big article.
You should ask someone how much money does a school teacher make in a month. The answers you get should explain why many locals are desperate for money from the tourists.
Although if the long term traveler can figure out the game and play it correctly, then Egypt can be a wonderful place. After five months of traveling Egypt I was very satisfied, and left with a strong love/hate relationship with Egypt.
Let me make something perfectly clear. My website isn't a guidebook on how to travel. It is my experiences and my thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less. I am not, nor have I, positioned this website as anything other an outlet for what I see, think and feel. This isn't a “How-To” guide to any place I visit.
When did I ever say I HAD to get up at 2:45am or that it was the only option? Go back and closely read what I wrote. I simply said I did get up at 2:45am. In addition to an early bus you can also fly (something you didn't mention) which I also chose not to do. I'm not sure a guidebook would have really helped me as I had no desire to stay in Abu Simbel for 2 days. I don't understand what you mean when you say I don't know “how to visit Abu Simbel”. How can I be wrong? I did visit Abu Simbel. I went there, I saw what I wanted to see and I went back. I even have to pictures to prove it. I mean, congrats if you did it differently, but I don't think that makes the way I and most people do it wrong or makes you better. I took the trip I wanted to take.
Of course an article I write on the pyramids is going to be my perspective. What else can it be? It's my website and I'm writing it. This isn't hard cutting professional journalism. This is a personal web log. This is nothing but my perspective. I'm sorry, but I don't have to visit the pyramids THREE times to write a God damn blog post about it. That is absurd. I'm not writing a book on the subject. I know you have been there four times (hence the number you picked was convenient) and you feel the need to pass yourself off as an expert. I went there and I'll talk about my experience. The end. People might have different experiences than I did. That's fine. Also, if I have to visit the pyramids three times, why are you able to pass judgement on how to visit Abu Simbel after one? Your yardstick seems to move to fit your experience.
Do you honestly assume I'm that ignorant that I don't get that people here are poor or that I don't know why they want to get money from tourists? Could you please cut and paste the sentence I wrote where I implied otherwise. I've been to many poor countries (much poorer than Egypt) and people do not behave as aggressively towards tourists as the do in Egypt. Of the all places I've visited, Egypt is the worst. Poverty is no excuse for the government of Egypt to let their most visible symbol and important tourist attraction look like a trash heap. Given the admission cost to the pyramids, it would be trivial to put in some garbage cans and hire some people to walk around picking up trash. Furthermore, when did I say that Egyptians were the ones doing the littering on the pyramid grounds? It is mostly tourists who go there. I'm sure they drop most of the trash. Bringing up poverty is really irrelevant to the issue of the cleanliness of a government owned antiquity facility.
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