Monday, October 18, 2004

Aswan Day 1: October 14 – Our first day in Aswan, train ride and dinner at a Nubian Village

Last night we road the train from Cairo to Aswan. The train ride was only 13 hours long. We boarded the train at Cairo’s train station around 8pm and arrived shortly after 9:30 am the next day. David and I were in a sleeping compartment with a wash basin. We had bunk beds and they served us a meal on the train that was very much like what you would get on an airplane. The time on the train went very fast. By the time we had dinner and chatted with our friends Kathy and Bruce, it was time for bed. There was a train car with a bar in it but it was too smoky for us to enjoy. We were able to sleep a few hours on the train even though we tossed and turned for hours. L

This morning we had breakfast on the train before we arrived at Aswan. From the Aswan train station, we took taxis to the Cleopatra Hotel. This hotel is old like the Salma hotel in Cairo but clean and had a nice westernized restaurant on the main floor. We brought our bags to our room, had a shower, and had a nap. Everyone else in the group chose to visit the Egyptian high dam which resulted in flooding the Nile valley and moving Abu Simbel.

After our nap, we went looking for lunch. Aswan is smaller than Cairo, less traffic, but dirtier and more flies. It is also just as hot as Cairo at lunch time. There are many more local restaurants close to our hotel than in Cairo. These local restaurants serve very good and very inexpensive food. We had cooked potatoes, rice, bread, salad (tabulie), and ¼ chicken for 21 Egyptian pounds (which equals $4 US) for the both of us. Lunch was very delicious.

Then we went to look for a bank machine so that we could pay our fees for our day excursion to Abu Simbel tomorrow and our tipping kitty. We had great difficulty finding a bank machine that would work (one was rebooting OS2 over and over again). Finally after 4 banks we were lucky to find one that accepted our card and gave us the correct amount of money. One bank machine would only give 300 Egyptian pounds.

From the bank, we took a taxi back to the hotel to meet our tour guide for a Felucca ride and dinner at a Nubian Village. (When David and I heard of this event initially on the train from our tour guide, we both heard Dinner and a Movie, instead of Nubian) J

The Felucca ride was very relaxing, although our boat was very full and two would have been more comfortable. Our Felucca stopped at a beautiful Island in the middle of the Nile River called Elephantine Island. Here we saw many cats, just like in Cairo, but here they were better fed and were able to drink the water from the water that was used to water the beautiful flowers in the garden. David and I spent 45 minutes wandering around and taking pictures.

Then we sailed to the Old Cataract hotel where the Agatha Christie movie was filmed “Death on the Nile”. Here we switched to a motorized boat to go to the Nubian Village for dinner. Before dinner all the women in the group got temporary tattoos called Hanna. I got a simple vine around my ankle. The woman doing the Hanna squeezed black ink onto my skin through a tube that looked like a cake decorating tube. Then we had to wait 1.5 hours for it to dry, before you can pick off the excess ink. I think it will last about a week.

For dinner we had the same food we had for lunch and it was delicious. Then we got back into the boat and a taxi ride back to our hotel. David went to the bar with some people from the group for a beer. I was too tired to join the group and wanted to get to bed early since we were up at 3am to go to Abu Simbel.


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