Monday, October 18, 2004

Aswan Day 2: October 15th Abu Simbel, nap, dinner on the Nile, internet café and bazaar

Today was a very early morning. We had a 3 am wake up call to board our bus to Abu Simbel. We tossed and turned all night because we thought we would miss our wakeup call.

We boarded the bus with our boxed breakfast. The bus was very quiet since everyone wanted to sleep. I was wide awake so I worked on my crocheting project for an hour. For an hour, we waited in a long line of buses for the police escort to Abu Simbel. Around 4:40 am the convoy was finally moving. I fell asleep and woke up in time to have breakfast. When we arrived at Abu Simbel, we had a quick washroom break while the other tour guide bought our tickets to the temples.

We had an hour to explore two temples. The first temple we saw was a larger temple built by Ramses II for him and his wife. The second temple is smaller (right next to the larger temple) and was built for his wife and the queens. The large temple has many little room s with hieroglyphs of battle sceens. You enter a very large room from the entrance where there are large pillars with very large statues. We were allowed to take photos without a flash or video. David had fun taking lots of photos of very beautiful walls. We thought the large room in the centre of the temple was warm, until we entered one of the many smaller rooms on the side. The temperature in these smaller rooms was at least 5 C warmer than the large room. Again the smaller rooms had walls that were highly decorated with battle scenes.

The highlight of the King’s Temple (aside from the fact that they moved these beautiful temples in the 1960’s to save it from the rising waters of the Lake that surrounds the temple when they built the high dam) is there are four large statues sitting together at the very back room of the temple. The four statues are of Ramses and his fellow gods. Twice a year the sun enters this back room and lights one statue for 20 minutes to signify Ramses coronations and another statue to signify his the date of his death. We just missed the Oct 21st date by a few days. The truth is that the sun always reaches these statues – even today when we visited the temple.

Because of the heat, all the buses arrive at the very same time so there is a huge crush of people going into the large temple. When we were in the King’s temple, there was no real organization and everyone was crushing each other to see the 4 statues in the back room. So after quickly viewing the statues, David and I decided it was time to leave. When we exited the King’s temple we were surprised to see that there was hardly anyone standing outside the King’s temple. When you visit Abu Simbel, we suggest that you ignore the tour guide’s recommendation and visit the smaller Queen’s Temple first so you avoid the big crowd and by the time you are done visiting the Queen’s Temple, the large crowd will be through the King’s Temple and you will have a much more enjoyable visit.

Another thing to note: both David and I were horrified to see the amount of graffiti on the legs of the giant statues outside the entrance of the King’s Temple. People in the 1800’s must have been allowed to climb these statues and put there names on it. We saw many Italian names with dates next to them in the 1800’s. And I was worried about simply touching the walls of the temple. Some people!!!!

After taking a couple of pictures of us in front of the large King’s temple, we visited the Queen’s Temple. By this time everyone that was in the King’s Temple were lining up to see the Queen’s Temple, so we decided just to enjoy it from the outside. David took beautiful pictures of all the statues in front of the Queen’s Temple. (Stephanie would have loved to be here.)

Soon it was time to meet our group at the café at the entrance of the area. Abu Simbel, the site, is situated on a spit of land that is surrounded by Lake Nazzier. The water looks clean and blue and I really wanted to go for a swim but our tour guide told us that crocodiles lived in the lake so it is too dangerous for anyone to swim in it. Too bad!

The site itself is very well kept. There is a stone pathway that leads you to the two temples and then back to the café in a giant loop. As we were making our way back to the café, we noticed a foot path up that back of the two temples. David saw this as an opportunity to take a ‘cool’ picture of the temples from up above, but unfortunately a guard stopped him before he was able to make his way to the top of the hill.

We took our bus back to Aswan. I was too awake to nap so I worked on my crocheting. It was only 9 am in the morning and we had already seen two magnificent temples.

The dessert is very beautiful and barren but I was happy to be in an air conditioned bus. We could feel the temperatures rising even at 9 am in the morning. The surrounding geography of this area is mostly sand with rocky hill outcrops. We saw wild dogs running in the sand away from the highway we were traveling on. Other than that, we did not see any wild life.

On the way back to our hotel, our bus drove over the small Nile dam and we could see the High dam in the distance.

We had a free day in Aswan, so David and I went back to the hotel to drop off our stuff and find lunch in Aswan. Unfortunately, the restaurant that we ate at yesterday was closed because of Ramadan but we were able to find another restaurant very close to the hotel. For lunch we had chicken, potatoes, rice, salad, water and pop for 24 Egyptian pounds. Very cheap.

We had a nice afternoon nap before finding dinner at a restaurant along the Nile. The restaurant was beautifully decorated with pictures of Egypt, rock samples, Egyptian crafts, and jewelry. My stomach was not happy, mostly because we woke up too early and the heat. From the restaurant we walked along the Nile and then turned into Aswan to investigate the bazaar. We found an internet café to post a quick blog to everyone. Then we walked back to our hotel where we had drinks with the group.


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