Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Aswan, Abu Simbel, Felucca

Sorry it has been a while but we were busy down south. We took an overnight train to Aswan and based ourselves there for a few days. It is the city furthest south and is a huge center for the Nubians now. Most of their traditional homeland along the nile is in the south of Egypt and north of Sudan and with the building of the Aswan High Dam decades ago, a huge percentage of it was flooded. It created lake Nasser, the world's largest reservoir, flooding back the nile for 500km all the way into Sudan. A lot of people and monuments had to be moved including Abu Simbel temple, the main reason tourists go so far south.
Abu Simbel is a bit of a joke though. A few years ago it was considered to dangerous to drive out there so all tourists had to fly to the temple and back. These days there is a convoy once a day for everyone to take. It is insane. It leaves at 4am and ours consisted of 50 buses at least (I counted over 40) though this is supposed to be the slow season. As I was saying, the convoy is for "safety" though what that means is anyone's guess because that seems to be the default answer to everything in this country. What actually happens is that without any kind of escort or police presence to protect us, they let loose all the buses and the whole thing quickly devolves into a formula 1 style race with all the buses trying to set new speed records on 280km of empty desert roads out to the temple. It's a wonder all the tourists aren't dead from accidents, and yet the whole thing is done in the name of "safety". The temple itself is cool. It is the most famous and impressive temple in Egypt after the pyramids. It was formerly built into the side the banks of the Nile and had to be cut into blocks and moved to higher ground before the dam was completed. Unfortunately now that there are so many tourists crawling over each other as they all arrive (and must leave) at the same time there is no atmosphere in the place. It would be spectacular if nobody was there but it is disappointing in all the crowds. We were also taken to the High Dam and to the Temple of Philae. Philae is dedicated to the Godess Isis and is on a little island between the 2 dams at Aswan. It was also the last temple to stay in operation, lasting well into the Roman times. Those things were nice but the next biggest highlight to a trip down to Aswan is taking a felucca ride down the nile for a couple days.
The felucca is a small river boat for about 10 people and has been used since ancient Egyptian times. We had one to ourselves with a crew of 2 to cook and drive though most of the time we were just floating downstream. We rode for 3 days, mostly just lounging around or jumping in the Nile. It's fast and clean enough down there to be safe, though I wouldn't go swimming elsewhere in Egypt. It was the perfect ride. We really needed the outdoors laziness with fresh air, it'd been too long.
The boat takes you down river to near the temple of Kom Ombo. It's dedicated to the crocodile God, Sobek and back in the day had lots of them crawling around on the bank nearby (none in Egypt anymore though). From there another mandatory convoy onward to Luxor via the Edfu temple. Edfu's temple is dedicated to the falcon-headed God Horus, and would also be a great highlight if not for the crowds. The newer temples like Philae, Edfu and Dendara (next blog I guess) are Greco-Roman built but of the Egyptian style as they still had the same Gods back then. The newer temples are perhaps more impressive simply because they have more of the glyphs and reliefs carved into them though the early Coptic Christians came around and defaced or hacked into almost all of them.
We stayed in Luxor for a few days as well to see a few more things but that will have to be the next blog.


At 2:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was getting stressed at not hearing from you guys. I'm glad you are on the move again.

Hey Ammon, what are the noticible differences in achitecture between old and new temples, is there enough of a difference to be able to tell them apart if you didn't know which they took you to. Are the people more relaxed in the south? Why back to Luxor? especially after the rant?

Take Good Care of Each other,
Love and Bear Hugs
The Bear


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