Aswan : The night train to Chill City.

Aswan Travel Blog

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One of my first sights of traditional Nile felucca boats.

[Camera and Egypt photos finally returned to me and now updated for your enlightenment and entertainment etc, etc...]

In my mind it felt like quite a fitful nights sleep.  My feet propped on the metal foot rest and my head crooked uncomfortaly to one side.  my fellow travellers through the dark on the night train to Aswan though (Pip and Rebecca from New Zealand) assure me that I slept sound as a pound aaaaall through the night.  Having not yet introduced ourselves the evening before I was merely dubbed 'The Bastard'in the night owing to this capacity to just be able to sit in a T-shirt and doze on through, whatever the conditions.  Pip and Becks humorously cacooned in all sorts of comfy luxuries as jumpers, sleeping bags, bag liners and inflatable cushions had no such luck it turns out.

  Bummer :D  It's ok.  we've chatted now.  Exchanged names and nationalities.  Got to know one another... so I am now officially 'The English Bastard'.

By the time we finally crawl into Aswan (at least 700km from Cairo) its gone 14.00, we're 4 hours late and mercifully my contact through The Atef Plan Abdul-Rashid tells me that we should postpone the afternoons original light-speed itinerary of points of interest.  I am much relieved as I need to just chill out on my own terms.  I'm told that we have been "turned away" from The Cleopatra, the proposed hotel and am instead taken to the Nuba Nile hotel suspecting another cheap scam to cream more money and commission from the Atef Plan I've paid for every step of the way.

The Coptic Cathedral, Aswan.
  Still upon entering, Pip and Becks and their Interpid Egypt tour group are just checking in.  No getting away from The English Bastard it seems.

I chuck my stuff in my room and head out into the blazing afternoon sun to relax... and boy oh boy! can I tell ya that Aswan is such a change of pace.  Such a relief after the chaos of Cairo.  The perfect antidote to Cairo Shock if you are suffering it in any form.  The cool bluey-green waters of the Nile drfit by as you walk along the Corniche.  Elephantine Island stretches like a large verdant green palm-fronded oasis lying at ease in the Nile's watery midst.  All along this section of the Nile drifting gently about the various little islands glide a constant parade, a delicate wind-assisted dance of tall white sails.

The gardens.
  The wooden beam and fabric skinned limbs of the graceful, traditional nubian Nile boats, the feluccas.

Aswan has a fantastic riverside Corniche that follows its entire length of the town front (1- 1.5km long) although if you're not a fan of engaging in and artfully disengaging yourself from conversation with the locals again and again and again AND again you may find this walk quite a tiresome ordeal.  The felucca captains and the horse (calesh) and taxi drivers too all constantly vie for your attentions and business.  It is an understandable desperation given the poverty indices in this part of Egypt but it can be full on and relentless.  You will be stopped or encouraged to so so EVERY five metres or so by some new imploration or other : "Hey where you from?", "You want felucca?", "felucca, felucca, good price?", "You wan' go sail felucca.

View back down the Aswan stretch of the Nile.
  Nice sights.  Nile-Elephantisland-kitchenerisland- nubianvillage- Old Cataract- first cataract?", "Excuse me!  Just one minute please!", "Hey my friend remember me?"  Uh, no actually. "Yes, remember me.  Yesterday you PROMISSED you would come back to me for felucca!!"  Uh, no actually I wasn't here yesterday.  Nice try pal. "You want, you want, you want....?"  La shukran.  La shukran.  La bloody shukran.  Trust me even though they've seen you coming half a kilometre away politely declining everyone you coe across, they will all still give it a go hoping they're the ones with the magic proposition to win you over.  La shukran.

For my part I find it all pretty amusing.

  Always happy to engage in a handshake and a conversation with a friendly stranger even if ever so briefly.  So amongst the myriad others along the way I am introduced to Captain Barcelona, Capt.Chill, Capt. Jamaica, Capt. Sinbad, Capt. Abdullah, Capt. Zeecko ("Oh he woulda sooo got my trade if he'd been Captain Zissu!") and when asked by me "ismak ey?" (what's your name?) a very lively old boy announces himself as '"Captain Everyday!".  And so the list of passing aquaintances grows and grows as ones progress along the corniche correlatively slows and slows.  It's not always felucca rides being proferred either.  Cigarettes, alcohol ( "You like beerwhiskeyginvodkarum?") and hash are frequently if more sureptitiously offered.
Small felucca boat.

I eventually run the full gauntlet of the Corniche.  The sandy coloured turrets of the Coptic Cathedral here are turning a light shade of gold as the sun begins its descent.  A little tired from all the travel, strolling and banter with the locals I pay EGP5 (50p) to enter the Ferial Gardens, a terraced arrangment of small lawn areas, varied arborial species and plesant seating areas, all plesant and well tended to.  These rise up in stages above the level of the corniche forming a high bank above the Nile near the southern end of Elephantine Island.  There are beautiful views of both, and back down the corniche from up here!  A small boy persistently buzzes about me for about 10 minutes after baksheesh "just one, just one, juuuuust one Mr!".  He's constantly put out by my (to him) inexplicable refusal to reach into my pocket for him.

Nile at sundown.
  He can't realise that rather than being on the receiving end of a momentary loss of generosity by me, it is rather my attention that has floated up and out and away over the waters of the Nile, ignoring the baksheesh buzz as it mingles with the gentle hum and mutterings of young Egyptian couples courting each other here in more secluded environs away from prying eyes.  I gently slump onto a bench with a perfect vantage point for sunset over the western banks of the nile.

I sit here right now, my soul still drifting, happy and free from the smogs and distractions of Cairo.  It plays with the many other little zephyrs blowing about the Nile,  invisibly filling the sails of the distant feluccas.   These at first sight white, now turning gold in the late evening sun.

  They continue their predominantly anti-clockwise direction about the islands, a procession of beautiful little paper-looking boats when seen in the distance.    If I look now to my left they are larger, closer and entirely silhouetted against the golden band of sunset rays that shimmer bank to bank now across the river.  The sun continues downwards towards the west bank of the Nile as it always has and the Egyptians hope always will, their ancient god Re commencing his daily journey down into the underworld from where - we hope - he will struggle on through the twelve tests and hours of night to be reborn, triumphant at dawn where "oooh oh man!" Pip, Becks and The English Bastard are gonna have the BEST seats in the house to see him do so.  But that's a tale for tomorrow.

For now there is perfect light and a cool Nile breeze to bring me ease.  Soooo relaxing.  So needed.  There were many things I enjoyed about Cairo but "my word!", whether prepared for it or not it doesn't half pummel the senses of the uninitiated halfway to death!  It's time to take some deep breaths.  listen to the Nubian chants and drums that emminante across the waters from the direction of Elephantine Island, no doubt entertaining todays visiting quota of happy-clappy group tourist guests.  Me?  I'm alone.  Baksheesh boy has finally given up.  Happy to be experiencing calm again.  I squint into the sun.  Its low light now.  The golden band shot across the Nile waters has widened.  The felucca silhouettes glide on.  I am chilled out once more.  I am Captain Calm.  Captain Chill.  Take another deep breath for the soul.  I think I will.

sherry_1 says:
more &more cute Egypt blogs,this phrase is AWESOME : Yes, remember me. Yesterday you PROMISSED you would come back to me for felucca!!" Uh, no actually I wasn't here yesterday. Nice try pal. "You want, you want, you want....?" La shukran. La shukran. La bloody shukran.

LOL : )))))
Posted on: Aug 22, 2010
bashmentbabe says:
sounds great, very good for the soul lol are the touts intimidating or will they just leave you alone if you say no thanks ? well aparty from the little boy lol.?x
Posted on: Apr 17, 2010
Transitory says:
I am bracing for the trip, much more prepared now thanks to the blogs.
Posted on: Apr 04, 2009
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One of my first sights of traditio…
One of my first sights of traditi…
The Coptic Cathedral, Aswan.
The Coptic Cathedral, Aswan.
The gardens.
The gardens.
View back down the Aswan stretch o…
View back down the Aswan stretch …
Small felucca boat.
Small felucca boat.
Nile at sundown.
Nile at sundown.
photo by: Vikram