The Great Temple, dedicated to Ramses II
Is there any good reason to get out of bed at 3am?
Michelle and I were far convinced that anything could be worth this sort of torture. We needed to be up so early to join a convoy of vehicles making the 3 hour trek to Abu Simbel. Whilst the temple is on the banks of the Naser lake (created by the damming of the Nile by the High Dam) it is miles from anywhere else and no most people who visit it, do so by same day returned bus tours.
Travelling in a tour group of only 3 people has its pros and cons. One of the most important pros is the huge amount of space on our minibus.
Whilst people on other tours were packed into their coaches and minibuses nice and tight, we were each able to stretch out on a row of seats to ourselves and catch up on a few of the hours sleep that this sight seeing trip had threatened to take from us.
Pretty big statues, aren't they?
We arrived at Abu Simbel at around 7am and we were immediately out of the air-conditioned comfort of the minibus and into the hot, dry air of Egypt. Even this early in the morning it was already starting to feel a little uncomfortable.
Abu Simbel itself is spectacular. Not only is the original creation of the temple amazing but so too was the effort of relocating the temples (and the entire mountainsides into which they had been carved) several hundred meters.
With the creation of the High Dam and subsequent flooding of the vast, low lying areas upriver a number of great temples needed to be relocated to higher ground so they would not be submerged. Abu Simbel was one such temple and it’s a good thing they did. It is an amazing sight. Unfortunately, like a lot of sites in Egypt, photography is not permitted inside, so we don’t really have a lot of shots from our visit. I’m not going to waste any diary space going into the history behind the sites we visit but I will say that if you do visit Egypt, do make the effort to visit Abu Simbel.
The Temple of Nefertari
Our time at the temple was quite short, only a couple of hours but the site is spectacular, not vast or sparse, so the two hours was sufficient, especially given the rapidly rising temperatures. We ran the gauntlet of Egyptian bazaars and trinket sellers back to our minibus and then it was back to sleep for most of the three hour ride back to Aswan.
A wide view of both temples
After rising at 3am, and returning to Aswan at around about midday, we’d already almost had our measure of excitement for the day. However, we needed to be subjected to our next sales pitch before we were excused, so this time, we were led to a perfumery on our way back to the Hotel. The perfumery sold natural, pure essences extracted from a variety of flowers, medicinal perfumes and blends of perfumes, created to mimic expensive commercial perfumes. Again we were taken through a quick “education” chat which quickly resolved into sampling and then sales spiel. Michelle and I took a good hour or so to deliberate on our purchase – again boring our poor guide Mahmoud to tears and forcing poor, hungry Zoe to tag along and pretend to be interested in our shopping. Mahmoud’s insistence that we leave eventually forced our hand and we agreed to pick up a few items for ourselves and some gifts for others.
The Spice Market, where we stocked up on teas and nuts for the felucca trip.
Absolutely famished, we retuned to our hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon eating, swimming and resting. The hectic pace of our day made that afternoon of nothing all the more enjoyable. We met Mahmoud again in the evening and he took us out for dinner on a floating restaurant on the banks of the Nile. After dinner, we wandered into the Aswan market area to a spice stall. Each time Mahmoud travels to Aswan, he is sent with a shopping list of spices for his entire family, so we spent more than half an hour at this street stall whilst the vendor filled his order and tempted us as well. Before we left he’d convinced us to get some dried dates, peanuts and some mint and hibiscus for making teas. All of these would prove useful in the coming few days as tomorrow, we would begin our three day felucca sailing adventure down the Nile.