Jiyoung and I hopped on down to the train station in Cairo and eagerly awaited our "deluxe sleeper train" to Aswan, 500 miles to the south. We
had a bit of a chore getting on this thing as all the tickets had been
sold out for a few days. Our hotel owner knew the score, though, and
for an extra thirty bucks he managed to procure us some "black-market"
tickets. This had me a bit worried but it all worked out well in the
end and we were relieved when we got on the train and found our cabin.
It was pretty cool and consisted of bunk beds that folded down over a
couch and a little sink as well. We were also served dinner and
breakfast so when we rolled into Aswan 13 hours later we were fairly refreshed and ready to go.
We got to our hotel and set about booking ourselves a tour down to Abu Simbel,
the sun temple built by Ramses II about 2,500 years ago. It's the
temple with the four giant sitting statues of Ramses (one's missing a
head due to a massive earthquake in the early A.D.) that looks out over
fifty miles or so North of the Sudanese border. We woke up around 3 am
and plodded to our bus. All tourist vehicles have to travel in a
police-escorted convoy (due to attacks a few years back) so we had
about 20 buses clumped together for the three hour jaunt south. Upon
arrival we hurried over to the site and had a good time taking it all
in. The inside of the temple is richly decorated with hieroglyphics,
statues and pictures of Ramses deifying himself. I guess he was a bit
of a megalomaniac and considered himself a bit more important than the
sun god the temple was supposedly built for.
Hieroglyphics and bas reliefs galore.
Interesting stuff. On the way back we stopped at the Aswan High Dam, an engineering feat that dammed up the Nile and created Lake Nasser for the purpose of generating electricity and other things. After that we hit up the Temple of Philae,
situated on its own little island. It had some nice reliefs and
hieroglyphics as well, but by this point all the temples were starting
to look a bit alike. After arriving back at our hotel in Aswan,
we were told of a super "top secret" cruise deal especially for "us".
We had debated on whether or not to do a two night Nile cruise to Luxor
and then decided not to do it because it would have been over $200.
guy at the hotel, however, had purchased a number of rooms to resell
but had gotten stuck with the last one. Since the cruise was leaving
the next day, he told us he'd let us have it for what he paid for it,
about $125 bucks. Sweet! We checked out the boat before committing and
upon seeing it were jumping at the opportunity. Now I write this as I'm sitting in our plush lounge with the Nile
flowing by outside the window. We have a wonderful, upper floor room
(it even has a TV, ultimate luxury!) and have been gouging ourselves on
the best meals I've eaten in the last two months (all meals are
included, as well!). The very top floor has a huge sun deck and even a
little swimming pool, though we haven't hopped in it yet. I think it's
safe to say that these are the most luxurious conditions I've
experienced in a couple of months so I'm going to miss it when we dock
in Luxor tomorrow morning.
The adventures won't stop then, however. Luxor is home of the Valley of the Kings,
the famous burial sites that the pharaohs took up after the Pyramids
began being robbed. This is where the boy pharaoh Tutankhamen's tomb
was found 60 years ago (we saw his dazzling golden burial mask in the
museum in Cairo)
and other important pharaohs and queens were buried. We'll probably
begin checking out some of these sites upon arrival tomorrow. And on
Saturday, one of the hightlights of the trip: we've booked a hot air
balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings! We'll be cruising 1,500 feet over the Sahara with a bird's eye view of the temples below us. I can hardly wait. So, until Luxor, stay tuned…..
Ji and I!