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Day Five: the dull unfinished Obelisk, the duller High Dam and the fabulous Philae Temple

Aswan Travel Blog

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the Unfinished Obelisque

This was perhaps looking to be our busiest day yet! Our guide Fatima and the Travco minivan arrived on the dot, at 8am and we were off to our first stop, the UNFINISHED OBELISK. History wise, Aswan has always been known as being the main source for granite that was used to build obelisks for temples all over the country. This obelisk that we saw, if completed, would've been the tallest standing at about 42m long. The legend goes that during the construction, the workers noticed some problems with it and just... abandoned future construction.  I have to say at the start that whilst the history of this is very interesting, it couldn't be more dull. The obelisk by itself isn't easily noticeable until someone points it to you, ironic given that it's that tall.

stores outside the Obelisque
Fatima explained the history to us, we (my mum and I) went for a walk around the obelisk which took us about 20 minutes. Then a quick shopping halt and we were off...in less than 45 mins. Wow, this has to be the fastest ever stop on a tourist location for us!

From here, the DULLNESS continued with a drive past the Old Aswan dam and then a photo stop at the New Aswan dam. Really, the DULLNESS! What was unintentionally funny about this place was that hoardes of tourists stop by, all 'excited' to be there and then they have this big question mark and look of disappointment on their face going "so...erm...is this IT??!!". Hilarious!

Our next stop finally breathed some life into this day. Badly needed. And the treat couldn't have come in a grander form, in the form of the PHILAE temple.

the "old" dam
The most interesting thing about this temple is that it's not in it's original place! It's called the Philae temple as it was built on the island of Philae, as a tribute to Goddess Isis. The place was swamped with tourists from as early as the 19th Century itself. But then, came the 20th Century and the Aswan Old dam which meant that for about 6 months every year, the temple and it's complex would be drowned in water and mud thanks to the rising waters. This caused a toll on the foundation of the temple, not to mention making it inaccessible to both pilgrims as well as tourists. So finally UNESCO decided in the 60s to move the temple to another island which would be more easily accessible.
The "new" dam
Yep.. you heard me right! So around the late 70s, this temple was disassembled and piece by piece was moved to another island, named Agilkia Island which is where it rests even today.

The feel of this place itself is so different. You have a lovely colourful bazaar as you enter the port where the ferries take you to the temple, then you have the ferries themselves that are so colourfully scattered around the water, everything was just brilliant. Reminded me so much of Phuket from 4 years ago.

The weather was lovely, the breeze was great, we reached the banks of the temple after about a short 10 minute ride on a motored ferry. This temple, much like Kom Ombo is a STAR by itself. You can feel the grandeur yet sparse-ness as you approach the embankment, and you disembark.

Tons of tourists were all ready in the early morning sun to get their sighting of the place.

Isis was at one time perhaps one of the greatest Gods to come out of Egypt and was worshipped in far off places including Rome and London. This temple no doubt does her proud. The interesting thing about this temple is how the Coptic Christians have left their mark by scratching over many holy relics and reliefs. They also inscribed signs resembling a symmetric cross.

The entry to the temple leads us first to the Hall of Nectanebo, then comes the Outer Court and finally a tall pylon that leads into the Temple of Isis. There was a gold statue on a red stone that once stood here. That red stone now rests in the British Museum. 

We spent some time walking around the temple and just amazed at how they managed to shift every piece to this island.

street vendors outside the Philae Temple port
Fatima pointed to us how meticulously the whole thing was done, including numbering each stone. It really is amazing, the precision and the perfection.

We headed back to the shore, and back to our van after a couple of hours. From here, we stopped by a popular Egyptian perfumery store, the Kyphi and we picked up a few scents. It was interesting to see how they manufacture perfume and bottle it. Not to mention the different scents and the different medical powers behind each.

We then reached our cruise after a nice long day, and wait! It wasn't over yet. There was the much awaited felucca ride! The boat is really nice, Nothing special or anything but sthg that anyone who comes to Egypt does. We took the felucca to the Botanical Gardens, spent about 1 hour there.

..nothing that spesh. It's very well maintained but hey...it's JUST a garden! I got to see the Egyptian cats as well wandering around the garden. Interesting species, them!

We headed back to the cruise around 1pm, bid our goodbyes' to Fatima and thanked her for the lovely time and expert guidance. We had lunch, had a good nap and around 5pm, we went to the market. This was a GOOD experience! The market, supposedly a 'street market' is so clean and in hindsight much nicer and cleaner than the Khan-al-Khalili in Cairo. Besides, lots of tourists, and it was kind of nice that I got to speak in French! We bought quite some stuff here. My mum bought some pashminas as well as falafel makers.

We headed back to our cruise around sunset. It was lovely. The weather, and the road that runs by the river. Aswan really is such a clean place! :-) Shame it ended, and shame we were leaving.

dragonfenix says:
Looks like an awesome time,like visiting the pages of my history book!!! Visiting the Pyramids is one of the many places I'd like to visit before I die!
Posted on: Jun 14, 2007
karulm says:
Delightful blog, with pics to match. I completely agree about the Unfinished Obelisk and High Dam; I was bored to tears. But I LOVE Philae Temple. Have been twice and would go again. Thanks for sharing. :)
Posted on: Jun 14, 2007
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the Unfinished Obelisque
the Unfinished Obelisque
stores outside the Obelisque
stores outside the Obelisque
the old dam
the "old" dam
The new dam
The "new" dam
street vendors outside the Philae …
street vendors outside the Philae…
Boats ready to take us to the Phil…
Boats ready to take us to the Phi…
with our guide, Fatima
with our guide, Fatima
View of the Philae Temple as the b…
View of the Philae Temple as the …
travellers getting into the island
travellers getting into the island
view of the temple at the entrance
view of the temple at the entrance
Heiroglyphic script
Heiroglyphic script
sign of the Coptic Christians
sign of the Coptic Christians
inside the Kyphi Perfume store
inside the Kyphi Perfume store
view of Aswan harbour
view of Aswan harbour
mast of the felucca
mast of the felucca
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Egyptian cat
Egyptian cat
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
about to leave the gardens
about to leave the gardens
Aswan market, home to many tourists
Aswan market, home to many tourists
Spices at the market
Spices at the market
Aswan street market
Aswan street market
walk along the bay
walk along the bay
Aswan
photo by: Vikram