Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 45: Aswan

We got a chance to sleep in a bit (yes, I now consider 6:15am sleeping in) before grabbing some breakfast at the hotel and embarking on our bus journey to Aswan.  Due to the rather harsh conditions of the desert, longer bus rides always go nonstop and with an empty bus following as a backup if there's any trouble.  Apparently we're traveling Egypt in style (including our personal armed guard...).  The ride from Luxor to Aswan is a straight shot South following the Nile.  It's a bit eye-opening to pass through some of the many rural farming communities that are very primitive and somewhat impoverished.  We passed many crops of sugarcane, corn, and cotton.  It was really interesting to see the contrast of semi-green farmland and desert within a few feet of each other.

Upon arrival in Aswan we visited the Temple of Philae.  The Greco-Roman temple has a lot of features that make it look very Pharaonic.  The temple does not stand in its original location; it was moved from it's original "island" to the current island of Agilika.  Since the construction of the famed Aswan High Dam, water levels in Lake Nasser rose continuously and eventually covered the majority of the temple.  To preserve the incredible shrine to the goddess Isis, it was transported and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece over a period of ten years.  As with the temples we saw yesterday, it's breathtaking just to be around a building with such rich history and art.  The carvings (including a good deal of Greek graffiti) and hieroglyphics are well preserved and it's fascinating to hear some of the stories behind them.  After ferrying back to the mainland we drove over the small, original Aswan Dam on our way to visit the Aswan High Dam.  Since the engineering and debt producing masterpiece is a military site, you have to be careful with any dam pictures you take (you knew I'd have to fit it in somehow).  The view of the Nile was very nice and I didn't realize how expansive Lake Nasser is.  After departing we made a quick stop by the original ancient granite quarry to see the "unfinished" obelisk before arriving at the hotel to check in and get a late buffet lunch (with some awesome apple cake).

We'll be at the hotel for two days, and I'm glad because it's situated on an island in the middle of the Nile with a gorgeous 360 view.  We left the hotel in the early evening for our Nile cruise on a felucca (canvas sail boat).  The feluccas and other river transit are run by the Nubians (a displaced group of people from central Africa) and we got the chance to sail around a bit down the Nile.  With practically no wind, the ride was rather slow (backwards on a few occasions) but it was still a pretty fun experience.  We even got to clap and sing along to some Nubian songs (my inner musicologist sensed a strong African influence; pretty logical since we actually are in Africa).  Upon the conclusion of our little cruise we bussed over to a local papyrus shop.  There was a short demo on how papyrus is actually made and we got a while to browse the selection.  The prices were really good; I actually ended up with a nice 8x10 papyrus painted with ancient Egyptian musicians for about $5.  After getting back to the hotel we braved the buffet dinner again, attended a short little lecture on tomorrow's adventure to Abu Simbel, and called it a night (after catching up with the blog of course).  I'm again happy to report that any left over GI issues have subsided and we're getting good rest (i.e. everybody's in a good mood).  Tomorrow is another early start to catch our flight to Abu Simbel and see some of the most famed temples of Egypt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clark, I would love to have Bill frame your papyrus as a gift from me. So glad that all is well with you and your parents, can't wait to see lots of pics. Tell all hi and have a wonderful rest of your trip. Sharon