So this is what they mean by “hotter than hell” I think.
Despite being told to be ready for the taxi at 3am, we didn’t leave until closer to 4 for a 5:15 flight. I did not sleep, it was too noisy. Got to the airport and had a bit of series of minor misadventures. Taxi driver took me to international, not domestic terminal. He suggested I walk there, I suggested he drive me there. I pay, I win.
None of the 2 open egypt air counters had english signs, so I picked one randomly. Eventually, the guy stopped talking with his friends and sent me to the other line. Checked in (they don’t ask for ID at all, just look at your ticket!) and tried to find the gate. Eventually got to the gate, it was 4:30, it was abandoned. There were lots of people sitting outside in a different area, but not where they sent me (sound familiar). I went to a guard and asked if I was in the right place, he indicated yes, but pointed to the 5:15 flight time and said it as too early. I pointed to the 4:25 boarding time and he clearly had no idea what was. SO, I sat in the area and finally a more senior guy came over and asked what I was doing there. I said I was told to come here. He sent me out again so I waited with the other people. Then he said, no, to come back in, he just wanted me to walk thru a now-turned-on x-ray machine (that so far as I can tell they don’t actually look at) and eventually some of the men who were sitting outside joined me at the gate.
We board and I fall soundly asleep so quickly I don’t even know we take off. WHen I awake there’s a box next to me (juice and a miscule piece of pound cake) and I can’t figure out why they serve food and let people put their tray tables down before we take off… Ahhh, the light dawns.
I lay down on the 3 seats (glory glory of being short) and fall asleep again. I am awoken by a flight attendent putting a blanket on me and putting a pillow under me. 3 minutes later — and I don’t mean ‘it seemed like 3 minutes later’ but literally 3 minutes later — they tell us to sit up as we are about to land in Aswan (my ticket didn’t say it was a stopover flight, it said direct to Abu Simbel). We wait for a while and then the plane fills up with people who had spent the night in Aswan.
The flight to Abu Simbel is about 45 minutes. It is 8am and 94 degrees when we land. I’ll skip over the joys (or lack thereof) of the airport, but word to the wise, if you walk even an inch outside the exit door, you cannot go back in. I learned the hard way.
I followed the crowd to the egypt air shuttle bus and 10 minutes later we were outside the Abu Simbel gates. I bought a ticket and asked for an english-speaking guide. 5 of us ended up getting this one guy, whose English was decent, and he led us down the 15 minute walk to the temples (Ramses and his favorite of 37 wives, Nefartari — NOT the same as Nefartiti; and yes, I”m sure I have these spelled wrong).
YOu can look up more info about it elswhere, but in sum these were two of the biggest/most famous ruins sites that were moved because of the massive creation of the Aswan Dam in the 60s. It took 4 years, some huge number I forget but something like 64 billion dollars, and 10 countries efforts to move. As an engineering feat, it was amazing.
As it turns out, guides are not allowed to give lectures INSIDE the temples so we spend 40 minutes in front with him telling us what we will see, and showing us postcards of different friezes or rooms we’ll see and what their meaning is. At one point, he told us about the 3 types of saws they used to cut the stone to move it. And then he repeated the whole segment, verbatim with the same hand signals, without realizing it. THe rest of us looked at each other like we were in a twilight zone, but he didn’t seem to notice he had just told us the same thing, same intonation, same pauses, same hand gestures. It was weird.
Then he stopped and we went to take photos (outside only!) and then go inside. I ended up befriending a briting couple, C and M who are in Egypt on holiday. THey live near London, he a chemistry engineer/journalist, she a CSI for the police. They were really nice and we ended up walking around both temples together.
The outside statues are absolutely enormous. HOwever, because they are now in an artificial mountain, you don’t get the real scale. THere is a model in the Nubian Museum I went to later that night that shows how high the mountain was around it before it was moved and its even more impressive!
The preservation of the paintings in the tombs was really high so that made it really interesting. Nefertari’s temple was much smaller, but also very well preserved.
The walk from the temples back to the buses was a bit longer as you have to go around the back end, it was now in the low to mid 100s. From there we had a bit of a wait and I wanted something for my stomach as it turns out the half-dollar size slice of pound cake on the plane was enough to keep my malaria meds down, but not enough to make my stomach happy. Unfortunately, my food choices at the cafe were potato chips or ice cream. I figured they were equally bad for me, but at least the ice cream was cold. My diet has not always been the best on this trip!
EgyptAir took us back to the airport, we flew 45 minutes to Aswan where I was picked up by my guide and taken to my hotel. The Nile Hotel in Aswan is clean and the rooms are very, very air conditioned. My room also had a nice view of the nile, though mostly when I am in the room I am crashed on my bed just lowering my body temp.
As I had not slept at all the night before and maybe 1 hour total in snips on the plane, I proceeded to sleep the sleep of the airconditioned-dead for a few hours.
Around 3 I “ate” in the hotel restaurant, but I use the term loosely. The food was awful. I then went back to bed and either read or watched TV (a luxury I hadn’t had for a while), they only had CNN. Did you know Karl ROve resigned?? Probably you did but it was news to me. Apparently CNN and the Comedy CHanel have made a weekly “The Daily SHow, International” version, which starts with Jon Stewart saying “most of the people watching this show are americans traveling abroad, watching this in your hotel room.” It was dead on! Other than the Rove thing, doesn’t sound like much is happening in the US.
Because of the heat, much is closed int he afternoon, but open in the evening. I went to the Nubian Museum around 7. It was still in the high 90s, but air conditioned inside. THe museum was quite good, comparative to what I’ve seen around. When I left at 9pm, there was a HOT breeze blowing off the nile. It felt like it was in the 100s again.
Back to the hotel, back to sleep.
This a.m. did a boat ride to the Botanical Gardens (nice, and LOTS of cats and kittens!) and then around Elephantine Island.
Later we went to the Aswan Dam (totally not worth the money) and the Temple of Philae for Isis, which was moved AFTER it was sunk with the Aswan Dam. We had a very good guide so it was worth going.
Tags: Abu Simbel, Africa, Aswan, Egypt, Travel