The top two places to see in Aswan
- Abu Simbel
- Philae Temple (Temple of Isis) on Agilkia Island
- Aswan Museum and Elephantine Island (including a Felucca ride around the island)
- Unfinished Obelisk, Fatimid Cemetery and the Nubian Museum
We set our goals for the day: ATM, change for tipping, wine, and two sites. The island has a museum with ruins and the Unfinished Obelisk.
We search for a store and encounter “this is not like Cairo” from a local being “helpful”. It is exactly like Cairo. The duty-free stores are around, but never easy to find. We were led to the duty-free store for wine; there is always a price. Egyptian wine and beer are good. He got a kickback and wanted a too large a tip from me. That was the last time I listened to anyone I did not want to. I learned it is not rude, it is cultural. We learned La’a Shukra! No Thank You! It works.
We visited the Unfinished Obelisk and the Aswan Museum on our first afternoon. A heat wave prompted us to take a taxi up the hill to the quarry. The quarry containing the unfinished obelisk is interesting but not exciting. Other rock cuts showed where large blocks were cut away for use in some temple. The Aswan Museum’s outdoor path comprised a Nubian village under reconstruction, a large bath with steps down to the water and a stone wall with large square viewing ports out to the Nile. We had a restaurant in mind - Nubian Dream Restaurant and Cafe. We find the main road and start down the island. I should define road here. Dirt path is a more accurate description. There are no paved roads or cars on the island. Google maps shows the ‘roads’ and is amazingly accurate. We find the restaurant with a little help from signage. Menu - ha! Prices - ha! We ordered a light chicken meal to share. We gave up on walking home in the light while waiting for our meal. The Egyptian culture eats late. We were the first to order food and they had to fire up the grills. It took an hour but the host was entertaining. As more tourists arrived his language skills really came out. German, French, Nubian, Egyptian and English. He had full conversations in French and German as we watched. No less than 10 dishes arrive with sauces, bread, chicken, spices. Great. The food was excellent, but with no price list I was leery. The bill came to E£170; less than $10 USD.
A 4:00 am wake up for the trip to Abu Simbel. This is a must visit! We open our door to find our ‘guide’ Mohamed standing in the living room. Now I have to tell you the story of Mohamed. I get an email through booking.com from Mohamed. Are you seeing Abu Simbel? I can arrange tour $20 USD. My first thought is our host (not Mohamed) was doing something on the side and $20 seemed way to cheap. The tours I looked at on line were $80 each. I was leery and asked what it included. Travel 600 km and boat trip. 600 kilometers on a boat in three hours? Emails were not getting my questions answered so naturally I agree. Now he is standing in front of me in our living room. “Can you pay me now?” I hand him $40 he says “wait here” and walks out. Weirder and weirder and yet I am unconcerned. I have been ripped off, but never stolen from. I think that is cultural too. I won’t steel from you but I will ask five time the amount you should pay. Soon we hop in a van and pick up seven others.
The three hour drive each way is well worth the two hours on site. It is one of the best temples in Egypt. The first temple face has two large 60-foot seated statues on each side of the doorway. One of the four has its head laying at its feet. This is carved into the mountain side. The interior has eight 30-foot standing statues in two rows next to columns. The walls are carved with pharaohs, gods and hieroglyphics. Some paint remains but is faded. The scenes depict offerings, chariots, boats and war. The second temple has six standing statues in front with eight carved columns in the entrance room. Each doorway has extensive carvings around it. Both Temples were moved from their original location in the 1970s. The dam flooded the valley. An international effort moved each temple piece by piece 90 meters higher in the valley to preserve them for future generations to visit.
Day 3 we walked to the Nubian Museum in the morning. We took a felucca trip around Elephantine Island after lunch. It is peaceful and fun. We see the elephant rocks that give the island its name.
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