So you know what’s awesome about today? That my alarm goes off at 2am. No, that’s not a mistake. Breakfast is at 3:30, and we leave for the airport at 4am. I seriously don’t know who can legit eat this early in the morning! I manage to have a little something anyways, but ugh. Doesn’t feel good.
While waiting for our flight, everyone bands together and this is where our group bonding begins! Except for Marcelo, because he chose the overnight bus option. Our flight today is with Nile Air, and it’s a very easy 1-hour flight to Aswan. As soon as we arrive, we board our tour bus and head out to explore some of the cool things in Aswan.
Aswan is located in the Southern part of Egypt, close to the border of Sudan on the east bank of the Nile River. In addition to being an important trading city, it also had many stone quarries where they found Syenite, a type of granite. It was used throughout Egypt for many statues, obelisks and of course the pyramids. Aswan is also known to be one of the hottest, driest and sunniest cities on the planet. Yikes!
First stop is the Aswan High Dam, a large artificial dam built to control the annual flooding of the Nile River.
The U.S. and Great Britain offered to pay for the dam, but ultimately it was the USSR that funded it and construction began in 1960. There is some interesting political history of the dam and the countries involved; I won’t get into it here but you might want to look it up! The dam opened in 1970, and the reservoir reached capacity in 1976. This reservoir is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, Lake Nasser.
The water is needed for crops (since rainfall is sparse in this region), and for electricity. There were some negative effects of the dam; many villages had to be moved as well as some important sites like Abu Simbel. We spend some time checking out both sides of the dam, with the Louts Flower monument (representing Arab-Russian friendship) standing tall in the distance.
The tiredness is really starting to hit me now and I wish I could have a nap. But the distances we travel today are not long enough for a bus nap. Dammit! It’s at the dam that I first notice some conflict between our guide Ramez and one of the guys from the group of Americans. I try to listen in to see what’s going on, and I don’t know details but it seems like he’s giving Ramez a hard time about something and complaining about things that shouldn’t be an issue when you sign up for a group tour………
Next we drive along the southern part of the Nile and arrive at a marina where we board a boat that will take us to Agilkia Island to see the Philae Temple. Located on the island in the reservoir of the Aswan high dam, the temple was moved here in the 1970’s because of flooding when the original dam was built in 1902. It left the temple in water for most of the year and the damage was increasing.
The buildings were dismantled into 40,000 units and rebuilt here on Agilkia. Approaching the temple by water is pretty cool; it’s “rising out of the river like a mirage” says novelist Amelia Edwards.
We arrive at the harbor and hop off the boat, dodging guys that want to sell us stuff or take us on a guided tour. No thanks, we have Ramez!
We first head over to the main temple area, and find shelter in the Eastern Colonnades.
What’s really neat about these columns – some of them are ornate, while others are unfinished. Philae is very important to Egyptians – it’s believed that Osiris (a top Egyptian God) was buried here.
Then over to the main temple entrance where two granite lions sit guard, but sadly their faces are gone.
There used to be two obelisks here as well but they were taken to England by a guy named Bankes; they reside in the gardens at his estate and have been like a second Rosetta Stone for deciphering hieroglyphics.
Entering into the temple, there are giant columns and the walls are covered in religious writings in many forms.
In addition to Egyptian writing, there are Coptic crosses and altars and Greek language that proves this temple was turned into a Christian place of worship in the Byzantine era. It was also a popular pilgrimage site for the locals and travellers from afar. We wander around inside and look at the many rooms, and then we have free time to explore.
I head out of the main temple and over to the Kiosk of Trajan, a small roofless temple on the banks of the river that was built in the Roman Imperial period.
It was the main entrance from the River Nile before being moved with the other structures.
Before we leave the island, I need to use the toilets…well this is quite an experience! First, it is underground so it is ridiculously hot. And the light isn’t working so it is pitch black. Try going pee and holding your cell phone light in one hand while trying not to drop it in the toilet. Haha. Back on the boat and there are young boys who are selling all kinds of cool jewelry. It’s so hard to choose, but I end up with a sandalwood bracelet and one made of camel hoof! He assured me no camels were hurt in this process..Hmmmmm….. On the way to the hotel we make a stop at a perfumery; I decide to stay on the bus and nap because I am so tired and I am not interested in buying any fragrances. And then we drive over to check into our hotel……