At the end of our last blog we were arriving in Aswan after taking the overnight train from Cairo. As Dayna said, it wasn’t the best sleep we ever had what with the guys with guns, guys fighting over seats in the middle of the night and the creepy local dude who just stood and stared at the girls all night. But we had made it one piece at least!
Being at the other end of Egypt and closer to the Equator, Aswan was even hotter than Cairo so having thought that 35 degrees was hot we soon found out that was nothing compared to 43 degrees. In order to stay hydrated in that kind of heat, you need to drink A LOT of water. The only problem was, cold water turned hot within 5 minutes of getting off the bus so we had to drink the whole bottle very quickly!
One of the tour upgrades we chose to do was to go from a basic Felucca to a Cruise with our own private cabin. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect but were pleasantly surprised when we checked in.
The Cruise had a sweet pool up top which had cold water pumping in to it all day so it was great having that to cool off in between temples.
In between enjoying the pool on the Cruise we did do a bit of sightseeing too…
Most of the group were wandering around this site wondering what the heck an Obelisk was, much less what an uncompleted one looks like but we managed to figure out that it was the massive stone structure part way carved out of the rock. It all made much more sense and the building of these Obelisks was even more impressive to everyone when we saw completed Obelisks as part of temples later on in the tour.
Walking around on a stone quarry with the temperature over 40 degrees was as close to being in an oven as I’ve been so we didn’t last long. The “security” guy hanging around with a machine gun trying to help people out by suggesting photos to take (and asking for some baksheesh (a tip) for his trouble) didn’t help.
We were soon enough dodging our way through the touts manning the stalls on the other side (that you have to walk through on the way out of the place). We had been clearly told a couple of times to never buy anything off these touts as they were out to rip you off. This didn’t stop a persistent couple on our group from buying something off one of them before promptly getting in to a fight over payment. Our guide Michael had to step in and then 5 minutes of shouting later we were on our way.
Another impressive engineering feat near Aswan was the High Dam which we headed to to have a look around next.
One (of the many) problems that the dam and early dams created was that large areas were flooded and this included areas with temples that had been there for thousands of years. And so it was that a UNESCO led project moved the next temple on our itinerary, Philae Temple, to a new drier location.
That new location was an island on Lake Nasser so we hopped on a small boat to cruise over and have a look.
Philae Temple was a beautiful spot and it was made even better by the fact that we had it mostly to ourselves (Egypt’s tourism industry is a lot slower than it used to be apparently). Philae was actually built by the Greeks when they were in power in Egypt. They knew the best way to rule people was to respect their beliefs so they built this temple and dedicated it to Isis. To help explain the story of Isis, Osiris, Seth, and Nephthys (which is depicted in the hieroglyphics on the site), our guide used us as models. It’s a very confusing story so I’ll try to simplify it…
Basically, these 4 characters are all siblings. I guess back then, incest wasn’t frowned upon so Osiris (Jono) married his sister Isis (Cath) and Seth (me) married his other sister, Nephthys (Dayna). The already awkward story got even more awkward when Seth killed Osiris and cut up his body into 15 pieces and spread them around Egypt. Isis went looking for them to put her husband back together and found all but a certain male body part which had been eaten by a fish (there was much debate on the size of the fish). Anyway, she managed to get pregnant (possibly the first story of an immaculate conception) and they had a son Horus who went on to kill his uncle, Seth.
Continuing on the theme of beautiful spots with temples (and leaving the messed up mythology behind), our ship pulled up and docked right in front of another temple, Kom-Ombo. We pulled up late in the afternoon so got to enjoy walking around the temple as the sun was setting.
There was a really detailed description of how the calendar above worked and how Egyptian calendars evolved over time but I’m struggling to remember it all looking at it now. Short version was that each season had a picture which would be added to the relevant other pictures to show the actual day of the year. The original year evolved over time to have extra days added to the end as people noticed that annual events gradually moved later in the year. The one above was the first one that they found.
There was also a great story behind how the gods used to cure people of their illnesses. The wall below is part of a corridor which people would visit when they were ill. They would call out their problems to the gods and wait until the gods would answer them with what to do to make themselves better. Little did they know that the holes in the wall led in to a chamber on the other side where the doctor would listen and call out the remedies as needed.
We were very disappointed to hear that since the Dam was built, there is hardly any marine life (and no crocodiles!) in the Nile north of it. But back a few thousand years ago there were plenty of Crocs and they even worshipped some of them and went so far as to mummify them. Right by Kom-Ombo temple is a small museum with some of the preserved Mummies found in the temple that are still in amazingly good condition for being a couple thousand years old.
Our berth for the night was right by the temple so we had a pretty nice view sitting on top of the ship, sipping beers and playing cards.
One of the nights on the cruise was Egyptian night which our guide strongly suggested we buy a get up for and get in to. So it was that we found ourselves to be one of only a handful of people who decided to go along with the theme night. At least we looked stupid together!
Next stop Luxor!