Sunday, 15 June 2008


We took an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. It was such a nice experience after taking all of the Chinese trains with 6 people stuffed into each open compartment. We had our own compartment with our very own sink inside. It was wonderful! The next morning I didn't have to line up behind 20 Chinese people all waiting to go through their entire grooming process when all I had to do was use the toilet. Stephen's expression in the photo says it all...

Aswan is a really nice town along the Nile River. We got to stay in a fancy hotel on the Elephantine Island in the middle of the river. The views were lovely. We took the ferry right past the hotel (and former winter palace of the king) where Agatha Christie wrote 'Death on the Nile'. We enjoyed the pool after the overnight train ride. We met our wonderful guide, Mohammed at 1pm. He stayed with us throughout our time in Aswan and Luxor. He even went on the Nile cruise with us...nice job for a tour guide! He was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed questioning him all about life in Egypt. Anyway, we visited the High Dam, Philae Temple and the Nubian Museum the first day. The construction of the High Dam was completed in 1971 and it was made possible by help from the Soviet Union. It now protects many communities from flooding. It also generates quite a bit of power for Egypt. The construction of the dam lead to the creation of the world's largest manmade lake, Lake Nasser. It extends all the way to Sudan. There are no longer any crocodiles in the Nile River, but there are over a million in Lake Nasser. I wouldn't want to fall off my boat in there...I am on the High Dam and overlooking Lake Nasser in the photo.
Next, we took a boat out to the Philae Temple.
The entire temple was under water and had to be moved to a higher island. It was taken apart and rebuilt piece by piece. It is a nice example of a temple from the Greek period in Egypt. The columns are in the Greek style and topped with floral capitals. The shrine used to house the statue of Isis and the boat used to carry the statue out of the temple during certain festivals. It was really nice.
Finally, we visited the Nubian museum. Our guide pointed out some important pieces and also showed us the replicas of traditional Nubian houses. Many of the Nubians had to relocate during the construction of the High Dam because their villages were submerged by Lake Nasser. The government provided them with new housing, but they preferred to build their own in typical Nubian style. Tourists now stay in local Nubian villages to experience Nubian culture. Many of the Nubians in Aswan live on the Elephantine Island.
That night we explored Aswan. The people selling things weren't nearly as agressive as the vendors in Cairo so we enjoyed our walk around the city so much more. We even found a local restaurant overlooking the Nile River. The owner greeted us and cooked our food. He made the best hummous I have ever had!
The next day we took a feluca (sailboat) around the island and over to our cruise boat for the Nile Cruise. I loved the feluca. It was so peaceful sailing on the Nile River. We were lucky enough to have a nice breeze up as we sailed. I could have stayed on the feluca all day. Once we were out in the middle of the river our captain spead out a blanket full of local handicrafts to sell to us. He knew he had a captive audience. At least he didn't say anything. He just left them there and let us decide whether we wanted anything or not.