Sun Festival

Trip Start Oct 07, 2007
Trip End Oct 31, 2007

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, October 22, 2007

Plan: Wake up really early to be back at the Temple to see the sunrise illuminate the interior chamber-- only happens twice a year. Then, fly to Aswan.

Well, that was the original plan anyways... What actually happened which I am sure will be mentioned in more detail in the blog about the first day of the cruise was that we were bumped from the Eugenie and instead were going to be sailing on the M.S. Kasr Ibrim. Both boats were pretty much exactly the same except there was one hiccup. The one boat left a day later meaning we would get into Abu Simbel a day late.  Which lastly meant that we would be there a day AFTER the Sun Festival (The cornerstone to this whole chapter of the adventure). Wael knew that this was Ashley's main interest to reach Abu Simbel for this date so he was very helpful in changing some plans to make it work.

Skip ahead a few days. We are docked a stop away from Abu Simbel for the night and the arrangements have been made for us to get off the ship a stop early, drive to Abu Simbel for just after 3am in the morning to beat the convoys arriving for the sun's rising at about 6am-ish.. We had dinner and got to bed for a nap so that our 12:30am alarm going off wouldn't be without any sleep. However, we both woke startled at 12:05am as silence was broken with the most vicious phone ring wake up call I have ever received; I am sure the two neighboring cabins also awoke. In broken english, the voice on the other end said, "Sorry sir, your van. Stuck the sand". He must have sensed by mouth widening to deliver an angry reply because before a sound left my lips he added "But it okay!". Hmm, we will have to see about that I thought as my mind raced to think of all the ways I would tell them how much Ashley has wanted to be there for that moment and that this was already planned as a secondary alternative. But, when we got to the lobby, half sleepy-eyed, we were instantly awoken as two men with semi-automatic machine guns were looking back at us. I figured I would save any complaints.

We were asked if we had everything. I think we still would have nodded yes at this point if we didn't and we were escorted in almost complete dark down a rickety plank to the motorboat waiting to drive us to shore.

It made sense it was dark, it was 12:30am but what didn't make sense was nothing more than a flickering flashlight on board the boat. I guess if he guessed right, we might have seen a school of minnows we were about to run into but not much else.

Other than us in the boat there was a sailor controlling the motor and rudder as well as another sailor/guide and well, the two trained secret agents. The six of us motored along as the rest of them argued as to where we were going. I don't blame them, it was pitch black, we didn't even see the giant sunken crane sticking out of the water until we almost collided with it but then there they were, the blinking headlights of the van up on the hillside, pretty far from the water's edge we thought.

"We will take a tractor", the one sailor said. Must be just a lost in translation kinda thing but, no, there it was and Ashley said giggling "That's an actual tractor" as it bumped, hobbled and lumbered along in the sand towards where we were docking the boat.

Then after some confusion as to how to make it all work, all six of us, except for a change in drivers piled on and we hung on tight as Ash and I sat above one large tire while a guide sat on the other and the two trained assassins, guns ready, sat to each side of the umm, farmer? The tractor bounced along a winding path up towards the van where we met a new driver, new guide and were on our way.

Two hours or so later, "Welcome to Abu Simbel". We were there and ahead to the most part of the 50 or so bus convoy that was close on our tail. We followed our guide who had us budge beside a group of about 40, mostly Asian tourists. The only reason that them being Asian is important is so you can get the next picture clear in your head. We make it up to a certain point and as the doorway bottlenecks, we stop. Then Pat, Smack, Pat, Pat, I am being hit with fully thrown punches in the back and ribs by little visor wearing, fan-yielding Asian ladies who think we are trying to take their spots. "We are following our guide" I said, but they wouldn't stop. I raised by back hand at them and one lady stopped but one continued relentlessly. Now, I can't recall a time I have ever hit a girl and/or will ever want to ever again, but 'smack' she took the back of my hand like a fly swatter square in the side of the head. The punching stopped.

Just to be clear, it was more of a flick than any kind of hit and the punch/hit count was now at 128 to 1 so in my opinion it was at least sorta justified. For those of you that like Ferris Bueller. "I didn't hit you, I just lightly slapped you"

A few minutes later, we were entering the temple. We didn't have much time to admire it all because of the rush of the crowd, but its immense size and detail was amazing.

Following procedure we were herded I guess is the best word to the side of the main room and were about 20-25th in line for the viewing once the sun would shine through. The time was now ~3am and you just can't rush the sun. More and more people started to pile in. This time I was glad that they were fan wielding but it didn't have much effect. Everyone sat, but I decided I would get more antsy sitting and chose to stand. I listed to my ipod, I stretched, I read some of a book, stretched again and it was about 3:15am.

Guards started getting into a more set position to make sure nobody could cross the rope boundaries and enter the line that the rays of sun would take as they entered the temple.

Skip ahead a few more ipod tunes, stretches, pages read and a few more stretches and there we were in complete darkness as they turned out any artificial light in the temple. The commotion grew as everyone started to stand with anticipation. Guards started to order us through the winding corridor one by one as the light of the sun shone through the narrow doorway and along the ancient corridor. We walked in single file at a brisk and hurried pace (trying to get as many visitors through as possible within the 4 pure minutes that the sun would light the Ramses statue perfectly) and we ducked down as we passed the dead middle allowing the light to spill over top as we glanced left to see the pinkish-orange glow of the statues lighting up as intended when the temple was built thousands of years before. It was a very long build up for such a quick, almost anti-climactic moment but I am glad that we were there and now after the fact know that I had seen something that not everyone can say they have.

- Ben

Ben failed to mention the second ruckus he caused in the aftermath of our visit.
We had a little time to explore the neighbouring temple built for Ramses II's favourite wife Nefertari (different from the famous Nefertati.) As we entered, we noticed a "no photos" sign, and respectfully put our camera away. Once inside, it was obvious that leagues of individuals were ignoring the sign. With a raised voice Ben said "No photos please" with such authority that many please scrambled to hide their cameras while looking around to see if they had been the ones caught. 

It made us giggle but it had an unforeseen consequence as well... It had drawn the guard into the temple, and he started going around getting really mad at people, grabbing at their cameras and kicking them out of the temple. Oops. I guess it served them right, to an extent for being so rude in the first place. They believe the flash is contributing to the temple's deterioration and they are trying to conserve it for other visitors to enjoy. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside any of the best sites in Egypt...

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knitzek on

sun temple- memories to last a lifetime
Ben and Ash:
Ben what a wonderful blog entry. I felt like I was there, on the adventure within an adventure, travelling through the dark to make your rendezvous.
I am so glad you achieved this milestone on your journey. It is amazing to think that you were experiencing together a phenomenon that takes you back centuries to the vision of those early builders and architects. What a moment to share together.
It is great you are both tall and can tower above the tourists brandishing fans as weapons.
I could not stop smiling at the picture you painted in my mind. Thank goodness your handsome face was above the reach of the extended and flashing fans.
I assume you were taking the brunt of it all and they left Ashley alone.
Keep up the great blog, and sharing this special time with all of us. We await more.....
love karen and gerd

sdajhbsdajhbda on


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