Aswan to Luxor - Sleepers and sailing

Trip Start Oct 09, 2012
Trip End Dec 20, 2012

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Flag of Egypt  , Luxor,
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Huddled around with many other tour groups we were waiting for the overnight train to Aswan. Each of us had been allocated a sleeper cabin. Dan, a train enthusiast, was very excited about the prospect. I was less so, knowing it was unlikely to be the best sleep I'd ever had.
Upon entering our cabin we were greeted by Sayed - essentially our butler, waiter and wake up caller. He was a lovely bloke and quickly served us our dinner which we ate with the adjoining door open to the next cabin chatting to our fellow tour friends.

No sooner had the last morsel entered our mouths that Sayed was back to clear the trays and transform our room into bunks. The cabin was quite clever, obviously following the Ikea doctrine of not wasting a cm of space. The top bunk flipped down (bed made) and a ladder hooked on. After a episode of The Killing II, I settled onto the top bunk ear plugs in place. It wasn't super easy to sleep; the train driver's braking was so abrupt it feel more like you were on a sail boat than a train. Sayed woke us up an hour before arrival to serve breakfast - three pastries each. Dan's response: Awesome.

We made it to Aswan around 11am. The first thing we noticed was the heat - it was so hot and dry compared to Cairo. We bundled into a van, praying for the AC to kick in and shortly later were dropped off at the Sara hotel - a step down from the first night but adequate. The one oddity was the towels, I assume they have a large registration of dwarf guests or so the towel size (a mid point between hand towel and normal) would suggest. Despite this Dan was pleased to clock his first pool session before we headed out to see the sights of Aswan.

Our first stop was the Aswan high dam. Opened in 1971 the dam was created to prevent the Nile flooding. The dam is 3830 metres long and 111 metres high. Interesting to learn the history however Dan felt the Hoover Dam was more impressive.

I was more keen to see the Philae Temple. To reach the temple you needed to take a little boat. Successfully passing through the gauntlet of pyramid/sphinx ornament sellers we made it to the boat and quickly charged past the other tours to make it to the temple. I get the sense Peter, our tour guide, likes having the sights clear of other tourists/tour groups. Peter and I are on the same wavelength.....

The Philae temple was actually relocated by UNESCO to the island it now inhabits due to the construction of the Aswan dam. Peter ran through the background of the temple as well as covering basic features and the story of Isis, Osiris and Horus. We then had time to roam giving Dan plenty of opportunities to 'walk like an Egyptian' around the temple. The level of detail was stunning, it's quite mind boggling to think of the time it would have taken to carve all the inscriptions.

That night Peter took us into the centre of town for dinner. The Eqyptians love their LED lights. Every second car has LEDs on the under carriage or front grill. A motorcycle whizzed by completely decked out in LEDs. We had traditional Egyptian food - grilled meats and salad. It was very good.

The next morning was another opportunity to relax before setting off on a felucca towards Luxor. Dan forced me to play catch in the pool - for some reason he had packed a ball that was a mix between a tennis ball and a cricket ball, basically the heaviest tennis ball you've ever seen. Only the essentials in his pack.

That afternoon we drove to the Nile to board the felucca. Feluccas are traditional wooden sailing boats with no motors.The felucca was very small - luckily there was only 8 of us to fit on it as a few had opted for the Nile cruise. It was adorned with a Spongebob Square Pants awning (very calming) and the world's hardest pillows. Lunch was served and we drifted off. After 2 hours we might have covered about 300 metres. Felucca is the slowest mode of transport on the planet (camels or crawling may have been faster...). I lay back and read my book while some people played cards. Another 2 hours (perhaps 400 metres later) we anchored. Right by a highway. Hmmm, I had had visions of the Nile wilderness, anchored near a small remote bay. Not anchored near the never ending traffic presenting the need to basically make toilet by the side of the road. Apparently the reason was that the other side of the Nile was overrun with mosquitos. Hmmm, I think it was more to do with making it easy to meet the van the next day. Either way the hum of traffic soon dulled into background and we relaxed down to dinner.We finished dinner (sausages, pasta and beans) and decided to introduce the group to the Villagers/Mafia game. This is essentially a lying game - perfect when you have only candlelight (gets dark before 6pm here)- as doesn't require any playing cards. Everyone thought I was lying every time I opened my mouth and never suspected our quiet Colombian, Javier, who ended up more times as the Mafia than anyone that we begun to wonder if he was part of a South American cartel.

Sleeping on the felucca proved a bit of a challenge. The combination of the rock hard pillows and limited space involved some gentle manoeuvering to avoid sticking your foot literally in the mouth of one of your tour friends. We were woken at 6am and served breakfast as we floated about 25 metres down river (why, I don't know).

Boarding the mini van (thankfully with more leg room than Mohammed's vehicle in Morocco)
we drove to our first stop - the Kom Ombo temple. This temple is unique in Egypt as it was built for two gods; Horus (the falcon headed god) and Sobek (the crocodile headed god). It was very quiet at the temple; once you'd escaped the children trying to give you a "free" necklace. A cool thing about this temple is the museum that is attached. It was full of crocodile mummies. You can just imagine the explorer who dug up those mummies thinking they'd got the hoard of the century only then then to be scratching his head wondering whether he'd dug up the ugliest humans alive or perhaps something else.

Our next stop after this was the Edfu temple. This temple is dedicated to Horus and is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. It was significant for many sacred festivals honouring Horus and his wife god Hathor and the story of the festival is depicted on the wall. It also features the replica of the sacred boat that carried the statue of Horus to the statue of Hathor so they could have some alone time. The temple was very large and again you were overwhelmed with the level of detail in the building. There was a stronghold of store touts at this temple and one got in a shouting match with Peter our guide because he thought Peter should be encouraging us to buy their junk. We hurriedly got into the van.

We arrived at Luxor around 3pm to the Lotus Hotel. This hotel was right near the Nile and had a lovely swimming pool. It was also clearly one of Thomson or similar's package deals as there were a few gobby English people ordering the pool boys around or speaking on their mobile phones in the lobby about 10000 decibels too loud. Despite this it was a nice place to stay. That night we were taken to Murphy's Irish bar. The only Irish thing about this bar is the decor - lots of four leaf clovers and Irish beer mats. There was no Guinness, no Irish beers, and an Egyptian food menu. The music was gangsta rap - the music genre of choice for many Egyptian restaurants catering to Westerners. However there was some football on which kept the boys entertained.

The next morning we were up early to visit the sights of Luxor and try to avoid some of the beating sun. We drove to west bank first and stopped at the Collossi of Memnon. Two enormous statues - one covered in birds, one not. They were quite impressive.

Our next stop was the famous Valley of the Kings. There are 63 tombs and chambers here but only about 8 open to the public at one time. We were visiting three of them (you could spend all day here otherwise). Upon entering you get on the little car carriage to be transported up to the tombs. Peter gave us a speil about each tomb (in the shade) before we entered. The tombs are really well preserved. There is a lot of colour in the carvings which shows how much detail they painting on the dress of their figures. We visited three of the Ramses' - III, IV and IX. The size of the tombs vary in size depending on how long the Pharaoh was alive (work on tombs halted upon death). Much to my annoyance no photos were allowed at Valley of the Kings (Dan quipping,"'How are you going to boss me around now?")

After this we drove on to the Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir El Bahary). This is a three levelled temple carved into the side of a mountain (I also read this was the site of the 1997 terrorist attack, luckily this was afterwards or I am sure I would have freaked myself out). Camera in hand again I was able to direct aka boss Dan into much photo posing. Although Dan does have a knack for attracting those English men hanging around trying to have photos with you for money. He has not perfected the 'No thank you and walk away' method and instead inevitably ends up arms around shoulders posing for a shot. Oh Dan.......

Our last stop for the day was Karnak temple. This complex of temples was huge. You could spend hours here. It was built upon by Pharaoh after Pharaoh. There were two giant obseliks. There was also a sculpture of a scarab that legend says if you walk around four times you will get married, five times you will have a baby and six times you will be rich. I have never counted so carefully in my life - sorry Mum, I'm gonna be rich!
We wandered around the site - there is a hall of columns featuring 132 massive columns, there were loads of statues and half statues everywhere. Upon entering there is a Sphinx avenue with ram headed sphinxes depicting Amon-Ra.It was my favourite temple of all we'd visited. Dan, I think, was templed out.

But Dan had little to fear as that was our last temple. Next stope because our next stop is Hurghada to enjoy some sun, sea and suspect cocktails.....
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Karyn on

But you also obviously completed 4 and 5 - it's the latter I'm hanging out for :)

Esther on

How come you didn't go to Abu Simbel? I though that was compulsory in Aswan.

Bond on

Is that tennis ball the red one we got in India? I was taking mine everywhere for a while as well but then I realised it just kills your hands and I might as well use an actual tennis ball

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