Trouble in Aswan and Abu Simbel

Trip Start Jan 12, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Nefertari's Temple of Hathor Abu Simbel
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Temple of Ramesses II Abu Simbel
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, August 13, 2010

Tips for travellers:

1.      If you are not a good passenger or you just value your life then do not get driven to Abu-Simbel! Read the entry below and you'll understand why!!;

2.      Hire a car, guided and driver in Luxor as it is the cheapest, quickest and more flexible than any other alternative;

3.      Haggle at papyrus factories, I bought 3 and got the 4th free;

I could not imagine meeting a traveller who has been to Abu-Simbel who does not have a craxy story about their journey. Mine takes crazy to a whole new dimension…

Decided to hire a car, guide and driver as it was cheaper (1800 Egyptian Pounds (AUD$285) and more flexible than flying or any other means. Got started at 5am with a short drive south from Luxor to Aswan (3 hours). Our guide took us to a papyrus factory where we were shown how papyrus was made and printed.

It was after the papyrus stop that the trouble started. As we left the hotel at 5am we did not eat, it was now 10:30am and the only reluctant option, as it was Ramadan, was McDonalds. Our driver, Youseff, dropped us across the road , we crossed and entered only to find it did not open till 11am. When we got back to your car we found a tow truck beside our vehicle and a Police officer talking to our driver Youseff. Turns out Youseff made an illegal U-turn…..

The Police took Youseff’s license, so we followed the officer who met with his senior officer in a Nissan ute further up the road. Youseff tried to negotiate with the senior office, but failed. So we followed the ute to the station where Youseff tried, and faield, again… This time Youseff was told that if he took another step in the station he would be arrested! Youseff, who is about 20 years old, comes out in tears and begs me to go into the station yelling and threatening to call the embassy. So I do. I go into the station and commence negotiations. I was able to negotiate permission for Youseff  to drive us to  Abu Simbel, but his license would not be returned. Apparently in Egypt the officer decides on the length of time the offender is without their license, and it is accompanied by a 1500 pound fine. Youseff asked me to try harder so I asked for the most senior officer and began negotiating, my negotiations and a weeping travel companion who was acting upset got us over the line. Youseff got his license back but we now had another problem on our hand….. the convoy to Abu Simbel had already left!

All vehicles going to Abu Simbel must travel together in a convoy for safety and terrorist reasons. Armed Police escort the convoy. The convoys leave from aroadblocked checkpoint in Aswan, at these checkpoints we spoke to 3 sets of officials trying to gain permission to pass the checkpoint and catch up with the convoy. We had to bribe the 3rd official to let us pass. Youseff did this at 160klm per hour…. Pheeeewwww…

With the police and bribing drama’s behind us I thought it was all over… I was wrong! We caught up with the convoy only to play dangerous traffic games all the way to Abu Simbel. These Egyptian drivers are crazy! The convoy was travelling at 120klm per hour, nobody is allowed to neither pass the leader nor fall behind the van at the tail. This however does not stop the cars in between antagonising the leader to go faster and each other. The overtake each other with oncoming traffic and when there is no space to fit and drive with millimetres between them. Check out short video I attached… They are crazy… Insane! They also do it to keep awake as the road is straight an in the middle of the desert, somewhat unexciting after the first 20 mins.     

After 3 hours of 43 degree heat, red flat desert and various mirages, we finally got to Abu Simbel at 2:15pm with only an hour and 45 mins to visit the Sun temple (Ramsis II) and the temple of Hathor which ws build by Ramsis II to homour his wife Nefertari. Both temples are amazing, you cannot come to Egypt without going to Abu Simbel. I was given this advice and glad I took it. The temples are built into the mountains, an amazing site to see. Even more amazing is that it had to be moved due to threats of the Nile flooding, so the world’s largest water reservoir and dam (at the time) was built.

Massive statues of Ramsis II protect his temple, whilst massive statues of him and his wife protect the second temple. Ramsis has the temples strategically built to have the sun shines rays of light into his temple on his birthday, the 22nd of Feb, and the day of his coronation, 22nd Oct. The sun shines all the way in to the end of the temple where statues of 3 seated gods  (Ptah the god of darkness, Amun-Ra the sun god and Ra-harakhty) and Ramsis are located. The sun only light sup Ramsis!! Ramsis II would worship the gods in these temples.

We got back in the car at 4pm for a convoy back to Aswan getting in at 7pm before getting a 7:45pm train back to Luxor. We could have driven all the way back with the driver and guide but I could see he was trying and risked having an accident so we took the train instead (train was included in the package). Train pulled back in at Luxor at 11:30pm. What along day, but an amazing and excitement packed one!
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