25 miles north of Sudan... Abu Simbel!

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, June 27, 2008

Greek historian Herodotus once said that Egyptians "gather in the fruits of the earth with less labor than any other people."  This of course applied to the aggricultural life, but I cannot help but wonder about the touts who are using their ancestors' work to make a living.  This must have been going on for hundreds, not if thousands, of years.  What a great investment the ancient Egyptians made!  They created something to feed their descendents for thousands of years to come.

Abu Simbel is a pefect example of this.  Rush hour in Aswan starts at 3am.  Coach buses and huge vans line up to start the journey to Abu Simbel, the southern-most of the 5 towns that make up Aswan.  There is police convoy, so tourists visit Abu Simbel for a limited time in the ealry morning.  It was a 3-hour drive, greeted by a sunrise in the middle.

I had great anticipation for this temple because of the majestic photographs I have seen of Ramses and Nefertari.  Everyone from yesterday's group (except the French guys) were there, so we all hung out.  I felt like we were all good friends or something.  Many of us were headed to Dahab after Luxor as well.  When we finally arrived there, we passed toilets and bought tickets (student: 43.5EGP).  We had to pay .5EGP for Abu Simbel Council and 3EGP for a non-existent tour guide.  Oh well.  From the entrance, I saw a huge mound of sand and Lake Nasser.  We all walked around the mound until we saw the great temple of Ramses!!!  It was very grand.  Cannot believe people moved this temple to stop it from being flooded.  They could have moved it closer to Aswan, so tourists don't have to drive out 3 hours, but apparently the sun shines right into the sanctuary twice a year (one of them on my birthday!).  I also really liked Temple of Hathor next door to Temple of Ramses.  Without a guide, we tried to piece together the measly knowledge we had of these two temples, using LP, Fodor's, and National Geographics.  The inside of the temples were pretty small, and once we came out, that was the end of the tour.  I must say, Abu Simbel was rather anti-climatic.  When we went to the bathroom, a guy tried to charge us for entrance.  I, as usual, was like, hell nahhh, and passed right by him.  Apparently other people paid.  Oh well.  There was a string of shops just around the corner.  I saw two of the things I bought in Cairo!  I asked for the price just to compare, and wow, something I paid 10EGP for was definitely 50EGP!  I walked away smiling.

Another 3-hour drive- this time a little more comfortable- and we were back in the good ol' Aswan.  Anne and I went to an Egyptian pizza place called Biti, located near the station.  They specialize in Egyptian pizza with unlimited toppings!  Aswan is known for its fish, so I tried calamari, mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes (not that there is calamari in the Nile).  It was kind of like thin pizza/baked crepes and absolutely delicious!  They were making the pizza on the first floor, so I was taking a picture from the staircase.  The guys saw me and motioned me to come down.  I was like, eh I'm good, but they peer pressured me like the Egyptians they are.  They let me go behind the bar and actually help make the pizza!  I first spread sauce on the dough and sprinkled chicken, green peppers, tomatoes, and olives on it and topped it off with thick chunks of mozarella cheese.  I guess I was being skimpy on the toppings because the guy kept saying, "Put more, more."  And he kept telling his co-worker to take pictures and made peace signs... ok, buddy.  I put the pizza in the brick oven using a really long stick.  Probably only Aswanese can stand to work in such heat.  I felt like I was on the Travel Channel!  It was such a cool experience. 

The big lunch made me drowsy.  I had already checked out of my room in the morning, but Anne graciously let me stay in her double room until my departure at 8pm.  She even let me take a shower.  Then we napped.  And napped.  We were planning on going to the Nubian Museum, but it didn't happen.  I'm kind of sad, but the museum has weird hours (9am-1pm, 5pm-9pm), which made the visit difficult (I later found out that it opens straight from 9am-9pm.  UGH both the hotel staff and LP were wrong!).  I went on a sunset felucca trip at 6pm.  The sun started setting around 7pm.  It was no Caribbean sunset but very relaxing and scenic nonetheless. 

I picked up my bag from the hotel and headed to the train station for the 3-hr ride to Luxor.  I was only too happy to get rid of my guide, who was needlessly creepy.  He was especially interested in Anne.  He tried to like kiss her and asked me what her room number is!  Wtf!  I would have much rather had Anne's guide, who was creepy too, but at least he was young, good-looking and creepy.  It's nice to have an individual guide, but it was a little too much. 

Alright, I have one long, busy day in Luxor tomorrow.  I am going to tackle both the west and east banks in ONE day!  I thought doing them in two days was cutting it closely... we will see how it goes.
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