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Friday, December 31, 2010

An Egyptian Excursion - Day 6

Breakfast today was pretty heavy, an excellent spread at the buffet. We got ready to check out, and our driver for the day, Karam (a friend of Tiger/Nemr's), was waiting for us. And so we started to the airport. On the way Karam pointed out the 6th October 1973 memorial, pretty much everyone seemed to know about it and from the way they talk it's apparent that they respect it and revere the people who gave their lives during the Yom Kippur War. Few of us would ever accord the same degree of reverence to those who laid down their lives in Kargil or the war of 1971.

He proceeded to showed us the Cairo International stadium among other sights. Our flight was leaving from Terminal 3 of the new airport. Pretty large, spacious and pleasing to the eyes. One big airport in the middle of the desert.

There was a dark-skinned African guy who got stopped at the entrance though - apparently some issue with his tickets. His companion, another negro, was let in and he proceeded to find a ticket counter where he could set things right. Meanwhile the man who got left behind (with a thick African accent) kept saying "You let white man go, but I go to America, they stop me there. I go to Europe, they stop me there. Now I come to Africa, you stop me here too. OH MY GOD!!". While I can imagine that it must have been distressing for him, his words were so funny with that accent that I couldn't help laughing at what was happening (not in front of him though).

There was another problem with our seat allotment which kept us standing at the counter for some time, though they did resolve it. Next stop - duty free. After browsing through many of the shops there, we boarded the plane. As usual, there were a few Indians laughing loudly on the flight as if it was some train compartment they'd hired exclusively, drawing looks and giving us a 'good' name :P . When we finally landed at Aswan, the tour operator from the Pyramisa Isis Corniche was there. One Mr. Abdul Rehman, who gave us a full briefing of the sights to be seen on the way to the hotel.

Soon after checking-in, tour arrangements were to be discussed. Now like I always say, we never take group tours, we prefer traveling alone - just the 3 of us - with a guide and driver too at max in a vehicle. All the prices were in dollars (they kinda prefer that to the Egyptian pound here) and they were all pretty damn expensive. Even compared to London and such high-flung places.

The view from the room itself though was just too beautiful to describe. Right on the banks of the Nile - the cradle of the Egyptian civilization, with the Tombs of the Nobles right across the river on a hill, and the sun's beautiful rays shining down on the water. We decided to take a Nile cruise on a boat from the hotel's dock.

And so we went, taking in the beautiful scenery as we watched the rich greenery and civilization on the banks on one side contrasted with the stark desert and sand dunes on the opposite bank that extended into the distance.

Mind you though, we kept our hands firmly within the limits of the boat. The Nile crocodile is the largest crocodilian in Africa (with some 20 feet plus specimens recorded) and is sometimes regarded as the second largest crocodilian after the Saltwater crocodile. A fact we were well aware of. One of the rocky little islands in the middle of the river even had an ominous "Croc warning" danger sign.

We saw Aga Khan's mausoleum (now closed to the public) on the way too. Soon the boat stopped at the Nubian village. These Nubians live in a somewhat more traditional fashion on the west banks of the Nile and on Elephantine island where they settled after being displaced to make room for Lake Nasser. Here, we had Hibiscus juice at a traditional Nubian house where they had croc skins among other weird paraphernalia hung up all over. There was even a relatively small crocodile in a makeshift tank in the middle of the hall.

Walking through the streets of this little place, we nearly got run over by 2 camels. Periodically, a camel or two run down the streets with a tourist or the owner himself on it. There are shops where you can get souvenirs made by the locals here too, and the shopkeepers call out "Hey India India" based on the color of our skin, except one dude who incorrectly called out "Hey Sri Lanka" :P . We took the same boat back with our guide to the point where we started this little journey where a car from the hotel was waiting for us.

We skipped over to the opposite side of the road (crossing the road is a slightly more perilous affair here compared to Cairo) to look for some place we could get plenty of bottled water. We did find one such shop where the shopkeeper was busy watching some old Amitabh Bachchan flick on his little TV. On seeing us, his eyes lit up like two 100W bulbs and he went "India India... Amitabh Bachchan you like??" and only after he confirmed this would he sell us the water. Even gave us a discount LOL. We had the car drop us back in front of the hotel's entrance and from there we took a walk along the road on the banks. Some tout tried to accost us saying he was a cook from the restaurant, pity we come from a land where touts are a dime a dozen. Didn't work. A little bit of shoe shopping and currency exchanging and Hostess Ho Ho buying later (I just love HoHos and I was frankly amazed to find them here in Aswan too). Had an ice cream too after many days (we'd been unable to find much in the way of ice cream during our time in Cairo).

There was no dearth of people of Sudanese origin here in Aswan. Everyone seems to like Amitabh Bachchan more than any local stars. Google it too if you don't believe me, but they kinda greet Indians here with "India India?? Amitabh Bachchan!" hahaha and they just love his movies (as we would find out during the later days). Soon it was dark and time for dinner, which we had at our resort's restaurant (they sort of messed up with a Vindaloo that wasn't quite a Vindaloo) with the dark water lapping the shore barely a few feet away. Wonderful setting with the Movenpick Hotel (yes the same folks who make that awesome ice-cream) on the opposite bank showing off its ever-changing lighting. I was beginning to miss the constant texts I'd usually keep sending a friend of mine by now. The phone had instead turned into my travel diary of sorts, keeping track of everything I did wherever I went. Stored the location I was at on the phone's GPS for memory's sake .

After dinner, I tried to turn in early (big trip next day), but to no avail. There was some crazy prom slasher film on the tube which ended with everyone else dead but the target of the obsessive slasher.

Then, quite coincidentally, The Mummy came on. Couldn't resist watching The Mummy all over again what with this being the land of the Pharaohs ;) . For the record, Hamunaptra is imaginary and Imhotep was an architect, engineer, physician and adviser of the King Djoser, and he didn't quite stab the king in the back and go about cavorting with his bride.


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