National Geographic Photo of the Day

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Egyptian Excursion - Day 9

Today, we were up by 7am. Had a pretty heavy breakfast and the nervous waiter nearly spilled his entire tray of coffee on Mum. He did apologize profusely though. The driver and guide were already waiting for us. In Aswan, the drivers don’t stop all the time and give pedestrians priority when they’re crossing, quite unlike Cairo. Here you have to be a bit more careful when you’re crossing the road.

Our first stop was the old dam in Aswan. Built by the British around 1902, later seized in the revolution of 1952 and all the power dam produced was henceforth used for Aswan alone. Then we drove to the Aswan High Dam. This one was newer and supposedly built with money seized from the Suez Canal during the war. This was the dam that submerged the land of Nubia (hence the migration of the Nubian population to Sudan, and regions like the Nubian village in Egypt which we saw earlier) and several temples of Ancient Egypt. This massive dam powers pretty much the whole of Egypt. Neither of the dams have any locks (not the kind you put on your door), so boats can’t pass through either one.

We headed to the boat dock for a ride to Philae Island. This was one of the numerous Islands that the dam had submerged. However, a coordinated effort was organized to disassemble the underwater temple and reassemble it on a nearby island that still remained above water. An amazing feat by any measure, considering how deep the water is. The Philae Temple, built in Ptolemaic times (time to dust off that old history book) is dedicated to the Goddess Isis – wife and sister of Osiris (yeah, the Egyptian Gods and Pharaohs were pretty messed up that way). The courtyards, pylons, statues and pillars were all covered with ornate designs and carefully preserved with not a hint of any mess left behind by tourists – which is, sadly, hardly the case in monuments back in India. We took our time walking through the temple and caught a boat back to the docks where the map seller followed us around saying “India India, Sholay very good, Shahrukh, Amitabh, Salaam Namaste, Kareena Kapoor, Salman Khan, Rajesh Khanna, Amir Khan” and went on and on even when it was apparent we weren’t interested/didn’t need a map (all the regions were stored offline on my N79). He could probably named more Bollywood actors and actresses than I ever could. Then there was the souvenir seller who tried to sell us something for 12, then 11, then 10 egyptian pounds, then for the heck of it, dad said 9, then he said 8, 7…and counted down to 1 laughing all the way while waving us goodbye.

Driving back from the docks, our first stop was the EgyptAir office (to check on the status of our flight back to Cairo) and then the quarry of the unfinished obelisk. Soon we were back at the resort. For these 3 hours of sightseeing inside Aswan, the cost was around Rs. 4400 (exchange rates around May 2010), by no means cheap. The previous 2 days’ trips came to about Rs. 20,000 each (no, not a joke). So be prepared to shell out a lot when touring Egypt, especially in the tourist towns of Luxor, Aswan and Edfu. If you have plenty of time, you can even take one of the cruise ships that ply the Nile and stop at the major attractions.

This was our last day in Aswan, so we took our riverside walk yet again, and stopped at the same Aswan Moon Restaurant from yesterday for lunch. The friendly old waiter was there and we had fresh mango juice and strawberry juice to go with our meal – no water, no essence, just pure and awesome juice. Once again, the food was simply marvelous. There was a bit of packing to be done back at the resort and we did that while I watched some cheesy Punisher flick from the 80s. I checked my mail after what seemed an eternity and found an IEEE Project idea of mine had been shortlisted for funding. Looking out my room’s window, I found a mother cat walking about the Nile’s banks followed by her 6 kittens and threw some cheese, butter and any other edible stuff I had in my room. The kittens were happy enough with this. Had to shave today, what with the face fungus growing rather unruly.

Around 8.15pm we took a walk down to McDonalds, had a big combo and a KitKat McFlurry (McFlurry Ice Cream blended with bits of KitKat chocolate). There are always so many more women out at restaurants here than men. Plenty of kids too in their early teens. Everyone seems to eat so much, yet they get to maintain perfect skin and a pimple-less face. Today however McDonalds was a bit too crowded – I suppose it was some kind of holiday. Mum had an ice-cream from a nearby shop on the way back. It was apparent that he’d overpriced it at the last minute when he saw we were foreigners.

And so began our last walk back to the resort along the famous Nile. Finished packing and ended the day with End Game on television (starring Cuba Gooding Jr.).


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