Egypt: Aswan & Abu Simbel

Egypt was one of the destinations I visited during my 16-month career break.  Following is an excerpt from my blog.

[singlepic=971,200,,,right]I mistakenly arrived in Egypt thinking that it would be very similar to Morocco. That’s like thinking that California and New York are similar. And having lived in both – I know that’s not true. Sure, the two countries are in Northern Africa, they are both suffocatingly hot, their language is Arabic (with minor differences), they have the same religion, and they even share the Sahara Desert – camels and all. But beyond that, they really aren’t the same. The difference is that Egypt is all about history – temples, tombs, relics, hieroglyphics, and royalty. Because of that, you tend to see more tourists in Egypt and it is a little more developed in general.

I met up with my new Intrepid tour group in Aswan, Egypt near the southern most border of Egypt and Sudan. That afternoon we went on a hot walking tour of Aswan. Aswan was really a good place to lodge for the night on the way to the famous temple of Abu Simbel (close to the Sudan border). The Nile River flowed through Aswan and it had a large Nubian population. The Nubians are the old nomadic tribal people who inhabited southern Egypt and northern Sudan. They had fought turf wars with the Egyptians many years ago as well as turf wars with the Nile as it flooded their land. We took a boat ride on the Nile, visited an old Nubian village, rode some camels, and had dinner with the locals at the village. We finished the evening dancing with the local kids before we boated back to Aswan for a good, but short night’s sleep.

[singlepic=965,200,,,left]The next morning, at the wee hours of 4AM, we joined our first convoy – no, not a camel convoy or a semi convoy – a bus convoy. Since Egypt has had a recent history (within the last 10 years) of terrorist attacks on their tourism industry, the government has tried to put in place programs to improve the safety of tourism in the country. They understand that tourism dollars are a huge piece of income, and you can’t just expect people to come to see the pyramids and old temples and risk their lives doing it. Therefore, they set up a program of convoys to move tourists throughout the country. When the tourists are on the roads in Egypt (outside the large cities), they are to be escorted by security and only allowed to move by vehicle as a part of a convoy.

The convoy mainly consists of tour buses, minivans, medium sized buses, and a number of security personnel in trucks carrying automatic weapons as if they were toys. The caravans would have up to 80 vehicles in it and when you crossed over into another regional section of the country, you would all have to stop and wait for a new security team to take over and lead you into the next region. We joined the convoy to Abu Simbel at 4am. This was a large convoy and I honestly slept most of the way. It was a 3-hour ride, and at about 7am, I woke up from my bus slumber to the most magnificent temples in Egypt.

[singlepic=964,200,,,right]I must admit – I knew nothing about these temples prior to the bus stopping and letting us out. I hadn’t even seen a picture of them before…but I prefer it that way. I had no idea if these temples were big, small, made of gold, on the water, or had a moat. All I knew is that Ramses the Second had built them here near the border of Egypt and Sudan to warn all of the Sudanese to stay away – this was Ramses’ land.

We entered the temple area from the back where it just looked like a big pile of dirt. However, when we rounded the corner and came to the front, I was struck by the size and grandeur of the temple. It was massive – there were actually two temples – one for Ramses and a smaller one for his Queen, Nefitari. Both had entrances that were lined with huge statues of Ramses himself. I barely was the size of his big toe.

[singlepic=987,150,,,left]We moved on to see a few more temples before returning to Aswan for a much needed siesta. I’ve determined that it is a necessity to take a siesta in these hot countries as it’s inhuman to be outside doing anything during the hours of 1PM to 5PM as temperatures were 110+F. If you didn’t take time to slow down and drink plenty of liquids you’d end up with heat stroke. While traveling through Morocco and Egypt I think that every single person that I was traveling with was sick at least once…and I don’t believe that it was necessarily from the food – I think it was from the heat – it’s lethal.




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