12:30am is not a wake up time. It’s a bedtime. But after two hours sleep we woke for our flight South to Aswan in Upper Egypt. It was better to get an early start, as when we landed at 6am, it was already 32°C. We drove to the High Dam. An incredible feat of engineering, but with some definite pros and cons.
Sarah and I had both learnt a bit of Ancient Egyptian History when we were younger but could not remember the different temples or tombs. We specifically did not look into them so we were pleasantly surprised when we got there. Philae Temple was definitely a surprise. When the dam was built in the 60’s it would have been covered in water, but it was thankfully pulled down and rebuilt above the water line. Good bloody work UNESCO! The first glimpse of the temple was spectacular. It is situated on an island in the centre of the Nile. We sat outside the Outer Court of the Temple amongst our first ever glimpse of hieroglyphics. It was an incredible feeling, sitting there with the whole place to ourselves while learning about the beginning of time according to the Egyptians and about some of the main Gods. We wandered into the temple and were blown away with how detailed the hieroglyphics were. At no point did we think that they would be in such detail after thousands of years. Sure, some were missing faces and there were scenes missing but that wasn’t down to erosion it was Christians hiding out. We spent half an hour wandering around with our mouths ajar trying to grasp how intelligent this civilisation was. They build buildings that can last thousands of years, some even with the original paint still visible. You don’t get that today. Roofs of houses don’t even last 20 years I reckon! (Random statement but a bit of a sore point)
We were back at the hotel by 10am to relax and avoid the intense heat of the day. But there was a pool. And a Volleyball. And a volleyball net. So, we went for a 10-minute swim that lasted about four hours. We spent the evening wandering through Aswan Market. We kept an eye out for hasslers, schemers and pickpockets but bar a couple of minor incidents in the group it was pretty quiet as everyone was to busy getting ready to break their fast for Ramadan. It was time for us to break our 4 hour fast as well, so we jumped on a boat and headed up the nile for dinner in a Nubian restaurant. Chilling on the roof of the boat was brilliant as we headed towards the restaurant but the highlight was definitely the food. We were in bed pretty early as we had another early start – 3am for our convoy to Abu Simbel Temples, the monument dedicated to (and by) greatest and most beautiful Pharoah, Ramses II and his favourite wife, Queen Nefertari.
Another temple that was threatened by the rising water casued by the high dam, it was saved with the help of UNESCO and moved to a point above the water line. Other than the fact the temple is colossal, the workers had a massive task when they undertook shifting it for two particular reasons. It was carved into a mountain, so they only had one way of moving it; they cut the mountain into pieces and put it back together. The original was also built so that on the 21st and February and the 21st October every year the sun shone directly up the hallway to light up three of 4 gods leaving the God of Darkness, in the… um.. dark. The two dates represented the day Ramses II was born and his coronation. They had a ‘bloody good crack’ but now the sun enters on the 22nd and the 22nd which I guess now represent that day after Ramses II was born and the day after he was inaugurated. Also very important…
When you first walk around the bend and see the Temple for the first time, you are blown away. It is incredible.
You see this.
Once inside, your blown away again. Hieroglyphics and battle scenes carved into the walls and along side in different chambers, colours are unbelievably, still there. Dwarfed by the columns we wandered around before heading to the smaller, yet still gigantic tomb of Nefertari. The pyramids and Philae temple were something, but this, this was something else.