Monday, April 27, 2009


EGYPT Day 2 – Breakfast was 0530 (ugh). We were on our way to the Luxor airport at 0630 to catch a flight to Aswan.

ASWAN DAM – When this dam was built in the 1960s it provided more than 50% of Egypt’s electricity and also allowed this mostly arid nation to retain a lot of the water that normally ripped through the Nile Valley in the annual summer floods and keep it for irrigation. The day we visited the dam it was a national holiday and many families were picnicking under the trees on top of the dam.

Lake Nasser is the world’s largest manmade lake and stretches some 350 kilometers – about 230 miles – extending through southern Egypt and into Sudan. When they built it vast areas of Nubia were flooded. Egypt and the Sudan collaborated to build new villages for the Nubians on the shores of the lake. See pic.

An even bigger problem was the 27 or so ancient temples and monuments that would be covered by water. We went to see two of them had have been relocated – The temple of Philae and Abu Simbel.

THE TEMPLE OF PHILAE – We had to board small boats to reach the island to which this temple was relocated. It dates from the time of Greco-Roman occupation and you can see that the artwork is much different than that from the earlier periods.
There were vendors onboard the little boat. Clyde bought a Numibian camel bone necklace. Brian bought a traditional Numibian hat. He and our friends Bob and Peter decided they would form a singing group and call themselves the “Nubie Brothers” – thought it had a nice ring to it.

In the temple Mary found a cat. One of the guides said it had recently had 5 kittens. We suspect that this obvious tomcat had not. He approached each person holding a water bottle and mewed loudly. Mary figured out what he wanted. She also provided a drinking fountain for a local lizard. This is also where Cyde learned to "walk like and Egyptian"

This temple had some of its images defaced by Coptic Christians (Egypt was Christian under the Romans then converted to Islam when invaded by Arabs) and you can see the Coptic cross on this column.

ASWAN GRANITE QUARRY – This is the source of most of ancient Egypts granite monuments, sphynxes and sarcophagi. Man was it hot there. They used tools made from meteorites to chisel slots in the outline they wanted then inserted wooden wedges into the slots and wetted them. The swelling of the wood would crack the granite in the desired rough shape. One of these pics shows the slots and the other shows a huge obelisk that cracked during its creation and was left in place – it is 120 feet long. The items quarried there were then moved to their final destinations via barge down the Nile.

Our hotel was in Aswan on Elephantine Island in the Nile. We spent the hottest part of the day there and then went for a felucca ride on the Nile.

These are traditional sailing ships with triangular sails. A fun and relaxing way to see the sights including the Aswan Temple of Mickeydee. One of the sights is the mausoleum of the Agha Kahn on a hilltop overlooking the Nile (see pic). When we sailed past a Nubian village some boys paddled out in a little canoe using their hands as oars, latched onto our sailboat and began to sing. They sang Frere Jacques until they realized we were not French and then switched to Home on the Range. Nubians are noted for their linguistic abilities and these boys were now exception – got a couple of bucks for their efforts. Mary did her "Little Egypt" routine in a Nubian hat she purchased on board.

The hotel had a cocktail lounge on its top floor with a great view of Aswan and the Nile. Brian tried a martini. He said if someone would have blindfolded him and asked him what he was drinking he would not have been able to tell. Lesson learned. Last time he orders a mixed drink in a Muslim country – beer and wine only in future.

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