Sunday, August 20, 2006

Asuan - the first day

We left for Asuan on Thursday night. My bus from work was late that day by 45min, I did not pack for the trip the previous day and so coming home I had 40min to get ready. I am a slow packer, although I pack 3 t-shirts and couple of underwear. So in a way we were running late... BUT (hihi)… I discovered that there is one metro station actually 3min from our place and so we don’t have to walk 15min to Dokki station, as we always did before. Thus we were 15min “early” for the train :o).

The best part came right after, it was 8pm in the night, I did not have proper sleep the past several days (6.30am each morning is early!) and there was the sleeping train waiting for us…!!! And yes, it is the best travel on the train that i have ever had! We left on time, after 8pm and made it to Asuan the next morning past 9pm. Loooong sleep, good sleep.

By the train station we were caught by one young Nubian guy, offering us a ride in felluca (a boat), and at the end we ended up going to our hotel by boat instead of walking. Though since there was no wind, it took us over an hour to get to our hotel instead of 10 min walk. But nonetheless, the boat trip passed extremely fast and we got to enjoy the sight and slight movement of the nile river with lots of felluca passing by and big tourist boats parked (?) everywhere by the banks in double or triple rows.

After settling down at the hotel, our first trip lead to the market street of Asuan. This place is famous especially for its heaps of little shops with spices of all colours, teas and of course the usual clothes, scarfs and little statues and other silly things. I am ashamed to say that 500m of the street we have passed in over 1 hour! Surprisingly we actually shopped a lot, which is not only for me, quite unusual. :o)

Past three we met our felluca boy. He was to bring us to the numerous islands and sights that were on the Nile or on the other bank of it. Altogether we spent some 5 hours on his boat, due to no wind. Few times he and his friends had to paddle to get us somewhere. And still I was not bored, I sank my feet in the water to cool down a bit and enjoyed the light breeze, and calmness of the place.

First stop was at the Kitchner island. The UK honorary consul has established a botanical garden on this little island. I really liked that place, very nice and silent, with lots of flowers and tall palm trees. Another place to simply sit and do nothing.

Our second stop, after cruising zig zag over the nile was the right bank of the river. There is the Simeon monastery, or rather say the ruins of it, to be found. We walked for some 15min to reach the ruins, we walked around and ... well, we saw the ruins :o))... The other sight, the Mausoleum of Aga Khan was closed down recently, so except the desert, the camels and the green islands, there was nothing else to be seen.

Back on board, we headed for the Elefantine island. That is the biggest island in Asuan, has some big ruins of a temple and at the other edge there is the Nubian village. There are over 5000 people living in the village. The main activities of the Nubian people are running fellucas, farming, tourism, they actually "charge" tourists for entering and being shown around the Nubian village.

The village itself is very colourful. We saw mothers hanging out with their children, their hands busy with making plaits to the little girls, little children playing in a mud, some asking for bakshish and youth lazying around in the heat of the day. (Dody quote) We were offered to visit the Nubian house, I was offered to get my hands coloured with Hena, but we were in rush, so we skipped all this and just wandered around. The village is a cocktail of the beauties and uglies, where the colourful walls and finely painted windows danced together with the dirty abandoned mud walls. You will see turquoise, yellows, bright green, daring red lighting up the drab background of egyptian dust (Dody quote).

The visit has not lasted more than 20min, but we have still managed to miss the sunset on the Nile river...

As the boat drew back to the bank, we have passed the tombs on the west bank of the river. It was too hot and not much left to visit those.

During the night, we were sent to one local egyptian restaurant. It was supposed to be close by but we still managed to miss it and ended up at the pizza place by the railway station... hmm... great choice :o)).

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