Sunday, August 20, 2006

Asuan - the second day

Few hours of sleep passed and at 3am we had a wake up call. The trip was to start very early. We come down, get our breakfast box (wow :o), and three of us get to this one minibus. We get few more people along the way and I am happy there will be not many tourists at our today’s destination, which is Abu Simbel.

Yep, I admit it was a silly thought. Within 20 min we stop on a road and there are already several big buses and we are standing there and waiting for more to come. The point is simple, we will have a guarding convoy with us and thus all the buses will come to Abu Simbel at once. Thank god, this was off season. Thus we ended up only with some 20big buses and 20 minibuses. (We were told that in high season there are approx. 60 buses and during one specific day, when the sun hits the face of the Ramses statue inside of the temple, the 22nd (resp. 21) October there were 1,5mil people last year!).

We arrived past 7 at Abu Simbel, the place itself was magnificent from the very beginning. It was sunrise, there was the huge Nile with rocky banks and as if little fjords… hmm… and there were actually also several huge tourist boats with some more hundreds of tourists on it! (Fortunately they actually left the very time to go back to Aswan).

So we took the walk to Abu Simbel temples. There were two temples awaiting us. One built for Ramssese II. himself, the other one, smaller one, for his beautiful and beloved wife Nefertari, both dating to the 13th century BC. The temples should have commemorated the victory in the battle of Kadesh, and also were to impress and show the power of Ramssese to the neighbouring Nubians.

In 1964, the temples were moved from its original position to some 290km south of Aswan, as Aswan High Dam was to be build in that area, which meant the complex of the two temples would be flooded by the emerging artificial reservoir Lake Nasser.

The inside carving of the smaller temple could be view here.

A little after 9 we left Abu Simbel and drove some 3 hours back to Aswan. Our first stop was the Aswan High Dam. It is 111m high and nearly 4km long. Well, hmm… dam :o). The trip continued to Philae temple. We paid entrance, got on a boat and were brought to the island where the Philae temple is situated. In 1977, the temple has been moved from its original position on Philae Island to nearby Island of Agilika due to the Aswan High Dam which raised the waters of the Nile.

The temple was built during the 3rd century BC and was dedicated to the goddess Isis. The Vestibule of Nectanebos I served as the entrance to the Island of Philae. The original stairways leading to the vestibule were unfortunately washed away by the Nile and out of its original 14 columns only 6 remained till now. The complex further consists of the Temple of Emperor Hadrian, Temple of Hathor, Trajan’s Kiosk and other. Pilgrims from all over Mediterranean would come to Philae Island to worship the goddess of Isis.

Most of the sights built on the island date to the 26th Dynasty or the Roman Period, although they are predominantly of Roman style. The construction on the island took over 800 years. The temples were closed by Justinian in the year 550 AD after some 4000 years of worshipping of the pagan gods.

The island was incredibly colourful with all the flowers and the trees and was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. It was also one before the last stop. We ended up going to see one incomplete obelisk in Aswan. But I was not allowed to get in with my “fake” student ID. Well, your loss :P.

We arrived back to our hotel after 3pm. Later we stopped to get some food on our way back to the railway station and were on the train back to Cairo at 6pm.

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