Saturday, April 12, 2008

Going to Egypt pt X


Our floating hotel, the Hamees, is coming up fast on Aswan, the biggest city since we left Luxor and the heart of Egyptian Nubia. You can tell which crewmen aboard the Hamees are from Aswan—they're the ones singing and dancing in place behind the bar or buffet table. They're also darker skinned, though not always. Skintones range from a little coffee in the milk to no milk at all. So while the Nubians tend to be darker, among the crew at least it's best to tell by the dancing.

Our schedule is densely packed. There's a lot to see and do in Aswan, and we only have a day and a half before we fly back to Cairo. We furiously make plans so that we can tell David, our guide, what we want to do. So he can tell The Authorities and keep everybody happy. Happy is important.

Our travel company itinerary calls for a visit to the Aswan High Dam. Ditch that! Unfinished obelisk? Eh. Temple of Isis at Philae? Oh, that's in! Felucca ride? Why not?

That's the travel company's plan of what we should do in Aswan. David gives us several other options. We can visit Aswan's souk, which is supposed to be a good one. We can fly to Abu Simbel on the other end of Lake Nasser. Take a hot-air balloon ride.

We can also take a camel ride on the west bank. (I have studied my guidebook.) And while the destinations aren't that interesting (Coptic monastary, very minor ruins), the camelling part is very interesting. We can also visit the relocated Nubian villages on Elephantine Island (indigenous culture! music! henna tattoos!).

It takes several discussions, but we come up with a plan: felucca to Philae and visit the Temple of Isis. On our return, drop Glenn and Anna off at the Botanical Gardens while Greg, Don and I go to the west bank and take camels out to the monastery. Ride back, take the felucca and pick up Glenn and Anna. Souk in the afternoon, then crash. Hard.

We present our plans to David, who must notify the authorities as to where we'll be. But the next morning, we climb in our tourmobile and head the Aswan High Dam. Why? The answer is unspoken yet clear: because the dam is the symbol of modern Egypt, the government is proud of it, so dammit we're going to see it.

It was a very nice dam.

But then on to Philae. David had another change of plans: the day was pretty calm, and feluccas need wind, so we were instead going to take a motorboat. No hay peto, as they say south of the border. And indeed we end up towing a becalmed, tourist-laden felucca to the island.

When a 2GB memory card costs $30, the sheer volume of trip photos is staggering. I am still labeling photos, and desperately trying to catch myself up to this point in the travelog.
About halfway through the trip I finally had the idea to photograph the entrance ticket as a way to remind myself, a month later, what sites I'm looking at. D'oh!

Sitting in the shade at the Unfinished Obelisk. Two people in this photo think it's unbearably hot, but we're all having fun. Really!

Why was Egypt at times evocative of Disneyland? In a country of 80 million people we run into Dr. Hawass, the most famous living Egyptian—for Americans, anyway. He's the guy in the Indiana Jones hat.

Cruising in our motorboat. And Don's wearing a hat!

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