No trip[ to Egypt would be complete without a trip to the great temple of Abu Simbel in the far south of Egypt. It takes a bit of getting there but is well worth it.
In order to travel in the special armed convoy that only goes at certain times of the day we decided to take the trip organised by the Nile boat cruise tour company. It made life far easier and meant that we did not need to find the convoy location or find a car\bus to go in. We were picked up from the boat at 10:00 and made our way to the convoy car park. Sure enough armed guards were there and we were rounded up and all the vehicles set off as planned at 11:00.
Alie and I and the driver of the small minibus were joined by Sultan the armed guard (with spare magazine in his pocket, that Alie thought was a mouth organ type thing). It is a 3 hour drive across a very barren desert. To lighten things up Alie decided to have a conversation with the driver and the guard. Alie did her best to practice the Arabic she had learned so far. This included numbers 1 to 10. All was going well until she got to number 5. This is normally pronounced “hamsa”. NOT, I repeat NOT getting the last 2 letters the wrong way around and coming out with 1,2,3,4, name of known terrorist group. At least the driver and the soldier laughed. A little embarrassed and tongue tied, Alie tried to rectify the situation by stating the the pink police checkpoint building was in actual fact the home of the well known terrorist group named above. More laughter for everyone and I advised Alie to stop digging.
The convoy itself was to all intents and purposes none existent. It was more a race across the desert, slowing down only for the badly surfaced road. After a little more conversation between all 4 of us on current Egyptian politics we settled down for the journey and arrived at around 14:00 at the Eskaleh hotel. We had not booked, but even though they were full they managed to find us a room in the staff quarters somehow (by contrast it makes you appreciate tourist standards). It is in a fantastic location on the banks of Lake Nasser.
The hotel is run by Fikry el Kashef, a fantastic man who showed us around his little farm and land he had reclaimed. Chicken, turkey, duck, goat, sheep, cow, pidgeon and of course a donkey, were all housed happily in a farm building. He was also growing a number of native crops, trying to recreate the customs of the Nubian people and village life that was lost when the new dam was built in the late 1960’s. His own village, being one of the many that were lost. We is a very positive and friendly man who was more than willing to share his time with us.
We managed to get tickets for the sound and light show in the evening. And it was very well worth it. As we arrived in darkness, the first time Alie and I got to see the 2 temples was when it was lit up for the 30 minute show. Lots of history and significance to the site including the moving of the temple when the dam was built. All very interesting.
We had also decided due to numerous pieces of advice to see the temple at sunrise. Therefore, we had an early night and set the alarm for 04:45. And yes, Alie did get up at 04:45. We were on site for 05:15 and after some guided tours and explanations of the site we watched the sun rise and the first rays of sun enter the temple as they have done for thousands of years. Fantastic.
After the purchase of a few books and a bit of haggling we left the temple had some breakfast then headed back in the convoy to Aswan. Whilst I drifted off to sleep, Alie and the driver (Sam) minus the armed guard, chatted in pidgeon English about work and life in Egypt and other troubled economies around the world. Later that evening, I filled Alie in on the background of Egyptian politics so it all fell in to place for her.
A truly memorable 2 days.