May 29, 2010
So up at 3.15am we got, hopped on a minibus to join up with a convoy leaving Aswan at 4am. Back in 1997 there used to be issues with attacks on tourists travelling to Abu Simbel, so since then all tourists have to travel as part of one of the convoys, with one leaving at 4am, one leaving at 10am. Off we went. It seemed that it was only a convoy for legal reasons though. Once we had left the area of Aswan, the convoy spread out significantly and for a while I don't think I could even see another bus. To be fair I was (attempting) to sleep for most of the trip anyway.
Abu Simbel was originally carved out of a mountain, but when the High Dam was built in the 1970s it was going to be covered by the waters of Lake Nasa created by the dam. A huge international effort was put in to relocating the temple further up, to the top of the hill and an artificial hill built up on top of it. The image of the four statues of Ramses II, one with it's face missing is an iconic symbol of Egypt and seeing it in person was amazing. Yet again we are not allowed cameras inside unfortunately.
The lake itself around Abu Simbel is quite impressive and would be worthy of a visit on it's own. 500km long and 300km wide, the far side was barely visible from the edge. We left around 11 for another 3 hour drive back to Aswan.
Back in Aswan we were eventually convinced (well most of us) that a camel ride and a visit to a Nubian Village afterwards was the way to go. I had originally decided that as I'd ridden camels in Australia I wouldn't go here. But after having gone into the desert it was definitely worth it. Most of us also continued on afterwards on a boat to a local Nubian village. A few locals from this village have been running the boats and camel rides for Gecko tours for some years now, but only occasionally have tourists visit. Their houses are still very poor by western standards, hand built from mud bricks and plaster, but painted in brilliant colours. They had built their own school, because they government wouldn't fund one, and the entire village is somewhat football (soccer) obsessed. Hassaan had originally said we would be playing a game against them, but the girls on our tour were not so keen so he didn't actually attempt to get us to play :P
The man who had originally driven our boat to the island took us into his house and we had some hibiscus tea as his 3 year old son climbed over us showing us his 'Enza Motors' toy which looked a little like a power ranger. His wife also did some henna drawings on 3 of the girls - temporary tattoos drawn on with a strange dark substance a little like like piping icing on a cake.
The night ended with us getting on the cruise ship Melodie (yes, that's the correct spelling) which was to be our home for the next 3 nights.