About a year ago I began a three part series on Egypt that I deemed to be as sporadic as it was un-chronological. True to my word, just over a year later I have returned to the theme to finish what I started.
As any trip to Egypt will, my adventure began in Cairo, which you can read all about in Part 2.
I was a part of a 9 day Top Deck Tour and after 2 days and 1 night in Cairo 11 of us boarded a night train bound for Aswan. It took 15 whole, damn, bloody hours but as promised on my ticket, eventually we got there. I was lucky enough to get a few hours sleep, but they weren’t good ones.
Not being an engineer, it was hard to really appreciate the beauty or the scale of the Aswan High Dam, which was our first taste of Aswan after the hotel. Physically speaking, the dam looked like a damn dam, but I look at numbers for a living. Not a bad view though.
Thankfully, our tour of Egypt would be more than just modern engineering feats. In fact come to think of it, much of it is actually ancient engineering feats – but at least I understand that that the were about 5,000 years behind in technology. We boarded a small boat and landed not far away at Philae Temple. After they dammed the Nile in the 1960s this temple was flooded, which you can actually see from the water marks on it. Not to be deterred, and ever proud of their ancient history the Egyptian government and UNESCO moved it to this site in higher ground. Piece. By. Piece.
We had the most amazing Egyptologist take us through as well. His name was Nuby, he was about 60 years old and just like an old storyteller. At the temple we all sat around him for him to tell us all about it. We also helped him with his English as he is writing a book. As you would learn in my first post in this series Floating on a mattress down the Nile, half what I loved about Egypt is the people. The ones I came across were so kind, always wanting to meet you, play, dance and interact. Nuby was no different.
In the morning we caught a boat down the Nile towards a Nubian village. On the way out there we saw a most unusual sight: 5 boats tied together, motoring down the river. It was hard to make out but I think it was some sort of wedding. Regardless it’s a pretty cool way to party.
As we neared the village we dropped off early and took a camel the rest of the way. Again, all the locals were really helpful and were loving taking photos for us. Perhaps they wanted a tip but unfortunately I left my wallet in my other pants.
In the village we were shown through a primary school and in a classroom a Nubian gave us a short lesson in Arabic and Nubian, of which I now remember zero. It was light and entertaining and somehow I ended up getting the cane.
Nearby was a local’s home where we had organised to have a traditional dinner. It was a really interesting day and so different to the rest of my trip. A real experience of a local culture which I had never experienced anything like before.
I want to say the next day, but it was practically that night, at 2:30 am we got the wakeup call to join a police convoy at 3:30 to Abu Simbel. It was a 3 hour drive there to see 2 temples that at the time I did not appreciate, and therefore thought 6 hours in a cramped minivan (and being woken up at 2:30) was not worth it.
But hindsight is a beautiful thing. I don’t even remember what that drive was like.
But what I do remember is being in awe of the sunrise as it majestically rose over the Sahara Desert.
What I do remember is learning about the significance of the site which also had to moved piece by piece to save it from flooding.
What I do remember is having an experience of cultural significance that I will never forget. How tired was it? Couldn’t tell you.
We returned to Aswan and taken aboard the least luxurious (but also the most luxurious) cruise you’re likely to ever set foot on. And you can read all about that in Part 1. But after 2 nights of relaxing on the felucca, football with local Nubians, dancing with local kids around the fire and drinking beers in the Nile, I was not ready to disembark.
We boarded the bus bound for Luxor, first stop: Karnak Temple and Luxor temple. Our Egyptologist told us so much info about it but have no idea what. Sometimes you just tune out ya know?
He could read hieroglyphics pretty well though and that was very interesting to learn about how to interpret them and how the Rosetta Stone taught us how to translate.
After more Egyptian food for dinner, a walk through the markets was required, where it legitimately seemed that at least 2 people from each shop invited us to “spend our money” there. They weren’t real creative with their marketing.
It wouldn’t be a trip to a Muslim country without trying some shisha though. Like with most things that are bad for your health the name of the game is perseverance. Keep trying until you can puff without coughing. And having now done so successfully, I just wish I brought some back.
Next morning, another early start brought us to the Valley of the Kings, which was really something special. We visited 3 tombs of ancient Egyptian kings: Thutmosis, Sethy II, Ramses III, and of course the one and only King Tutankhamen, who was easily the highlight. When he was buried he was put inside four coffins, I saw 2 in the Cairo museum, the other 2 were in this tomb along with his mummy, which is kinda creepy: I was literally looking at a 4000 year old dead guy.
Literally around the corner is the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut’s (who we nicknamed Hotchipsoup), which was created solely because, being a queen, she could by definition not be buried in the Valley of the Kings. There was ample opportunity here to take an epic amount of touristy photos. I mean, generally, it feels tacky doing it then looks tacky in the photos but for some reason on this day, a total of zero fucks were given.
By nightfall only three of us were left on the tour and we boarded another train that would take us the 15 hours back to Cairo. What I didn’t realise was that, as a rule, these trains are often oversold. My friend had decided to continue the tour and not return to Cairo and being a naive 21 year old I figured “woohoo, now I get a spare seat to spread out across”.
Within minutes I had denied 2 people access to my seat, because I figured “I have two tickets, so I get two seats”.
What was I thinking?
After a couple of times I realised that the alternative for these people was spending the next 15 hours on the floor near the doors. So I ended up being generous and letting someone have my spare seat.
I’m glad I’ve matured since then.
Well, it’s been a year but I’m glad to have finished the saga. The tale of my adventure in Egypt has come to it’s rightful end, right in the middle.
And if here’s a slide show of pictures from the same trip as posted on Showzee.
Have you been to Egypt?
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