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Egyptian adventure – pt 7

At long last, no early morning wake-up call. Breakfast was at normal o’clock – 8:00am. Much more civilised!

The morning trip by boat up into the first cataract was peaceful and calm. The variety of wildlife flourishing here is a testament to the cleanliness of the Nile in this region. The water quality is so good the locals can drink straight from the river. Within minutes of leaving the riverbank we spotted a pair of pelicans chilling out on a small island, followed by a pair of Ospreys perched in a tree next to a bush full of bee-eaters! Black and white kingfishers, Hoopoe and Egyptian geese added to my list. I could have spent hours just floating along with my binoculars but alas all good things must come to an end.

Before we left Aswan we were able to hire a Felucca, a traditional wooden sailing boat, via our Egyptologist. What a wonderful way to watch the sun set. Each of us was able to take a turn at the helm. I’ve never sailed in a sail-powered boat before. I’ve always had an engine of some description and a steering wheel. I was not prepared for the effort needed just to keep the tiller in one position. And as for tacking into the wind… let’s just say it was an upper body workout!

Tired but happy, we returned to our ship just in time to change an head off for a sound and light show at Philae. With only a few uplights on, the atmosphere was spooky and the night sky clear. We were able to see the Milky Way, something we can’t see easily in te UK due to light polution.

The show was recorded in the late 70s but was was wonderful to watch nonetheless, bringing the story of Isis and Osiris to life. It is definitely worth going to if you get the opportunity.

And with that, our main cruise had come to an end. Later in the evening the ship set sail for Luxor giving us a whole day of cruising and no trips, so no early morning calls. Just as well because the following morning was going to be the earliest start of the entire trip – 3:00am!

Tune in tomorrow for the final installment – a hot air balloon flight at dawn, over the valley of the Kings and Queens, followed by a tour on foot of the same valleys.

Blog Posts

Egyptian adventure – pt6

The unfinished obelisk – Aswan
Had this stayed in one piece it would have been a spectacular sight at around 42m tall. You have to feel sorry for the stonemasons on this job. There they were, carving the front, left and right sides, and just beginning to carve out the rear face when disaster struck – the rock cracked at the base. I would hate to have been the one to break the bad news to the Queen (Hatshepsut). Mind you, it left an amazing example for us to see how obelisks were created.
If  you’ve been following this series of posts, you will know that the most senior guests had misbehaved last night. Needless to say none of them made it up in time for today’s tours. So while they were nursing hangovers, we were in for a packed day.
After our trip to the quarry it was onwards to the upper and lower dams. The upper dam created one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, Lake Nasser. Its construction flooded large areas of Nubia, displacing the people. There is always a losing side with such things. Looking out at the lake, it is o huge it looks more like a sea… I hope to come back some day as I think a cruise on this lake would be amazing, not least because I would be able to visit Abu Simbel.
Back on board the coach again and this time we are off to see the Temple of Philae. This one spent a good few years under water following the construction of the dams. Between water damage (recent history) and the Christians with their hammers and chisels (ancient history) it’s a wonder we are able to see it at all. The whole temple was rescued by UNESCO and relocated to higher grounds and can be visited at night-time when you can hear the story of Osiris, Isis and Horus.
Onwards to an oil producer and a chance to escape the rising heat. I was in my element here as I am very in to aromatherapy. It was only due to Mr D that I did not end up with more oils. As it was I managed to purchase sandalwood, lotus, papyrus and royal amber oils before being dragged out and back to the coach!
After lunch on board, we headed off to another craft outlet, this time papyrus. Demonstrations showed us how a relatively weak reed is converted into strong, waterproof, and very durable paper. Remember the papyrus on the walls of the Egyptian museum in part 1. They are not protected from sunlight and yet remain clearly easy to read. It is truly amazing stuff. We also learned how to tell the difference between real papyrus and fake stuff made with banana leaves. You hold it up to the light to inspect the weave and the final test is to ask to pour water on it. If the seller looks shocked, it’s banana leaf!

Tomorrow’s plans are not so busy and do not involve getting up at stupid o’clock! What could be more gentle than a morning of bird-watching and an evening back at the Temple of Philae for the sound and light show?