Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Aswan and Philae Temple


Argh! So, the overnight train took about 5 hours longer than expected (for some random reason we stopped in the middle of a corn field for 2 hours in the early hours of the morning) which meant that we didn’t arrive in Aswan until 12.30 pm – 15 hours after boarding, and we were more than ready to get off that train!!  Unfortunately due to the delayed train we were now running behind schedule and the rest of the group who’d had a nice night’s sleep on their comfy sleeper train were already waiting for us.  This meant that our lunch stop was McDonalds (!), a place we usually avoid at all cost unless we’re in desperate need of a bathroom (which after 15 hours on a train, consequently we were…). At least the location was good, right on the Nile so we couldn’t complain about that.

Island with the relocated Philae Temple
We were re-united with the rest of the group, who looked refreshed and clean unlike us, and headed off in the bus to see the ‘Unfinished Obelisk’ which we decided not to pay to visit and just viewed from outside. The story behind it is that it was meant to be the biggest obelisk made, but  it developed a huge crack and since Obelisks are made from a single piece of stone, that meant this one was useless; hence left unfinished.  We continued onto the ‘High Dam’, which was a bit over-rated but was part of the tour so we didn’t have a choice, and then it was onto visit the famous Philae Temple.  We had to catch a boat out to the island that the temple has been relocated onto.  It’s an amazing feat of engineering, when the dam was built the water level subsequently rose and would have flooded the temple had it been left in its original location.  So in order to preserve the temple every single stone was moved to a new island and the entire temple was reconstructed exactly.

Philae Temple
The ride out was impressive – it was easy to imagine yourself in an ancient Egyptian boat being paddled up to a stunningly decorated temple.  The whole place was remarkable, so many interesting hieroglyphics and statues and our guide explained really well what each room was used for and the history of the place.  It’s actually a Greek-Roman temple built for the conquered Egyptians to help them assimilate into the Roman culture and prove that the Egyptian gods favoured their rule – very clever. 

Hieroglyphics inside Philae Temple 
Afterwards we thankfully finally arrived at our hotel for the night – Sara Hotel, which even though it had good views over the valley, turned out to be a very run down hotel.  There were 5 of us staying there (the rest of the group were doing the more expensive Nile Cruise option and had the night on their luxury cruise boat) and all of us had to move rooms at least once due to no hot water / flooding bathroom.  We had to move twice as our 2nd room had food all through the bed when we pulled back the sheets!  The place was really far out of town as well so there was no options for dinner except at the hotel which was both expensive and crap at the same time.

We were fairly exhausted after not much sleep on our long train ride and we needed to be up at 3.30am to catch the bus to visit Abu Simbel, so we made quick work of our poor meal and headed to our food-free bed for an early night.

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