Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Candice! Our day in Aswan March 31, 2011

 Aswan Sightseeing

We went to bed very late, around 1am last night, so were glad to have a 10:30am start time. After a good breakfast, we crossed on the Movenpick ferry and met Mohammed, our guide for Upper Egypt. Khalid was there for the introductions along with a new driver.

Our first stop was the High Dam which is quite a feat of engineering and logistics. They are justifiably proud of this Dam and the benefits it has produced for Egypt (one is 30% of the country’s electricity). It displaced thousands of Nubians and would have flooded many Temples but they were relocated with help of UNESCO and foreign countries.

We went back to town over the Old Dam to tour Philae Temple. It is beautifully situated on a small island and was moved there before the Dam was built. Mohammed said it took 8 years to move it from its original perch a bit away. It is beautiful and what an introduction to the Temples of Upper Egypt! Mohammed told us about the history of the Temple and the gods involved. Very interesting but I won’t paraphrase since I’ll just get it wrong! We looked at everything and then some. Took loads of photos then boarded the boat again back to the dock.

Our next stop was the unfinished obelisk. It was massive and huge and lying in the granite. Mohammed said it would have been the tallest one had it been completed. He said there are lots of theories about how obelisks were made but no one knows for certain, obviously. It was a tough hike for me with the walking boot and it was very warm. Probably would have been ok with missing this one…

Afterwards, I was dropped off at the dock for the ferry while hubby, bro and Mohammed walked around the town a little. We had a sunset felucca trip scheduled for 4:30pm so there was not much time to relax. I went back to the room and iced my foot. When hubby and bro got back we all went up to the beautiful pool area (it is spectacular, an infinity pool overlooking the Nile, just wow!) and had a late lunch. My pizza was delish and hubby enjoyed his burger. The Sakkara Gold beer were good too!

We met Mohammed and our felucca captain and sun for our trip. It was just lovely to be on the Nile in the felucca--quiet, calm, peaceful, relaxing. I put my foot up on ice and enjoyed. Mohammed pointed out the Tombs of the Nobles, the Botanical Gardens, etc. The ride lasted about an hour and a half. The sunset was gorgeous. Lots of photos taken. The wind died down so our captain had to row for a little distance back to the dock. Loved it!

We asked Mohammed for help in shopping for galabeyas. Hubby and I definitely wanted one and bro was undecided. Mohammed led us to the souk and off we went. We heard vendors call out “just looking” “welcome to Alaska” “where are you from?” (one guy guessed every English speaking country but USA). If we answered with America we got “Obama” or “Yankee Doodle.” If they thought we were Canadian they called out “Canada Dry.” It’s never-ending and frankly exhausting just walking from one end of the souk to the other. There is no malice, it’s just a big cultural difference that takes a lot of getting used to. And we are definitely not used to it!

We were hooked by “my cousin” whose mother is from Florida. He was a charming older Galabeya seller. We led ourselves be led into his stall. He helped us decide on the items we wanted, took pictures with us, put scarves on hubby and bro and generally had fun with us. Then the negotiating began with a more serious man who spoke English with a German accent. We bargained hard and felt good with our purchases at the end. We’ll be sporting ’em at the galabiya party on the cruise ship!

We then made our way past hawkers to a tea shop and sat an had a glass of mint tea. It was a nice break and we could people watch. I was amazed at the beauty of the women and their clothes. Some were so ornate and elaborate while other women were completely covered, even their hands. I kept wondering how those ladies ate! Lots of people milling around but very few non-Arab faces.

We made our way back to the dock (felt proud of ourselves for safely crossing Aswan’s “busy” streets) and went up to the Panorama Bar to see the views and have a drink before leaving the Movenpick. The views were crazy lovely and we even saw a short burst of fireworks (for Candice’s 18th birthday, lol!). The nice bartenders gave me loads of ice for my foot.

Back in the room, packed, wrote for awhile, showered and in bed around 10pm for a 2:30am wake-up call so we can go to Abu Simbel Temple. It is by convoy only so we have to be on time (not Egyptian or Nubian time either!). Very much looking forward to seeing this Temple but not looking forward to the early wake-up time.

One more thing about the Movenpick--they have beautiful grounds, really, really gorgeous. The pool is fabulous, the outdoor dining areas are lovely. But it’s a big place and the walking on uneven cobbles is very tough for me. I’ve felt like I’ve inconvenienced the staff when I have requested golf cart rides and I don‘t know if that‘s not something they provide for guests or what (I‘ve mostly noticed one or more staffers in the carts). I asked for Dino, the manager, who I have heard great things about but unfortunately he has not been there during our stay. But this may be something they can improve upon for future “disabled” guests. I guess we were just spoiled by the outstanding attention at the Mena House Oberoi! Thanks again, Ahmed Hamed Yousif, for that incomparable experience!


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