Friday, April 1, 2011

Abu Simbel on April 1, 2011

                     Abu Simbel; board our Nile cruise boat April 1, 2011 (Sorry it's out of order)

2:30am is so early! I didn’t really sleep very much but I know Abu Simbel is worth it. We got our stuff and ourselves out on time and met Mohammed and two drivers at the dock at 3:30am. There were only two other people from Movenpick on the ferry with us!

We got to the convoy area and were first in line. It didn’t leave for an hour so we waited around, had a bathroom break, and watched as about 25 big buses and 20 minivans or cars pulled in for the convoy. Looked like a lot to us but Mohammed and other guides claimed there are usually 250 buses on each convoy (there‘s a second one at 11am).

I slept for most of the 2 hour drive to Abu Simbel; bro said he saw the sunrise over the desert. We’ve all been singing The Police’s “Tea in the Sahara” so it was nice to be out on a desert road. It is really beautiful and desolate. Hubby described the drive as “a lot of jockeying for position and lane changes” which didn’t make a bit of difference at the end since we all arrived at the same time!

Sunrise over the Sahara

There were several police checkpoints along the way

Abu Simbel consists of two temples about 3,000 years old: one for Rameses II and the other for his wife Nefertari. The Temples were relocated to their present positions when construction of the High Dam at Aswan threatened to flood them. The site is on a man-made hill overlooking Lake Nasser, which is gorgeous. The Temples are outstanding and thankfully they were saved. Simply stunning--especially that first look after turning the corner on the walkway. Wow! I was blown away. Mohammed gave us the history of the Temples, showed us scenes to look for and then left as guides are not allowed inside. We had about two hours, maybe a little more, to explore.

First view of Rameses Temple-WOW!
Early morning sun on Rameses Temple

Beautiful, serene Lake Nasser--created by the Aswan High Dam

There were a lot of people there in big tour groups so we chose to go to Nefertari’s temple first. It was just gorgeous. I can’t describe either Temple adequately except to say that they’re a bit overwhelming and much larger than pictures show. We went into all the rooms of both Temples and took in all the details that we could.

In front of Nefertari's Temple

Nefertari being crowned by two godesses

Nefertari and Rameses making offering to a goddess

After our perusal of Nefertari's Temple we went to the main attraction: The Temple of Rameses II. The four statues at the entrance are so big!  Incredible sight.  I paid baksheesh for a picture with the golden ank (key of life).  I felt silly then but now am glad I have the photo.  No pictures are allowed inside, but they don't take away the cameras so hubby and I snuck a few under bro’s disapproving gaze!

With the golden ank, Key of Life.  It's a prominent symbol in the Tempes and Tombs

Regular sized human, god-sized statues

The entrance hall of Rameses temple
Rameses sitting with three gods (claiming god status for himself)

This one was taken with flash--by mistake!

Gorgeous setting on a man-made island on Lake Nasser
After awhile, I was pretty tired so parked myself in front of some gorgeous scenes of Rameses in battle (the ones with the double arms, huge horse over little lion--I still don’t recall the significance of that) while hubby and bro revisited Nefertari’s temple before touring Rameses’ again. Loads of people wandering about but not so crowded that with patience and timing, you couldn’t see everything you wanted without others around.

Rameses in his horse drawn chariot, the little lion is beneath the horse

Rameses was a ferocious warrior

We met back up with Mohammed and walked the gauntlet of hawkers (hubby and bro bought souvenir books), most easily accepted no’s and even told me “thank you” and “welcome to Egypt” a few times. All good natured but I’d buy more if I didn’t have to bargain…

The ride back was uneventful; the desert scenery was beautiful.
Waiting in a bit of shade

Ambulances along the way, just in case

Back in Aswan, we picked up Khalid for our check-in to the boat. The Sonesta St. George I is absolutely beautiful. It is almost completely empty of tourists, though--there are 7 tourists and 3 guides. Ahmed Hamed Yousif promised us a nice surprise and it’s a beautiful suite! Really lovely--beautiful hardwood floors, paneled ceiling, comfy seating area, comfortable king sized bed, lovely bathroom with teak floors, a great shower and nice toiletries--including a loofa! Couldn’t ask for nicer. I took lots of photos; it's one of the prettiest rooms I've ever stayed in. The public areas are gorgeous--elaborately decorated, plush, several bars/lounges, nice sundeck, and the central chandelier is fabulous. The staff are excited to see us and very helpful without being overbearing. The food is great and the service is a friendly-formal, feels old fashioned-civilized and makes me want to sit up straight and mind my manners! I feel very special on this boat. It’s truly lovely!

After our delicious lunch we unpacked and relaxed. Since there were a few hours before the welcome reception, we asked Khalid and Mohammed how much a taxi to the Nubia Museum in Aswan should cost. They said the museum was worth the visit but that the driver would come back for us around 6pm since it was hot in the middle of the day.  Ahmed Hamed Yousif called a little while later and reiterated that the driver would come get us--for no extra charge. We appreciated the ease of the arrangement and thanked him for the lift. I also made sure he knew how pleased we were with the suite on the Sonesta St. George. Since our borrowed cellphone is now working, hubby made a 40LE 10 minute call to his mom/dad to let them know all’s well (they worry!).

First view of our boat; even its docking slip was gorgeous

Our suite's sitting area

Our suite's bedroom area; very comfortable

Nice, fancy shower

Welcome fruit basquet

The Sundeck.  We spent as much time up here as possible!

The gangway to enter the boat--not as ricketty as it looks!

At 6pm, Mohammed met us on the boat and we found our driver from the am convoy waiting. Mohammed went to visit his family while we toured the museum.  The Nubia Museum itself is gorgeous--first class, beautiful setting. The displays are all about the history of the Nubian people and their interactions with their conquerors. They really were here first! I particularly enjoyed the displays of their typical homes, schools, clothing, daily life and descriptions of how their society functions. Very interesting and definitely worth the visit. We were glad our guides suggested a later tour because it was still warm in there during our visit. We bought a couple of souvenirs-- no haggling!  Back to the boat with thanks to our driver who we’d not be seeing again.

This Rameses II statue was 8 meters but it would be dwarfed by the ones at Abu Simbel

Display of a Nubian Village

We changed for the welcome reception (where I discovered the ship’s delicious sangria) but it was weird that only 7 of us were in the lounge and no-one mingled… At any rate, dinner delicious. We are certainly not going to starve on this boat! I actually requested half portions of the entrees because it’s way too much food for me. The entertainment that night was good fun. Nice singing and dancing and hubby, bro and I along with another couple all participated (two guests were absent) for a good laugh. Back to the room to sleep around 11:30pm. We had a great day and are looking forward to more!

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog from your posting on Trip Advisor (I was looking for info on the Sonesta St George I Nile Cruise). Do you recommend the van convoy to Abu Simbel, or do you think it would be better to fly?