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Embedded Photos: 1.Felucca2.Captain's Assistant 3.Felucca Ride at Sunset
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Egypt Flag EGYPT


February 9. ASWAN  We both had a pretty good sleep and our breakfast overlooking the Nile was a nice way to start the day.  It was the same old "continental" breakfast of bread, jam and coffee but it filled the hole in our stomachs.  However, the view wasn't as romantic as we had hoped.  The tombs that were lit up at night were hardly noticeable amongst the visual congestion.  The scenery was marred by a tacky towering hotel in the middle of Elephantine Island and the concrete skeleton of another mammoth hotel that had run out of investment money.  The graceful felucca boats (traditional Nile sailboats) did something to create some of the atmosphere we had expected but they were dwarfed by the fleet of Nile cruise ships that were moored along the waterfront.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Temple of Philae and arrange for a ride to the Temple of Abu Simbel the following day but the hotel offered complete transport to both temples in one day, which was a cheaper option, so we signed up for that instead.  That left us with a day to kill in Aswan.

The weather was pretty warm but I chose to cover up in order to maintain "respectability", as opposed to prancing around in shorts and a haltFelucca, Aswan, Egypter top like many of the cruise ship going tourists.  We walked down along the waterfront and were constantly hit up by feluccas captains. ("Felucca ride? Twenty euros, one hour.")  They were relentless and there was just one after another. ("Felucca Madame, good price.")  We stopped to rest on a bench to look out over Elephantine Island and watch the boats go by.  Going down river the boats slowly tacked back and forth across the channel of the First Cataract but once they were beyond the island they could pick up wind and swept along the water.  ("Felucca ride? Cheap price!")

We continued our walk down the river towards the Old Cataract Hotel (featured in the movie Death on the Nile), past a large Coptic Church and searched for the Nubian Museum.  A man gave us directions but as we walked away said, "Do you want a felucca ride?  No. Thank you. Maybe after the museum?  No. Thank you. Maybe tomorrow? NO. Thank YOU!"  The museum turned out to be closed from noon until five so we kept up our hot sweaty slog ("Taxi? Five pounds?") until we reached the Nubian House Restaurant on the south end of town.  It was a relaxing place with tiered patios overlooking the First Cataract (part of the river divided by numerous granite islands).  While we enjoyed some fresh lemonade and a liter of water, they brought a table from their dining room out to the patio, covered with a table cloth, so we could enjoy our lunch with the view.  It was a really nice meal.  The tahini and baba ganough wasn't quite up to Cairo standards but they made an outstanding fish dish, Nubian style, baked in a tomato sauce.

Feeling rested we walked back into town ("Taxi? Five pounds?") and cleaned up before going out at sunset.  It was an ideal time to take a felucca ride so we braved the felucca competition and it was like flies on a picnic.  Their constant harassment all day long made us not even want to deal with them but we understood that a felucca ride was a must-do in Egypt so we negotiated until we had something reasonable.  They started at 20Euros (about 120 Egyptian pounds) but we had an idea of the real price and one of them agreed to 20 Egyptian pounds for oneCaptains Assistant, Aswan, Cairo hour.   Even still he continued to negotiate with us as he put up the sails and even made a playful threat that he could just spend his hour sitting and not moving.  But we still had the money and Rob told him if we had a nice ride we would pay him accordingly.

Our felucca ride took us around the far side of Elephantine island and back up to our starting point.  The felucca captain had one helper and they were both very pleasant, occasionally chatty and pointed out some interesting sites.   The were both Nubians, tall and slender.  They wore loose-fitting straight gowns that split on either side down the leg and were worn over loose-fitting pants.  It was ideal clothing for modesty, functionality, and the Nile heat.  The boat moved slowly and smoothly, the warm air felt wonderful and the sunset was lovely.   The single sail of the boat was rigged so that the bomb bent upwards slightly, eliminating the need for people to duck every time the boat turned, allowing us to just relax and enjoy the ride.  We rounded the bottom of Elephantine Island and sailed through the cluster of large black rocks that gave the island its name (after bathing elephants).  As we came up the east side of the island we lost the wind and the boat slowly tacked back and forth as the sky got dark.  When the prayer call was heard across the city our captain got up and went to the front of the boat where he quietly said his prayers and did his prostrations.  Afterwards we commented that it must be difficult to face Mecca with the boat moving directions all of the time.  He chuckled and said that it was.  He had wrapped his white scarf up around his head and it gave him a very proud look.   

It was dark when we pulled in, a half hour longer than planned, but it had been a good ride so we gave them more than double what we'd promised.   We caught a carriage to the Nubian museum and filled two hours before it closed.   It was a very well done museum that showed the significant influences of NFelucca Ride at Sunset, Aswan, Egyptubian culture on the ancient Egyptians and the important cultural developments that both made in parallel.  From the museum we took a cab back to the station for dinner at the same place - more baked pasta.  On the way back to the hotel we took a different route than the souk street and stopped for water.  It was the second time we had been to the same shop and the woman greeted us with a smile and kindly recommended some good snacks for us to take on our bus ride the following day.  As we left she handed us each a candy and said "Only for you".  It was the most any woman had interacted with us during our stay thus far.  

Back at the hotel we took advantage of having a bathroom and did some laundry.  We tried to get to sleep by nine, because we had to leave at 3am for our tour the next morning, but there was hammering coming from below our room.   I went down to the front desk and complained.  They looked perplexed but said it would stop.  It didn't and when Rob went down he figured out that it was the pharmacy under us putting up shelves.  He just went directly to the pharmacy and told them it was too loud.  They replied that it wasn't time for sleeping to which Rob said "It is my time for sleeping."  They finally stopped and we were asleep instantly.  As we went to sleep I could smell the faint smell of the sheeshas wafting into the room from the nearby cafe.

GREECE Athens Jan 27-Feb 4

EGYPT Cairo Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6 Feb 7 Aswan Feb 8 Feb 9 Feb 10 Luxor Feb 11 Feb 12 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Nuweiba Feb 16-17

JORDAN Petra Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Amman Feb 22 Feb 23-24 Feb 25 Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 Feb 29-Mar 1 Dead Sea Mar 2 Mar 3

ISRAEL Eilat Mar 4

EGYPT Cairo Mar 5 Mar 6 Mar 7 Mar 8

GREECE Athens Mar 9 Santorini Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 12-13 Crete Mar 14 Mar 15-16 Mar 17-21 Athens Mar 22