Denial on the Nile, Visiting Temples & Sailing Feluccas in Aswan, Egypt
I was surprised to have slept as well as I did on the train from Cairo to Aswan. The train trip took twelve hours and we slept for the majority of it. My lost cell phone at the Jordan airport was a distant memory.
However, it had now been four days and still no word on its whereabouts. The phone was still turned off and Ol was not able to track it. Ol decided to google airport information and found an email address for the Lost and Found Office at the Amman airport. He wrote an email and sent it hoping for a response, even though I realized that was a long shot. I was beginning to accept that I would probably never get my phone back and much of my personal information would be lost. I was in total denial and just wanted to enjoy our trip.
Our cabin steward knocked on the door to our cabin and helped us make up our bunks which converted back into seats. He then brought a breakfast of coffee, tea and assorted breads.
Our cabin was small, but efficient. It had a sink to wash in but I was dreading heading to the bathroom at the end of our car. The bathroom was clean but it was more than a little unnerving to see the tracks passing by from the basin of the toilet.
When I settled back in the cabin, I enjoyed looking outside the train window and seeing rural Egyptian farm life pass-by. It looked as though time had stopped in this remote rural region. I watched the farmers as they used hand farm tools and donkeys to manage their crops. The homes were simple and modest, but the children playing with their dogs, cats, and chickens brought smiles.
The Nile valley was exactly as I had envisioned. It was lush with palms, tall swaying reeds, and flowers. It looked like an oasis.
The train stopped frequently in smaller towns and cities and the train platforms were great places to watch people. Unfortunately, it was plain to see that some areas of Egypt struggling economically. Egypt is still a developing country.
We arrived in Aswan late in the morning and transferred to our hotel overlooking the Nile. The river and valley is at its most picturesque here, with cascading rapids, lush green islands, and feluccas (traditional sail boats) sailing to and fro.
Aswan itself is a melting pot of African and Middle Eastern cultures, most easily experienced by wandering through the busy markets. It is also part of the ancient region of Nubia, which comprised parts of present day southern Egypt and northern Sudan around the Nile rivers.
Many descendants of the Nubian people still live here, and we were fortunate enough to visit a local Nubian village to see their colorful houses and simple way of life. We enjoyed a traditional Nubian dinner of tanjine cooked beef and chicken.
I had read on the plane that Nubian villagers often keep crocodiles as family pets, as they are considered good luck. When we visited a Nubian home for afternoon tea we were able to hold the family’s pet crocodile.
In the afternoon we continued our tour with a scenic boat ride to visit the Temple of Philae, a beautiful island complex dedicated to Isis and reclaimed from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. In a feat of engineering the Temple was dismantled and moved block by block to its current location.
In the evening we had time to to look around Aswan's spice and general markets, and to walk up and down the popular Corniche, on the banks of the Nile.
We were tired from the train ride and tours and our five star hotel was quiet and comfortable, so Ol and I stayed in for the evening. We had an early 6 a.m. start in the morning to visit the UNESCO world heritage site at Abu Simbel.
These amazing temples built by Ramses II are one of Egypt's main attractions. The temples have a fascinating story behind them to go with their impressive size. When Lake Nasser was flooded, the final water level was going to submerge several temples, the most important of which being Abu Simbel.
The temple was therefore dismantled completely and rebuilt further up the hillside where it sits today. The temple stands today as a testament to Ramses II and the great building prowess of the ancient Egyptians, as well as to modern engineering.
Inside, the temples were as beautiful as they were large an imposing. Of course Ol got in trouble for taking photos inside the temple, because he failed to buy a photography permit. After “purchasing” a “discounted” permit from the guard, the guard happily took photos of Ol and even gave him a private tour and the key to the temple to pose with!
After spending the morning at the temples we headed back to Aswan where we checked out of our luxury lodgings to board a traditional Nile felucca. Next on our agenda was a two night sail up the Nile river. We met our crew an enjoyed a sumptuous lunch and afternoon sail.
Floating the Nile on a felucca is one of Egypt's most enjoyable activities and one of the highlights of our trip. There was no motor, our trip was subject to the wind. We were fortunate to have two great days of sailing.
Floating on the Nile was even more enjoyable than looking out of the train window. We were able to get up close and watch local rural Egyptian life pass by on the banks of the river as we drifted past. Our Nubian crew sailed the boat and entertained us along the way.
Our crew prepared amazing meals for us each day. In the evening, they sang and danced to traditional drums around a camp fire.
During the cruise, we had a separate support boat that joined us from time to time during the day and docked along side us at night. This boat had a welcome toilet and showers on board as well as a hygienic kitchen where the crew prepared more delicious meals.
For two nights we slept under the stars on the deck of the boat. Mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets were provided. Ol and I were happy to have our sleeping bags. It was chilly in the evenings.
Each day we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and spent the day relaxing and watching the world go by from the deck of the felucca. We stopped at several times along the banks of the river for breaks. Ol got the Captain to fly our Mississippi colors. Unfortunately, Ol disappointed him at the end of the cruise when he wanted his flags back!
Swimming in the Nile was an option, but for Ol and I it was a bit chilly. Ok, maybe we really never got over meeting the pet Nile crocodile!
On the second day of our sail Ol checked his email and discovered a response from the Amman Lost and Found office. They had an iPhone that had been turned in to their office, but they needed additional information to determine if it was mine. A phone number was included in the email.
Ol tried to call but the person on the phone could only speak Arabic. Our guide, Super Mo, offered to call for us. After several minutes we were able to determine that it was probably my phone that had been turned in. We confirmed that it was my phone when the person on the other end of the call placed a call to us from my phone. I couldn’t believe that I had lost my phone in a foreign country and that it had been found and turned in! The Lost and Found office told us that they would send an email detailing what information they needed in order to get my phone back to me.
The boat ride was a great opportunity to visit with our guide Super Mo and to hear about his life and family. We also got to know our other four tour mates a lot better. After knowing that my phone had been found, and a relaxing sail on the Nile river, it really was a perfect couple of days.