Sunday, January 24, 2010

Egypt (Day Nine)

Day Nine - Abu Simbel
We woke up today in Aswan. We caught a flight to Abu Simbel, had two hours to explore, then caught a series of 3 flights that finally took us to Sharm el-Sheikh. It was a long, but amazing, day!
As we were approaching the airport in Abu Simbel, we saw the Ramses II temple that we were coming to see.
This temple is another one that was going to be flooded when the Aswan dam was built. Again, UNESCO stepped in. They built a dam around the temple, dismantled it, built a fake mountain a few hundred yards away, and reassembled the temple on this fake mountain, exactly the same as it had been before.
We couldn't take pictures inside, but we were able to take a few through the door. The inside of the temple was the best we had seen in Egypt. The entrance was lined with large statues.

The giant statues guarding the entrance were meant to show the power of Egypt to people who were entering from other countries since this is right on the boarder of Egypt. It was meant to intimidate enemies. I bet it worked!
Seriously, these guys are huge!

It was crazy to think that the mountain surround the temple is man made.
Nefertari's temple is only about a 100 yards away. It was also quite amazing.

The view of these two temples side by side was incredible and completely worth the flight.
After we left Abu Simbel, we began the three fight trek to Sharm el-Sheikh. We missed one flight because the staff of Egypt Air are entirely inept.
Once we finally made it to Sharm el-Sheikh, we took a taxi to our hotel on the shore of the Red Sea. We had booked the cheapest room in the resort: a queen bed with a garden view. When we arrived at the front desk, the guy who checked us in smiled and said, "I have upgraded you to the suite." When we entered the room, we were shocked! We had a full kitchen, living room, giant bathroom, washing machine, king size bed, and two large balconies with a beautiful view of the Red Sea. We couldn't believe we got all of this for less than $100 a night!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Egypt (Day Eight)

Day Eight - Aswan
Our Nile Cruise ended this morning, so we were back on our own. We decided to hit a few locations that the tour groups never go to.
We started the morning by hiring a boat to take us to a few sites on the Nile. The boat captain would take us to the sights and then wait for us to go to the next site.
Our first stop was the tombs of the nobles. The nobles were a step or two below the pharaohs, comparable to a governor. The tombs were built into cliffs that overlook the Nile.

We found that they are rarely visited since the stairs are almost completely covered in sand. Also, we were the only ones there.
We found that several of the tombs were locked. Two guards were willing to open the tombs and let us take pictures in exchange for a tip and a promise not to tell the other guards. It was well worth the small price!

It was fascinating to see the inside of these tombs that are rarely seen.
The colors inside are original and were amazing!
We found these baskets inside one of the tombs. They were filled with bones that appear to be human... but maybe they weren't?
This hieroglyph was unique since it shows a man with a crutch. We never saw anything like this anywhere else that we visited.
Some of the tombs had expansive exteriors as well.After the tombs, we went to a Nubian village that is on an island on the Nile. Nubians differ from Egyptians in that they are African and Egyptians are Middle Eastern. Nubians tend to stick together in their own villages. Our guide book told us that if we came to this village, the chief of the village, Hamdi, loves to talk to people about his culture. Sure enough, right as we walked into the village the guy in the photo above showed up and said that he was Hamdi and would like to show us around the village.
He took us into this guy's house who keeps baby crocodiles as pets.
Reini was a bit nervous to hold it.

Parts of the village were brightly colored.
While other parts were completely demolished and forgotten. It was so interesting to jump into a different culture without hoards of tourists.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Egypt (Day Seven)

Day Seven - Aswan
We started the day with a trip to the Unfinished Obelisk. This obelisk was partially carved out of granite thousands of years ago. While carving it, the granite cracked and the project was abandoned. If it had been completed, it would have been the largest obelisk in Egypt at 120 feet tall.
It was incredible to see that carving marks in the granite remain after all these years.

Next, we went to the Aswan dam. This dam was built progressively from 1898 to 1960 in an effort to control the flooding of the Nile. In the end, there are two dams that now form Lake Nasser, the largest reservoir in the world. The Egyptian economy depended on having the Nile flow controlled. Therefore, it was more important to created the lake than to deal with the problems it would cause. Several ancient sites were flooded as the lake filled with water.
One of the sites that was flooded was the Philae Temple. We took this little boat out to see it.
This is the Philae temple. It was completely flooded by Lake Nasser. In 1960, UNESCO funded the project to move this temple. They built a dam around the temple, drained the water, disassembled the temple, and then moved it to a nearby island in the exact same orientation it was originally built.

When the temple was underwater, sand had partially covered it. The dark line in the picture above shows the waterline.
Overall, the temple is in surprisingly good condition.

Most of the hieroglyphs are in excellent condition.
After the temple, we went on a Felucca ride. A Felucca is a traditional sailboat that has been used on the Nile for a long time.

Our "Captin" had this sweet "welcam" painted on his boat.
The Felucca took us to an island on the Nile that is a botanical garden. It was so nice to see some vegetation! This garden island is heavily watered and provided a nice place to escape from the desert heat.