Sunday, 8 January 2012
TRAVEL - Egypt 2011, Aswan
We started the day with an awesome breakfast on the roof terrace... pancakes, fruit salad, jam, honey, toast, cheese spread, fresh lemonade and tea. We then decided to walk to The Nubian Museum which was easier said than done. We were hassled almost the whole way there by a man with a horse and cart to the point where he sent us the wrong way so we'd ride with him. We carried on walking out of principal and found the museum quite easily, despite the diversion. It's a great building and we pretty much had it to ourselves. The exhibits take you on a journey through Nubian history and end with information about the High Dam project and the preservation and relocation of sites that would have been lost beneath the man-made Lake Nasser. The landscaped grounds of the museum are worth a look too, you can follow a waterway all around them gardens.
We walked back along the Nile for a bite to eat at Aswan Moon. I had an aubergine bake with bread and James had a meat/potato bake. By the time we finished we hoped to go on a felucca with captain Abdullah who we had met the day before but we couldn't see him so James sent a text to see if he was free at 4pm. There was no sign of him in his usual spot but a man came running after us telling us he was his brother and that we had text Abdullah. We went with the guy in the end for a trip around Elephantine Island at sunset. It was a really peaceful trip and we saw the botanical gardens, Nubian villages and lots of different kinds of birds. I also can't believe there were kids floating on bodyboard style floats in between all the Boats... Madness, especially after reading about the bacterial infections that are quite common from the water.
We headed back to the hotel just as the sun had gone down and caught the end of Bad Boys 2 while we had some beers and got ready for dinner. We headed back to our new favourite, Salah Ad Din, and even sat in the very same table. I tried the yoghurt salad with bread followed by kofte and rice. The Nubian waiter showed us a trick with cocktail sticks but I am none the wiser about what it all meant, he found it hilarious though. We were all laughing by the end, it was good to meet someone so warm and friendly. As we left the restaurant it was clear there was a more livly atmosphere and it turns out that Friday is the weekend in egypt. We were invited into a shop near our hotel and the owner was very nice to us and spoke very good english. He told us about marriage in egypt and his own engagement to a woman in Cairo. He said the man must have a flat, pay for 75% of the furnishings and in married life be the sole provider - interesting to learn a bit more about Egyptian life. We bought our souvenirs and were given a good luck scarab each as a parting gift.
We had arranged the previous day for a taxi driver, Ramadan, to take us to see some other sights so he arrived at 10am. At breakfast we met PJ who was travelling alone and so he joined us on the little trip. The taxi driver decided to bring his two small children with us who were quite entertaining and enjoyed sitting with PJ and playing with his sunglasses, camera and video camera. First up we drove past the original Old Dam and further up the river to see the High Dam. I was a little disappointed that there was no visitor centre of any sort but it's definitely an impressive structure and feat of engineering. Next we gave the driver directions to a sculpture park in the southern quarries of Aswan and although we found it, it didn't seem to be open for tourists. He wasn't too keen on us exploring uninvited either so we took the advice. Finally we stopped at the Unfinished Obelisk which would have been the largest one ever erected had it got that far. The mammoth structure cracked before they finished carving it away from the rock and so it was abandoned. We said goodbye to our driver friend and got dropped back at the hotel where we decided to take a dip in the (small and freezing) pool before lunch.
PJ joined us at our fave restaurant and I had the most amazing chicken curry with still-warm, fresh baked bread. After swapping stories we headed back to the hotel making use of the wifi and killing time until our sleeper train to Cairo. We met some great people in Aswan but it was time to leave. On the sleeper train we had our own compartment which we were Pretty impressed with. We were served a dinner of 'beige' which impressed us far less. Rice, bread, chips, tahini and chicken goujons which had been all but cremated in the cooking process. I wasn't too fussed though as I had been feeling more and more unwell all day and a cold and cough seemed to have finally taken hold. James amd I entertained ourselves with a Kindle pub quiz book before getting ready for bed. While James seemed to be snoring as soon as his head hit the pillow I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I woke almost every half an hour through the night, had crazy dreams and am pretty sure my legs were attacked by bed bugs. Oh well, you can't win them all.
More pics can be found at my Flickr account plus I'll be reviewing some of the places we visited on Qype.
Next up Cairo...