Travel Journal
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6/6: Day Eleven, Aswan to Abu Simbel to Kom Ombo to Edfu

Abu Simbel was not included on the tour; it was considered an optional excursion, mostly because you can't drive there (the roads are closed), so you must incur the extra cost of flying. So, up we woke, super early, and we (those who went) hopped onto an Egypt Air flight to Abu Simbel. The planes actually give you a time limit to stay there, because they return at a certain time, with the same passengers that they took.

When you first enter the site, all you see is a big hilly looking deal with a door in it. As you walk around this hill (or mountain... it's sort of a mix), you can see the Nile, looking particularly blue. The entire temple used to sit on the shore of the river, but the building of the Aswan dam would have flooded it, as it did many others. Luckily, even though Egypt didn't have the money to move Abu Simbel, other governments stepped in, and the entire temple was raised hundreds of meters up and in, to it's current location. It doesn't seem like much until you round the final corner, and then BAM! Instant chills. The front of the temple is breathtaking in its size; it is marvelous. Definitely the best thing I had seen so far in Egypt.

Back view of Abu Simbel.

Walking around the side of the temple, you see these heiroglyphs...

...and then, suddenly, you are confronted with this!

The front of the temple shows four statues of Ramses II, who it was built for, and then 12 little statues of his wives. We saw Ramses' mummy in the Cairo museum, and he didn't look anything like the faces on the temple. :) Next to that temple is another that Ramses built to his favorite wife, Nefreteri. It's pretty cool, too, and was also moved when they moved the larger one. It only took 8 years to build them, and almost that long to move them.

Alison and Caroline. Trying not to fall over in awe.

Two Ramses II on the right.

Two more Ramses II on the left. The missing head is sitting at the foot of the statue, which is how they found it.

Ramses and a carving from the entrance to the temple.

Littler Ramses line the inside hall towards the holy of holies.

The holy of holies.

Alison rejoices in Egypt.

Caroline smiles at Egypt.

Wait, no, Caroline was smiling at Nefreteri's temple.

We flew back to Aswan and met everyone at the boat, and set sail. Again, Alison got a bit sunburnt, this time in a terrible place. (Hint: always put suntan lotion in your cleveage. Scary but necessary.) We stopped to visit Kom Ombo, where we had our pictures taken with de-fanged snakes before we saw the temple. This one is dedicated to Sebek, the crocodile-headed god, so there is an area to hold crocs as well as copious carvings of him on the walls. In fact, we learned a lot about Egyptian art here -- for example:

  • you can always tell the difference between a man and a woman, even if you only see their feet, because of the stance they take (men: leg apart, women: legs together)
  • the pharoah always wears a certain skirt, in order to conceal any possible sexual excitement he might experience
  • in most carvings, you see a picture of the pharoah giving gifts to a god in exchange for the scepter (power) and ankh (key of life)
  • the ceiling towards the holy of holies is usually painted with stars, and the floor elevates, because you are getting closer to the heavens and the place of the god
  • women are usually shown 1/6th the size of men, or the same size (depending on the situation of the depiction), but always have their hands on the man in a supportive stance; sometimes, they wear gauzy, sheer garments
  • "normal people" didn't enter the holy of holies, but instead went to the back, where there was a carving of a door, two ears, and two eyes, which represented the ears and eyes of the gods, on the wall, above a carving of what the appropriate offering would be
Brian picked up a random piece of pottery off the ground and gave it to me. It was almost scary how little security they had at these places. Also, there was a Greco-Roman statue, sitting smack in the middle of the temple, that was a gift from the Greeks when they visited it. Very out of place.

The guys on the ship made our blankets into little shapes every day. Here is Caroline, being attacked by the swan they made.

And here, we have Alison thanking the swan for a job well done.

Shaar and Craig laugh about Caroline's death by swan.

Caroline, Alison, and some snakes. Mm.

Kom Ombo.

The gods giving the ankh and scepter to the pharoah.

Going towards the holy of holies.

The ceiling towards the holy of holies, complete with stars and birds.

A big carving of a god from behind the holy of holies.

The temple from the side.

On the way back to the boat, we stopped at a small bazaar to purchase galabayas, these flowy dressy mu-mu like things that Egyptian men usually wear (they are not inappropriate for women to wear, but they usually don't cover enough skin) and head dresses, for the galabaya party back on the boat. I got a white one with blue threading (which, unfortunately, ran as soon as it got wet and stained the thing... waa) and a white headdress to match. When we got back to the boat, we all dressed and went to the top deck for photos, and then we went below for dinner and the party. The party consisted of games between our tour group and another Spanish-speaking one aboard the ship. The most memorable game (at least for me) was "musical swizzle sticks" (I am sure there is a better name for it, like "How can we get chicks to run around and wrestle?", but oh well), which was played between 9 Contiki chicks and 9 Spanish chicks. We were to run around the dance floor, and grab a swizzle stick when the music stopped. In the end, it came down to me (I always knew that diving on the floor in varsity basketball would come in handy) and a Spanish chick, at which point they blindfolded us and had us crawl along the floor, listening to the voices of our teammates to guide us. Unfortunately, Paul kept picking up and dropping the stick, which made it much harder. I didn't win, unfortunately, but judging from the amount of flashes I saw through the blindfold, I am sure there were some great photos. :)

Our boat docked at Edfu, eventually, and we all went to sleep.

Us on the top deck. Aren't we pretty?

Alison and Caroline, Egyptian style.

Alison, Caroline, and a belly dancer formerly known as Jess.

Alison, Laura, Debbie, and Caroline.

The Queen and King of Egypt. (Taken by the high priestess, of course.)

They're not drunk, they're just happy!

Our group at the galabaya party.

"STOP TAKING PICTURES OF ME!" -- Alison (Bill wasn't talking much at this point)

Shayne and Caroline.

Caroline and Tracey.

Ah! There's a crocodile with a kleenex box in its mouth in our room!

6/7: Day Twelve, Edfu to Esna to Luxor back to Esna

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