Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Our Adventure in Egypt, Part Eight: Aswan

We spent only a day in Aswan, which is the ancient southern border of Egypt, but it was pretty busy. There's a quite a bit to see, encompassing the ancient through to the modern. So it was another long day sightseeing!

This is Aswan. Well, part of it.

We spent some time at an ancient quarry, checking out how they made obelisks. We didn't actually see the procedure, but this obelisk, which was abandoned when it developed a crack, is a good primer for learning how they quarried them out of the surrounding rock. It's pretty neat. Once you could walk on the obelisk, but those were the good old days before everyone was so worried about preserving things. Stupid preservation societies!

Then it was off to the Aswan High Dam, modern Egypt's great engineering feat. It's actually the second dam at Aswan - the first was completed in the early 1900s, but that wasn't good enough! So in the 1960s the Egyptians, with Russian help, built another one, and although it's certainly impressive, it's just a dam. It did destroy many Nubian villages along the Nile and mean that the Egyptians had to spend millions and millions of dollars moving ancient monuments to higher ground when Lake Nasser behind it rose up! So there's that. This is Krys on the dam:

To commemorate the Egyptian-Russian collaboration, they built this monument near the dam. It's a lotus flower, the ancient symbol of rebirth. It's meant to be large and majestic, but it's like a lot of Soviet architecture - kind of oppressive.

This was Tuesday, 14 November, and I was beginning to feel not very good. How do I mean? Well, I believe I have mentioned that one should not drink the water in Egypt, because it's not really clean at all. I hadn't had any water to drink, but I must have gotten something in me, because I was feeling some rumblings in my tummy that signaled the beginning of Montezuma's Revenge, or, since we were in Egypt, the "Curse of the Mummy." Before we left, Krys had heard that if we ate the local yogurt, we would not get sick, because the bacteria in the yogurt would get us acclimated to whatever was going into our bodies, and while we were in Cairo, I ate yogurt. Foolishly, when we got on the boat I stopped eating yogurt, and it caught up to me on Tuesday and Wednesday. Naturally, I immediately began eating yogurt again, and that helped, but those two days weren't fun. It wasn't horrible, but I was in some discomfort, and I just had to run to the WC quite often. My father had to miss one whole day while my parents were there, because he was so stricken. So I guess I got off lucky. Anyway, I didn't enjoy the dam and the rest of Aswan as much as I could have, because I kept feeling something going on down below.

But enough of that! We drove back into town and hopped on a boat to visit the Philae Temple. Philae is actually pretty cool - because of the flood when the dam was built, it's on an island in the middle of the lake, and it was one of the many that had to be moved, but the setting is spectacular. It's also a pretty cool temple - and remember, we saw so danged many it's hard to stand out, but Philae was pretty neat. The way the Egyptians moved it is pretty cool, too - the temple was built so that when the Nile flooded annually, the water would actually cover the lower parts of the temple. So they built a dam completely around the temple, pumped all the water out, and dismantled it block by block and moved it to higher ground. Of course, now the temple is completely dry, which isn't what its builders intended, but at least it's not completely underwater.

And of course, we took pictures:

Before we went back for lunch, we stopped to get money from an ATM. I have mentioned the adventurous nature of this endeavor previously, but my experience was okay - I got what I needed. I must have cleaned the bank out, though, because Jim, who went after me, couldn't get any money. He and Mourad had to go into the bank and bug the tellers, and while we were waiting, we looked around the street - such as it was. We were a block away from the main road in Aswan, and we were standing in an alley that was totally unpaved. The bank had a nice edifice, but the sidewalk below it was cracked and incomplete. Across the street, which led up a hill and was also little more than an alley, although it was haphazardly paved, were several shops. Krys wanted to take a picture of a carpet store in which two kittens were wrestling, but she didn't want the proprietor to notice and demand a tip, so she missed the opportunity. I did take a picture of the street, however:

I didn't take as many "slice-of-life" photographs as I wanted to, because we were on such a tight schedule, but the ones I did get do a good job showing Egypt. This is a typical street, after all. You can get a good sense of an Egyptian city from this picture. This is a nicer section of town.

Next we were off to our tour of the river by felucca, which was fun. We sailed south for a while, past the Aga Khan Mausoleum high on the west bank of the river. It looks like a neat building, but tourists aren't allowed to visit - it's a recent tomb, after all, and sacred to the Ismaili sect of the Shi'ites. We sailed past Kitchener's Island, which Kitchener turned into a botanical garden, and then past Elephantine Island, which is one of the oldest sites in Egypt. It's been used since pre-dynastic times, and was the southern boundary of the kingdom for centuries. The theories are plentiful as to why it's called Elephantine - I'll let the experts thrash it out! On the northern tip of the island, a hotel is being built. It looks like an airport terminal. Why do people allow ugly things to be built in pristine settings?

Then we turned north once again and sailed past the Old Cataract Hotel, which jazzed Krys quite a bit. Krys would have been perfectly happy being a horribly rich British person in the 1920s and 1930s, I think - come to think of it, so would I. So she is very intrigued by the lifestyle, and the Old Cataract Hotel fits that perfectly. Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile at the hotel, and my mother and father went inside and said it was magnificent. We didn't go inside, because we were on a boat, but we also heard they don't allow people in it anymore. Maybe my mom and dad were so obnoxious that they decided to keep tourists out! We sailed between Elephantine Island and the mainland, getting some nice pictures of the island, and then we headed back to the boat. All in all, a very relaxing afternoon.

This is the Aga Khan Mausoleum, high on the hill.

Some people say Elephantine got its name because these rocks look like elephants. It's certainly possible.

This is more of Elephantine.

We had a nice evening on the boat and went to bed early. We needed to get up and get on another plane! Yes, we were flying further south, deep into the desert, to visit what for me was the highlight of the trip: Abu Simbel. You know there will be lots of photographs of that!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aswan. That's a funny word.

29/12/06 11:54 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I have to say these pictures are pretty aswan.

3/1/07 12:06 PM  

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