Aswan, Egypt

Next up… Aswan! We took a 13-hour overnight sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan which is always an experience in itself to say the least. I’ve ridden on a few overnight sleepers in the past couple of years while traveling abroad and the experience is always about the same for me. I’m a light sleeper so it’s hard for me to sleep since the train makes frequent stops, they often slam on the breaks to the point where you almost fall out of the cot, it’s loud, the bathrooms are sub-par, and people never understand to NOT throw toilet paper in the toilet since there is no plumbing and it gets clogged. But, when in Egypt!

Since there was an odd number of girls on the trip we rotated who got a single room each night. It was my turn on the train so I had the cabin to myself. Normally two people would share this room and it gets very tight with the luggage. The cabin had a sink with running water, a mirror, a trash can, and outlets to plug in your electronics.

Philae Temple Complex (7th or 6th century BC)

After arriving at the Aswan train station we headed straight to the Philae temple complex. This temple is located on an island in the Nile river and can only be reached by boat. Interestingly when the Egyptians built the Aswan high dam the temple complex had to be relocated to higher ground to keep it from being submerged under water. So they cut the temple into small pieces (~40,000 pieces) and rebuilt it 500 meters away on a different island between 1977-1980.

Every surface of the temple is carved with beautiful hieroglyphics.
View of the Nile river from the temple complex.
Current residents of the temple 🙂

Abu Simbel (1264 BC)

One of the main temples I was looking forward to visiting in Egypt was Abu Simbel. This iconic temple was carved into the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II to commemorate his reign along with his wife Nefertari. This temple complex is located in southern Egypt on the border with Sudan. We did a day trip here waking up bright and early at 4 am for the 3.5-hour car ride there and back. You can also fly if you are short on time.

There are two temples in the complex. The one seen above is the Great temple. Then there is a small temple 100 meters away.
When we arrived in the morning there were so many people there and long lines to get into each temple. By mid-day, all the crowds had cleared and we basically had the place to ourselves. So I’d recommended going in the afternoon.

Similar to the Philae temple complex this temple had to be relocated when the dam was built in the 1960s. It took four years between 1964-1968 to cut the temple into large blocks and relocate it to higher ground. In the picture above you can see the water level, and the temple was previously located under the water line in the same area.

Group photo
Small temple: the temple of Hathor and Nefertari (wife of Ramesses II)
Interior of the Great temple (with the busy crowds)

On the back wall of the temple are four statues of seated figures, one being Ramesses II. On October 22 and February 22, the rays from the sun shine all the way through the temple and land on the figures seated in the back except for the statue of Ptah, a god connected with the dead who is always in the dark. These dates are believed to be the birthday and coronation day of Ramesses II. The Egyptians were clever architects!
Wall carving depicting Ramesses II defeating an enemy

Dinner with a local family

One of my favorite things that Intrepid incorporates into their tours is interactions with the local community. So one night in Aswan we went to a local home for some food, conversation, and dancing. The meal we had was one of my favorites from the entire trip! I prefer a home-cooked meal to eating out any day.

Lentil soup with homemade croutons
Vegetarian options included sun bread, potatoes, salad, and roasted eggplant
Dancing with the kids

Spice shopping

A popular thing to do in the Middle East is to shop for spices. So during one of our nights in Aswan, we went to a local shop and got to taste test and buy some spices. I opted to buy some hibiscus tea since we had been drinking it everywhere we went and it was so good warm or cold. Hibiscus and mint tea are popular in the area and are available at most restaurants and shops.

My powdered hibiscus tea packaged up for transport home.

Next up: Luxor, Egypt

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