Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Luxor and Aswan 1 (9/10/10)

[First blog from my Luxor and Aswan trip. Just a note, I'm not going to edit what I already wrote. Sorry if they don't make any sense, but it's going to take me enough time to type them up without trying to rewrite them too. I will add pictures, though!]

Today started at 12:50 am. I showered and finished packing, then went downstairs to meet the group. As usual, the bus left on Egypt time, about half an hour late. Almost everyone slept on the bus on the way to the airport, but I didn't. I guess I was excited or something, but I just couldn't doze off.
We finally made it to the airport and checked in after going through Egypt's laughable security. There are metal detectors and x-ray machines everywhere here, but they seem like more of a formality than anything else. Even when they beep, nothing happens, and sometimes they don't even beep, because they're not even plugged in. What does that tell you about security?
As it turns out, seven girls, including myself, were booked onto a different flight than the rest of the group. I was the most optimistic of the bunch about this change of plans, and also the most awake. Our gate was locked when we arrived (about 5:30 am) but finally a man came over to open the door that led into the gate's departure lounge. Then he promptly put a giant planter in front of the door. We were forced to sit on the floor and wait for it to be moved.
window seat, finally!
Finally we made it to the gate lounge, just in time to learn that our flight (already an hour later than the others) had been delayed. We all napped while we waited. The plane ride itself was a piece of cake once we got on board. We all slept from takeoff to landing.
When we disembarked in Aswan, however, no one was waiting for us. No RAs, no fellow AUC students, no one. So we waited until they finally showed up, two and a half hours later than expected, because their flight had also been delayed.
When we were all reunited at last, we left the airport and boarded a bus that took us to the Aswan High dam. I was excited to learn that we were supposed to take a tour (I love dam tours) but then I was disappointed. Apparently, in Egypt, a dam tour consists of standing on the top of the dam and taking pictures while your tour guide points to a big map behind you. It was way way fun, and lasted about ten minutes.
damn, i mean dam, tour

ferry boats to philae
the pharaoh (r) making an offering to the goddess hathor
At this point, all of us were a little desperate for food, water, and sleep. However, before leaving, we had to visit Philae temple. To get to the temple island, we took a big motorboat that was not equipped with life vests, and sailed across Lake Nasser. The temple was amazing, in some ways more amazing than the pyramids. I think it's because while the pyramids are obviously awe-inspiring, it's very difficult for me to imagine them being built by human beings. Philae temple, on the the other hand, was clearly a place built and used by real people. The chisel marks on the stone stand as clear today as they did when they were first made, except in the places where later chiselers or graffiti-ers excised their marks.
part of the temple that was rescued from under lake nasser
The temple tour included a glimpse into the holy of holies, a place only the highest pries or the Pharaoh himself would have been allowed to enter. There, in the boiling heat that builds up in small rooms filled with sweaty people on a hot day, we heard the story of the god Osiris and his brother Seth.
When our temple tour was over, the bus brought us here to our Nile Cruise ship, the Princess Sarah, where we ate lunch and now get to rest before continuing our day with a visit to a Nubian village and a trip to Aswan's bazaar.
big cruise ship. our room was on the fourth floor.
It turns out that when one has been awake for nearly 29 hours, not even the promise of a visit to a Nubian village is enough to keep one awake. Both my roommate Maggie and I fell right back to sleep after our phone alarm when off, and didn't wake up again until our RA phoned our room asking where we were. We stumbled downstairs and were herded onto another motorboat that took us up the Nile to the Nubian village. The scenery was beautiful, and I really would have enjoyed it if I hadn't been so dehydrated and hot in the sun. (I chose the wrong side of the boat again.)
The village was very nice though, and we saw the school, the souk, and some pet crocodiles, one of which we were allowed to hold and take pictures with. I passed on that amazing opportunity because I saw the state that the crocodile's cage was in, and I didn't know when my next hand-washing opportunity would be.
yeah, real crocodiles. their owner let us borrow a stick to poke them with.
(In other news, I think I'm allergic to Upper Egypt. I've been sneezing all day, and it's much less polluted here than in Cairo. There is more vegetation, though, so maybe that's it. It seems to get worse every time I take a drink of water, so that's going to be interesting.)
boat ride home from the village
(the boat was just like the ones in the previous picture)
The boat ride back from the billage to the cruise ship was much better since the sun had gone down and it was much cooler. The view was amazing, and there was a crescent moon up in the sky with a bright planet near it. Even though the first half of the trip was fairly miserable and the whole thing cost fifty extra pounds, the ride back on the Nile, sitting on the roof of the boat with the other students, in the still and the cool made everything worth it.
crescent moon and unidentified planet
Dinner, like lunch, was totally delicious. Everybody loves a buffet, especially a free buffet. After dinner we went back to the room and watched TV. Instead of the all Arabic language programming we expected, we found Spanish, French, and English shows as well. We ended up watching JAG. I love that show, really I do, but this was an incredibly bad episode. Everyone was behaving stupidly, even Admiral Chegwidden. What's with that?
At 9:15, we met back in the lobby to visit the old market of Aswan, which seemed to be mostly tourist-oriented now. We were accosted with every step we took by men trying to sell us scarves, spices, galibeyas (a traditional Egyptian garment), and other trinkets. We were interested in the scarves, and both managed to make a good deal - one scarf for 40 pounds, about eight US dollars. We could have gotten them cheaper somewhere else, or by buying more than one each, but that wasn't what we wanted.
The market turned out to be a not very fun experience, although I suppose it was educational. One man called either me or Maggie 'Cinderella' when trying to get us to come into his shop. That nickname wasn't even the best one we heard. One girl in out group was called 'Barbie', and another was called 'Michelle Obama' just because she was black and had short hair.
We made our way back to the boat early and alone, and now we're ready to crash. Blogging by hand is hard, and I hope I don't have to do it much more after the weekend!

[Okay, there's the first Luxor&Aswan blog done. Time got away from me, so the other two won't be up tonight, but keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow! Thanks for reading and commenting!]

1 comment:

  1. I love the Michelle Obama comment! Have they never seen a black woman before? lol. That boat ride looks super amazing!