It's 8:45 a.m. on March 24th, we've been up since 5 a.m. and are
in the Luxor airport heading towards Aswan and our Abu Simbel transfer. I hate mornings!
The stop at Luxor was unexpected and resulted in a wait. Between the three flights down to
Abu Simbel and one back to Aswan, there's going to be a lot of air time today.
Fortunately, we fly low enough to make it interesting (5,000 feet). We get a good view of
the Nile and a lot of desert. It isn't a total waste of time.
The bus ride to Abu Simbel was brief. It is located in the
heart of Nubia and was rescued from the construction of Lake
Nasser that would have flooded it. We unloaded at the edge of
the lake, looking at what appeared to be a small hill and were
told to walk along the path to the right. We rounded a corner
and the site was truly impressive. There are two pairs of colossal
statues of the seated Ramses II that are 65 feet tall cut into
a 120-foot tall fascia. Between
his legs and at either side there are smaller statues representing
members of the royal family. Between the pairs, there is a niche
(with a falcon head) above, a convex molding with 22
baboons and hieroglyphs; below, cartouches and statues of Horus
and other gods and protectors. In the center of these giants,
we entered the pronaos, a vast rectangular hall through a nave
painted with the great vulture of the goddess Nekhbet
(very striking). The hall is lined with eight 33 foot pillars
(with Ramses II face) punctuated by frescoes that still retain
good color. The sheer size
of this hall was awesome with reliefs everywhere telling his
story. It enters into the hypostyle hall that has four, square
pillars painted with images of the pharaoh and various gods.
I really liked the line up of the multiple gods colored with
much gold, red and black. Hanan, our guide, considered this
to be the "highlight" of Abu Simbel. Finally, more
than 200 feet into the hillside, we came to the sanctuary. Although
it was the most important room to the pharaoh, it was rather
drab visually with its four statues of Ramses II, Ptah,
I guess youd have to see it at a solstice its
the two times each year that sun floods the entire length of
the temple and illuminates these statutes (except for Ptah,
god of darkness).
Also on the site was the smaller but more illustrated and less
warlike Temple of Hathor
that the pharaoh had dedicated to Nofretari, his queen, wife
and best loved. Especially beautiful were the images of Nofretari
Hathor, and the Nubian goddess Mut.
All were made of fine white stone and had a great harmony in
its simple interior.
A short, bumpy, flight returned us to Aswan and to the Queen
Nabila II (our home for the next
few days). We checked in, had a quick but adequate lunch, then
headed out for a felucca ride.
We sailed around the Nubian island dividing the Nile and came
alongside Kitcheners Island. We had led a small mutiny
since this was not a "usual" stop but we encouraged
the group in our boat to see it and they unanimously voted to
go ashore. It was wonderful and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Egrets
were nesting, there was a large collection of ficus, various
date palms, and rampant bougainvillea.
A gardener gave us a little side tour of his special area, breaking
off leaves from ginger, citron, sandalwood, saffron, etc. for
a true olfactory delight.
We sailed along the Nile passing the Aga Khan's mausoleum,
a large number of cliff tombs (still being explored), Elephantine
Island (so called because of large
boulders that look like elephants bathing), and rounded the
turn to see the Old Cataract Hotel
sitting up on the cliff. This famous place has shown up in just
about every movie about Egypt. As we headed back to the Nabila,
we listened to some cute little children in small (not necessarily
seaworthy) boats who were singing "Alouette". They
assumed we were French since Americans do not usually tour at
this time of year.
Our dinner was served buffet style (not my preference). It was mostly cold and
overcooked, but we sat with Denise and Mike, pleasant people who had just returned from
a safari, live in San Diego, and met on the Internet. A French woman turned 50 so the
staff came in beating drums and singing. They started a conga line and had a grand time.
We took a short promenade on deck in the cool quiet of the evening before calling it a