Sailing the Nile to Aswan
Trip Start Dec 31, 2008
8Trip End Jan 20, 2009
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Where I stayed
Basma Aswan Hotel
At Edfu we explored the Temple of Horus. Almost entirely intact, with its decorated hieroglyphs and bas-reliefs, this is the best-preserved temple in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed that the temple was inhabited by the falcon-headed god, Horus, their divine protector. Annual coronation festivals were held to re-crown Horus, during which a falcon was released in his honor.
We also sailed to visit Kom Ombo, an ancient riverside town famed for its temple. Dramatically set on the riverbank at a bend on the Nile, the Kom Ombo temple is Egypt’s only double temple, with one side dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, and the other side to the falcon god, Haroeris (sometimes called Harer or Horus the Elder)
Once in Aswan we were busy seeing a wide variety of sites. One, which involved a camel ride in the Nubian desert (boy, is it weird getting on a seated camel and then rising up!) to the Monastery of St. Simeon. Built in the sixth century, this fortress-like structure is surrounded by the vast desert sands, and is one of the best-preserved early Christian sites in all of Egypt. It is an isolated site surrounded by desert and a really quiet place to visit. Afterwards, we visited a Nubian Community and had tea with a local family after having a chance to see the interiors of their homes.
We had a wonderful sail on the Nile aboard a felucca, a traditional broadsail boat used for thousands of years on the Nile. Designed by ancient Egyptian builders to ferry stones and other heavy objects from shore to shore, they are now beloved as pleasure boats. With their fin-like sails sewn from vertical strips of cloth, feluccas have become an iconic form of transportation on the Nile. We sailed within view of the Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, the 48th Imam of the Ismaili sect of Islam, and also stopped at the famous 19th-century Botanical Gardens on Kitchener’s Island
Our stay in Aswan also took us to the Nubian Museum. This relatively new facility displays artifacts saved before Lake Nasser flooded the area behind the Aswan High Dam, erasing the traditional homelands of the Nubian people. More than 3,000 objects are preserved here, including a black granite bust of Tahraqa, the prosperous seventh-century-B.C. Nubian king. The museum’s open-concept floor plan means that you can get quite close to many of its relics and monuments, some of which are 4,000 years old.
We took a short ride out to see the Aswan High Dam and the friendship monument jointly built by Egypt and the old Soviet Union who financed the building of the dam. The Aswan High Dam (Sadd el-ali), forever changed the agricultural rhythms of Egypt, Once subject to devastating Nile floods, Egyptian farmers looked to the Aswan High Dam as a way of improving their ability to control their crops.
And finally, we visited Philae Temple which we saw by day, and then again at a sound-and-light show (not a very good one, however) at night. Philae Temples, whose survival is one of the great archaeological stories of the 20th century
Aswan was also gateway to our visit to Abu Simbel.