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Friday, 6 April 2012

Saturday 17th March 2012

Saturday 17th March 2012

The alarm on my phone wakes me up at an ungodly hour, 4.30am - the middle of the night really, I make a mental note to change the alarm tone while I'm a fan of the muppets, 4.30am is not a good time to have the 'mahnanaah' theme tune belting out.  

I jump into the shower, pull on my clothes and most importantly ensure I have my camera battery (and spare) packed.  

It's ever so peaceful as we walk along to the ferry, hardly anyone going about,  thankfully someone stops and asks if we want a motorboat (quicker than waiting for the ferry to fill up with people) and we walk down the stairs and clamber on board.  On the other side there are already a few taxis on the corniche who offer their services but when we tell them we already have transport arranged they tell us to enjoy our day and go back to chatting between themselves. 

After a few minutes our mini bus arrives and we set off south heading for Aswan.

Like on the previous day trip, first stop is at Esna to buy fruit and sodas, our driver buys some falafel which we share for breakfast, it's fresh cooked and absolutely delicious.

Heading further south we spot a market, our guide notices our interest and asks if we want to stop for a look round. The market 'kalabshah' (not to be confused with the temple of the same name) is bustling, full of local women buying their groceries, chickens, ducks, fresh fish, fruit, veggies and household items, in the far corner men haggle for goats and the odd camel. It's superb, the ladies are especially welcoming, children who probably never see tourists, if so, not on a regular basis walk round with us, some want their photo taken but there are no calls for backsheesh.

One of the ladies takes me by the arm and walks round with me for a bit,  she tells me she is Nubian, my Arabic isn't great and she can't speak English but we get by.

The fruit and veg looks delicious, my mouth is watering at it all. This is far far better than tesco or asda, shuffling round the aisles with a trolley, pre packed food and veg, mostly imported, mass produced and loosing its taste but here at this market and others like it over Egypt the food is fresh (even down to the live chickens) and full of flavour - tomatoes taste like tomatoes should (not flavourless) - you can't beat the tomatoes in Egypt, or the small sweet banana's deemed too small and the wrong shape for the UK market (shame people don't know what they are missing out on)  We buy some beans (which can be eaten fresh from the pod to snack on in the mini bus (delicious!!!) 

Supermarkets seem so boring after this!!!!

No cellophane wrap on these chickens - bought fresh ready to kill, pluck and throw in the oven

Sadly we needed to press on but I could have spent so much longer there and done a bit of shopping in the process.

We stopped just outside of Aswan for a break and also 'elevensies' of fuul and bread, it will keep us going till our late lunch around 3pm-ish.   I love Egyptian food, there is nothing fancy about it, all fresh, wholesome and filling. (Have any of you realised there is a food theme going on here lol!!!!)

In Aswan there seems more tourists wandering about than in Luxor, our guide goes off to find a boat to take us to the Nobles tombs and elephantine island. He returns after 5 minutes and we follow him down the stairs where he shows us to...........

A man and a rowing boat!!! 

Mum and I start laughing, this has to be a joke. Luckily for all concerned we are only rowing as far as the middle of the river where we clamber on board the captains felucca, he winds down the sail and off we go, there is a lovely breeze and I lie out flat on the seat and enjoy the sail.

Early morning on a feluuca - there was quite a breeze and the scarf covered my sunburn!!!! - yes I know the trainers don't go with the dress but for climbing up to the Nobles tombs better than my flowery flippit flops.

After around 30 minutes we dock near the bottom of the stairs leading to the nobles tombs, our guide goes off to buy the tickets while mum and I try to find the toilets.

if only I had the pennies I would sail on this boat

Toilets in Egypt can be a hit or miss, we have been to fairly decent ones, holes in the ground, ones which you smell long before you see but these ones were by far the worst.

I have been reliably informed by several people that the 'jinns' live in the toilet..... (henceforth people really don't like cleaning them) 

Well I can tell you all there must be one hell of a powerful jinn living in these toilets, perhaps even multiple jinn's. The smell hits us as soon as we enter, there is no running water at all, just toilets filled with urine, excrement and loo roll, I don't know how I manage not to be sick (covering nose with olbas tissues helps a bit)

The nobles tombs in Aswan are up a steep flight of stairs, generally they would be fairly easy to climb (for a person without walking difficulties that is) if it wasn't for the layers of fine sand covering the bottom stairs and some parts on the way up, so your legs are already a wee bit tired from trudging thru the sand before you are half way up, even the young Egyptian students who follow us up are breathless by the time we get to the top.

The views from the top over the Nile are incredible......

The tombs, dating back to the old and middle kingdom have nowhere near as beautiful and colourful reliefs as the Nobles tombs in Luxor but very interesting none the same and are worth a visit,  more interesting than the High Dam.  Don't be scared to ask your tour company if on a private tour to change the itinerary to suit YOU, a guide is also not essential for Aswan if you don't want one, as we had already organised the guide for El Kharga Oasis which sadly had to be cancelled due to travel restrictions on the road there and we changed the itinerary to a day in Aswan instead we thought we would just keep his guide services on as we had thought him to be very good when at Silsila and Esna earlier in the holiday. It's also sometimes good to have a guide there to point out the little things you would normally miss and if you want further detail on the temples you are seeing.

After visiting the tombs and sadly having to decline the offer of visiting some of the closed ones due to time constraints its back to our felucca and more sailing round the islands, we see the newly refurbished old cataract and new cataract ( now called the Nile Wing I believe) our guide is in shock when we tell him how much to stay at the Old Cataract per night (our hotel in Luxor cost less for 2 weeks)

 Qubbet El Hawa - 'Dome of the Winds' (the hillside in which the Nobles Tombs are carved into)

I'm not so fond of the temples in Aswan but there is no denying the scenery around river is beautiful here.

I could spend all day on a felucca in Aswan - my idea of heaven!!!

The building isn't squint - it's just not ideal taking photos while lying relaxing on  the seats of a felucca!!!

We dock at elephantine, sadly the museum is closed, mum ventures to the toilets, apparently they are worse than those by the nobles tombs (is it possible?) There has been a lot of excavation and restoration work carried out  on the island over the last 100 years.  On the 'Satet Temple' some original blocks are there but in other places new ones have been added (more new than old sometimes) and reliefs drawn on.  There is similar at Luxor Temple (look for it next time you are there).  Personally I don't like it here, too easy to tell new from old and too much new. The rest of the island I find quite fascinating and take a few hours walking round. 

Can you spot the shape of an elephant in the rock?

Too much restoration? 

It's back to the felucca and when docked back on the corniche onwards to our local restaurant for lunch. They don't have toilets and with the ones on Elephantine being so bad. Mum didn't go and is now bursting!!! A spice shop opposite let's us use theirs, never one to miss out on a shopping experience I buy a black pumice for my tootsies and a white one which I'm told is for a body scrub ( since returning home I've used the while pumice several times and it's excellent for exfoliation - highly recommended)

We walk back over to the local koshari restaurant (koshari is lentils, pasta, noodles, chickpeas topped with a tomato and onion sauce and totally delicious) the restaurant also does macarona and hawawshi but we all stick with the Koshari, our guide layers and I mean layers chilli sauce (he said Sudanese chilli) onto his, getting the feeling it might be quite spicy I try the teensiest drop on mine, b&£&dy hell, even a drop is more than enough,  our guide must have an asbestos mouth, he is spooning it in. 

Delicious Koshari and really easy to make at home too....

After our delicious lunch we head to Kalabsha, Kalabsha like Philae and Abu Simbel was moved back in the 60s to avoid being submerged by the waters of lake Nasser when the high dam was built.   The setting is beautiful, maybe it's because the temple has been moved from its original location but I don't get the same feelings here like I do at some of the other temples, it's a similar thing with Philae, I love the boat ride and the setting but the temple is just not one of my favourites.  For me the best thing about Aswan is the river Nile, the scenery around the river banks, the big sand dunes, the sunsets where the skies turn various shades of orange, pink and red - beautiful.  

We leave Aswan at 5.15pm as we are informed (due to the travel restrictions for tourists that operate on this route) that as long as we are thru the first police checkpoint by 530pm then we will be OK though we can make a few stops en route as long as we get thru the first checkpoint by the correct time, no problems.

I fall asleep and wake up as the mini bus stops in Edfu, our guide asks if I would like a liver sandwich - oh yes! It's good but not as good as the one we got the last time.

Driving back towards Luxor, in the areas where there are no street lights the stars looked extra bright, the night sky spectacular and Jupiter and Venus shining extra brightly.

We got back to Luxor where we were dropped in front of our hotel around 1030pm - I head for a shower before bed and am asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow.

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