One of the things we were really looking forward to on our Nile Cruise was being able to enjoy watching the banks of Egypt pass by as we slowly made our way down one of the worlds greatest rivers. Every chance we got saw us heading up to the sun deck and bagging a couple of seats in the shade to just soak up the atmosphere and watch the world go by.
Cruising down the River Nile
We always suspected that we may have mixed feelings about this part of the trip and we were proved to be right. Sitting sipping ice cold drinks in comparative luxury watching local people cleaning their clothes on rocks at the rivers edge and children in ragged clothes playing in the dirt felt very uncomfortable at times. We know that tourism is the lifeblood of much of this country but seeing the huge chasm between the ‘haves‘ and the ‘have-nots‘ really made us think. The differences in quality of life are just immense and indescribable. Still not really sure how we feel about this aspect of our trip.
The Temple of Kom Ombo
Our first stop of the day was the historic temple at Kom Ombo. Approaching down the river gave it even more gravitas and really made us feel like explorers or adventurers of the past as we approached the centuries old structure.
Kom Ombo is not a regular Egyptian temple as it was actually built to honour two different sets of gods. Constructed during the ptolemaic dynasty (between 180 and 50 BC) it has duplicate sets of buildings for each. Horus is commemorated in the northern part and the southern is dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god. As we walked up from the boat in the scorching Egyptian morning sun our guide Nabil absolutely flooded us with information about these two gods. He knew his stuff alright but to be honest it developed into far too much information after a while with so many names and dates that we just couldn’t retain.
Our hottest day so far meant that the tour became a continual search for shade with even Nabil skipping from one shady spot to another.
What we found staggering though was the size of the temple and the incredible condition that most of it is in. We sort of expected ruins everywhere but this was so impressive. We tried to imagine what it might have been like in its heyday but it was impossible really.
On the way back to the boat we passed through the Crocodile Museum. Bit odd. A dark air conditioned building full of crocodile mummies, some unbelievably old. The people of the city of Ombo held the crocodile in high esteem and many have been found on the temple site and preserved here. A little strange but I guess it takes all sorts.
Oh, and when we got back on board what did we find on our bed?
Grand Rose to Aswan
Back on our boat, the Grand Rose, and a slow cruise down the Nile towards Aswan. Lunch in the posh dining room and then a relax on the sundeck with our fellow travellers enjoying the continually changing life on either bank of the river. Lots of animals such as water buffalo, goats, cows, and donkeys seemed to just be wandering aimlessly with many more tied up in the many settlements we passed by. So much to see.
Reaching Aswan we berthed in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Dam alongside a few other boats that had followed us down from Luxor. More food and some drinks with new friends ended another wonderful day. One of the most impressive trips we would take this week was a boat ride the following day.
The Island Temple of Philae
Set downstream from the world famous Aswan Dam the beautiful island of Agilkia is home to the Temple of Philae. The temple was again built in the ptolemaic period but originally on the actual Island of Philae. When the Aswan Dam was developed in the 20th century the whole temple was relocated to a completely new location, brick by brick. An incredible feat of engineering and now known as one of Egypts most impressive temples.
To get though we needed to take a little boat trip which actually made it so much more impressive. To approach from the river and see first the island then the temple appearing was spectacular. every one of our group was equally impressed (even the Pompous Guy stopped lecturing for a few minutes).
With a fairly brief tour from Nabil we were left to our own devices to explore which is always our preferred way to discover new places. With its lofty position on that rocky island Philae Temple completely took our breath away. Just so much to see and more history to take on board than even we could handle.
Before long it was time to get back on the boat and head to the mainland again but not before the driver, if that’s what you call the guy steering the boat, slowed down and unwrapped a sheet full of trinkets to sell to us. A captive audience and once again Nabil got involved telling us prices and how ‘authentic‘ everything was. Another ‘cousin’ of his perhaps?
Then as we hopped ashore we had to walk a few hundred yards through a crowd of local guys trying to sell us absolutely everything and anything. The advice was to avoid eye contact and not engage as they would take that as a sign of interest. A real shame as we’d have loved to just look at so much of the stuff they offered but it was just too risky.
How Not to do it
I made the fateful mistake of talking to a fella as we left the bus on arrival and he made a bee-line for me as we returned. “Mr Jon, Mr Jon” I heard over the crowd (Yes I had even told him my name, idiot!). “It’s me Mufasa“. Apparently we were now great mates. “I have the shirt you wanted, half price“. Brilliant. As I jostled through the crowd my new best friend Mufasa followed me like a shadow dropping the price of my shirt with every step.
Originally 500 Egyptian pounds (around £24) he was now on 100 and dropping! With a last gasp effort as I reached the coach Mufasa shouted “For you my friend” (we were now real friends) “I let you have for 70 Egyptian“. Now that’s just over £3 but it was too late. Our friendship was over! A final gut-wrenching scream “Meester Jon“. The look of disappointment on his face as I boarded the bus will live with me until the day I day. Heart-breaking.
I think he got over it quicker than I did though …………………………….