It was obvious within minutes of arriving in Aswan that it was quite different to Luxor, with the hassle factor barely noticeable. It was possible to stroll through the souk without people blocking your way and trying to force you into their store.  The river had more character, with a number of islands midstream and flotillas of feluccas. There wasn't the same price variation as I had experienced in Luxor. Though I was slightly perturbed to see "chicken and herpes" on my dinner menu, and there were the same quantities of policemen dotted around the place standing behind their moveable bullet-proof screens, I felt significantly more at ease here.

I had one piece of administration to deal with in Aswan, namely purchasing a ticket on the ferry to Sudan. The information on the web had been sparse and contradictory, so I will outline my experience in my next blog entry.

One of the main reasons for anyone to come to Aswan is as a base to visit the famous site of Abu Simbel, several hundred kilometres south-west on the shores of Lake Nasser. Here, Rameses II had constructed two large temples - one dedicated to the three gods Amen-Re, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as the deified form of himself, and one dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Rameses' favourite consort Nefertari. These temples acted as a show of Egyptian strength to the country's southern neighbours.

Originally the temples were carved out of a hillside but, in the 1960s, the construction of the Aswan High Dam and associated creation of Lake Nasser would have inundated the site. Over a four year span, a modern-day marvel of engineering was carried out, with the temples being carved up into chunks and transported to a new location out of reach of the rising waters. A fake mound was constructed to house the relocated monuments.

I had arrived in Aswan coincidentally in time for a twice-yearly festival at Abu Simbel. At the end of a corridor in the main temple are statues of the four gods to whom the temple is dedicated. On two days each year, the sun's first rays shine down this corridor, illuminating three of the statues but leaving that of Ptah, the god of the underworld, in the dark.

Continue reading on John's Blog

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About this author

  • John McCabe

    From the UK, lived and worked in Japan and the US. Currently on a multi-year trip having a look at the rest of the world. Fir…

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