Abu Simbel


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Abu Simbel Great Temple

Today we hit a big one. We are going to Abu Simbel. We awoke at 2.15am to find that there was a wakeup call at 2.45 and departure at 3.30am. We were given a bag of breakfast and we joined the coach. The trip would best be described as the speed bump tour of Aswan. Every 500 metres or so we slowed for vicious speed bumps. They even have them on the open road as well as chicanes for Police observation. It is amazing to be going along the desert on the other side of nowhere only to be forced to walking pace by a chicane where sleepy  police watch us pass by. Unfortunately the woman behind me would not let me lower my seat so sleep was difficult so it was a longer trip than necessary.

We arrived in Abu Simabal safely. It turns out that the temple was shown to authorities by a bloke named Simbal in 1810.

Abu Simbel Small Temple

They honoured him with the name. The town is 3,000 people dedicated entirely to services around the temple. As far as I could determine there is no other industry at all.

Entry to the grounds is via a typical local market selling junk of every shape

Abu Simbel Large Temple

and form.  This one did however, take it to a new level. It must have run for 200 metres. Books, belts, scarves, hats. A bloke even tried to sell me a hat even though I was wearing one.

The walk to the temples is well constructed in smooth stone with views over the great Lake Nasser held back by the Aswan High Dam. The lake is huge but very bare. Apparently there are cruise shps but we did not see any traces of them.

The temples appear suddenly with the enormous statues of Rameses II and Nefretari. It is impossible to imagine the scale beforehand. A surprise to me was that they are actually temples with extensive rooms and sculptures behind the images. I had always assumed they were just edifices. The temples were probably the best preserved we have seen. No photos of course. The amazing thing is the whole complex was cut up and moved 300 metres to save it from inundation when the dam was built in the late 60s and early 70’s. The work was immaculate and it is very hard to see the seams. It does suffer from lack of context though. They are just there for no apparent reason.

Towel Art

We were glad we arrived early. The return walk was uphill in blazing sun. Even at 8am it was already over 30 degrees. 

On returning to our cabin we were greeted with some towel art. There must be something about ship stewards.

This afternoon people are going to a Nubian Village. Anna and I are going to the pool. Or so we thought. The village trip was correct but it transpired that this was after a trip to Kitchener’s Island on a felucca. I had seen several of these plying the Nile and was really excited about our ride. We were lucky we did not miss it.

The felucca was moored just down from our ship. Walked down and were ushered aboard by the skipper, a Nubian man in a white dress. After a bit of pushing and pulling we were away from the wharf and tacking our way downstream There were lots of interesting buildings lining the river to see but we were also treated to some native pap in the form of necklaces and bangles laid out on the deck. The sandalwood smelt pleasant.

Boys on Surf Ski

As we travelled along we were joined by two boys on an old surf ski. They grabbed our felucca and sang to us. Not something that happens every day.

Kitchener’s Island was given to him in the 1890’s when he commanded the Egyptian Army. He had a passion for plants and turned it into a botanical garden. It has lost its former glory but it is still a tranquil place to visit.

We pulled into a wall and a gang plank was run out. It was about 30cm wide or less with occasional cross members to reduce slipping. It was not confidence inspiring and the short walk a metre above the surface was fraught. I was glad to get off it.


Our usual pilot was not with us. He reported sick. The stand in was not of the same standard but he did give us a spiel and then we were allowed to explore at our leisure. Anna and I left the madding crowd and found some lovely birds. With effort I finally got a decent shot of an hoopoe. They were quite striking with their long bill and cocky crest.

We were joined by a local boy of maybe 7 or 8. He spoke a little English and gave us some information about what we were seeing. He was a lovely kid and Anna borrowed some money to tip him.

We joined up with the group again at the coffee shop. This was an oasis but we were inundated with offers of goods to buy. Our friend Mariusz bought some alcohol free beer. He wont need to buy another.

Re-joining the felucca was much easier as they had tied up to a wharf. The visitors to the Nubian Village were put in a motor launch and headed their own way while we quietly cruised back to our starting point.