Sunday, June 15, 2008

Egypt Trip: Aswan High Dam, Temple of Philae, Papyrus Institute, Unfinished Obelisk and Temple at Kom Ombo (Day 4)

07:00 hrs Luxurious start to the day - 7am alarm call! All up, stumble about, manage breakfast of sorts - no-one fancied cooked. Downstairs to Lobby for an 8am start. Hand keys in to reception and get 3 boarding passes. Katie is feeling the strain - few tummy cramps, very tired. She has elected to stay in bed and s.l.e.e.p! whilst we enjoy today's trips.

Aswan High Dam

On the bus for our day out. 1st stop Aswan High Dam, having of course first crossed the old dam. Here we got all the politics - Suez, Russia, USA, English, French and Israelis etc. High Dam provides 45% of total Egyptian power requirements. It was the largest dam/hydro-electric complex in the world at one time. The lower, old dam has 2 power stations which between them provide 22% of power. High dam is actually very massive. It is over 1Km wide on its base of concrete. The walls gradually slope up to about 2 roads wide at the top. Ahmed explained that the 'precarious' nature of politics round about meant that they had to take into account things like air bombing attacks in the design. Photography is freely allowed - except zoom lenses or cine.

On the way back from the High Dam, we had a discourse on the good and bad things of the dam. Granite - doesn't bend; seepage; water table rising - damage to sites and artefacts; flooding of sites and relocation of most of Nubia; no flooding so no silt therefore chemical fertilisers; delta has no silt therefore erosion from Med etc. etc. Good bits Hydro-Electric and no floods. OK, so there you have the Egyptological and Philosophical view.

Temple of Philae

Back down to low dam and on board little motorboats for the trip to the Island of Philae and the Temples thereon. Turns out that this Temple was also a victim that had to be moved to higher ground. Could still see signs of some of the posts remaining from the dyke they built round the Temples to protect them from the rising waters. Actually they also recreated the exact shape of the original island on a higher island nearby called Agiliki, then marked, moved and rebuilt exactly as it was. Except for the workmanship. Ahmed showed us by putting his credit card between 2 blocks. Originally - as with all other artefacts, you couldn't even get a razor blade between them - so that's progress then.

Ahmed explained a lot about Egyptian religious philosophy, topology of Temples etc. He pointed out where most other religions' practices seemed to have sprung from the Egyptian.

A Little Adventure

In the last 10 minutes allowed to take photos etc. I was met by a little fellow, who indicated that I might gain height advantage to effect my photographic reminiscences. "English? Up..Up... Good...Follow". Basically we went through a previously locked door (he had the key), up into the entrance towers where I could take photographs from above the courtyards. On the way he had muttered something to the 'plain clothed' man (i.e. the one in the green jacket) who nodded. Cost me LE10 for the 'guide' and LE5 for the Green Jacket. Still, bit of an adventure to tell the kids. On the way back down the tower, laddo looked a little worried until I said "OK my secret". We waited at the bottom of the tower by the gate until it was all clear, smartly out the gate, wave goodbye with big smile. Nice little earner for him and the guard!

An Adventure Recounted

Made my way hurriedly to where all the boats were jammed fast together in seeming chaos. However, when reunited with my family and having recounted my adventure, all 41 'English Speaking Group' back on board so, miraculously we reversed out of the melee and were away! Uneventful if slightly damp (spray) journey back to dry land, don't buy anything (not even real dried baby crocodiles hanging on a stall), back on bus.

Papyrus Institute

Next stop of the morning was to a Papyrus Institute. We all went in, even though the Andrews party had already done that in Cairo. Some had the demo in the downstairs room, the rest of us wandered round. We didn't feel the need to buy anything - just have a cup of mint tea - remember the courtesy thingey again? Mary took one just to see if this was any different to ordinary tea (which, as we all know, makes her gag and/or throw up). It had a remarkable effect, leaving Mary in somewhat of a quandary. This was resolved by gently spitting it back into the glass and gingerly putting the glass down somewhere. Rest of us thought it was highly amusing but Hey, that's families for you!

Back onto bus, Ahmed turned up in a car - he had sped home to pick up some videos about Ancient Egypt. Just about to leave when staff in Papyrus place rushed out with some Papyrus stuff that had been 'customised' for the Belgian couple. Obviously they had mis-understood, thinking they would be sent on.

Unfinished Obelisk

Final stop, the quarry on the outskirts of Aswan to see the unfinished Obelisk. This was still in situ, attached to the bedrock, only partially finished. Theories are that because flaws appeared, it would not have been strong enough to raise, so work was stopped. This granite monster would have been the biggest Obelisk ever found.

Back to bus, back to boat (late for sailing - this was to be a theme, the common denominator being Ahmed). Lovely lunch again. Boat delayed even further by 'technical difficulties'. Then we sped on down the Nile, passing other cruise ships on the way.

Temple at Kom Ombo

Eventually moored at Kom Ombo. We had a short walk to the Temple of the Two Gods SOBEK and HARORIS. (Still without Katie). Another guide was gassing in Arabic with Ahmed while we were waiting for the rest to see the mummified crocodiles, when Ahmed suddenly announced that the other chap wanted to buy Lucy. The other guide's face was an absolute picture. He shook his hands at us saying "We weren't talking about her, really", but I needed at least double the offer, so the banter (and barter) ceased. Saw one of the famous Nileometers in the grounds and hieroglyphs depicting the calendars. Ahmed went into great detail of how our calendars came about based on the original Egyptian one. They originally knew all about leap years etc etc. Explained in steps how our modern calendar came about, after tinkering from various Pharaohs, Caesars and Popes.

On the way back to the boat (late again - Ahmed), Mary wanted to buy some 'ethnic' clothing, but I felt pressured to get back on board ship (who's hooter was wailing over the Nile by this time), so no success in the haggling.

... back on board

Safely back on board. Rest. Ahmed arranged for the videos he had brought from home to be shown 'ship-wide' about Pyramids, Cleopatra, Sphinx etc. - Discovery Channel "History's Mysteries". Up to the bar for 7pm for 'cocktails' with the captain. They introduced the 'management team' and told us (in two languages) about the ship and who did what. On came some of the crew dressed as 'locals' singing and banging drums. Lucy and I were dragged onto the dance floor 1st (Oh Dear), to 'do' the local dance routine - hold hands and shuffle basically. More and more people were dragged up and it degenerated into an Egyptian version of the Conga, which snaked its way down to the restaurant. So, down to evening meal, service a bit slow, then an hour or so in the bar to watch the revellers in their Fancy Dress - this seemed to have an Egyptian Theme - weird.

Katie had managed to join us for a little lunch, but she didn't do the afternoon trip, preferring (rightly) to rest in the cool - well she was sunbathing on deck in the afternoon when we got back. She had some evening meal with us as well.

All tucked up in bed by 10:30pm.

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