Culture, culture and more culture

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Day 27: Aswan (5 Oct 2009) culture, culture, culture

Good morning sunshine! We woke up this morning in our small little compartment and put our beds up immediately to have a bit of room to move. We got our breakfast filled with carbohydrates; bread, bread and more bread which I didn’t eat and eventually arrived at Aswan station around 9am. I had slept fairly well through the night amidst the bumping around the train and being a bit nauseous when I went to sleep but my husband didn’t have as much luck as I did and was awake for much of the ride. We were met by a van at the station and taken to our beautiful Isis Hotel on the Nile River and dropped off a few people who decided not to go on the optional excursion and went on our way.

First stop, the high Dam of Aswan which was quite cool to stand on, drive over and see. Check, next, as usual and then we hopped on a motor boat (amidst all of the hagglers) and went to Philae’s Temple on a small island. It was pretty cool-an Egyptian style temple built by a Greek ruler which had many aspects of both cultures. It had many columns but there was a repetition of three with the tops all taking the shape of either papyrus, palm or lotus flowers/plants. Of course, as we’ve seen, the day wouldn’t be complete without people trying to sell us stuff, but this time one of the guys jumped on our motor boat and had bracelets-it was so easy and accessible that many of us bought them from him. We then hit a rock quarry to see an unfinished obelisk. Now, remember, the only obelisk that I know of is the one at Jones Beach that you drive around to get to my house and that’s surely finished; so I was expecting to see something like that, you know, free standing but just unfinished, well…that was not to be. Instead, I felt like I was in the Flinstones Rock Quarry and Barney and Fred would soon be in their foot moving car and appear. {Mat note: yabba dabba do} The obelisk was lying down and looked like a walk ramp and just didn’t seem to really inspire anyone so we quickly left.

We left there and came back to the hotel for some rest time by the pool. The hotel here is really nice; the rooms are nice and clean and the pool is great. There are blue and white lounge chairs and cabanas everywhere as far as the eye can see. As you sit looking at the pool and the chairs behind them is the Nile River covered with feluccas and some sand hills behind it…how cool is this! We rested for a bit and had a chance to read and relax and then showered and changed for the next portion of the day. We were supposed to board a felucca but apparently the wind wasn’t cooperating so we hopped a small motor boat to the Botanical Gardens and watched a gorgeous sunset. James and Louise wandered with us as we observed the view, the pretty palm trees and some sad looking dogs and cats that looked as if they hadn’t been fed in ages. We ended our walk and jumped back on the boat to Elephentine Island (which had no elephants). But, get this…as we were on our way two little boys (about 10 years old) in two small wooden boats with pieces of wood for paddles paddled up to our boat and grabbed hold and started to sing Row Row Row your boat…apparently you could ask them to sing in any language and then of course…they asked for money! It was incredible; well, I’ve decided that my new answer is…GO TO SCHOOL! Well, it makes me feel better at least! We journeyed along a bit and wound our way through tight streets to our end result which was a traditional Nubian village. It just looked like it was right out of a text book (well, if you minus the satellite dishes on so many rooftops). It was a small village with narrow passageways with no lights and some small and large houses with air conditioning while others were open to the night air. There were washing lines outside and brick oven stoves used often.

We sat as this family welcomed us into their home. We had some hibiscus tea (supposed to lower your blood pressure and tasted like a cross between grape and cranberry juice) which I didn’t like but still consider the flower to be one of my favorites. The next course was a delicious lentil soup with some sort of naan bread which was great. Then there was the spread; it was so simple and so grand at the very same time. Meat sandwiches, chicken, eggplant tagine (yummy), rice, potato, French fries, spaghetti and sauce, tahini and some raw veggies. It all looked great! Dinner was delicious and then there was mint tea, Turkish coffee, necklaces sold, henna tattoos done for some and some chatter and then we headed back to the hotel. It was seriously out of a text book being there and walking past some of the rooms with colorful couches and bedspreads. There were children running around and after we thanked the women who did all of the cooking (only able to see their eyes as they were in full Muslim garb) we wound our way back to the boat. And of course, just before we got there you could see a tennis court fully lit up with kids playing soccer-truly is the world sport!

We arrived back to the hotel by 9pm and were told to go straight to bed. Why you ask? Well, because we had to wake up at 2:30am to head to Abu Simbel-the legendary temple in the mountains. Guess we really should get some sleep…Tomorrow…Abu Simbel!

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