The mountain that speaks volumes

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Day 28: Aswan (6 Oct 2009) the mountain that speaks volumes

Seriously…who the hell gets up at 2:30 am to start their day? No one I know that’s for sure! Well, that’s when all of the alarms went off to get us up and to the lobby by 3am for our breakfast boxes (not like I could eat at that hour) and our 3 hour journey to Abu Simbel. The thing is, you MUST go in a police convoy or you can’t go to visit and the convoy was leaving at 4am as it only goes twice a day and it’s gets crazy bloody hot really early. Apparently some years ago there were many tourists killed there so there is incredibly heightened security there now. So, sleepily we got dressed, somehow got ourselves to the lobby and got on the van. In typical fashion; I fell asleep as soon as I got on the van and awoke about five minutes before we got there. Others were complaining about the long and bumpy bus ride but I of course remember nothing. We arrived by 7am and had until 8:45 as the police convoy would leave by 9am and we had to go with them. So, we went to the area and had our historical information talk outside the temple.

Situated on the banks of the beautiful water are these two temples carved into the mountains (picture Mount Rushmore type sculptures) created by Ramses II. There are huge sculptures outside and even more intricate carvings on the inside. Ramses created the temple so that the sunlight would enter inside and shine directly on a statue of him on his birthday and another sacred day. Wall after wall and statue after stature I saw what I teach my class about every year. The second temple was created for his goddess wife and was smaller than the first but just as intense. We admired the handiwork and the fact that these marvels not only exist but were moved due to sands and floods and only one statue was partially destroyed by a fluke earthquake. When the temples were moved scientists from around the world were brought to try to calibrate when the sunlight would hit that statue again so as to keep that part of the temple alive; they came pretty close but were one day off in the end.

After our visit we got back in the van for our three hour trek home…I slept the entire way again of course! The van dropped me off at the hotel with a few other people as the rest made a stop at an essence factory to see how the bases of so many of the world’s perfumes are made. I however came back to the Isis to sit in a bathing suit on a lounge chair by the pool watching the feluccas as they float by. Mathew came back and we picked up some chips and drinks and had a bar and some peanut butter and a bar and went back to the pool for some more r and r. After about an hour or so we headed to McDonalds to use their free wifi for a bit and decide what to do later.

We came back and changed and met Mayer at 7:30 in the lobby of the hotel for a visit to a spice shop in the Aswan market for a lesson in Nubian spices. The market of course was filled with hagglers all around offering us money to just look in their shops filled with shishas, tobacco, jewelry, shoes and other types of stuff. Children as young as five were hocking things like tissues or bracelets or sandalwood necklaces. We had our lesson and saw spices of all different colors and smelled some yummy spices. Of course we realized after listening to Mayer what to say to some of the salemen if we didn’t want to be rude. Most said ‘hello my friend, where are you from’ and Mayer told us that they have a different approach to people depending on where you’re from. (Now remember, these are all generalizations which I’m never crazy about but…) America and Australia are basically ATMs with legs, Germans apparently are great shoppers as they buy everything, but the Dutch, they don’t like as they often window shop and don’t buy. Now you know how I feel about generalizations and all, but by the end we were just so tired of being harassed that we thought, hey, why not be from Holland! We had some pizza just outside the market with James and Louise, bought a magnet and some postcards and made our way back to the hotel for some rest. Tomorrow…felucca sailing!

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