Abu Simbel / Aswan – July 9th

We woke up to our alarm at 2:40am to catch our bus to Abu Simbel. The hostel owner, David, had left some breakfast with a note for us outside our door which was a nice surprise. The bus taking us to Abu Simbel wasn’t able to get up the road to where our hostel was, so we had to walk down the road and meet the bus at the co-op down the street. We got picked up and settled in for the four hour drive. We picked up several other groups from other hotels and then were off. 

Luckily our driver was fast and navigated the roads well. We tried to get as much sleep as we could in the hot van bouncing all over the road. When we were awake, we watched miles and miles of the Sahara Desert go by and then saw the morning sunrise.

Abu Simbel had heavy security check points which we had to wait for and contributed to the four hour drive. 

When we arrived at Abu Simbel our driver clapped his hands to wake us all up and said in his Arabic accent, “Hello, Welcome to Abu Simbel!” We all hopped out of the car and a guide immediately arrived to show us where to go. We were taken to the bathrooms first, which after a four hour car ride was nice, but of course they cost money, so we skipped the bathrooms and bought our tickets. We kindly told the guide that we were going to see the temple on our own and headed in.

We took a quick pit stop to apply sunscreen and then headed around the large man-made mountain to see the temple. 

Abu Simbel was a temple to Ramses II that commemorated his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. The temple was moved in its entirety to a new sight to prevent it from being submerged by Lake Nasser which was created when the high dam was built. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Based on some reviews Jay read online, you were supposed to keep your head down as you came around the mountain so that you saw the site all at once. So I kept my head down and Jay told me when to look. 

Abu Simbel is definitely one of the best temples to see in Egypt. We got there early enough that it wasn’t too hot and we had the whole temple basically to ourselves as the rest of our group was outside listening to the tour guide. The first site you see is four great statues of Ramses and several gods. Inside there are huge pillars, multiple rooms, and grand pictures of Ramses II fighting a battle. 

Next to Ramses temple was another smaller temple for Ramses wife Nefertari.

After seeing the temples, we stopped to look out over Lake Nasser. We ate our breakfast packed by David. Then we headed over to see the visitor’s center which had all the pictures of how the temple was moved and reconstructed. 

Picture of Nefertari’s temple in original location being deconstructed to be moved.
Picture of Abu Simbel in its original location being deconstructed to be moved.
Model of Abu Simbel’s inner chambers that had to be moved to a new location.

We were supposed to meet back at the bus at 8:20am. We timed it perfectly so that we could walk passed the many vendors quickly and tell them that we had to catch our bus if they asked us to buy things. 

Then we settled back in for the long drive home. The drive home was slightly quicker at 3 hours. Once we got dropped off, we found a grocery store and bought some lunch to eat back at the hostel. We also did some laundry in David’s old school washing machine. Then we took a nap durning the hottest part of the day. 

Once we woke up, it was about 5 o’clock. We hung our clothes out to dry and headed to the city. Jay wanted to get a rickshaw to take us into town, but I was more set on walking to avoid the hassle of communicating our destination and haggling the price. But, Jay found a rickshaw and attempted to negotiate. When they gave us the elevated price for tourists, we declined and ended up walking anyway. 

We passed by the Cataract Hotel which we had learned was the place Agatha Christie wrote her book Death on the Nile. We have added this to our list of movies/books we need to watch/read.

Then, we found a nice little park that looked out over the Nile. A gentleman came up to talk to us, and at first we thought he was going to ask us for money, but then he said he only wanted to talk to us to practice his English. He said he had a PhD in psychology and taught physics and chemistry at Aswan University. He wanted to know what books we were currently reading. We told him about Trevor Noah’s book about South African apartheid which Jay had read, and I was currently reading. He wanted us to leave the book for him in a place he could get it, but I still haven’t finished reading it yet. Otherwise, we would have. He also asked us about the definitions of several English words he couldn’t figure out. “Foraging” and “sapien” as in homo sapien were the two that gave him the most trouble. We explained what the words meant and were pleased to hear from someone eager to learn. Then we headed off to see the rest of the park.

Some kids were having a photo shoot on the rocks. Lol.

When we sat down, a couple of kids were taking pictures of Jay, so he took some selfies with them.

Jay taking selfies with local kids.

Then we sat down on a bench to look at the Nile. We heard a shrill “aey-lalalalala” type call and turned around to see an Arabic bride having her wedding photos taken. 

Arabic bride we saw in the park.

When we were done at the park, we grabbed an ice cream and started the walk home. When we saw a rickshaw, we hopped in as this one was a better price. However, the driver had no idea where he was taking us, so Jay had to navigate. We eventually got back to the hostel and called it a night. 

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