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Entries about desert

Drama on the Nile

Egypt - Aswan

sunny 29 °C
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The train ride wasn't too bad... we got a lie in and didn't get woken up by the Adhan at 4:30am. But the toilets were grim and breakfast was a three course selection of different types of stale bread. We had a bit of chance to enjoy the Nile Valley, as most of the population (and therefore all the transportation routes) are along the banks of the great river. By mid-morning we had arrived in the southern city of Aswan.

Welcome to Aswan

Welcome to Aswan

We started by taking a visit to Philae, a temple dedicated to Isis (the goddess, not the group...). The temple sits on the island of Agilkia, in the Aswan Reservoir - the area between the Low and High Dams.

Temple of Philae

Temple of Philae

Until the construction of the dams, it sat on the island of Philae (hence the name) which was then submerged and required it's relocation to the neighbouring island. However it is near enough the same as it was - same position, almost the same orientation, and still requiring a boat to get to it.

Boarding the boat

Boarding the boat

We arrived at the marina, which as surrounded by locals selling tat, as well as millions of flies. Trying to avoid both, we eventually made it onto a boat, where we were joined by some local salesmen before we finally reached the island.

Philae

Philae

The temple was a standard Egyptian complex, with colonnades leading to a gateway portal and inner sanctuaries. Was it the best temple in Egypt? No. But it's setting on an island did make it very interesting, plus it had some pretty cats to look at...

Cat at the temple

Cat at the temple

We headed back into Aswan, arriving at the hotel - the same one I had originally booked to stay in in March 2020. We checked into the room and had a few hours to ourselves. Some of the group decided to take a walk around the area, grab some food and visit the souq. I had Pringles and decided to have a rest instead. I've overdone it on previous trips and having had a rubbish breakfast... (If I never see stale bread again, it'll be too soon)... I was best off resting.

It was also the first time since the brief few minutes in Cairo that I'd had chance to connect to the WiFi and the outside world - so the time went by pretty quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to regroup, and after meeting in the lobby, we headed across the road to board a small boat.

At this point of the river there are many islands. The largest of which, Elephantine, contains luxury hotels to the north and a Nubian village to the south. The Nubians were the original inhabitants of this part of Egypt, and are of more African complexion as opposed to the majority of the Arab Egyptians from the north. For the first time it felt like we were actually in Africa. Northern and cosmopolitan Egypt is very much part of the Middle East.

Boat Tour

Boat Tour

We circled the island, including views of the Old Cataract Hotel (where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile), before taking a walk around the village.

Old Cataract Hotel

Old Cataract Hotel

After the tour we then visited a local family's home for dinner. Once again it was local food - grilled chicken, rice, tagine, stale bread. Fine, but nothing special. Thankfully it was still relatively early, as the next day we had a very early start.

Sunset from the Nubian Village

Sunset from the Nubian Village

At 3:45am the alarm went off... I took my travel pillow and blanket with me and prepared to board the coach that would take us south to Abu Simbel. I was ready to knock any grannies over if necessary in order to claim that back row all to myself. But thankfully I boarded first so didn't need to... I settled in to grab a few more hours sleep, as it was a four hour drive to Abu Simbel. To ensure our safety, this was via a police escort which had enforced this disgustingly early start.

After a few hours of sleep I awoke to find sunrise as we drove the last hour or so through the Sahara Desert.

Waking up through the desert

Waking up through the desert

Abu Simbel, like the temple at Philae was moved due to the construction of the dams at Aswan. Previously located within the cliffs on the banks of the Nile, it has now been moved to relatively flat land above Lake Nasser (the lake that was formed by the Aswan High Dam). Consequently artificial domes have been created to house the relocated Temples, which look ridiculous and so out of place!

Back of the Temples

Back of the Temples

But the temples themselves are very impressive. As we had a fast driver, we were one of the first groups down to the Temples.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel

This allowed our group to take what was essentially a photoshoot outside. Just half an hour later and the place was completely crowded!

Not long later...

Not long later...

There are two temples. One for Ramses II, and one for his wife Nefertari (not to be confused with Nefertiti).

Nefertari's Temple

Nefertari's Temple

We looked around the temples, impressive, with lots of side rooms, but quite small, considering the scale at their entrances

Inside the Temples

Inside the Temples

After spending several hours here we then headed back through the desert towards Aswan. We were so far south that we were on the other side of the Tropic of Cancer, where even before midday, it was hot enough to form a mirage. An incredible sight.

Mirage

Mirage

After having had some lunch out of a snack box, we arrived back in Aswan. We crossed the Low Dam, just managing to get some sights of the High Dam, before we stopped at an Essences store.

Aswan High Dam

Aswan High Dam

The store showed us examples of natural oils that can be used as an alternative to medicines. I didn't buy anything but came out smelling lovely... That evening we went for dinner at a restaurant beside the Nile, before taking a night time walk through the souq.

View from the hotel

View from the hotel

The next morning, thankfully later than yesterday, we had breakfast at the hotel before heading back down to the river. We were now leaving Aswan, but slowly... We would sail down the Nile on traditional Feluccas - wind powered boats.

On the Felucca

On the Felucca

The boats had mattresses upon which we would sit. And with our luggage aboard, we sailed off. The group had been split into two, which allowed us views of the other boat at close proximity. We didn't travel very fast, as the wind was not overly strong, and was coming from the north! Therefore we spent much of the time travelling across the river from side to side.

Felucca

Felucca

As the boat had no toilets or other facilities, we would make regular stops with the support boat in tow. Having sailed for a few hours already, we stopped along the western bank of the river just outside the city for lunch before restarting our journey north.

Getting to know our travelling companions, the sunshine and views meant despite being stuck on a boat all day, time went by quickly. It was also a well needed opportunity to have some relaxing on what was so far a very busy trip.

After a few hours we stopped again. And this is where the first disaster took place. The support boat pulled up beside us and everything was roped together. Then we were able to get off and have a walk around or use the facilities. One of the older ladies from Canada popped to the toilet, then when she came back attempted to walk on the boards heading to the river bank. As she did this the boat moved slightly, she grabbed the pole holding the boat in place, which dislodged and then she fell into the river. Queue panic with all the staff...

She was fine, but shaken up, as she had been fully submerged into the river. She stayed behind with her sister and our tour leader on the support boat to clean herself up, get changed and recover from the experience. A little later, the support boat caught up with us, and the three of them re-joined us.

It wasn't much later before sunset. And as the boats did not have lights we needed to stop sailing for the evening. We pulled up at another riverbank on the western bank, and began to get sorted for the evening. We re-joined our other travel companions and chatted over dinner.

Evening on the boat

Evening on the boat

Many hours of great conversation went by, discussing our experiences and before we knew it, it was already pretty late, with a busy day tomorrow.

The boats had a blanket wrapped around them to give us some privacy, but it made it pretty difficult to find our way around! I managed to grab my bits, sort out the blankets and settle in for the night. It was a bit cold, but pretty peaceful, and I got a better night's sleep than I expected.

The transformation into beds

The transformation into beds

We awoke to a pretty chilly morning, and this is when the second disaster on the Nile occurred. One of the younger Canadians had been sorting through her stuff ready for the day when she suddenly heard a plop... she looked over and realised that her bum bag containing her passport, money and phone had dropped over the edge of the boat and into the river, sailing submerged under the water downstream.

Cue panic, for the second time in 15 hours... The felucca began untying itself to sail down the river and see if it could locate the bag, before the support boat joined. But sadly, to no avail. The bag and it's contents were lost forever...

Early morning hunt

Early morning hunt

After returning to the one remaining static boat, everyone moved their belongings onto the support boat where we enjoyed breakfast. The sun was starting to rise and I was finally feeling some warmth for the first time in hours!

We then made our way across the river where we were picked up by a coach and began heading north to Kom Ombo, where there is a double temple - dedicated to two Gods, Sobek and Haroeris. The former of which being the Crocodile God.

Temple at Kom Ombo

Temple at Kom Ombo

We took a look around the temple in the morning sun, before heading next door to the museum full of mummified Crocodiles, in Sobek's honour.

Mummified Crocodiles

Mummified Crocodiles

After a short time at this odd museum, we made our way back past the tat sellers and onto the coach, to continue to the final major stop on this Egyptian Adventure - Luxor!

Posted by kmmk17 18:44 Archived in Egypt Tagged desert boat temple train river egypt museum island ancient mummy Comments (0)

"You have food!" "No, it's a teddy bear..."

RTW - Dubai

sunny 40 °C
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After a late flight from Heathrow on a cold Tuesday morning and flying over desirable locations like Syria, Iraq and Iran, I finally arrived in the United Arab Emirates just as the sunset to begin my 77 day adventure. And the first thing that hit me (quite literally) was the heat! Although it had been the same temperature in Hungary just three weeks earlier, the humidity was so much more making you feel sweaty almost instantly - every time I went outside my glasses steamed up! The thing I can compare it most to, is like when you open the oven door when cooking and all the steam blows in your face....only this didn't end!

One of the most annoying things was actually the air conditioning...being that it was kept too cold! Meaning the inside temperatures were around 25 degrees colder than the outside. It was quite annoying that just as you got used to the heat, you'd go inside and freeze...then as you got used to that you'd be boiling again - a bit like when you walk round the freezer section of the supermarket in your shorts - I resorted to bringing my jacket round with me all day!

Dune Bashing

Dune Bashing

On my first full day I was still getting used to the temperature and so I had a long lie in before a short walk around the area, where the souqs were located and then going back to my hotel before being picked up at 3 for my Evening Desert Safari! This was a lot of fun, being driven over the sand dunes as well as getting to ride a camel and then an evening meal whilst watching belly dancing. Definitely worth the money! One the second and third full days I had booked myself onto the bus tours of the city (having experienced what heat does in Hungary, I knew that this was probably the best way for me to see the sights in my limited time in the city) and so on the first day I saw the Bur Dubai and Deira areas and then change bus to see the new development areas such as the Palm and the Burj al-Arab hotel and many of the huge shopping centres.

Burj Al-Arab

Burj Al-Arab

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

This then took me to the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa, where I had booked a ticket to ascend to the observation tower, although for a moment I wondered whether I would in fact make it up there - having put my bags through security, Kevin Bear was picked out as being food! (something banned from the top) Whether this was a genuine mistake, or a reflection of Middle Eastern eating habits is still unclear. But once making it to the top it was an incredible experience, being on the 124th floor looking down over the desert - although unfortunately the humidity does limit the distance that can be seen.

View from the Burj Khalifa

View from the Burj Khalifa


Dubai by night

Dubai by night

I had timed this visit so that I would be able to see the city in both daylight and at night..amazing to see a city lit up at night! I spent a while up the tower before coming back down to view the fountain show and then heading back to my hotel.

Dhow Cruise

Dhow Cruise

On my final day, I had a late flight (or is it early the next?) at 2:50am, and so I had a long day to visit more of the city. I therefore took the free Dhow cruise down the river, before making my way on the bus tour to the meeting point where we would have a free guided tour of the neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah just to the north east of Dubai. After arriving back I then made my way over to the Dubai Museum and Sheikh's house which were too free after purchasing my tour bus ride, before making my way back to my hotel to collect my luggage and travel to the airport...albeit 5 hours early.

Sheikh's House

Sheikh's House

Dubai was an incredible experience...seeing both luxury and Arab culture although I would say go in the winter months instead, as several continuous days at 40+ is really uncomfortable!

Next stop: Tokyo!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged desert tower city sand rtw Comments (0)

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