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Friday, May 28, 2004

Egypt - Aswan

Our ship docked at Aswan very late at night or early in the morning. When I woke up, we were no longer moving. Our first day in Aswan started with the tour of the dam. I suppose some might find this interesting, but to me, it seemed like being hit with reality after days of living in the past. I couldn't really find enough enthusiasm. It had flooded countless temples and many cultures.
View of Nile near Aswan
Temple of Philae was located on a small island. One of many temples to be relocated due to the dam. We took a small motor boat through the Nile river there, a very unsteady boat. I think it was the most beautiful temple I have been thus far. Perhaps it has something to do with less heat and the cool breeze. We had not had such luxury for so many days that it almost felt as though we were transported to another world.
Temple of Philae from the boat
I was told that Temple of Philae is that of Cleopatra. If she had indeed built this temple, or even slightly supervised it, I could very well imagine who she might have been. I suppose so much is known about her, yet so little. Is it really for us to conclude who she was based on such little historical records?
Temple of Philae from the boat
This temple, like the others, had been a place of healing. They healed through tears here. I saw little windows on the walls of the temple where perhaps the priestesses stood and cried. How strange to have a job where all you do is cry?
Columns of temple of Philae
The temple was unfortunately heavily vandalized like so many others. Much thanks to the Christians who had dwelt there. How is it possible to destroy such beauty? I am sometimes amazed by the blindness of the people.
Temple of Philae
Inside the temple, we explored a little room, in the middle of which we all stood and put our hands on a significant stone slab of...the significance escapes me at the moment...perhaps luck, or more likely of healing and fertility. I am not sure if all the stories I were told during the tour were real, but I would like to believe them to be.
Temple of Philae
This temple, like others, were still being excavated, or being put together so to speak. There were places where we were supposed to not enter, but well, our guide was our key. We were able to see the little side temple, still being reconstructed. I am still quite not sure what it was used for. Perhaps the living quarters of the priestesses?
Temple of Philae
We lingered at the temple for a long time. I think there was just something that was holding us there...something I am unable to explain. Sometimes I wonder if I would not have liked to have been a priestess...of this ancient world.
Philae Temple from the water
As the sun slowly descended, we boarded a fellukah. It is essentially a sail boat that glides through the Nile...one of the most peaceful ways to travel I believe. I can't say I would want to sail more than few hours in it, but it was nonetheless unforgettable experience. In the middle of our journey, we switched boats and went on our way to the Nubian Village.
Sites from the boat on the way to Nubian village
Nubians were those who were very much affected by the construction of Aswan dam. Their villages had been flooded and they were given free land to live on, but still, I can only imagine how much must have been lost.
The current of the Nile river was stronger than I had imagined. Our motor boat barely navigated upriver and I could only imagine how difficult it would have been to take a fellukah to where we were headed.
Nile Bank
As we traveled upriver, we occasionally spotted red sand bank filled with people and camels. I suppose that's what some of tourists do. Take a fellukah to the island and get a camel ride.
Although it was interesting to see so many people gathered about at a Nile bank, we decided to move on. The Nubian village awaited us.
Camels resting under a tree
I did ride a camel, near the sphinx in Giza. It was part of the whole package. I thought I would not like it initially, but I found myself getting comforted by the steady rhythm of camel walking. Camels are not really diligent creatures. Someone must constantly pull him or push him. Unless it felt like doing something, it sits and stares at you and refuses to move.
We did see a huge number of camels. One of which was running away...perhaps not. I only saw it walking as fast as it can (I don't think Camels really like to gallop) away from the civilization. A runaway camel...who would have thought?
Runaway camel
This one particular camel had a personality. Or rather, was very good at voicing his opinion about who he liked and who he didn't. He certainly did not care for the boy who was in our group. I think it stared at most of us with its peaceful eyes until he saw the boy. That's when he started yelping.
Camel at the Nubian village
Nubian village had a totally different atmosphere. We saw a woman covered in gold, one who is supposed to marry soon. She is supposed to show her wealth, so all her gold jewelry were visible. The Nubian tradition is to live all in the same house, looking at the same stars. They must have a really tight knit family. The villagers follow their own traditions, own music, own food...They have such different culture compared to Egyptians and all the other race.
Goat at the Nubian Village
Several of us decided to get a tattoo...more like henna I think. I thought I'd pass on that, but it was a lot of fun looking at other people who got them. More fascinating to see the liquid dry and is peeled off and the tattoo appears.
Nubian village

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