Day 5, A Day Sailing Beats a Month in Town

Sorry for the delay in this post.  We have been moving our house, so the past couple of weeks have been hectic.

Sara and I arrived in Aswan via the sleeper train at about 10am.  We had booked a Nile cruise, but did not board the ship until the following day, so we had a day in which to relax and explore.

Aswan is the only location in all of Egypt where granite is found.  Consequently, any granite structures carved or constructed in all of Ancient Egypt originated in Aswan.  It is quite impressive when one considers the thousands of tons of granite artifacts found throughout the country.  In fact, the largest surviving Egyptian obelisk weighs over 450 tons.  It is a single piece of granite that is over 100 feet tall.


We were a little nervous about our hotel, because it was only $18 per night, including free transportation from the train station.  It turns out the Memnon Hotel was one of our favorites.  First, the people were incredibly helpful and friendly.  So much so that we tried a couple of times to tip them (baksheesh), but to no avail.  They would not accept anything.  Second, the rooms were clean, but more important, they overlooked the Nile, and even more important, they had air conditioning.  I would highly recommend the Memnon Hotel.

One of my little travel goals is to pay at least one visit to McDonald's in every country.  We try to eat as much local food as possible, but I like to stop in to get an ice cream at a minimum, and usually a full meal if it all works out.  I have only missed one country:  Ecuador (I get to count Colombia even though it was technically a McPollo's - it looked just the same).  I would have to say that the Aswan Mickey D's has to be one of the finest locations anywhere.  It is right on the Nile.  You can sit there on the porch and imagine the old Egyptian barges hauling 200 ton granite obelisks right by that very spot while you sip your McCafe, nibble on your McNuggets and surf the Internet on the free McWifi.

We actually ate lunch at a restaurant just down from the Golden Arches, also on the Nile, where we met a very interesting Scotsman.  He had been coming to Aswan for over 30 years and gave us some tips on what to see and how to deal with the locals.  He regaled us with stories of the past.  Once he had made the mistake of coming there in July, when the temperature was near 130 degrees  and the only thing that you could do was sit in your hotel room in the A/C.  If you ventured outside, your nostrils would catch on fire and you would burst into flames from the inside.  Luckily, we had come in May, so we were treated to a rather mild 108 degrees.

Sara and I really enjoy sailing, so a treat to which we looked forward was an afternoon felucca ride.  For about 35 pounds ($6.25), we rented a private felucca (sailboat) with a captain for a two hour tour around Elephantine Island, an island in the middle of the Nile near Aswan.  Captain Rambo was a salty character who had many trinkets to sell and very few teeth.  Sara obliged him by buying a few necklaces and we had so much fun that we also gave him a nice baksheesh.  While on the 'cruise', we were approached by a small boy in a rowboat who serenaded us in several languages until he discovered that we spoke English at which time he sang us a very nice version of  'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'.  I am not being sarcastic with that remark; his unique presentation of that song is something I will not soon forget.


Unfortunately, by dinnertime, there was a rumbly in my tumbly and I was not feeling like eating anything exotic.  We went to McDonald's for a home-cooked meal, where Sara, the adventurous one, went for it with a McArabia sandwich (chicken parts mashed into a patty and wrapped in a pita), while I stayed safe with the McNuggets (chicken parts mashed into a patty and then cut into small pieces).  We then returned to our hotel for an early night, as we had to get up early the next morning for a 4:30am police-escorted bus to Abu Simbel - three hours to the south, but it was supposed to be an incredible temple built by Ramses the Great to honor his favorite subject:  Ramses the Great.  We would then have to be back by noon to board our cruise ship.  Of course, we had no idea where the ship was, or really even what time it was leaving...but that was tomorrow's adventure.  Tonight, blissful sleep.  Uh oh, that rumble was getting worse.  Was it my turn for King Tut's Revenge?  Yep.

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