Day 6, Aswan And The Start Of Our Nile Cruise, That Is, If We Can Find The Ship

To bring you up to speed, Sara and I had been traveling through Egypt and we have reached Day 6.  Our story currently puts us in Aswan, in Upper Egypt, which is actually quite far south (since the Nile flows South to North, the southern part of Egypt is referred to as Upper Egypt, while the northern part is considered Lower Egypt).  This is the day that we will board our luxurious cruise ship for a fantastic three day voyage north to Luxor.

We had planned to get up at 4:30 am to catch a three hour bus ride further south to Abu Simbel, a very impressive monument built by Ramses the Great to honor himself.  This would give us enough time to view the temple 'tourist style' (i.e. take a few pictures to prove that we were there and get back on the bus) and be back to board the ship by 12:30.

As things go, not everything worked according to plan.  It seems that the same affliction Sara had had earlier in the trip had now caught up with me.  I awoke several times throughout the evening to pay my respects to the porcelain deity.  Needless to say, 4:30 rolled around and there was no way I was going to get on a bus (with a police escort all the way, so stopping was going to be a problem) for three hours with minimal bathroom access.  We decided to sleep in and called to cancel our ride.

We finally got up and checked out of our hotel, but happened to notice that our cruise tickets did not mention where the ship was docked.  The Nile in Aswan is packed with docked cruise ships, three deep, so we walked up and down looking for ours:  Radamis I.  Nowhere to be found.  We asked several people, but no one seemed to know, so we went back to the hotel to ask if they could help.  The helpful desk clerk phoned a few people and discovered from one that the ship was further south from the hotel.  However, just to confirm, he called another person, who told him that the ship was to the north, but to the south of the train station.  Now, with two competing locations, it was necessary to phone a third person.  Luckily, this person completed the puzzle by assuring us that it was, in fact, north of the hotel, but north of the train station.  This pretty much covered the entire shoreline from the Aswan Dam to Luxor (roughly 111 miles).

Armed with this knowledge, the hotel clerk flagged down a taxi for us and negotiated a five pound ($1) fare to find our ship.  And we were off.

We drove north to the end of the line of docked ships with the plan to work our way south until we inevitably ran into it.  There must have been over a hundred ships from which to choose, so we sought help from some of the locals.  I was beginning to grow nervous.  Our ship was supposed to pull out at 12:30 and it was nearing noon.  I am a bit (very) obsessive/compulsive and one of my (many) quirks is to be on time for things.  I tend to grow a bit impatient with slow, pokey people when I am in danger of being late.  After asking at least a half dozen people with no result, we finally found a man, who knew a man, who had a walkie-talkie.  He asked what ship we were looking for.  "Radamis I," I replied.  "Aiwa, Radamis I," he answered (meaning "Yes, Radamis I") and he called over the radio.  In my heightened state, I emphasized, "Radamis I," with a bit more enunciation:  Ra-da-mis one (holding up a single digit).  "Aiwa, Radamis I," he replied again and spoke again into the radio.  I still did not catch the hint, so on my third attempt to reiterate our ship name, he stopped and put the radio down, "AI-WA, RA-DA-MIS ONE," he glared.  Ooohhhh, ok.  He understands, I thought as I lowered my head sheepishly.  He picked up the radio again, spoke a few more words and then told his friend the location of our ship.  His friend told our driver, collected his baksheesh (tip) from me, a bit more for his friend on the radio, a bit more for me being a douche and he successfully negotiated a higher wage for the driver.  I think that ride cost us about 50 pounds.

It turns out that the ship was, in fact, north of the hotel and north of the train station.  Well north of the train station.  We discovered a whole new line of ships, out of sight of the city.  We paid our driver and hustled down the gangway to our ship with at least ten minutes to spare.  We got aboard and while we waited to check in, we managed to obtain a copy of our itinerary for the cruise.  This is when we discovered that a Nile cruise is not like a Caribbean cruise.  Our honeymoon cruise was spent mostly at sea, traveling to the next destination.  On the Nile, the destinations are fairly close together, so most of the cruise is spent docked.  It turns out our first day's destination was...Aswan.  This meant that we would remain docked for the day and would not actually be pulling out until 2pm the following day.  So much for my promptness.

Our first organized tour was that afternoon and we started by going to the Unfinished Obelisk.  This is exactly what it sounds like, an obelisk that was started, but was never finished.  It still lies it its quarry bed, attached to the granite below it.  If you know nothing of obelisks, they are actually quite interesting and somewhat of a mystery.    This particular obelisk, ordered by King Hatshepsut (the queen who declared herself king upon her husband's death...a story in itself) is the largest known obelisk in the ancient world.  If it had been completed, it would have weighed nearly 1200 tons.  Any idea how they secured the obelisks to the base once they were erected?  Nothing secures them.  They stand perfectly balanced under their own weight.  Any idea how they were erected in the first place?  No?  Neither does anyone else.  Apparently the only modern attempt to erect a fairly small obelisk using ancient tools failed miserably.

Next we moved on to the Aswan High Dam.  We took the Dam tour and heard all about the Dam controversy that surrounds it (oh come dam story would be complete without a few dam jokes).  The Dam is at the same time one of the best and one of the worst things to happen to modern Egypt.  Built in the 50's and 60's, it has been able to regulate the annual flooding of the Nile, preventing too much flooding in several years, while in others, preventing drought throughout Egypt.  It also generates enough energy so that Egypt can sell some to other countries.  Unfortunately, at the same time, its construction displaced over 60,000 Nubians that were up river and has flooded several valuable archeological sites.  A few sites were, in fact, completely moved just in time to avoid the waters from the lake, Lake Nasser, formed by the damming of the water.  One of these was Abu Simbel, much further south (which we missed due to my temporary illness).  Another was the Temple of Philae, which happened to be our next stop.

Philae is an island in the Nile on which the Temple of Isis stood and was known throughout the ancient world for its beauty.  There are many historical references to it from the Greeks.  When the Aswan High Dam was built, the entire temple complex, including several smaller temples dedicated to other gods, was moved to a taller island.  We took a boat to visit the compound.  The Temple is still in very good condition, but we noticed a dark mark at the same height throughout the building.  It turns out that the Temple regularly flooded with the Nile even in ancient times.  Can you imagine living in that era and rowing your boat out to the island of Philae, a very religious and mystical place, and then rowing through the partially submerged columns, into the various rooms and sanctuaries, seeing everything in pristine condition, fresh paint and carvings on all of the walls?  It must have been quite unnerving yet breathtaking.

Our bus brought us back to the ship, where we had a first class meal and then off to bed.  It might not be as interesting as passing out in the street, or getting swindled forty different ways, but it sure was comfortable.

  • This is most wonderful article

  • viky

    wow!!! great post.. Seen all those pics only in movies. Must have been a great place indeed. Well, I have a plan too to have year end vacations on a Nile cruise to Egypt.

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