On the 19th of August, we had a wake-up call at 2.45am. It was horrendous. When we’d managed to drag ourselves out of bed, we were given ‘breakfast boxes’ (juice, some sandwiches and a banana in a paper bag) and got into the van for a drive that was almost 300km and lasted for over three and a half hours and would take us to Abu Simbel. We drove in a small convoy of several other tourist vans and two police cars: apparently this was a requirement when going that far South – I think Abu Simbel is about 45km from the Sudanese border – because that would make it safer for us, tourists, to go there. Our convoy wasn’t very big, but from what I’ve heard there can be sixty cars in one convoy (though I doubt that’s happened a lot since the 2010/2011 revolutions).
We arrived at Abu Simbel after a long drive and met our guide for the day. We were shown Lake Nasser, which apparently it’s so big that it’s larger than my home country of The Netherlands – mental! We then visited both temples: the temple that was built in honour of King Ramesses II (and was ordered to be built by him), as well as the temple Ramesses had built in honour of one of his wives: Nefertari.
Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temples, so you’ll have to do with these of the outside! The insides were, however, amazing to look at. Some of the carvings had been painted and the colours were still visible very well. The outsides were just as impressive: huge statues of Ramesses and Nefertari guarded the temples (in front of her temple there were six statues – two of her, four of her husband…).
After perusing the temples we headed back to the van and by 12pm we were back at the cruise ship! We were given some time off to enjoy the sun and the pool, and met up with Ahmed again around 4pm. He took us to a gallery where essences are made. Essences are the base of perfumes, before alcohol is mixed in, but can be used on their own in a multitude of ways, and they won’t evaporate. Apparently they found lotus essences Tutankhamon used – i.e. 3000 years ago – and you can still use it! We spent a long time trying out different essences and sniffing our own, and each other’s, body parts to decide which of the essences we liked best. In the end, we all came away with more than we had intended – I personally got four different essences of 25ml, which I think will last me quite a while!
When we’d finished smelling all the scents, we went to the market in Aswan. We walked around for just over an hour, bought a few magnets and keyrings (and haggled about the prices to pay for them – something I really didn’t enjoy having to do) and returned to the ship.
Upon awakening at 6.30am the next day, the ship had sailed down the Nile and we’d arrived at the Kom Ombo Temple – the place where about twenty crocodile mummies have been found. The temple honoured both Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus the Elder, the falcon god. We spent some time admiring the carvings and hieroglyphics, after which we went to see the mummified crocodiles and went back to the ship. It would be a few more hours until our next stop, so we went back up to the pool to relax.
Our next port of call was at the Temple of Edfu. When we docked, we were taken to the temple by horse and carriage (which, had it been up to me, I would have preferred not to do as all the horses are visibly underfed). It was a very large and impressive temple, and was dedicated to Horus (who is related to Horus the Elder). When we once more returned to the ship, we turned out to be one of the first groups that had come back. We utilised this opportunity the best way we knew how to: by claiming some sunbeds again and enjoying the pool some more.
That evening we spent some time in the bar area of the ship, as the it continued to sail down the Nile, and we were offered a one of a kind deal by Ahmed: because we’d already booked all the available optional activities, the local Topdeck office decided to offer us a hot air balloon flight over Luxor ($120), an upgrade in our hotel in Hurghada to full-board and unlimited drinks ($20) and an extra day trip in Cairo ($40) for the price of the hot air balloon flight! Although we had to decide as a group, the decision was made within seconds: of course we’d do it.