Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 6: Aswan - Temple of Philae and Bedouin Village

Day 6 - Unfinished Obelisk, Temple of Philae, Nile Tour & Nubian Dinner

Daytime High: 45 C

The overnight train ride was interesting. Besides the constant lurching throughout the night, there were several stops. In one, at about 2:00 a.m., we happened upon a very keen child who was chanting at the top of his lungs, just outside of the train. Not the best thing to hear when you are tired for a restless sleep, but kids will be kids. Nothing a quick water bottle out the window wouldn't solve (just kidding, that would be littering).
Aswan and the Nile - View from the River

We checked into our nice accomodations (4 Star, which means different things in different countries, but it was very nice nonetheless). After that, we were permitted a 15 minute "get settled" break which meant showers for the speedy. Sherrill as taking too long, so I had to give her the quick punt to hurry her up. Ahhhhhh, so much nicer! We hopped onto our mini-bus for the Unfinished Obelisk, which is essentially ... an unfinished obelisk. We were taught how the ancient Egyptians used very simple tools and methods to carve enormous single blocks of granite up to 300 t in mass. The size of the obelisk in the ground was startling. There it was, plain as day, with a big ass crack (pun intended) right through it. This was the result of small error in one of the bore holes they use to fracture the rock. I guess someone got fired after that one!
The Unfinished Obelisk - Note the crack...

It was back onto the bus for a trip to the Temple of Philae, a temple built by the Greeks for the Egyptians. The interesting thing about the site is that it is not the original location. In fact, the entire temple was moved piece by piece to a higher location as a result of the damming of the Nile (Aswan Dam). It is incredible that they were able to move the entire site, and get it back together again. To get to the site, we boarded a boat and took the short 10 minute ride to the temple. Inside, the walls and pillars tell an amazing story about the gumption of one Osirus, the man of the temple who came back to life 2 times, albeit with some help from his hot, black magic wife. It paints the tale of how Osirus was backstabbed by his evil brother, only to rise again and again until he produced an heir, Horus, that would defeat said evil dude. It was a magnificent site and certainly worth the pain of the midday sun.
Temple of Philae and the Iron Sheik
Vince at Temple of Philae
Gap Tour Group - Temple of Philae
(Sherrill at first column, Vince somewhere in the back - look for his new favorite hat...)

We were given an afternoon of free time, so we asked about lunch recommendations. When I heard there was a McDonalds that offered free wifi, I was sold and ready to go before Sherrill could say "I'm Lovin' It". Part of my favorite things to do while traveling is to visit McD's to see what different menu items are offered and compare taste. Well, in this case, we were after the McArabian, which is rumored to be a menu item. A short walk from our hotel, many, many "No thank you's" to the felucca boat hustlers, and we were there. It was glorious... situated on the banks of the Nile, fully air conditioned, free wifi and a menu similar but not quite like ours back home. Well folks, for those that care, there is a McArabian, and Sherrill ordered one and posed for a photo. It is essentially flat bread, with 2 beef-type patties (think beef mixed with falafel), lettuce, tomato and some kind of secret sauce. I had the McD's standard, chicken nugget combo super sized (not all countries eat beef, but almost all eat chicken). Well, the super size is very large indeed (same size as home, so a little shocking since this is the only country outside of North America where this has been the case). The McArabian was quite tasty, with the meat having a different blend of spices to give it a unique flavor. We spent the better part of the afternoon blogging and relaxing. Thank you, McD's.
Sherrill and McArabia!!!!

By the time we got back, we only had time for a quick shower (no pool today) before a boat ride on the Nile was the start. It was a very nice tour, taking us up and down the river to see some of the historical sites along the river banks as well as a trip through some narrow, rocky channels that we probably should not have gone. I digress, and before long, our boat ride ended and we headed into a Nubian village on Elephantine Island for an authentic meal with a local family.

The trip to the house was interesting with dimly lit walkways and footpaths all that separated homes. After a short walk, we entered the house and went to the top floor to enjoy the meal. It started out with some cold Hibiscus tea, which is the bitter tasting drink I had a few days ago that I thought was prune juice. In fact, it is the national drink of Egypt, so I guess I got that one wrong... apologies. Following that was a lentil soup (very tasty, and the only way I have enjoyed lentils to date) and heavy bread. For those who have been keeping track, the days have been hot here, much hotter than one can imagine. We have an expression, "hot enough to fry an egg". Well, here the phrase is "hot enough to bake bread", and I do mean that is the literal sense. The bread we ate was actually backed in the sun (no kidding!) and put in the oven for a short period of time just to crisp the outside to give it some texture. It was a very dense, heavy bread and went very well with the soup. Following that was too much food to describe, but it included beef stuffed pastry, baked chicken, rice, potatoes in tomato sauce, spahetti, eggplant, tomatos and cucumber salad. It was very filling and very tasty. The spices were very good and we were all stuffed, but the evening was not done yet.

After dinner, a sheesha pipe came out. For this occasion, we smoked an apple infused tobacco, which was surprising non-harsh on the lungs. Sherrill was a quick taker (can't take the girl out of Surrey...) although I was a little apprehensive. Well, no one in our entire group actually smokes, so after a few braves souls gave it a go without any obvious problems, most people were takers for a shot. It was a fantastic way to end the evening. (Sherrill's edit - Vince whined for 2 days that his virgin lungs "hurt" from the smoke...wimp, he needed more corruption in high school...)

Vincehaving his first smoke....EVER...

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