Abu Simbel, a marvel of Ancient masterpiece survived because of today’s engineering
Continued from Karnak and Luxor Temples blog… I had to leave many things, unvisited in Luxor due to lack of time. With our driver Ismail’s swift driving and timing, we managed to enter Aswan’s border just in time. As mentioned in earlier blogs about timing restrictions while traveling in Egypt, you need to follow your co-ordinator or driver’s instructions till the last ‘T’. Else, there are chances of spending a night in a car surrounded by desert, and facing the Egyptian security force’s 1000 questions is more than sleeping in the comforts of a hotel bed.
After checking in and freshening in the hotel, I met my Travel operator owner in Aswan as he operates from Aswan. I was eager to meet him because he was my guardian in Egypt right from the time, I landed in Cairo (you can read earlier blogs in the Egypt section). If I will say, he had kept his hawk eyes on me to protect me from vultures, it won’t be a tall claim.
Almost all Egyptians whom I met have good family values. Isn’t it familiar to some parts of India? Yes, in many states in India, you will find this species. They will protect you if you are nice to them. This doesn’t mean, you have to pay them hefty tips or gifts. Just smile and show courtesy and they will be your ‘Man Friday’ or Guardian Angels.
In the evening, met him for some Sheesha and Egyptian kebabs. I had always seen Egyptians smoking sheesha which is a Hukkah in many parts of India. Also a red tea in line. Again I am not a smoker or tea person, but he insisted on tasting it. I couldn’t deny his request. It would have been an insult and disrespect towards him.
While chatting, he had a surprise for me. In Cairo, while paying for a bus ticket to Hurgadha, I handed over his representative Euros instead of USD and didn’t realize. There wasn’t a big difference, but still, his representative or he could have easily kept that extra money. As true gentlemen both were, I was handed over that extra cash. It was a pleasant surprise of honesty. Who can ignore such small gestures which completely change your impression towards that place and country, not only towards the person?
I had to retire early as the next day morning my Abu Simbel trip was planned. For that, I had to travel for almost 300 km. On Egyptian roads as mentioned earlier, this distance is hardly 2.5 to 3 hours away by car.
In the twilight when I reached Aswan, had a glimpse of the city. From the look of it, was one more important city of Egypt after Cairo and Luxor.
From guide and in Luxor I had grasped some information about this city. Known as “Sono” in ancient Egypt which has a meaning, the market of trade centers where trade convoys use a place for coming to and from the heart of the country. It was known also as the country’s heart of gold treasure because of a large cemetery of the kings of Nubia who lived there thousands of years. An interesting story of this Nubians is covered in this blog at a later part.
Temples of Abu Simbel:
We started quite an early morning to cover that distance and for me, while adding Aswan in my itinerary, this temple was quite high on the list.
With packed breakfast from the hotel and one nap in a huge vehicle arranged by the tour operator, I was fresh after reaching the temple.
The reason of placing this place high on my wishlist was because of two reasons. Of course for the ancient creation and a wonder of modern engineering. It sounds like a contradictory statement. But it’s true.
These are two temples built by the Egyptian king Ramses II. Whenever I heard this king and his name like Pharaohs, it reminded me of a Bollywood horror movie producer/director of easter years. Ramsey brother. Maybe these producers forefathers either came from Egypt or inspired by the creations of the Pharaohs. Jokes apart. These Ramses Pharaohs have left their imprint in this part of Egypt everywhere. Dynasty ruled in the 13th century BC created temples to pray for their gods. By creating these wonders, showed the world Egyptians prowess in Engineering.
These temples in ancient time, was at the southern frontier of pharaonic Egypt, facing Nubia which is today’s Sudan. The four mammoth statues of Ramses in front of the main temple are spectacular examples of ancient Egyptian art.
When Aswan’s high dam was built to control Nile’s floods and to provide permanent water supply. The water level started increasing, so as the threat to these temples by submerging Knowing Egyptians’ fanaticism towards their heritage, in 1960 with the help of complex engineering a great feat was achieved. Shifting of this entire hillock along with its temples to a site where there will not be any threat to their culture.
These temples are an excellent example of Sandstone carving out of a cliff on the west bank of the Nile. Not known to the world, these temples came to light in 1813 by researchers. Sorry for the names of these researchers which for me is not so important. For me the importance of seeing these temples.
Ramses sitting Statues at the main temple:
Gigantism prevails in these temples as well. 66-foot seated figures of Ramses statues towers in front of you as you start approaching the temples. Two on either side of the entrance to the main temple. They are present with their families in terms of smaller figures. Queens, Prince, Princes, mothers. This temple itself is dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horace. Their statutes on three consecutive halls not lesser than 150 feet carved into the cliff. The artists didn’t stop at these statues, but also with the painted scenes of his purported victory at a Battle.
Second temple of Abu Simbel:
Just next to the main temple is a smaller one, dedicated to Queen Nefertari for the worship of the goddess with the smaller statues of the king and queen. I had mentioned about this queen who ruled Egypt as a female Pharaoh.
Actually, this part which is in modern-day comes under Egyptian rule, in ancient times even though built by Egyptian rulers, the place it was earlier located in was considered part of Nubia, a territory that was at times independent of ancient Egypt.
Much before lunchtime, we wrapped our visit to Abu Simbel and moved back to Aswan to cover the Aswan dam and other sightseeings that were closer to the city.
After a late lunch, we quickly moved to the Aswan dam. Actually, there was nothing much to see for an Indian whose country is full with 4000+ big and small dams doesn’t get too fascinated with any dam, unless it’s too extraordinary. Having said that, Egyptians are proud of this dam as the only dam in the country. This one always added in tourist must-see site for every Egyptian Tour operator’s itinerary. So you should think about it if it’s added in your list.
More than dam, I was amused with Nile river’s story. The Nile River considered the longest river in the world, is approximately 6,853 kilometers long, but its exact length is a matter of debate. Flowing through eastern Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea. This longest river passes through 11 countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt (Google Gyan).
The interesting local information is, Aswan dam gets water from all these countries and where it’s situated, gets hardly a week’s rainfall. This sounds more like nature’s balancing act.
By looking at my least interest, the guide quickly moved to the next attraction which you can keep or not keep as a must-visit.
While Luxor was the capital of Egypt’s wonders, Aswan was the source of them and many of Ancient Egypt’s longest-lasting monuments. Many of the relics you’ll see as far north as Luxor were constructed from the stone mined here.This is a quarry, which is a huge granite quarry in Aswan. In particular interest, is the Unfinished Obelisk, which is a tapered monolithic pillar. These pillars are originally erected in pairs at the entrances of ancient Egyptian temples. Carved from a single piece of stone, usually red granite found in such quarry I visited. These Obelisks are often covered with an alloy of gold and silver. With carvings on all four sides of the obelisk’s shaft are religious dedications normally to the sun god. Also commemorations of the rulers. These obelisks pillars were always without any joints. This unfinished Obelisk is an interesting piece just because it would have been the largest single standing stone in Egypt if it would not have been cracked in the middle. Such a disappointment for artisans. This piece is now lies abandoned in the quarry for thousands of years.This attraction is definitely one of the things to do in Aswan just because it gives you such a great idea of simply how much work went into the stonemasonry of this ancient civilization, of course, before the development of modern tools!
Carving out a huge slab of granite from the landscape is no easy job in the baking heat with only a small stone to chip away with, let me tell you!
For me, this was interest because I got a chance to buy mementos of Egypt carved out of the black rock.
Though my Aswan itinerary was fully covered, the guide gave an option of one more place at an extra cost. Normally, guides offer these extra attractions as earning out of these is their extra income. It’s completely up to you to accept or reject. I didn’t have anything to do, so accepted one visit to Nubian village. Had heard about this tribe from time to time from the guide. Curious enough decided to go for this option.
Nubian village where crocodiles are pets:
If you want to see a really tribal’s lifestyle in Egypt, this is a window of opportunity. I didn’t repent for spending few extra Egyptian Dollars on it. In fact, it was worth every dollar worth it.
If you want to see a really tribal’s lifestyle in Egypt, this is a window of opportunity. I didn’t repent on spending few extra Egyptian Dollars on it. In fact, it was worth every dollar worth it.
Actually who are these Nubian people because of their kings symmetries Aswan is called city of Gold? This is an ethnic tribe originated from Sudan. Their look is African. Egypt is the country at the cusp of Asia and Africa. So these tribesman are settled near Aswan and have a lifestyle which is not an Egyptian.
To reach Nubian village, a felucca ride charged at a few Egyptian dollars, sailing on quint Nile river. Guide added one more story in his never ending ones. It seems one who tastes Nile river water, will come back to Egypt again, so I tasted and now waiting for the opportunity to return.
When landed at the shores of the village, welcomed by camel safaris to ferry you to the village. If I wouldn’t have been a backpacker, would have fell prey to this gimmick. I decided to walk which was hardly a distance.
A village with blue walls and tribal painting on the wall made it a tourist attraction forcibly. I was doubting my decision of spending extra bucks.
A flat-roofed sitting area of a house which must be my guide’s business contract offered red tea and some snacks. Seeing me not so impressed with these tactics, the guide opened his final trump card.
I was taken to a 6’ x 6’barricaded tank without water. When I peeped in, Whole. There was a crocodile locked in the tank watching me intently as if like, just open the cage and I will show you who am I?
This was a bit interesting. Seems like all houses in the village have multiple tanks in their houses. This aroused my interest.
These Crocodiles are from the Nile and raised from their puppy stage. When these villages were settled a long time back, these crocodiles used to roam freely and kids of these settlers were scared of them. To shoo away their fear, baby crocodiles were caught and let kids play with them. Once babies grew older, they were caged as pets. I can imagine a kid holding a belt with another end around a crocodile’s neck walking on the road. This was my imagination and nothing happened like this in reality in these villages.
With this exciting part, departed the Nubian village and reached Aswan in Felucca keeping in mind to not to let the Nile’s water taste story false.
In my next visit, I promised myself to cover what was missed. In Aswan, I couldn’t visit few temples like Philae Temple, Temple of Isis, Kom Ombo Temple. Next day morning was my last day of Eastern side of Egypt. I was going to travel back to Hurgadha for cople of more days of diving and further travel to witness one of the Seven wonders of modern dyas, Pyramids and Huge knowledge centre of Egyptian history, Alexandria.
If you haven’t read my earlier blogs on Egypt, you can visit: http://www.nomadsnomadism.com and explore Egypt and Red Sea diving.
To explore further through my perspective and lens, stay tuned to the last two blogs on Egypt.