We departed Cairo on a late flight and arrived in Aswan in the early morning. The tour guide took us to our hotel, The Movenpick, situated on an island in the Nile where we got a couple hours of sleep before it was time to depart for a 3 hour drive through the desert to Abu Simbel. Located a couple of miles from the Sudan border, Abu Simbel, is situated on a massive reservoir called Lake Nasser and home to two absolutely amazing temples. The first is Pharaoh Ramsey’s II and the second smaller one is for his wife Nefertari (or at least his main wife because that man had over 100 kids). This was my favorite temple for two reasons; the first is that the statues and paintings are massive and for the most part in really good condition and the second is there was no one there when we visited so we got some really great photos!
Between the 6 hour round trip drive, the lack of sleep and the site seeing we were beat when we got back so we just took a trip up to the 13th floor of the hotel to see some great views, enjoyed the pool, and went to bed early!
The next day we left our island hotel for a Nile River cruise ship. After getting situated we went with a group to the Unfinished Obelisk. It is a pink granite quarry where they say all the ancient Egyptian obelisks were carved from. The quarry still has an obelisk that had started to be chiseled out but was never finished because a crack formed in it. From this unfinished obelisk archeologists were able to determine how the ancient Egyptians manufactured these amazing pieces.
Our next stop was the High Dam of the Nile. Built in the 1960s, they considered it the most amazing modern engineering feet in Egypt and it was built with help from the Russian government.
It wouldn’t be Egypt if the day didn’t include a trip to a temple so we made our way to Philae Temple, built on an island in the middle of the Nile. Philae Temple used to be known for it’s incredibly vibrant colors and paintings but unfortunately it was submerged underwater when the dam was constructed for about 10 years. With help from UNESCO it was piece by piece documented and reassembled on higher ground so people can now visit it and it will be preserved for many more year but unfortunately it lost almost all of it’s color to the waters of the Nile.
The last stop of the day was to a Perfumery. The modern Egyptians still practice the same process of cold pressing Lotus, Papyrus and many other plants and then fermenting them to get a very fragrant oil or essence that is used as a nature perfume. They also use it for medicinal purposes – Drew’s sinuses were cleared right up after sniffing the mint in hot water!
After dinner the ship invited a local Nubian village on board to perform some traditional songs and dance. Of course we were also ‘invited’ (or forced) to join in on some of dancing and singing as well. I’m not sure how authentic it was but we ended up having a great time.
The next morning instead of going on an organized tour to the Nubian village which we heard was a tourist trap we went with a couple of other people from the ship to charter a Felucca for a two hour Nile sailing adventure. It was fun, relaxing, and about a fifth of the price of booking it through our tour guide. And yes, Drew is actually sailing the boat!
In the afternoon we set sail from Aswan toward Luxor and before dinner we stopped in Kom Ombo where there is an ancient Egyptian temple just a few steps from the Nile docks. This temple was dedicated to the crocodile god and there are many statues and carvings of crocodiles all over it. The ancient Egyptians also kept live crocodiles to worship and when they died they mummified them and buried them in tombs. Within the museum attached to the temple you can see all sorts of mummified crocodiles.
The next morning we got up early and our boat was docked at Edfu. There were tons of horse drawn buggies waiting for tourists so we boarded one and headed to Edfu Temple. Edfu is famous for the hawk statues, which are adorned with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. We also saw some interesting phallic shaped hieroglyphics.
As soon as we finished our tour of the temple headed back to the boat and immediately set sail. Shortly before lunch the boat docked again to let us off to head to the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Kings has over 200 tombs but we only went inside 4. The best one was the King Ramsey’s the 4th – it still had a lot of the color on the wall carvings. We also went into King Tut’s tomb, which is no longer, adorned with gold but his skeleton still remains in the tomb and that was interesting to see.
Close to the Valley of the Kings is the Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple built for Queen Hatshepsut. It has been greatly restored and has probably a million columns. We walked up the stairs to the main part of the temple and walked around inside.
Our last temple of the day was the Luxor Temple one of the most unique things about it is that before the ruins were fully discovered a Christian church and a Mosque were built and are still incorporated into the ancient temple. There are several massive statues of King Ramsey’s II in this temple and the start of a huge lane lined with sphinxes with rams heads on them. The lane goes for over a mile from the Luxor Temple to the Karnak Temple which we saw the following morning before departing Luxor.
The Karnak Temple was more of a massive complex than a temple it seems to go on and on forever and even has a swimming pool that the priests used. For luck we went counter clockwise around an ancient statue but I don’t think it works because our wish wasn’t granted.
Around noon our flight departed Luxor and we had a layover in Cairo. After months on the road we actually ate at Burger King in the airport (something we’d rarely do back home) but it was a little comforting. Finally we departed for our last Egyptian destination Sharm El Sheikh – a beautiful resort town on the Red Sea.
The Read Sea is considered one of the worlds top dive sites so that’s what we did with our one full day there. Our first dive may have been the best we’ve ever had. As soon as we descended there was a white tip shark, which is incredibly rare in the Red Sea. We saw thousands upon thousands of vibrant fish and to top it off we made friends with a sea turtle right before ascending!
On the second dive the coolest thing we saw was a lionfish, which is super poisonous so being a klutz I stayed well away from it! It’s safe to say Egypt impressed and surprised us in many ways!