I am utterly exhausted. Yesterday was the last day of our Nile cruise and this morning we checked out and left to board an early flight to Abu Simbel, Egypt’s most southern city, 25 miles north from the Sudan border on the man-made Lake Nasser.
Once there, a new tour guide told us about the history of Abu Simbel, just a town really. In the 1960s, the Egyptian government realized that many of the temples and monuments in Abu Simbel, at that time just a collection of small villages, would be underwater, destroyed and lost if they didn’t intervene soon. Therefore, they built homes for 50,000 workers who stayed there for 10 years with their families, relocating the temples.
The monument we saw today was one such temple. This one was moved about 700 feet south and 200 feet up in elevation to a man-made mountain. How did the Egyptians move this enormous temple? Much like the one in Edfu, this temple was sawed entirely into over a thousand blocks, each weighing more than 2 tons. It was taken apart and reconstructed at its new site to escape the flooding waters.
Built by Ramses II, these buildings are the first thing any invading forces from the south would see and serve as a warning and a record of his military accomplishments. Bragging rights, in other words. Ramses II also built a temple to Nefertari, his favorite wife among many, on the side. Pictures weren’t allowed in the temples, but rest assured that the hieroglyphs were awesome. Though no one knows why one of the four statues of Ramses II in his different personas was destroyed, some suspect an earthquake may have caused the face and upper body to crack and slough off. The head can still be found at that statue’s feet.
Sight-seeing over, we boarded another plane back to Cairo. Today was the first taste I’ve had of the unbelievably inefficient transportation systems in Egypt. At least to me it seems ridiculous simply because the delay and wait for everything almost drove me nuts. We were delayed into Cairo by about half an hour, our bags didn’t come out for another hour, then the drive back to the hotel, through the chaos that is Cairo, took over an hour. To drive 14 miles. Just like traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles, but instead you have constant beeping and the awful pollution to contend with here.
We picked up our new tour leader, Mina, in the middle of the street. Literally. Our driver just barely slowed down while we were cruising down the highway, and Mina opened the door and jumped in, and we were moving again. That was totally a bank-robberesque pick-up. But anyway, Mina told us that Cairo was built to really house only 8 million. The 24 million is has now is the reason why everything is crazy.
Regardless of the reason, M had full-on meltdown on his hands. Especially because we hadn’t eaten since 6 a.m. and it was now past 6 p.m.
We checked back into the Grand Hyatt Cairo and immediately went out for food at the Hard Rock. Blech. Nothing to write home about.
However, this should pique your interest. We were supposed to do the Pyramids of Giza on the last day. But, because Alexandria is really busy and we couldn’t do it tomorrow, we are seeing the pyramids!
Also, M is working with a different travel agency to see if we can squeeze another excursion into our already packed schedule. Details soon!
P.S. Chip, tell me how the cats are doing!