Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aswan and Abu Simbel


It goes without saying that I was looking forward to this trip to last week's trip to Aswan (formerly known as Nubia) in Upper Egypt and getting away from Cairo with my program. I was feeling like this kid all week! We flew to Aswan on a red-eye flight from CIA. The moment we arrived in Aswan, I looked around and was immediately comforted by the sight of black people (Thank you baby Jesus, forward to Moses, and CC Allah) As I walked out of the airport with my group, a few people here and there walked up to me and said,"Welcome to Nubia." I must have smiled from ear to ear as I thanked them. 

From Aswan, we took a private bus 4 hours down to Abu Simbel. I was struck by the natural greenery of Aswan. Beautiful flowers, palm trees, and grass bordered the fertile Nile as we drove through the small governate. Domed Nubian style homes stood next to relatively modern apartment buildings. The Egyptian Nubians now live in homes built for them by the Egyptian government because the building of the Aswan Dam caused many of their historical homelands to be flooded. The streets were wide and clean compared to Cairo. 

In Abu Simbel, we boarded the Nubian Sea, the cruise ship where we lodged for the 4 day excursion. Once we were settled in, we visited the 2 temples in Abu Simbel built by King Ramses II, Large Temple for the God RA' Horakhti and the deified king and the smaller temple for the goddess Hathor and Ramses' deified wife. Nefertari. The Egyptian Egyptologist serving as our tour guide informed us that Ramses spent much of his life in Nubia and ruled over it for a period of time. I noticed that no merchants were selling souvenirs and hounding tourists at Abu Simbel. As I walked around with a friend, we went to visit a small bazaar nearby the temple. The Nubian merchants greeted us, invited us to take a look inside their stores, and didn't bother to try to hound us to buy their goods. A few asked me if I was Nubian or where I was from. The genuine friendliness of the people was a welcomed change from Cairo.

The view of Abu Simbel from our window

Over the next few days, we visited several other Nubian Temples down the Nile such as: Kasr Ibrim, the tomb of Pennut,  Amada, Der, Abd Bnoud, Wadi El Seboua, Dakka, Kalabsha, and Moraka. What struck me about the Nubian temples in comparison to the temples and burial chambers I'd visited in Cairo was the colors and intricacy of the carvings. The leapord spotted coat on one relief depicting a king still shown vibrant shades of gold and black. The pillars had large and deep carvings of beetles, flowers, and bees in them. Our guide often lamented this or that painting or carving was inferior because it strayed from the traditional Egyptian style of the time but I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and craftsmanship in each Nubian temple.

At the Temple of Wadi el-Seboua,  8 Sphinxes glined the path leading inside. An Alaskan history buff from my group casually made the comment that the sphinxes had "Nubian features". His observation sent the Egyptian women, including the guide, into a frenzy as they fervently insisted that the sphinx clearly looked "Egyptian" (whatever that means). A bit taken aback by the fervor, the Alaskan man nodded and stepped back into the safety of the group while I chuckled to myself. From that point on, our guide was quick to point out to us why certain statues or reliefs  looked Egyptian, not Nubian. LOL. She did include a reference to a book I'd like to pick up in the guide she printed for us. The book is called The Nubian Pharaohs and it's reviewed here.
                                                       An inscription by the Nubian king Silko c recording his victory over the Blemmyes

The Temple of Kalabasha, best depicted the "clash of civilizations" that went on in the region. The  temple was built in a Ptolemic and Roman style  for the King Amenophis II and dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis, the equivalent of the Egyptian god Horus. Inside the temple, a detailed decription from the Romans forbidding the slaughter of pigs inside the temple was carved near a Nubian inscription recording a military victory. Christian crosses similar to those of the Crusade period were also carved into the monument like ancient graffiti.

Aside from touring, we spent a luxurious 4 days on the cruise ship, the Nubian Sea. The ship was cozy and welcoming, the staff was courteous, and the food was amazing! I can' remember the last time I had the pleasure of enjoying 3 meals a day or lounging in my bikini under an umbrella beside a pool. Watching the sunset each night on the Nile reminded me of all the things I enjoyed about life, traveling, and exploring new cultures and sights. I returned to Cairo relaxed and looking forward to another excursion to Aswan soon :)


Matt said...

This post made me more than just a little bit jealous.

Fly Brother said...

GREAT pics! I felt a twinge of pride while reading this, since people kept assuming I was from Upper Egypt the week I spent in Cairo. For me, it's like people thinking I'm from Bahia in Brazil, or the American South, where people are just known for being friendlier (come on in heah and get some sweet tea).

Luxury Villa Holidays said...

The pics are outstanding and moreover the place.. I wish I could be there and see all these from my own eyes.. Your post contains great resource and I ma glad I visited here.. Thanks for sharing..

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