Friday 2 January 2009 – Aswan, Upper Egypt
We set off at 9am on the felucca, which managed to wedge on a sand bar before we’d actually gone anywhere, A quick pull from a motorboat got us underway, but I imagine the ledger of embarrassments among the Nubian boatmen was running against our crew for some time.
We climbed ashore on the west bank to visit our first tombs in Egypt, those of the regents or governors who represented the king in Upper Egypt. Mike was excited to find a setion of an unfinished obelisk that he’d last seen at a quarry in the Libyan Desert a couple of hours’ camel ride away across the hills. It had apparently been moved to where an eye could be kept on it after an attempt had been made to cut some of its inscriptions off.
I was particularly taken by one of the tombs, that of Sarenput I, which depicted the tomb-owner’s sandals being carried by a flunky – everybody needs their own Carrier of the Sacred Thongs!
There were numerous incidences of modern vandalism, including a beautiful limestone stele also at the tomb of Sarenput I, which had apparently (according to Mike, who would have been getting it from Abdul, Ahmed and other reliable local sources) been defaced by Cairene youths just a few years ago. They had been on an end of year college party at the site, a popular activity and equivalent to our ‘Schoolies Week’. The ‘tomb guardians’ know they will not extract any backsheesh, so tend to turn a blind eye.
The recently-revealed coptic chapel, which included a depiction of Mohammed alongside Jesus, had been inscribed in Arabic with the words ‘Allah is the one true God’.
After visiting half a dozen tombs (all those that were open to the public), we crossed the river to Plantation (or more traditionally if less politically-correct, Kitchener’s) Island to visit the Botanical Gardens. Not a big range of plants, but pleasantly shady. A somewhat shady man tried to attach himself to Chris, Adam and I (the three amigos, or gay caballeros), explaining useless or perfectly obvious things. I could sense a demand for backsheesh coming, so managed to shake him.
Some of the women (Anita and Ellen) reported receiving unwanted attention, Anita’s bottom being pinched and Ellen getting marriage proposals. After this, she sort of attached herself to the three of us as her ‘family’.
Back on the East Bank I went for a wander through the souk and tried an internet cafe only to discover that Egypt’s internet access was severely limited because a cable had been cut at Alexandria! It took me 15 minutes to reply to two short emails before giving up. But at least the shop sold tonic water, so back at the Philae, Chris and I enjoyed gin and tonics on the balcony and watched the sun set.
We went again for dinner at Salah-El Din. Tired of kofta and kebabs already, I opted for a pizza which was pretty ordinary, but filled a gap. Mike suggested a sheesha, or hubbly-bubbly (or hookah). Interstingly, it was three of the women (Clair, Judy and Ellen) and the three amigos who took up the offer. It proved not unpleasant, although my head did start to spin a little on the apple-flavoured tobacco.
Adam said the local MacDonalds (new Aswan arrival since Chris’ last visit three years ago) offered WiFi, so I went with him and Ellen to try it out, for the cost of a very chewy milkshake. After 20 minutes all I’d managed to do was update my Facebook page!
My back is much better, and I slept through until 5am.