Tag Archive: Aswan



A bunch of close friends. “Barkada”. We’ve long planned this — and planned around a 5-night Nile Cruise on a chartered Dahabiya or sailboat. Cairo and Alexandra first, prior to the cruise from Luxor to Aswan. Then 3 more nights in Aswan to include a day trip to Abu Simbel. There were concerns prior to the trip. Left on February 17, about the time when the world is whirling and reeling from Coronavirus issues. But we were all set for this trip. So, armed with masks, wipes and alcohol sprays, we went. The flights to Cairo and then to Luxor, as well as the long drives to Alexandria and Abu Simbel were uneventful. The weather was perfect, all rides comfortable, though I must confess we underestimated Egypt’s cold temps. The whole cruising time, we had breakfasts on the riverboat’s deck in our terry bathrobes. The same robes we donned for dinners! It grew warmer by the time we reached Aswan and Abu Simbel. Finally, we parked our boots and rubber shoes and wore our sandals to go shopping. All throughout the journey, we were floored by all these ancient wonders and happily absorbed all the ancient history lessons. It was our luck that we had very competent tour guides. Egyptologists. Yes, you take special courses for that. We also met some foreign Egyptologists in the hotels where we stayed — archaeologists who specialise in Ancient Egypt. Such interesting people. The ones we met must be in their 60s-70s but you can still sense that burning passion in them. The kind you can almost touch! By journey’s end, we can only feel so thankful for the wonderful cruising adventure, the excitement triggered by the history lessons, the fun and mirth all throughout the holiday and most importantly the good health and safety enjoyed by everyone. This is our story. Feel free to click on the links for more photos and details.

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/21/the-sphinx-and-moi/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/22/revisiting-cairo/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/24/alexandria/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/25/ballooning-in-luxor-egypt/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/25/gliding-through-the-nile/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/02/29/the-ancient-temples-of-luxor/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/03/06/of-egyptian-gods-man-gods/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/03/18/sailing-without-care/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/03/19/abu-simbel-finally/
https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2020/03/19/aswan-as-two/

Aswan. As Two.


The last stretch. Done with the Pyramids. The “major” temples. The Nile River Cruise. Back to the city now. Aswan. Checking out the spices and essentials oils plus some Nubian jewellery, arts and crafts. And yes, just a few more historical sites to do as day trips before really “settling” in Aswan. Like Gebel El Silsila, the sandstone quarry site sitting at that narrowest point of the River Nile. Quite an adventure here as our guide led us through mounds, climbing up some rugged path to emerge on a cliff overlooking the entire quarry site. I wasn’t prepared to climb up and told our guide I don’t feel confident after seeing it’s by the cliff edge. He said assuredly that he’d assist, offering his hand. Grabbed his hand and while I was deciding whether to go with my left or right foot first, he promptly pulled me up. Voila! By the time he pulled back his hand, I was left with no choice but to go on fours to reach the top. It was a short climb but I felt funny doing it. 😂

That’s moí leading the seniors 😂

As the ancient Egyptian builders switched from limestone to sandstone, Gebel El Silsilah met the stone requirements of the Theban temples. Like nearby Kom Ombo, this quarry site’s principal deity is Sobek, the crocodile god. More than just a quarry site, there were also rock-cut tombs and crypts discovered here. While larger boats cruising the Nile offer only a fleeting glimpse of this site, our Dahabiya (sailboat) slowdrifted and actually stopped to unload us here. Having visited the Karnak Temple earlier, one wonders how the massive stone blocks were quarried and then transported from here. My, these Egyptians!

Then there’s the unfinished obelisk in Aswan. Cracked and abandoned, this obelisk would have been the largest in Ancient Egypt if only it stood at 140 feet in height. The giant unfinished monument lying on a bed of granite is now an open air museum where scientists and Egyptologists can study how the ancient Egyptians constructed obelisks. Because it is right in Aswan, there were more than the usual tourists we found in other attractions.

Not far from our (huge) sprawling hotel complex in Isis Island is the Mausoleum of Aga Khan. Yes, Aga Khan — that celebrated imam who also happens to be dad-in-law to a Hollywood actor, Rita Hayworth. The elegant tomb looks more like a mosque along the banks of the Nile viewed from our hotel. Why was Imam Khan buried here? It is reported that he spent many winters here in Aswan until he died in 1957. His wife, who died in 2000, was also buried here. Although not open to the public, the couple’s winter Villa is located within the mausoleum gardens.

We found time to visit the Nubian Museum in Aswan. Nubia is now present-day Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. In the ancient times, Nubia was Egypt’s supply chain for gold. Today, “Nubia” has become popular as a girl’s name. It has Egyptian origin and actually means “gold”. How so apt! The Museum building is an architectural beauty, and the many artefacts and antiquities inside is a good prelude to understanding Nubian history, culture and civilization. Amazing how these ancient kingdoms were so way ahead of their times! Heady with Nubian thoughts — hey, it takes awhile to let all that history to sink in — we ended our day with an end-of-holiday visit to the Coptic Cathedral and some retail therapy in spices and essential oils bazaar. Don’t you agree most holidays end this way?


Back in 1996, I blew the chance to visit Abu Simbel. I was on the last stretch of my 38-day holiday and I’ve grown tired of temples and shrines. Although I found the idea romantic — dismantling not one but 2 temples, and reassembling them on a higher hill to make way for the Aswan Dam construction back in the 1960’s — I wasn’t lured to make the visit. I was truly exhausted, and suffering from temple fatigue then. Or perhaps just travel fatigue. After 30 days, I was really longing to be home and found my tired self struggling with the last leg of the trip. But not this time. I was ready for Abu Simbel. I didn’t take the buggy ride to the temples and instead walked with the others. The path offers a view of the Nile River and the temples were hidden from view from the entrance. We passed a paved path crossing a rugged terrain. Behind the mounds and soon after a bend, Abu Simbel stood in all its majesty. After having survived the last 3,000 years some meters below, Abu Simbel looks like it’s always stood where it is now. There were other temples rescued from the rising waters of the Nile, but none more dramatic than this. Short of a miracle, you might say.

It was an engineering feat. Built in 1244 BC, the 2 temples were carved out of the side of a mountain. The Pharaoh Ramses II immortalised himself with not one, not two, but 4 colossal seated statues measuring 21 meters tall. Above these 4 deified statues of Egypt’s greatest and long-reigning Pharaoh, were statues of sun-worshipping baboons. Most interestingly and impressively, the entranceways catch the sunlight twice a year in such a way that it beams straight into the temple sanctuary’s seated statues. The dates are October 22 and February 22, both of which hold special meaning to me. Of course, I won’t forget. 😊 I can just imagine the crowd here as both locals and tourists witness the phenomenon. Too bad we missed February 22 by a week. Sob. 😢

The smaller temple is not exactly small. Built for the Pharaoh’s favorite Queen Nefertari but dedicated to Goddess Hathur, the 6 statues gracing the front in between the buttresses measured 10 meters each. Of the 6, the 2 statues were of the Queen and the rest of Ramses II. Imagine what an arduous task it was to relocate these temples 64 meters higher and 180 meters west of the original site. Even more interesting is the fact that this site is actually beyond the Aswan border and technically part of Nubia, resting by the southern border to present-day Sudan. Having said that, the site selection only goes to prove the might of Ramses II. Undoubtedly, he built all these monuments to flaunt such might, Egypt’s wealth and his “affinity” with the gods. Truly, a powerful image to convey who’s in charge. Quite a character, methinks. 🙄

After the visit, I couldn’t fathom how I didn’t feel compelled to visit 24 years ago. The rock-cut temples of Abu Simbel is an engineering wonder and even by themselves, one can’t help but be impressed-amused by this king’s stab at immortality. Even the image of the Egyptian sun god Ra in front is dwarfed by the colossal likenesses of Ramses II, with his Queen sculpted like tiny dolls beside his legs and his princesses between. This glaring glimpse into Ramses II’s ambition and self-importance may have supported this building spree during his long reign. Thankfully for us, these monuments survived through hell and high waters (pun intended) for many generations to appreciate this important segment of history.


Just 5 nights on this chartered boat sailing from Luxor to Aswan. Offshore excursions included. Karnak and Luxor Temples. Valley of the Kings. Temple of Hatshepsut. El Kab. Edfu. Kom Ombo. Temple of Isis in Philae. All these as we glide through the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. And while sailing, unli food and unli drinks. The 8 cabins good for 16 pax are not big but good-sized and kept clean and neat. Then there’s the salon where we can choose to dine when it turns really cold, and the deck where most meals are served. A lounge for cocktail hours, a jacuzzi, beer and soda ref, coffee and tea stations. Good food, and even better service. What a treat! This is most certainly my kind of holiday.

The boat’s engine runs to make life comfortable for all 16 of us. Well-appointed, air-conditioned rooms. Hot coffee & tea. Cold bevs and hot meals. Good music and adequate lighting. A tugboat pulls us across the River Nile and the splash we make as we glide through the Nile is a symphony we’d likely miss once we get off. How nice to wake up to catch sunrise and enjoy wine or beer as we wait for sunset. A few hours in the morn and another after lunch make up our offshore excursions. Just enough activities for each day. Even more time to enjoy each other’s company on the boat. Life seems slow, unhurried, and savoured. The way it should be.

Captain is a kindly 56 year old Egyptian who has a younger brother also working on the boat. We don’t know what the younger Ibrahim does but we all remember him as the young lad with good dance moves when we feel like turning after-dinner sessions into dancing parties. Where we shake left to right, Ibrahim’s extra moves tilts up and down while swaying left to right. The Chefs cook up real good meals and have good dancing feet too! Same goes for Mandouh who is forever charming us with his stories on his 7 year old twins and always beat us with his keen sense of anticipation of what we need. A vodka here, some toast, more desserts, another glass of wine. To feel spoiled and pampered is an understatement. These men made us feel so comfortable and truly took good care of us.

This isn’t my first time cruising the Nile. Back in ‘96, we sailed on a bigger boat M/S Oberoi from Aswan to Luxor . Meals and service excellent but nothing beats having the boat all to yourselves. Besides, it wasn’t an open bar back then. Our Tour Guide sailed with us too and Mahmoud is a gem of a guide. He doesn’t mind us calling him “Superman”, by the way. His spiel had just the right amount of information laced with just enough excitement to keep us interested. Never too much info to douse our interest or give us indigestion over too much historical facts. This guy knows his stuff.

Over the 6 days and 5 nights cruising the Nile, Mahmoud’s itinerary covered the same spots I’ve visited 24 years ago, plus a couple more which I particularly enjoyed. El Kab and the Sandstone Quarry of Gebel Al Silsilah are worthy sites to visit along the Nile. I am including the link to our boat’s website for those who are planning to do a River Nile Cruise. We still have 2 nights to go on this riverboat cruise but this comes with our recommendation. We are that confident it can only get better! (https://www.divenewswire.com/aggressor-announces-new-brand-aggressor-river-cruises-with-the-nile-queen/)