John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 4 February 2012

[Friday 3 February 2012]

The schedule for today was:
  • 03:15 Wake up call for Abu Simbel by road.
    Tea and coffee will be ready in the lounge bar.
  • 04:00 Departure to Abu Simbel by road
  • 07:00 Wake up call for Abu Simbel by flight
  • 07:00–09:00 Breakfast for rest of group
  • 08:00 Departure to Abu Simbel by flight
  • 13:30 Lunch
  • 16:00–16:30 Tea time
  • 20:00 Dinner
  • 21:30 Nubian show in the lounge bar
We’d asked the receptionist for a call at 3 o’clock instead of 3.15am, because that didn’t leave a wide enough wake-up-and-get-ready-margin. Janet was awake before 3am and woke me up. The call didn’t in fact come till 3.10am. We went for coffee and I had cake as well, then joined the Thomson group in Reception. We took pillows and a duvet cover with us. We were given a breakfast box and a small bottle of water. Ahmed introduced us to our guide for the day, the one attached to the Thomson group, for he wouldn’t also be joining us. We trooped through a number of moored-together boats, and up rather uneven stone steps to the waiting bus. This proceeded through the streets of Aswan, occasionally slowing down for “speed bumps”. The traffic lights are interesting: they also have numerical displays counting down the seconds to the next change. We joined other coaches at a rendezvous point, and eventually set off in convoy. There were a number of checkpoints en route, some staffed with armed guards, where our passage was noted down (at one point the driver clearly said a word meaning “English”). We crossed the Nile over a dam (presumably the “Aswan Dam”, for there’s both that and the Aswan High Dam). We got onto the long, long desert road; dawn broke en route, revealing sand and rocks, and strange hill-forms; and we got to Abu Simbel some two hours after that. At one point en route the English Thomson courier suggested we open our breakfast boxes — well filled: a croissant, a bread-roll with sausage-style meat, a roll with cheese, some cake, something that I’ve forgotten that I spread strawberry jam on (but not the honey which I didn’t use), some olives black and green, an orange, and a banana. When we arrived, there were two loos near the entrance hall; I chose one, it was supposed to cost 1£E, but the man short-changed my 5£E note with a 1£E coin. It was sufficient to get Janet in the “ladies”, though, after I came out of the “gents”. The Egyptian guide gave us each our tickets, and we trooped through the scanner and turnstile, and down a longish path and around the artificial hill which provided the new home for the saved-from-the-flood Ramesses II temple.

08:17:03. Approaching the entrances to the temples: Ramesses II’s is round the corner to the left; and Nefertari’s is ahead.

08:18:22. The four colossi of Ramesses II at the entrance to the temple.

Our group convened; the guide gave us a talk on what we would find within the temples, and showed us pictures, then he instructed us to meet back at the coach in two hours: 10.20am at the latest. Photography wasn’t allowed within the temples. The hypostyle hall has bas-relief depictions of Ramesses slaying his enemies, Hittites and Nubians. From there one enters a second pillared hall. There are a number of small chambers off the halls with many depictions in bas-relief on the walls, each of making this kind of offering or that kind of offering to a god (they got tediously repetitive). Finally, the inner sanctuary with four seated gods side by side. On a day in February the sun rises and illuminates three of them, but one, Ptah, god of the underworld, is kept in darkness.




We went on to the temple of Nefertari: no fewer than six colossi, but the temple is smaller, only one hypostyle hall. More depictions of her husband Ramesses II’s slaughter of enemies, and of her making offerings to goddesses.



09:07:38: View of Lake Nasser to the north

09:12:14 View of Lake Nasser to the south

09:14:36 The temple of Ramesses and the flooded cliff-side from which it was taken

We made our way back to the coach-park, but found ourselves in a bazaar of vendors’ stalls along one side of the site, being constantly pestered by vendors, one after the other; ahead was what appeared to be the end. But when we turned the corner, there was another bazaar, with constant harassment. Another corner — and another bazaar. The nightmare of these eventually came to an end, and we found the coaches. Ours was locked, but someone before long unlocked it and saved us from more vendors. We were expected to reconvene at 10.20am at the latest; there were a few stragglers; then we were on our way back along the interminable-seeming desert road. Janet found the length and mode of the journey too much, but she survived!

12:06:18 Mirage

We didn’t get back till nearly 2 o’clock. We went to the cabin to recover a bit. Mohammed had left cobras today! Janet was a bit unwell from the trip. Then we went to the restaurant some time after 2pm, where lunch was still being served. From the layout of the cutlery it was plain that Drew and Ruby had had lunch and left, and that Margaret and Mehran hadn’t been yet. They joined us later, having just returned from flying to Abu Simbel; they’d had to wait at the airport about an hour on the outward journey, and they weren’t impressed with their guide’s bossiness.

15:17:06 Views of Aswan from our cabin window



Ahmed took Janet and me, and Margaret and Mehran on a walking trip to the spice bazaars down a long street in Aswan. I needed a bank, to cash travellers’ cheques, because having paid for our Abu Simbel excursion with Egyptian money I was short of ready cash. But the one we went to was closed. He led us into one place and the vendor sat us down and showed us many various spices. I sampled one of his dates. But we didn’t buy.

Two photos taken by Mehran

Thence back to the promenade along the Nile. Janet and I purchased a couple of bottles of Diet Coke from a stall there. Ahmed was concerned lest we had paid too much, but he thought 10£E was OK. When Janet and the other two wanted to sit awhile, and Ahmed was satisfied we’d be OK, he left us. It was much farther to the boat than we envisaged. Three young men were linking arms in front of us. That would be considered a bit “poofy” back home. When they broke up and leaned against the railings, as we passed they said, “Welcome to Egypt!” for which I duly thanked them. One or two children, too, recognising us as non-Egyptian, said “Hello!” to us in English. It was about 6 o’clock when we passed through this boat and that boat and the other boat to reach ours. We were too late for afternoon tea. Janet and I went to our cabin. All of us were at table for dinner. Janet and I retired to the cabin and didn’t go to the Nubian show, though the drums and chanting were quite audible. Mohammed had left a “monkey” hanging from the ceiling!

20:44:45 Mohammed’s “sculpture”: a monkey

[Sunday 5 February 2012 (1)]

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