|I opted to head out to Abu Simbel this morning by bus, at a cost of 160 Egyptian Pounds ($40AUD) as it was $140AUD cheaper than flying. The bus left the hotel at the ungodly hour of 3.30am to head out the 3 hours south to see the temples. Its necessary to leave at 3am as the temperature in Abu Simbel reaches over 40C by 9am so the visits are times to avoid the heat of the day and also you have to travel in armed convoy so its not possible to reschedule when all the buses in town leave at the same time.
Pretty much all tourists experience armed security and convoys while travelling between towns and cities in different parts of Egypt to ensure all travellers are transported safely and I had my first experience of this on my way to Abu Simbel. This is a common practice apparently, designed to keep tourists together and safe- although it seemed like a little bit of overkill.
I had no idea what to expect once I got there; just a basic temple in the middle of the desert that wouldn’t be particularly entertaining. So I was completely unprepared for this incredible blue lake, stretching as far as the eye could see. Lake Nasser is the largest man-made lake in the world, at 559km long, and with nothing but arid land either side this oasis is breath taking.
The two temples of Abu Simbel were constructed under the instruction of Ramses II, the first bring the Great Temple of Abu Simbel which has four colossal statues of Ramses II sitting majestically, each more than 20m tall, with smaller statues of his family as well, all carved out of a mountainside. The other temple is the rock-cut Temple of Hathor, fronted by six massive 10m high standing statues. Four representing Ramses and the other two his favourite wife, Nefertari.
The most incredible thing about these temples is that both of them were moved out of the way of the rising waters of Lake Nasser in the 1960’s and relocated to their present position. No mean feat considering the sheer size of the temples! I have to admit I am far more impressed by Abu Simbel now than the Giza Pyramids…
From there it was a 3 hour drive back towards Aswan, with a stop at Philae Temple. Dedicated to the goddess Isis, Philae was painstakingly moved and reassembled on Aglikia Island after the construction of Aswan High Dam flooded its original Philae Island location. It was a 5 minute boat ride there and back to the Temple and whilst I tried to make the most of the visit I was just wilting in the 50C heat. With a scarf draped over my head I was able to avoid being burnt to a crisp but its still hard to maintain any kind of motivation in that temperature.
After that I headed back to the hotel and after lunch on the Nile, went back to the hotel to wait out the heat of the day in air-conditioned comfort. Tomorrow I'm heading up the Nile on a two day felucca sail.