Having Abdul our local guide show us around his home town was a highlight of our Nile cruise with Sonesta. We kicked off with a small granite climb to see the unfinished obelisk that Ancient Egyptians had patiently started to cut out of a rock face and which they believed to be the largest of its kind. The work must have been soul destroying chipping away at this hard stone in temperatures that would fry eggs for most of the day. From this vantage point we could see much of Aswan including the newly extended Old Cataract hotel where Agatha Christie stayed and where I believe she wrote Death on the Nile.
Abdul told us the story of the Aswan High Dam as we travelled to Lake Nassar and we quickly understood its significance to many as a supplier of electricity and manager of fresh water. In a desert area, water needs to be managed carefully and with a growing population food needs to be farmed efficiently.
We were then treated to a boat ride to reach Philae Island and the fabulous Philae temple. A myriad of small motor boats bob and cluster at the water’s edge waiting for custom, this has been a hard two years for those that rely on the tourism dollar so finding a boat is not difficult. A small climb onto the island and we are met with a magnificent site……well all Egyptian temples are magnificent I grant you. Just how did they manage to design, build and decorate these structures without technology or indeed without air-conditioning? But build them they did and we have been wowed by them ever since. It doesn’t take long to look round and with blue sky and blue water as a back drop the golden temple is a great subject for photographers. There are toilets and cafes if you want to make a longer trip of it and plenty of space to relax in the sun.
On our return to the port we stopped off at Essence of Life Al fayed a local perfumery where we were introduced to pure essences and treated to a free back massage. We smelled lemons, bergamot, eucalyptus and many more. We purchased some bergamot for he who likes to think is obeyed’s fly bites and he now swears by it!
But Aswan is not complete without a felucca sail and what a relaxing way to see the city, the newer buildings might seem a little incongruous but its a growing city and keen to attract visitors. We could see the Agatha Christie hotel from the waterside and wondered if she was looking at a similar scene to what we could see when she was writing. We sailed round Elephantine Island so called as the rocks which edge it look like kneeling elephants taking in the Nile water.
And so as we drifted away from Aswan on a somewhat quicker and more modern vessel it was with some sadness saying goodbye to this city which I had known by name for many years.