40 for 40: Day 7 – Elephantine Island, Egypt

I woke up at 1 am to the squeaking of metal. Our Sleeper Train had picked up speed and the ladder that was hooked next to my top bunk was rumbling like crazy, leaving me to figure out how to unlatch it, set it to the ground without waking up Daina, who was slumbering with the benefit of earphones, and then find my way back into the top bunk. It required stealth and gymnastics, two things I’m totally known for, but sleep had already been broken.

Second difficulty with the train was that I was about one inch too tall to fit on the top bunk, and unless I laid curled on a side, I was putting my foot through a metal hinge. Not the best. Not the worst, either, and I got some sleep before getting to Aswan, but definitely not enough to recover from the day before and to do what we did today.

The train itself had a few interesting moments, including a window that broke out of nowhere in the hallway. Daina found the train crew cleaning it up frantically saying “It’s okay, don’t worry”, and we never found out what happened. Still, wouldn’t recommend against it, and if you don’t want to bother with a flight, it’s still the best way down.

We got out of the train station, found a cab that we probably paid too much for but was still cheap, and made it to our hotel. We had about an hour before we had to check in, so we did a quick stroll down the Corniche to get the lay of the land and found a slightly different vibe than Cairo. If you’re obviously not from here, you have a good chance of getting offered something, from a felucca to a horse ride to, today, hashish (which got an immediate no in the shortest of terms). Not overwhelming, but it’s a difference. We wandered back to the hotel for a shower and a restaurant recommendation, and we started making our way to El Dokka, a restaurant on an island just off Elephantine Island. Of course, along the way, while we were looking for the sign, somebody offered us a ride on their felucca (but quickly went away when we said “no, we’re looking for the free boat”) before we were on our way to the restaurant.

El Dokka was absolutely gorgeous, one of the nicest views I’ve ever had while eating, delicious seafood, and good service. We came in at the same time as a tour group, and we still got everything at a good speed. They offer free rides to and from Aswan, but we got them to drop us off at Elephantine Island.

The island features the Aswan Musem and the ruins of Abu, which has housed people from 3000 BC to the 14th century. It features a tiny pyramid build by Cheop’s dad, a temple built by Hatshepsut, and even the ruins of a Jewish colony. There are layers on layers of things to discover, and though the midday heat made the walk sweaty, it was no less beautiful.

We figured out where to catch a ferry to get back to Aswan, wandered back to the hotel… and that was it. Officially burned out.

Tomorrow, we’re checking out a few different temples in the area, maybe the Nubian museum, but as of now, bed.

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