40 for 40: Day 9 – Abu Simbel and Siou, Egypt

3 am wake up and a three and a half hour drive.

THAT is what it takes to get to one of Egypt’s most iconic landmarks, the temples of Abu Simbel. Tired and cramped up as we were, it was still worth the wake up and drive.

That said, considering this particular wake-up and drive….

Okay, so the 3 am convoy is so you can go through some police checkpoints (in the past, I had heard it was a convoy, but there wasn’t as much evidence of that) and the drive takes as long as it takes, so that’s fine. By the end, my right leg was screaming at me and my glute was cramped right up. Not a pleasant way to start, but when you get there, you get why.

We arrived at Abu Simbel at 6:45 am and, already, the sun was baking the ground, coming in at what felt like the mid-thirties. There’s zero shade outside, and you immediately sweat as you pass over a hill to see the temple. You can understand why you wouldn’t be there midday, as it would just be too damn hot.

Abu Simbel is another temple dedicated to Ramses II, with massive carvings inside that depict his victory over Nubia over three thousand years ago. The entrance is flanked by four 20 metre high statues of Ramses and are not only imposing, but beautifully carved. Nearby is the temple of Hathor, a smaller but similar temple dedicated to Ramses’ wife, Nefertari. They’re as imposing as you think and, much like the rest of Egypt, it’s relatively empty.

It doesn’t take more than an hour to explore the two temples, so you’re spending most of your day in a car, which is fine, because you could technically sleep. You know, if a member of the tour crew (our guide Shinouda from yesterday, making a return appearance) wasn’t yelling at the driver, or into a cellphone. As I was dozing off, Daina said he spotted our driver doing the same, so that was also dicey. Upon our return to Aswan, I napped so hard I actually scared myself when I woke up.

Once I figured out where I was, I wanted to see the rest of Elephantine Island – we had seen the ancient side of it yesterday, but it’s a living, breathing Nubian village (two, in fact – we’d be visiting the village of Siou), with art and culture entirely different than the rest of Egypt.

We hopped the ferry over, which we think was supposed to cost 2 LE a person round trip, but we ended up pay 5 LE, because not local. The island itself is gorgeous, a bit run down, but with beautifully painted murals on the walls. We ended up inside a Nubian house with a woman named Sabrina, who served us mango juice for 20 LE (which, again, maybe more because not local). Then we walked to the other side of the island to watch one last Aswan sunset.

Tomorrow, we’re on a boat sailing north to Luxor, taking in a few temples along the way. Aswan has been nice, and I think we’ve definitely made the most of it. Can’t wait to see what Egypt has for us next!

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