Aswan, Egypt

[ 0 ] November 19, 2011 |

After 14 hours on the train (10 of which we were soundly asleep) we arrived in Aswan.  With one foot still on the train we were greeted by our next Memphis Tours representative. Minutes later we were driven to the dock where we boarded a small boat that taxied us half way across the Nile to Elephantine Island positioned between the East and West banks. To the east was the city of Aswan, to the west sand dunes of desert.

As we climbed off the boat and onto the island our guide in hushed tones mentioned with a wink that he was so happy for us to be there on our honeymoon. It’s a question we get a lot– so recently we just go with it. Why not consider everyday a honeymoon, right! This particular time it was a nice treat. At the Movenpick Hotel we were given a corner room with two balconies overlooking the Nile and the Island. We were well rested and it was only 8 AM at this point- so we decide to enjoy the hotel pool and lounge until afternoon.

Movenpick Hotel Aswan

Later in the day we met back up with our local guide and went on a tour of the Nubian village nearby. The Nubian people are the natives of the land and have slightly darker skin than most Egyptians. To get there, we again boarded a small wooden boat with a teenage captain and headed off down the Nile. On the way roaring down the river we all of a sudden spotted two young boys floating on pieces of foam board positioned right in our path. The captain didn’t slow down at all. As we got closer the boys split to each side of the boat and grabbed on with all their might to the ropes on the sides of the boat. The boat continued as the boys were carried alongside floating on their homemade surfboards. One of the boys screamed “what language” to me and I replied “English”. He then began soulfully bellowing out a song in his native language to the tune of row row row your boat while we happily listened. We tipped him for his song and he dropped off and paddled away using pieces of cardboard as his oars. The captain explained that he lets the boys do this because he too had done the same thing for years to save enough money to buy the boat we were riding in.

Nubian Boy singing down the Nile

When we arrived at the Nubian Village the dock line was thrown to a toddler waiting in the sand. We laughed at the thought and were reminded just how far we were from home. Kids in the village know how to swim by age two or they are considered to have a disability according to our Nubian guide. The Nile is the source of life for these people.

Nubian toddler mate

There were some camels waiting to offer us a ride all the way into the village so, being in Egypt, we climbed on. This time, my camel wasn’t quite as friendly or beautiful as my first ride. I think he thought I was just a giant fly on his back and he kept flicking at me with his double-jointed legs.  I also think they brought him out of retirement to carry me down the road. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our ride through the desert along the Nile River.

grumpy camels

When we got to the village, our guide met us with the boat. He grew up in this village and knew the lay of the land. First he took us to his Uncles house where we had tea and were shown the family pets- crocodiles. These crocodiles were in a concrete bathtub that had been built in the center common area of the house. The rooms of the traditional houses are built around an open courtyard where most of life happens. The floors are sand. They claimed that local people often have crocodiles as pets- but I’m not sure if they aren’t just a sight for tourist to see.

Room inside traditional Nubian house

pet crocodile

tea time

He then took us to a neighbor’s house to see the “biggest pet crocodile in town.” This one was also in a concrete tub. A smaller “friendly” crocodile was next to it. Pat stepped up to take a turn holding the thing… I used the zoom to take the picture from afar.  This was right after they told us they have found donkeys sliced in two by crocodile’s tails.  Not exactly a snuggly lap dog.

Crocodile handler Pat

By this time it was dark but we made a quick stop by the local community center preschool. During the week the preschool is full of children and they invite tourist to come in and teach lessons. The village doesn’t have any other schools so once children are school age (5) they take a boat daily across to the west bank of Elephantine Island, get off, walk across the island on foot, board another boat that takes them to the East bank in Aswan where they then walk to school. In the afternoons they repeat the whole process in reverse to get home.

Nubian preschool

As we headed back to the boat I turned around and behind us were stray camels galloping through town alone.

runaway stray camel

The next morning we checked out and took an hour-long felucca ride before meeting our next guide.  A felucca is a traditional sailboat- they only have one sail and can sail up or down stream in light wind. This was the type of ship used to transport the rocks from Aswan that make up the great pyramids in Giza.  Two Nubian men manned the boat, but they graciously turned the helm over to Pat for the majority of the trip.

Sailing on the Nile

Pat and the mast

Pat at the helm

sendoff from our captains


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Category: Alison's Blog, Blog, Destinations, Egypt, Featured Posts

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