16th May 2006
The next day was another early start and the first item on the agenda today was the Aswan High Dam. We boarded our bus and went off to the dam. The dam was passed a military area, so no cameras weren’t allowed. I managed to take a few sneaky pictures of the dam, including one of the Egyptian guards who stopped us to ask who we were and what our intensions were. The dam was very impressive, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when I saw what it had done to the first cataract. The first cataract, once majestic raging rapids, was now just an empty bed of dry rocks, but a shadow of its former self. On one side of the dam the water level was different to that on the other side and Ramez, to point this out, decided to have a bit of fun with us and said “Ok now, everybody looks to the left, everybody looks to the right, everybody looks to the left” until we all started to laugh.
After the dam we boarded a small boat and set off for the temple of Isis at Philae, something I knew would be magical. As we sailed on the Nile, I began to realise that in the landscape of Egypt there was no middle ground. We sailed on a river that had small islands whose landscape was desert. The islands were as rocky and dead as the Valley of the Kings which is in the middle of the desert. As we drew close to the island of Philae in the middle of the Nile and the temple got closer and closer, I felt like I was in a dream again and almost felt as if I was going to cry at the beautiful sight I had seen in my dreams close in on me. When we got there, we disembarked and Ramez showed us around the temple, including showing some of the reconstruction efforts, from when the temple was saved from the rising waters of the Nile due to the Aswan High Dam which we had just seen.
The temple is another Greco-Roman temple and was the last place in Egypt to be carved with hieroglyphs. It also surprised me to know that the cult of Isis is still alive today amongst paganists and that early in the morning the temple is actually in use.
I walked all around the temple, and I came to one point which was an archway that looked out onto the Nile, the archway was framed with purple flowers, which smelt wonderful and I gazed out onto the marshes of the river through them. This temple has beautifully carved columns and had a Nile-o-meter to measure the inundation of the river.
We met back up with Ramez at the entrance to the temple and reboarded the boat and I bought some beautiful green granite beads from the Nubian guy on the boat and then got back on the bus.
When we got back to the ship all the people who had booked a Felucca ride (a traditional Egyptian Sailing boat) went back out with Ramez and boarded one. I managed to get the seat up front with Ramez, we cruised passed Elephantine Island, which had an unfinished hotel complex on it, Ramez said that it had sent the owners broke and the project had to be abandoned.
We also passed majestic Kitchener Island with all its beautiful plant life and the Mausoleum of Aga Kahn. I dragged my hand in the Nile and splashed the water on my face, there were a couple of Nubians on the boat, one selling cute little wooden animals. The hippos he had were quite cute and I was about to buy one when Ramez, said “No, you should buy the donkey, it’s more Egyptian”, so this is what I did. On the way back the Nubians started beating their drums and one of them started singing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” and in their quaint Nubian accent he sang “Yi Yi Yuppee Yuppee Yi!” and I smiled to myself.