02.10.2010 - 03.10.2010 43 °C
During the night we sailed further south, passing through a large lock on the way. On arrival at Aswan in the morning, we disembarked to explore the local market. The city lies just below the large Aswan dam, which was built to regulate the seasonal flow of the Nile.
A group of us piled into two taxis, which were more like rusty jalopies, to get to the market.
Sahar arranged a visit to a spice shop, where we were entertained by the owner's colourful explanation of his wares.
Sandi and I found a papyrus shop selling painted papyri, and asked Sahar for guidance about prices. She wasted no time in berating the trader for selling fake papyri made of banana leaves, which unleased a torrent of curses and insults to her! We felt embarrassed for her, even though we couldn't understand a word, but she was unfazed. We scurried off to explore different shops.
Many of the English tourists are terrified of the constant "hassling" by the traders, and headed back to the safety of the boat rather than explore the market! We found the Egyptian men have a wonderful sense of humour, and love nothing better than to have a really tough bargaining session. Sometimes we really did not want a particular item, but the price would get so low we eventually gave in. Suddenly you became his best friend and he may have added in a little gift! They genuinely are disappointed if you do not haggle, as, at the end of the day, they are keen to sell their goods.
This is a caleche, of which there are hundreds in every town. They are often very decorative, and popular with the tourists for a ride around town.
In the evening we had booked an excursion to the Light and Sound show at Philae temple. We took a boat ride to the temple which is situated on an island in the Nile. As we approached the island, the temple was illuminated and shone like a beacon in the dark. The show consisted of a narration about Isis, to whom the temple is dedicated, and Osiris, while the lights played on the walls and pillars.
That evening, back on board the ship, we were entertained by some Nubian dancers, dressed in gaily coloured costumes.
On Sunday morning we visited the Aswan High dam wall, which was built in 1970 to replace the old dam wall built in 1902. The dam enables the Egyptians to control the annual flooding of the Nile, and also generates hydro-electric power. Unfortunately, it also deprives the farmland downstream of millions of tons of valuable, fertile silt deposits. The Lake Nasser it created is 550km long, and extends right into Sudan. We spotted a couple of crocs swimming near the dam wall.
Our next stop was a genuine papyrus factory shop, where we were shown how papyrus is made.
We drove past the modern Coptic Cathedral in the city, but did not have the opportunity of visiting it.
We then returned to Philae temple for a guided tour with Sahar. The temple is situated on a small lake between the Old and New dam walls. As it was now daytime we could appreciate the boat ride to the temple island, situated among many other islands.
The original Philae island was situated high above cataracts on the river, but after the first dam wall was built, it became partially submerged every year between December and March. When the High dam wall was completed, the temple was completely submerged. With international aid, a coffer dam was built around the island, and the water drained out. Over the next 8 years, about 20 000tons of blocks and artifacts were dismantled and reassembled on the nearby island of Agilkia, where the temple now stands in its fully restored glory.
Sahar pointed out to us how the impressive columns in temples were shaped. They are erected into position as rough-hewn blocks, before being rounded and carved in situ as seen here by comparing an unfinished column with a finished one.
Note the ornate papyrus flowers on the capital here. The papyrus represented the Kingdom of Lower Egypt.
Here we saw evidence of the presence of early Coptic Christians, who had carved their crosses on top of the obliterated heathen murals.
This is an early Christian altar, situated in a corner of the temple.
Our last excursion for the day took us on a scenic boat ride around the islands on the Nile below both dams.