In March of 2023, my wife and I decided to embark on our long-awaited journey through Egypt.
In Aswan, we explored the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam, the Temple of Philae, and a Nubian Village.
The Town of Aswan
Aswan is also known for its Nubian culture and handicrafts. The city has several Nubian villages and a museum dedicated to Nubian culture.
Aswan is a popular tourist destination that is known for its beautiful scenery, including the Nile River, the desert, and the mountains.
Walking inland, away from the cruise ship port, you will reach a market with many shops and restaurants.
After four days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets on the boat, we decided to try a local restaurant that was recommended by our guide.
At Makka Restaurant, we enjoyed molokhia served with rice, chicken, and Mixed-Gill. Molokhia is a soup made with minced Jute leaves and lots of garlic. Every meal is usually served with many small dishes and pita bread.
Tip: When you are served small plates with Hummus, Baba-Ghannoge, and Labaneh (yogurt cheese), the best to eat is by curring small pieces of pita bread and dipping them into the dish. In effect, you are making one-bite sandwiches.
After dinner, we strolled along the Nile late at night and felt totally safe. The city had a festive feel with many decorations and people roaming the streets at night because Ramadan was a few days away.
Exploring the city at night was fun, but we came here for the ancient monuments and had many to visit the next two days.
A short drive from the cruise ship port took us to an ancient quarry that provided the Egyptians with the massive stones used to build the Pyramids and Temples. After cutting the stones, they transported them to the building sites on sailboats.
The quarry is also home to the Unfinished Obelisk, a colossal monument that stands as a testament to the remarkable engineering prowess of the ancient Egyptians.
This massive Obelisk lies abandoned in the quarry due to a crack that appeared during its carving process. It is still connected to the bedrock underneath it.
The Obelisk, commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut around 1500 BCE, was intended to be one of the largest obelisks ever constructed, measuring over 131 feet (ca. 40 m) long and weighing around 1,200 tons.
The High Dam
This massive Dam, completed in 1970, is one of the largest dams in the world, measuring over 12,565 feet (ca. 4 km) in length and standing over 364 feet (0.11 km) tall.
The Dam helps control the annual Nile flooding and generates electricity for Egypt's growing population.
It was built with help from the Soviet Union, so in recognition of this help, the Government of Egypt erected the Russian-Egyptian Friendship Monument on the dam. The symbol of friendship is an open lotus flower with 5 leaves that rises to a height of 1970 feet (0.6 km).
Like every tour group before us, we stood inside the monument, formed our own lotus, and captured the moment.
The creation of Lake Nasser also had significant archaeological implications. As the lake's waters rose, several ancient temples and structures were at risk of submerging.
To protect these invaluable cultural treasures, a massive effort was undertaken to relocate them to higher ground.
The most famous of these temples is the Abu Simbel Temples, which were carved into the rock during the reign of Ramses II.
These temples were carefully dismantled and relocated to an artificial hill overlooking the lake, preserving them for future generations to appreciate.
One of the relocated temples is Philae, which we visited next.
This majestic temple, dedicated to the goddess Isis, is a jewel of ancient Egyptian architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Philae Temple was built during the Ptolemaic period (305-30 BC) and was later expanded during the Roman period.
One of the most well-known features of Philae Temple is the monumental gateway, known as the pylon.
The pylon is adorned with intricate carvings and reliefs depicting scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology and religious rituals.
Another highlight of the Philae Temple is the sanctuaries dedicated to the goddess Isis, which are considered the holiest part of the temple.
The sanctuaries contain beautifully preserved reliefs and statues of Isis, depicting her as a nurturing mother and a powerful goddess.
Interesting Fact: The island of Agilkia, where Philae Temple is located, has an interesting history. In the 20th century, the construction of the High Dam in Aswan led to the flooding of the original temple of Philae. As a result, the temple was painstakingly dismantled and relocated to this island, stone by stone, in a massive UNESCO-led effort to preserve this ancient treasure.
The show begins with a brief introduction to the history of the Philae Temple and then moves on to tell the story of Isis and Osiris. Osiris was the god of the underworld, and Isis was his wife and sister. Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, but Isis was able to resurrect him. The story of Isis and Osiris is one of the most important myths in Egyptian mythology and is told in many versions.
We learned that the show is available in a variety of languages. — English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.
It happened to be in Italian during our chosen time, so we were provided with digital devices that broadcast in other languages. My English version was adequate, but it lost the booming quality of the sound reverberating through the temple walls.
The Village is located on the west bank of the Nile River and is home to the Nubian people, who are an ethnic group indigenous to the Nile Valley.
The Nubians have a rich culture and history, and their village is a great place to learn about their way of life.
On our way to a Nubian home, we passed many shops, cafés, and a few camels. The lady of the house invited us in, gave us a tour of her humble house, and offered us some tea.
I was shocked to find live crocodiles in two cages in the middle of the courtyard. It turns out Nubians keep crocodiles as pets.
On the way out, we passed a shop that sells herbs and candies, and of course, we had to buy a few things.