The boat started to slow down so I looked back to our ‘captain’ and noticed smoke coming out of the wish-we-had-an-Evinrude engine. And then it stopped. Kaput. Burned up. Dead in the water.
We had left the 2,400 year old Philae Temple about 15 minutes earlier on our rickety dinghy headed back to our cruise ship. As soon as we stepped aboard, the boys started to hum the “Theme from Gilligan’s Island.” Apparently I wasn’t the only one lacking confidence in our transportation.
This massive Philae Temple was relocated in the 1960’s because the water behind the soon-to-be-completed Aswan Dam would flood the surrounding area. With the water rising, 24 temples would soon disappear. Thanks to UNESCO and many countries for relocating these artifacts to higher ground preserving them for years to come. All future travelers reap these benefits as it is quite impressive to stand inside a temple or a tomb and think about how they were constructed three, four, or five thousand years ago. Something Audrey has dreamed of since she was Decker’s age.
Fortunately the movers did a better job relocating Philae Temple compared to the even more impressive Abu Simbel built by King Ramses II. This temple, located about 50 km north of the Sudan / Egypt border, had to be cut into almost 2,000 pieces, relocated, and put back together. All before the water overtook it.
The move was completed in 1968 after years searching for the ideal site. The original location allowed for the sunlight to shine through the temple doors and onto King Ramses II’s head on Oct 22 and Feb 22 thought to be the King’s birthday and coronation day, respectively. So, keeping this element was critical. Upon moving it to its new location, the sun shines in one day earlier. Oops.
We experienced this trip after our five-day trip down the Nile River on a luxury cruise. While neither Audrey or I are fond of cruises, we found this, and our 2005 sojourn down the Yangtse River, to be just what was needed. Traveling for this long can be tiring as every night we have to decide where we will sleep, what we will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, how we will get our laundry done, what activity we will do, where we will find safe water to drink and so many more decisions. On cruises, everything is decided so it truly is a vacation. Although, we did have to make one decision. I had several movies on my computer and we, really me, decided to watch, “Death On the Nile.” I thought appropriate but the rest of my traveling contingent couldn’t appreciate the irony.
Everywhere you go in Egypt, things look old. Even the new hotels feel tired. The 2011 Revolution virtually stopped tourism causing Nile river cruises, hotels, and all things touristy to come to a screeching halt. Visitors are now starting to come back. Unfortunately the last 7 years haven’t allowed these companies to maintain proper upkeep or reinvestment. We stayed at one of the nicest properties in Aswan and as we checked in found the room to be dusty, the electricity turned off, the showers cold, and a smell reminiscent of your ninety-year old grandma’s house. And this was a nice hotel.
However, what Egypt lacks in cleanliness and modernization, it makes up in hospitality. Everyone we see says, “Welcome to Egypt” and “Thanks for coming.” The hotel staff jumped into solve all these problems and apologized profusely. During a conversation with an Executive for the hotel’s investment company, we asked if the friendliness was part of the culture or a way to increase tourism. He said that it was a combination of both but that “Egyptians are very friendly people.” It is like getting the customer service of the Ritz with a room like the Best Western.
The evening news often paints a negative image of this north-African country located in the middle of so much strife. But I saw a different picture: friendly people; awe-inspiring temples; and, breathtakingly large pyramids. The kids have enjoyed building on their already impressive knowledge of Egyptian mythology and will likely do well in sixth-grade Ancient Civilization.
While sitting on our patio one night overlooking the Giza Pyramids, I looked to Audrey and said, “We’ve been to many Bucket List locations including the Galapagos, Machu Pichu, Patagonia, African safari, and now Egypt.” And then I said, “We are really fortunate.” If these five aren’t on your Top 10 List of places to visit, I encourage you to update your list. We will gladly help you plan your trip.
As we floated aimlessly in our stalled watercraft, I was able to enjoy the scenery and the magnitude of this adventure. It all ended as a boat came by and we yelled for help. It turned in our direction and safely towed us to the dock. Nine and half months on the road and these events no longer phase us.