Oh, what a Philae!

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[Written Sunday afternoon in the Sara Hotel, Aswan.]

Saturday morning we slept in. Conveniently, our train had had some engine trouble during the night, so we wouldn't be reaching Aswan in the south of Egypt until after 11:00 am, which put us over two hours behind schedule. But this was good news for the exhausted lazyheads from Friday, who didn't have to be up at the asscrack of dawn.

In Aswan, at last, after more than fifteen hours on the train, our local tour representatives installed us in the Sara Hotel, a lovely hotel in a dusty, hilly neighborhood that's either half built or half decayed. Our guide that afternoon was a woman whose English was so thickly accented she was hard to understand for a while. (We were spoiled by Shiko's perfect English in Cairo.) She took us to the Aswan High Dam, rattling off facts and figures at a pace that was hard to follow.

After that, we drove a ways and then sailed by fellukah down the waters of Lake Nasser to the island site of Philae Temple. Philae is a temple from the Ptolemaic period, unmistakably Egyptian but with unmistakable Greek influences. It is one of the many temples and monuments that were relocated by UNESCO during the building of the Aswan Dam in the '60s. Otherwise they would have been flooded and lost.

Philae is a temple to Isis, and our guide took pains to point out the strong role of women in ancient Egypt. "Things are not so equal now," she said, the only political comment we would hear her make. (This is contrasted with hale, male Shiko, who took pains to point out to us on Friday how Egyptians still rever women.)

That evening, Laura and I took a shuttle from the hotel into town, where we had dinner at a small restaurant the desk clerk had recommended. Gorged ourselves, to be more accurate. Lamb roasted in vegetables, shish kabab, kofta, white beans, tahini, tabouli, rice, pita, mint tea ... we ate until we could eat no more, and then we ate some more. Sorry, Ali, but until later that night we were considering anointing a new Egyptian restaurant our favorite in the world.

After dinner we wandered through Aswan's souk, the market that extends blocks and blocks in every direction. We had become better at fending off pushy merchants, which is almost all of them, and then out on the main drag we got some more practice fending off beggars and hustlers. Our shuttle arrived at the prearranged location at almost the prearranged time, and whisked us back to the hotel for a few scant hours of rest.

[ original post:  http://shunn.livejournal.com/457156.html ]

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on May 26, 2008 5:39 PM.

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