Nile Cruise to Aswan
After we finished our tour of Karnak at about 10:00 p.m. we climbed onto our boat, the Queen of Sheba. The boat was brand new and as we got onto the boat our guide indicated that there was another group on the boat. There were only 18 in our group, just right, and when we heard there was another group we told the guide we wanted the boat to ourselves. He laughed because the boat carried about 300 people and the other group had about 20 people in it. So, the boat had about 40 people, more crew than passengers which meant we got wonderful service. We were so loud and laughed and carried on so much the other group sat at the opposite end of the dinning room, I think they were from Scandinavia or some northern country. 40 tables and one group at one end and the other at the other end of the dining room. The waiters cracked up, they all loved us, we joked, ate everything in sight, asked questions about them and Egypt and showed an interest in everything. The other group just sat there in silence. Why do that when you can do that at home. So off we went into the night with anticipation as to what we would see the next day.
The boat basically had everything and the next morning an engineer on the trip asked if we could have a tour of the engine room and the captain took us through it. The room was spotless, so clean you could eat off of the machinery. There also was a state of the art water cleansing machine consisting of ultraviolet lights that killed any bacteria or virus that were in the water. We still drank bottled water but it was good to know you probably could gargle in the shower or at least if you inadvertently got water in you mouth you weren't going to get the Pharaoh's Revenge!
The first place we stopped at was Edfu. This name was derived from the Coptic Atho, which, in turn, derived from the ancient name Thot. The focus of interest is the Temple of Horus which was erected by the Greeks and is the best preserved in all of Egypt. It was built over a period of 180 years, begun in 237 BCE and completed in 57 BCE. At the entrance is a large statue of Horus the falcon (hawk) god carved from polished speckled black granite. Throughout the temple the walls, pylons, corridors, and on, are covered with relief's that are considered the best in Egypt. Some of the relief's are about the battles Horus had with his brother Seth, who is represented both as a hippopotamus and a crocodile.
As we traveled along the Nile we could see fields which were being cultivated with grains, lettuce, melons, vegetables, cucumbers, onions, garlic and a sweet red carrot that is peculiar to Egypt. Flax was grown for the fiber but was replaced by cotton in the 7th century.
We had been told that at about 6:00 A.M. we would come to a small dam across the Nile at Esna. The dam was build in 1908-1909 to regulate the irrigation as far as Qena, to the north of Luxor. Three of us, the CIA agent and the lawyer and I got up early and rushed to the fore deck and set up our positions at a table in order to see the boat go through the lock. The poor waiters wondered what was going on. We were going to see everything so there we were, cold and waiting to go through the lock. It was only about 30 feet high but going through a lock on the Nile is still unique! The mornings can be very cold and foggy so we were wrapped up in what ever we had to wear. The waiters asked if we wanted coffee and one of the women said we should have Lattes. Poor waiters, off they went to fire up the espresso machines and started making Lattes. We felt very elegant having Lattes and pastries at 6:00 A.M. on the Nile! As in most countries, political and technology are at conflict. The lock itself is only big enough for one boat to enter so it is a bottle neck in the Nile. The country went on a building spree and we were told there were about 200 boats on the Nile. Of course that meant if it took at least 30 minutes if not more to go through the lock, one boat at a time, within 24 hours that would be only about 25 boats. The men at the lock just shook their heads and laughed. You do the best you can. When we finally were through the lock I think about an hour and a half had passed. They are in the process of building a new lock.
We visited the Temple of Khnum, the ram-headed deity and was almost lost until discovered under the old town. It lies in a depression and is about a five minute walk from the boat. We decided to take a carriage and of course the mob of merchandise sellers were unhappy as they couldn't grab us as we sped passed them on the way to the temple! The central courtyard was unearthed in 1842 by Mohammed Ali in order to store gunpowder, not for cultural reasons. The most notable feature of this temple is the Hypostyle Court, whose roof is still intact and supported by six rows of four columns, each with elaborately carved capitals. They carry scenes of Roman Emperors depicted as Egyptian Pharaohs sacrificing to the gods. The temple is important because the Emperor Trajan Decius (AD 249-250) is the last Roman name to appear in a royal cartouche in an Egyptian temple.
We also stopped at the Habu temples along the Nile where I saw and took a picture of the most amazing frieze. It isn't cut into the stone as most hieroglyphics is, it is instead a relief. Most hieroglyphics are incised into the rock when they are situated outdoors because the sand cannot obliterate the carvings as easily. A base relief is usually done inside a building because the sand and wind cannot scar it. See the picture I took of this relief.
Today we didn't do much but sit on the sun deck, had cocktails, had high-tea in the afternoon, read books on Egypt and gossiped about what we had done and what we were going to do. Our woman Doctor from Los Angeles, about 60 years old had told us she and her husband didn't get along at all when they traveled together so they just went their own way. She had just come back from Venice and decided to go to Egypt. She came up on the deck with a frown on her face and told us that her husband had told her that she was such a Bitch that she probable would be the only person who visited Egypt that would come down with constipation instead of the Pharaoh's Revenge! She said, "Guess what? I am constipated and it's the fault of that husband of mine. He can get revenge even when we are 10,000 miles apart!" One of the men, from Atlanta, wasn't feeling very well, had some kind of life threatening illness and said he had always wanted to see Egypt before he died as most of us felt the same way. He was about 35 years old and everyone wanted to help him because he sometimes was tired after trying to climb around so many monuments. This morning he was depressed and felt like quitting. Of course this went over really big with the rest of us, we wondered what we could do. Doctor Mom to the rescue! She flew down to her room, flew back up with her doctor's bag, sat it on the table where we were sitting around, opened it and said to him and the rest of us, "Let's see, uppers, downers, sleeping, depressants, narcotics, and what ever other kind of pill you might need". Well we all cracked up and felt much better knowing Doctor Mom was always available even if we didn't need her help. She was one laugh after another.
The one interesting thing about our trip on the Nile was the demarcation of the green belt and the sand. I had often read and seen pictures about it but seeing it is another thing, You could see lush green farms, palm trees, and vegetable gardens and within one foot would be dry desert sand! As we approached Aswan the green belt became smaller and smaller. At some points the sand came down to the river and there wasn't any greenery at all. The same was true when flying into Abu Simbel. Thousands of miles of fresh water in Lake Nasser and no greenery of any type.
Of course the last night on the boat and there was the obligatory dress up party. Doctor Mom had bought a dress from a vendor along the shore that I wanted, (not for myself, but for my sister, Yvonne), and had him throw the dress up to the upper deck as she threw the money in a handkerchief to the vendor. It was gold with tons of sequences on it. She wore that dress to the party on the last night aboard ship and got very drunk. She threw herself on the dance floor and writhed around pretending to be Saloami, a wonderful sight, and then passed out. Some man whom we weren't exactly excited about, dropped his pants and kept mooning everyone, especially one young and very pretty Egyptian girl who was on her honeymoon. Her husband was also very good looking and I am sure this was not what they expected at a ship board party. They can be seen in the background of the picture of Doctor Mom along with the black and gold dress! The crew just shook their heads, Americans! Two of us were sedate, we wore flowing robes that the Egyptian men wear and those little red hats with the tassel. I decided I needed something to spice up my outfit and I had some boxer shorts that were black with golden sunflowers splashed all over them. Every so often I would lift up the robe so everyone could see I really was wearing something underneath it! The next morning Doctor Mom asked me if she had done anything out of the ordinary at the party. We all just shook our heads and said that other than screaming about her sex life, half ripping her gown off, trying to dance with everyone and passing out, no, not much of interest happened. She was mortified as she should have been, at least for a few hours until the hang over dissipated. Then she asked me if I wanted the gown for my sister, sure, after rolling around in it I am sure my sister would want it, drink stains and all! See the picture of Doctor Mom and the infamous dress!
Well here we are, pulling into Aswan, another beautiful day and looking forward to seeing Philae, the Aswan Dam, and Abu Simbel.