Aswan, Philae and the Nile Cruise

The Kom-Ombo Temple

Part 2 of the Egypt Trail

From Cairo, the next stop on the Egypt Trail was Aswan. The trail that I took was to reach Aswan by a train, then take the Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor via Kom Ombu and Edfu, and then take a flight from Luxor back to Cairo – thereby finishing the triad of land-air-water transport (filled all along the way with rickshaws, camels, horses, boats and hot-air balloons).

Train journey from Cairo to Aswan

The train journey from Cairo to Aswan was an interesting one. For 160$ you get a two-bed compartment in a sleeper train and a peaceful 12hr night journey to Aswan. {Aswan comes from its ancient name Swenett, which was the name of the goddess of childbirth, as Egypt was believed to be conceived from southern waters of Nile at Aswan}. Aswan is most famous for its High Dam, which is this huge 4km long and 1km wide dam, given the sacred job of harnessing the power of Nile. Created by this dam is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world, Lake Naseer. A freaking 550km long, crocodile filled, lake, which stretches up to Sudan. Aswan was indispensable in ancient Egypt because of its many stone quarries and gold mines. It still is famous for its gold and silver jewelry shops, and you can upgrade your souvenir shopping from fridge magnets to silver/gold when in Aswan.

Aswan High Dam
Aswan High Dam
Cairo Aswan train
Cairo Aswan train

Next, a half an hour boat ride from Aswan will take you to the peaceful temple of Philae.

Philae

Philae probably should classify itself as an ancient-modern temple. Dedicated to two of the biggest Goddesses of Egypt, Isis and Hathor, the temple was once completely destroyed by Nile floods. As the rubbles patiently waited submerged under water, the marvels of engineering and heroics of UNESCO came together to bring back this temple, piece by piece (and some 40000+ pieces) in a reservoir of Aswan Low Dam.  The result is an island in the reservoir hosting this beautiful temple and a lot of cats. By the way, if you are not a cat person then you may not be quite comfortable on the streets of Egypt, because the cats are everywhere.

Cats of Egypt
Cats of Egypt
The restored temple of Philae
The restored temple of Philae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meowing on, our dedicated Nile Cruise, MS Semiramis II, was to leave from Aswan in the afternoon.  Docked politely on the banks of Nile, the Semiramis welcomed us with Hibiscus Teas and promised an enriching (and lazy) 3 days sail through history. Equipped with restaurants, bars, cabins, sun decks, souvenir shops and three full buffets a day, the Cruise is set to provide for all of your needs (except a working wifi) to make it as your home for the rest of your Egypt journey.

The cruise sets off from Aswan with almost no hurry in the world, but hey nobody is to complain. The urban scenery changes to palm-lined coast on both sides of the river. You can kill time by either admiring the scenery from the French windows of your cabin or being hit by gusts of winds on the sun deck. You can also choose to sleep off because the next stop Kom-ombu comes after 6 hrs of cruise time.

Nile Cruise
Nile Cruise
Nile Cruise Views
Nile Cruise Views

The Semiramis docked at Kom Ombo late in the evening, allowing us to deboard and explore the temple city. The temple of Kom-Ombo is supposedly an unusual temple because it has a double set of halls, sanctuaries and rooms duplicated for two sets of God – the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Horus. (By the way, Horus is one of the most significant Gods of Egyptian Mythology. He is the protector of Egypt and hence most revered. Note the national flag of Egypt, it has a falcon in the middle, need I say anything else).  Once done with the temple tour, you can head back to the ship via the obligatory street of souvenir shops. I would suggest holding on to those temptations of making purchases at every sighting of a souvenir shop. The markets of Luxor and Khan-el-Khalili should be able to fill your heart with content.

Once back on the ship, have a heavy dinner buffet, make calls to your dear ones, play card games and retire early. The city of Edfu will greet you early next morning…but that’s for another day.

So, there you go.

Tips

  1. Don’t be greedy. Reserve souvenir purchase to Luxor and Cairo markets.
  2. Most of the cruises should accept dollars as forex, but you may get some forex changed before entering the 3-day long cruise.
  3. Buy mineral water from local markets of Aswan and Kom Ombo. The water inside the cruise can be fairly expensive.
  4. Don’t pester your guide with stupid questions.

Story by

Akash Dixit