I know this is supposed to be vacation but for some reason we were up well before the crack of dawn again . . . this time it was 2:30am to catch a ride to the Abu Simbel temple off Lake Nasser. When the driver picked us up he asked us for 50 EGP each, everything was pre-paidbut Ruby was too tired to argue at this hour. We didn’t know it but our minibus was actually joining an armed caravan . . . and up until that point we had been wondering where all the tourists were! We needed an armed caravan because we would only 70 km from the Sudanese border . . . so we were off on a long seemingly endless desert road (luckily smooth) for 3 hours. I think after the Danakil our concept of “rough roads” is a little skewed! We both napped and when we arrived Ruby came to her senses and told the driver to give us the 100 EGP back since we had pre-paid. With a little coercion from Tony and a call to Khaled we did get it back!
The early morning start was well worth it—especially when we turned the corner and came upon the two rock temples carved from a sandstone cliff at Abu Simbel which was originally in ancient Nubia. The larger of the two temples was built for Ramses II and the smaller for his favorite wife Nefretari. Ramses II ruled during the 19th Dynasty (1279-1212 BC) in the New Kingdom. He was powerful and ambitious and constructed more monuments and temples than any other pharaoh; that’s probably why he’s one of the most well-known of the pharaohs. He also fathered 100+ children with his harem of wives (some estimate 60+). As we entered the temple, the guide warned Tony that Ramses II was looking for a new wife and Ruby might become his next! In the King’s temple there were tons of carvings inside, many depicting offerings to the gods. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside either of the temples—but we did sneak a couple from the doorway!
The second temple is smaller and built for Ramses’ II favorite wife Nefratari. However, he was so egomaniacal that four of the six large statues in the front of the temple are of him! Their 12 kids can be seen at their feet. Her temple was devoted to the fertility goddess Hatur who often takes the form of a cow, or woman with small cow ears.The neatest fact about these temples is that they were actually cut out of their original locations and moved painstakingly piece by piece to higher ground from their original sites. They had to be reconstructed elsewhere when the government built a new dam. The craziest part is that the hill was also completely rebuilt! This is an amazing feat and we could hardly tell. . . we hope our IKEA furniture goes back together as nicely when we get to New York!
Of course it wouldn’t be a true tourist destination without a gauntlet on vendors on the way out! Like playing dodge ball we zigged and zagged trying not to make eye contact with anyone. It was a successful exit; we made it out with just a 15 Egyptian pound can of Coke ($2.50). We met Vanessa and Kerry, an English couple from London who also recommended wagging our finger while saying “laa shukran” to get the vendors to stop pestering us. They’re both divers and gave us some recommendations for their fave dive sites in Sharm el-Sheikh. Back on the boat we relaxed and watched the sunset over the Nile that night.