Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Upper Nile (March 23)

The Cairo International Airport terminal for our charter flight to Abu Simbel and Aswan is chaotic. Lines start for security then turn in to a mass crowd all trying to get through. This terminal for domestic travel really needs to be expanded. We walk out and board a bus for a three minute ride to our plane.

Taking off over Cairo you can see the smog. We quickly get to the Eastern Desert. (Between Nile and the Red Sea). We are flying to the east of the Nile. We cross one paved road headed east—it must be one of the five roads that connect the upper Nile to the Red Sea. (The lower Nile is the delta—from slightly south of Cairo too the Mediterranean Sea. Everything else is the Upper Nile.) There is nothing down there. No plants. All sand and rock. There are some large canyons that are totally dry. It is hard to imagine water cutting them (Cairo gets rain about 6 days a yea (from the little rain we got in Alexandria, a day with rain seems to be defined as any day with even a trace of rain).

Flying over Lake Nasser lets you see how big the reservoir is behind the Aswan High Dam.

After about 2 hours we land at Abu Simbel; take a bus the 300 yards to the terminal; board a bus for the 10 minute ride to the Abu Simbel temple of Ramses II; balk down a hill; have our mouths drop open.
Abu Simbel
The temple is huge. The facade is over 100 feet high with four colossal statues of Ramses II. A little bit to the right is the temple Ramses II built to honor hiss favorite wife—Nefertari (which has more statues of Ramses than Nefertari). That is was built in the 13th century BCE is amazing. That the whole thing was moved to save it from flooding from the Aswan High Dam is also amazing. (If you look closely, you can see the saw cuts where the cut the temple into large blocks to move—but in most cases you have to look very closely.) One interesting addition was made when they moved it. There are very subtle slits in the ceiling next to the walls in some places—for fresh air that is forced in to reduce the humidity caused by all the tourists breathing and sweating.

We fly to Aswan International Airport (about ½ hour). Get off the plane and onto a bus for a 500 foot ride to the terminal (I'm beginning to realize this is the system used at all Egypt airports.).

Aswan is no longer a small town—about 1 million population. Population growth is because of the Aswan High Dam. The dam provides ¼ of the electricity for Egypt and that cheap energy has resulted in a lot of industry around Aswan. Not much air pollution and very light traffic. It seems to have a much more laid back personality than Cairo.

No comments: