Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Egyptian Holiday - Day 5

Day 5 - Aswan & the nile cruise

As i had said in my earlier blog the train had reached the Aswan station half an hour behind schedule. However our bus in which we were to be transported had already arrived and our bags were shifted. By this time i was able to look around the Aswan train station. If there is one thing that Egypt has to improve it would be its public transport and public stations. One thing i noticed here in Egypt is that all the residential buildings are 15 to 20 storied at a minimum. I could not find a single independent house here and the gas here is supplied in pipe lines like the US and Europe. Also you can find all the different models of cars that have been manufactured in the world here. I found a lot of BMWs, Ferraris, Toyotas, GM, Hyundai and even our Maruti (can u believe it?). They have lots of car showrooms scattered all over the city. One other thing is that there were no two wheelers on the roads, the obvious reason being the heat and the dust that is there. People here dont paint their houses, so you could look at the brickwork that is there, since the paint peels off due to the excessive dust in the air. Also the fly overs in the city have been meticulously planned and executed. One other uniqueness is the similarity in all their tourist buses. They are of the same build and design and extremely comfortable. It is as though there is only one contractor to do all the bus body design. However the local bus is very messy, cramped and unclean. So when i found the train station dirty, i found myself thinking that there are things that they got to see us and emulate.

Once we were packed into our buses we were on our way to Queen Hatshepsut's unfinished obelisk. We were to go to the Nile cruise liner for lunch and hence had some places to visit before that. So first on our list was this. This place is where all the obelisks were made during ancient times, the reason being this was the place where one got the best granite stones. In ancient periods there were no special tools to cut the stones. They chipped holes in the granite and then put in wet wood in between the rocks and left it. The wet wood deepened the holes and made it to separate (i seriously didnt get this part). Then they used heavy small rocks called dura weat to put in between the rocks and moved them. After the granite is cut, it is carved as per the king's wish and the obelisk is made and then transported to the temples. Here you would find an unfinished obelisk of Queen hatshepsut, since she had died while it was still in progress. So it remains unfinished to this day.

We then started to go to the high dam. On its way we saw the Aswan dam which was initially built to stem the floods in the river Nile. However during one such flood the dam itself got covered and hence it was not used anymore. Then came the need to build an even bigger dam. For this Egypt did not have sufficient funds and hence requested the US, Europe and Russia for financial assistance. The US gave 20 million dollars, Europe another 20 million dollars and other countries gave an additional 20 million dollars. However Russia said that it would provide technical man power instead of financial assistance. So the Russians sent 5000 engineers to built this dam. They along with 30000 Egyptian labourers completed the dam in a span of 5 years. The US however put a conditional clause that it would use the Suez canal strip for a few years without any charge. This dam was built when Nasser was the president of Egypt. The dam served its purpose and there were no more floods in the Nile. Also due to the massiveness of the dam, the hydroelectric power was extracted to convert to electricity and at present Egypt is exporting electricity to neighbouring countries.

Our next one was a boat ride to the Philae temple. This temple was earlier in philae island where the Nile covered the entire temple and hence it had to be shifted to another nearby island (the name of which i am unable to recollect). It was a 20 minute boat ride to the island where we saw the temple. This temple as i had said had been shifted by cutting the original into 45000 pieces and moved and restored as per the original. The temple has a lot of pictures and hieroglyphic messages on its walls. Its a nice place for photo shoots because of its strategic location on an island. Now it was 1PM and time for our lunch. We were eagerly waiting to go to our Nile cruise liner, my first at this too.

The cruise liner was a big one, but almost every liner there looked similar. There were 4 decks in each liner where the first three decks were full of rooms and the top deck was called the sun deck with tables and chairs and a swimming pool too. Of all the liners our was the most simple one i guess, since the others had casinos too. Immediately after we boarded the liner started to move and we watched the Nile in awe. It was really fascinating to see the Nile just slowly flow along and to see the embankment brizzling with life. There was a restaurant in the first floor and a bar in the second. Here we were served tea and then at around 5 we reached the komombo temple. We disembarked and walked to the komombo temple which took us ten minutes.

By now it was dusk and it was beautiful to see the temple brightly lit. This temple too had lots of inscriptions on the pillars and walls. We saw a nilo meter here which was used to measure the floods in the Nile. Also the temple had ancient medical instruments used during those times. However we couldnt get to look at it due to the crowds there. Also we had a time constraint since the liner was scheduled to start at exactly 7PM and we had to make it before that.

We had dinner at the cruise and we had a taste of the egyptian cuisine too. Also one of our troop members celebrated her birthday the same day and was wished during dinner a la egyptian style. The attendants drummed and sang the egyptian version of happy birthday and celebrated it with much ado. In all we had a nice time just looking at it unfold.

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