First up: an 8.30am departure to Karnak Temple – a somewhat decayed complex of chapels, pylons and what not in Luxor. We got some info about the place, roamed around and took pics (Stacey and I got enticed into a little concreted room by an Egyptian man who wanted to “show us something”; there was a moment of being a tad concerned at what that something may be, until he gestured to a skylight with a solid stream of sunlight, um, streaming through to the floor. Made me appear very platinum blonde – and a bit possessed).

A drop in at a papyrus painting gallery to see how the canvases were made and to again roam, this time perhaps purchase (for once I actually didn’t) then lunch, a drive onto Aswan (about four hours away) and after a non-dip in the pool (I was literally lowering myself in when a man came over and said I ‘twasn’t allowed after sunset) a very early night. We were absolutely savagely tired and had an early take of leave to get to Abu Simbel Temple (3.45am departure; Stacey and I had set an alarm for 3.25, and were happy we were already awake when the phone started shrieking at us at 3am on the dot as a wake up call from reception).

So Abu Simbel; optional on this tour, when I was on safari three of the people I told I was going to Egypt said if it was offered to me, to make sure I went as it was a highlight of their trip. So when I saw we could sign up, I told Stace we should definitely go.

So we did – as did the other 12 in our group.

A four-hour journey before the crack of dawn was required to get there for opening at 8am.

A quick bit about Abu Simbel: two massive rock temples about 100km from the Sudan border. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, they were carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC – ordered by Pharaoh Ramesses II as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, his favourite of all his wives (he had a lot a lot a lot, and when Nefertari died he married their oldest daughter). The entire complex was relocated in 1968; with the building of the Aswan High Dam meaning it would be submerged under the consequentially created Lake Nasser, an extensive project was undertaken to move it up a little higher on an artificial hill.

So lots of places in Egypt (as well as other countries I’ve gone to, but particularly here) have a thing called a photo ticket; aside from your actual entrance fee, you must purchase a seperate ticket for 300 EGP (about $27NZD) to allow you to take photos. Some places are pretty relaxed about enforcing it, while others police it quite heavily – like Abu Simbel.

Stace and I took some piccys outside the complex (free) then went inside the first part. It was incredible; statues and hieroglyphics and pillars and pylons. I sneakily shot a few, um, shots, and seeing how easily I got away with it probably got a bit cocky – suddenly a man in a white robe called out and gestured to me to follow him.

I felt very much like the time I was seven-years-old and got caught eating biscuits in class. I was taken to the man at the door, who my phone was handed to and he asked me to get him into the photo folder. He flicked through them all saying, “Delete, delete, delete,” and when I asked if he wanted me to delete them he shook his head and winked and I understood; he was pretending to delete them. Then he got the fertility key from the back of the door, got me to hold it and took photos (extremely awkward with my top falling down, I realised after). (Unsure if he rendered me infertile, or extremely so?).

I palmed him the 300 EGP and he handed me back 100; you see, these boys have it smart – not making where you buy the photo ticket very obvious, they heavily observe to catch people taking pics without it and have a little side hustle going, getting sneaky sums for some snaps.

Most expensive four photos I’ve ever taken. (And they were shit too – trying to be sneaky meant they weren’t too framed up or focused).

Bus ride back, a stop at Philae Temple (another victim of the dam – this one was actually underwater for 70 years, until the decision was made to save it and it was moved to its own little island) then it was organisation for the Felucca.

So as I said in my first Egyptian post, the tour group was split into two – 14 of mine in Group B and 29 or so in the other of group A. We were the Egypt by land, while they were the Egypt by felucca. Difference being, two nights on a boat for them with hotel for us (while nine of their group opted for the cruise option). On the drive to Luxor, Michael (I have since found out the “Maicheal” on the form was wrong and it actually is “Michael”) asked if any of us Group B wanted to do it too – for an extra $22USD, five of us were in.

It was like moving from kindy to primary as we had to switch buses; when we got on and Stacey asked which seats were spare, one girl replied, “They’re all taken” (from her legs-across-the-spare-seat spot) (she ended up being one of the cruise ones, thanks be above). It was a full, “You can’t sit with us” sort of spec. But then we got adopted into a felucca group and had the BEST time.

We boarded, um, aboard, at 3.45pm and spent two hours just coasting along – two feluccas split into 12 and 13 people, with the “poo boat” – the one with the toilets – in between. We sunbathed and swam and had yarns and smoked sheisha, bonding with the others.

At sunset we pulled up to a beach and had a bonfire, then cracked into the beers (again I stood staunchly and sipped on my water; it was cool, whenever anyone asked why I wasn’t drinking and I said about my year off, they were all very respectful and said it was very cool I was doing it). And from about 11pm onwards, we slowly slipped off to sleep in our communal sleepover (trying not to think about the last time the blankets and pillowcases were washed).

Super funny; one of the girls from the Group A was from Auckland. As conversation progressed and The Pedaller was discussed, she said she knew a cyclist from Cambridge – ended up being one of the guys The Pedaller knows (and rates) very well, who lives in Girona. Then the next afternoon, we were yarning and she said she was from Remuera; when I said I’d gone to Baradene she said she had too, and then informed me her mum had actually been one of the intermediate teachers – funnily enough, though she never taught me, was in charge of the class next door to my Year 8 one. Lots of mutual people we knew. Then she said her sister had just gotten married in Hawkes Bay to a fella from – of all fucking places – Waipukurau.

Awoke to see sunrise from the sand dunes, then a full day on the boat – all sailing separately, then a park up at a beach to swim and sunbathe and have lunch (conquered another wee fear and jumped off the back of my boat – Nubian Tower – into the Nile). Another sail for a few hours, then a park up at an island for the night (really gross – as we were pulling in, a boat of locals were pulling out from their family picnic. They’d left rubbish EVERYWHERE, strewn about the sand and bushes. We all got bags and had a litter duty committee picking as much up as we could). (Also really awful – lots of dogs hanging about with about ten ticks to each of them – massive big bugs you could see from a considerable distance).

Sunset, dinner, yarns, sunrise, then a quick sail across the river and back to the bus.

A temple (Kom Ombo, complete with Crocodile Museum – no photos allowed unfortunately of the twenty or so mummified crocs on a display shelf) (I asked one of the guys in my crew – from the river, would it be classed as a CrocoNile?), another temple (of Horus), a couple of hours drive to Luxor and then after a gym and a swim, another temple (of Luxor; although feeling a little templed out at this stage, going at dusk gave it a renewed feel and I loved it) a hang at an Irish pub, then home (well, hotel) to bed.

Tit Bits for yah:

⁃ I love how Michael pronounces words: “twins” is “two-ins” (which when you think about it, actually works better) and “worked” is “work-ed” (how it looks, really)

⁃ Young boys are so smooth; they hang out at the entrance to significant sites with bangles of bracelettes and what not on their wrists. When they see a group approach, they hoard around and see who their most potential target will be. “Such a nice smile”, “You’re a queen” and ask your name. At the other end when you come out, they come calling, “Nadia! Nadia!” and try and make you buy their bracelettes. (Nadia, a girl in our group, has been our collective decision to tell them our name is).

⁃ In lots of the temples there are a lot of depictions of dicks. Kom Ombo had the fertility test (five drops out, not good; seven, very rearing to go), Luxor Temple had two of the fertility God (he impregnated every women in the village and got one arm and one leg cut off, but got to keep his schlong) – his area very darkened from people coming in for a run for their own levels of mating. And in King Tut’s tomb (talk about in next post) all the baboons were painted with very prominent penises.

⁃ Tutankhamen – always under the impression it is pronounced “Tutan-car-man” (veeeeeery Kiwi), I have since been informed it is most definitely “Toot-an-kar-muun”.

⁃ Queen Cleopatra the 7th (the famous one) was born in a time closer to the invention of the iPhone than the building of the Great Pyramid (fun fact courtesy of Madison).

⁃ Amazing; in some of the temples there is graffiti – but not in the definition of being done today. Rather, these are inscriptions on the walls from like 1823, 1883; incredible to imagine people etching things in 150, 200 years ago, let alone the OGs back BC.

⁃ In all my travelling life I’ve always known WC means toilet; it was today I found out it stands for “water closet” what it is referred to in architectural plans.

⁃ Luxor and Aswan have held a steady heat of about 41 degrees during the day; but 8am, the sun is seriously streaming down on your skin. But it’s nice because it’s not a humid hot; rather, it’s a more dry heat and though can get a bit intense, it is a lot more bearable.

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