Blog 8- train to Aswan and first day on the ship
We left Cairo around 10:30 PM on board our 13 hour (yes, that's more than half a day) train ride to Aswan, Egypt. The train ride was luckily at night so we could spend the majority of it asleep. However, both Luqman and I came down with a stomach bug and thus sleep did not come as easily as we both needed and wanted it to.
Oh I have to digress and talk about the bathroom for a sec. Now, please, please don't think I am dogging or saying anything horrible about Egypt, because I'm not. I am fascinated with the country and am so blessed to be here, but the bathroom on the train, now that's a different story. It is in times like on the train to Aswan that I envied Luqman and the male species for their ability to just have to zip down to go to the bathroom because I was pretty horrified at the conditions of the "loo," as my British friends would say. I had to hold antibacterial gel under my nose and rely on the capabilities of my hamstrings and quads to get me through. This is probably more information than any of you want to know, but still, I was so moved by the conditions and my experience with the bathroom, that I felt compelled to share.
Okay back to the train. We finally arrived in Aswan around 1 PM the next day and arrived early enough that our Nile cruise ship hadn't quite docked yet. Thus, Viktor took us a posh hotel (can you tell that the Brits are influencing me by my choice of words like posh?) to freshen up and use a decent toilet until our ship arrived. We arrived at the hotel and I was taken aback by the beauty and extravagance of the hotel. I really felt like I was at the Ritz Carlton of Aswan.
Let's talk about Aswan for a minute. Viktor called Aswan the Riviera of Egypt. This is mainly due to the many cruises that dock and port at this city. Aswan is the southernmost city in Egypt and also called the "gateway to Africa" because it is home to the Nubian people. The town also has a lot of colorful markets and some islands off the coast such as Elephantine Island that people take day trips to. Unfortunately, although it is the southernmost Egyptian city, the weather was pretty much same as the cold Cairo weather.
We sat in the sun for a while on top of the roof of the hotel and then finally made our way to our cruise ship. We checked in to our rooms and then proceeded to lunch. Luqman was still feeling under the weather and stayed behind to recover. After lunch, we met Viktor and then proceeded to head on the Nile to visit a Nubian village.
We boarded a felucca, an Egyptian sailboat, and made our way down the Nile. I was mesmerized by the beauty and intense color of the great river, but the wind and cold weather made it a bit harder to enjoy. I looked back at Luqman and I could see that the cold weather was not helping him feel better. I just prayed that he would perk up soon because we were approaching Nubia and might possibly run into his future wife. We rode the felucca for a bit and then changed to a motor boat to speed up the process to Nubia.
Finally we arrived on the shores of Nubia and then proceeded to take a tour by camel! Now I'm going to be honest, I was VERY nervous about riding a camel. I'm pretty much a city girl at heart and so I haven't really been exposed to riding horses or anything of that sort. Thus, I hesitated quite a bit on getting on top of one, but I wasn't about to chicken out and miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime. So I took a deep breath and prayed that my camel, Bob Marley as I found out his name was later on by my Nubian guide, was a gentile and docile creature and carried on. As I rode Bob Marley, that sounded bad...okay I'm just gonna refer to him as my camel, I looked to my left was taken back by the beauty of the Nile. It was during this camel ride that I got a bit emotional and it really started to hit me that I was experiencing this incredible trip. I mean how many people can say that they've ridden a camel on the coast of the Nile in a Nubian village? I venture to say not many.
Our camel caravan arrived in town and we were welcomed by many merchants and artisans in the village. The caliber of workmanship and talent was amazing. Viktor met us here and then took us to a traditional Nubian house. We met Zahara and Mehmood and they showed us around their house. Typical Nubian houses consist of many open areas. Community and collectivism is very prevalent and strong in the Nubian culture and the architecture of their homes reflects this aspect. We sat down and Zahara graciously served us some tea and typical Nubian bread and dips/sauces. Viktor told us more facts about the culture such as that Nubian and its respective dialects are only spoken languages. There is no alphabet or written recordings of it. Consequently, Nubians do not intermarry between tribes in order to preserve their respective languages and customs. We enjoyed some more tea as we listened to Viktor tell us more about the Nubians and then my mate Eleanor and I decided to get traditional Nubian henna tattoos. While we did this, the rest of our group enjoyed looking at the many Nubian art pieces and baby crocodile that was kept in the center of the common room. It was during this time, that you really couldn't tell Luqman was fighting a terrible stomach bug. He was so happy and content to be in Nubia that he told us that we could return to the cruise ship and leave him in Nubia.
But much to his dismay and ours, we headed back to the speed boat to make the (very cold) journey back to Aswan and our ship. The Nile River was illuminated by the moonlight and we all commented on how beautiful it was. Again, it was a bit hard to tell we were enjoying it so much because we were all freezing. The only reason I kept somewhat warm was because Mehmoot taught me some Nubian dance moves on the boat. I paid careful attention when he was teaching me just in case I would have to bust a Nubian dance move to get the attention of a handsome Nubian man….I'm kidding!
We came back aboard our ship and then enjoyed dinner in the dining room. Then the night was capped off by a night show of traditional Nubian dancing. I was fascinated in particular by the dances with props. I wouldn't say I'm dreadful at dancing but I am no where near the caliber of dancing with batons. Thus, Nubians… much respect and props!
Finally, we returned to our respected cabins aka closet sized rooms, ready for some sleep. However, we wouldn't be getting too much rest because we had to be up and ready to go at 3 AM for our trip to Abu Simbel. Nevertheless, my head hit the pillow in hopes of getting some sleep and dreams about Nubia.