We got up early to pack and be ready for a quick departure. We were having breakfast when the hotel manager came up to us and said
'I am afraid that you will be staying here a little longer - there have been reports of people getting stopped and robbed on the road to Aswan'. We then had a discussion and agreed with him the best option would probably be to go by train. So gulp down the rest of breakfast, pay the bill and say goodbye to the hotel.
We took a taxi to the river, then a boat across to the other side and then jumped in a taxi. The ride to the station was interesting - lots of soldiers on the streets with tanks stationed at crossroads. All a little scary. We got into the station when a train pulled in going to Aswan. We found 1st class and jumped in - very comfy! The ride down to Aswan was uneventful. We arrived at the hotel - friendly but decidedly in the budget category.
All seemed quiet so we took a walk along the Corniche (road that runs along the Nile). We ended up at the tourist office to find out if the cruise boat was running and the options to get to Abu Simbel. Going into the office we noticed that there was a large group assembled in the square. The tourist office man tried to be reassuring but wasn't very helpful - he seemed highly nervous and anxious to close. We decided to head off down the souq and managed to have a chat with a few of the locals about the situation. They basically wanted the change but not the problems they knew would go with it - short term chaos and no tourists.
After this we decided to take a break and headed off for a Felucca ride on the Nile - these are small sailing boats. After the customary negotiations (Ken had 3 people on the go in a Dutch auction), we set off. We had a cruise round the Island in the Nile for the hour before sunset. It was beautiful and very atmospheric.
Dinner was in a local fish restaurant which had Egyptian English language TV playing - it seemed like pure propaganda to us but it did talk about extensions to the curfew. When we got back we were assured the curfew doesn't apply in Aswan!
We had a leisurely start next day. Breakfast at 8:00 with a discussion about what to do next. We decided to sort out the trip to Abu Simbel as that was still very uncertain. After phone calls to boat company (no reply), trip to Thomas Cook (no good) and visit to Egypt Air (no planes but a car ride at $64 each!), Ken and I set off to the bus station. Good Luck, the buses were running without a problem, cost less than £3. After sorting this out, we picked up Fran & Judi who had been passing time sipping mango juice overlooking the Nile.
We then hopped on a ferry to see Elephantine island (in the middle of the Nile) and the botanical gardens. We alighted the ferry into a Nubian village - the contrast to the city couldn't be greater - no paved roads and cars, just dirt tracks between mud brick houses. We had a walk through the island to catch a ferry to Kitchener island to see the Botanical gardens. The ferry turned out to be a dilapidated rowing boat complete with a 67 year old Nubian ferryman. It turned out he had been a felucca captain at the Cataract hotel (the big old hotel where Agatha Christie wrote 'Death on the Nile') so was used to ferrying around rich tourists. The botanical gardens were pleasant with wonderful views but lacking a few plants! Caught the ferry back, the ferryman being disgusted with our tip - he is used to the rich tourists.
We then tried to go round the museum and temple at the bottom of the island - unfortunately closed. We headed back to the mainland to the Nubian Museum to find that all museums and temples are closed as they are run by the government. At this point we decided to go and have a beer at a nearby hotel. Here we found an American tour party who had been held in the hotel for 2 days waiting for a flight. They had an update whilst we were there - no flights out of Aswan, Cairo airport a mess so their 'house arrest' continues. A lot of unhappy people.
We went out for dinner and as we came back there were lots of people on the streets with fireworks going off. We thought something must have happened but it was only a wedding. Our mood lifted because we finally found an ATM giving money.