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Aswan, with a feluka to Kitchener's island and Elephantine

Home -> Africa -> Egypt -> Travelogue Egypt -> 17 January 2004

Saturday 17 January, Aswan, with a feluka to Kitchener's island and Elephantine

Hotel gardenAs most times when we are on holiday we sleep very well and today we wake up with a brightly shining sun in the sky. After breakfast our first stop is at the terrace of the Old Cataract where we have some coffee before we walk down to the landing stage at the bottom of the rocks. We have informed at the reception if the sailors there ask normal prices and according to them they do.
But they start asking € 15 per hour! That is almost 120 pounds while the normal price on the boulevard starts between 20 and 30 pounds and then you can still get the price down. We laugh at them and walk away. They call after us that the prices have become so high (diesel for a motorboat costs about € 0,10 per liter and a felouka only needs maintenance). The average waiter's salary is 200 pounds a month so 120 pounds an hour is a ridiculous price, but maybe some guests (after all, this is a 5-star hotel) just pay it. We don't and we even don't want to haggle with these people. Of course, they don't like that and come after us for some time but we just keep laughing at them.
On the felouka Tombs of the noblesOn the boulevard we have an ample choice. There are not many tourists so everyone tries to earn what he can. At last we agree to go with captain Gelal on his felouka with the name 'Elizabeth'. He gets totally wild when he learns that is also my name. Elisabeth on the Elizabeth, he keeps shouting.
Captain Gelal Tombs of the noblesThere is a strong breeze (almost always coming from the north while the current goes from south to north) and it feels very good to be on the water, especially in the bright sun. We first tack to the northern point of Elephantine where we can see the tombs of the nobles on the westbank, in the hot desert sand.
Botanical islandOn Kitchener's island we stop to walk around the island. It has made into one big botanic garden, very beautiful but also very expensive: 10 pounds is asked for a cup of tea, more than in any 5-star hotel and for using the dirty and smelling toilet they dare ask one pound. A lady blocks the way out when I come out of the toilet and only pay 50 piaster. She then starts to follow me when I push her aside and walk out. Next time we will have to explain that we have no problems paying for a toilet that is clean, but she doesn't get more money despite her hysterious screaming. We advise her to call the police!
Mausoleum Aga Khan DesertFrom the island we have a nice view over the surrounding islands and the desert on the western bank which sometimes goes all the way up to the river. When there is a band of trees the transition from desert to trees is very sudden.
Climbing a feloukaWhen we walk back to the felouka we see a man climbing the mast of his boat. When he notices that we make a picture he starts shouting for a tip: bakshiesh. Well, we don't think so. They are as bad here as in Luxor, although Teije claims that was quite different in the past.
Ruins on ElephantineSouth of Elephantine we manouver between small islands and treacherous rocks that lie under water and see the ruins of the old temples on Elephantine. Khnoem and Satet were two gods who belonged to this town.
On Elephantine is our next stop, to visit the Aswan museum. We have to hand in our bags but can take our camera's with us. While Teije tells some stories (after all he claims to know something about this stuff) a guard pops in and out rooms to exactly tell us what is written on the signboards on the wall. He and his colleagues get very angry when we don't give him a tip on leaving the building and we have trouble getting our bags back. When we walk to the adjourning building he starts shouting to the guard there, probably saying something nasty about us not paying him. This guard follows us closely but doesn't bother to tell us a thing; what a relieve. But, he is looking sour.
Aswan museumIt is a small and orderly museum with findings from this island that already had a settlement in prehistory. It became more and more important as the southern border of Egypt during history and a major commercial place for trade with dark Africa.
When we are ready in this building we give the guard one pound and explain him this is for letting us look around in peace. He is totally astonished and we are very curious what het later has told his dissatisfied colleague. Maybe we should do this more often, giving tips to people who leave us at peace and not paying those who try to impose themselves.
We have spend hours on the Nile in this small felouka but we are back before we know it. Captain Gelal doesn't make any fuss about his payment and doesn't moan for more bakshiesh. We walk over to the terrace of the Panorama restaurant to have a drink and then we discover how cheap they are: 3 pounds or € 0,40 for a cup of tea and a 7-up. An amiable old man attends to us and addresses us in Dutch! He claims to have learned it from tourists but he speaks it just too well. When we talk some more he also claims to know some old colleagues of Teije from 15 years ago.
The Nile, Aswan The Nile, AswanWe walk back to the Old Cataract where we continue enjoying the Nile and the total environment. Teije just can't stop taking pictures of all the boats, the rocks, the palmtrees, and the desert in combination with the Nile. And it is indeed very beautiful, this panorama with all those bright and natural colours.
Hotel gardenFrom this terrace we watched the sunset yesterday. Now we walk back to our hotelroom in the New Cataract to see it from there. We have a nice view on Elephantine and the gardens from our balcony at the sixth floor.
Old Cataract hotel ElisabethBut the sun sets just around the corner. We watch the last beams illuminating the Old Cataract hotel before they disappear. The Nile gets a very dark, almost black colour and within 30 minutes it is totally dark.
View from our balconyThe sky at the horizon is coloured red colour by sand and especially at sunrise and at sunset there seems to be a bit more wind. When it gets dark the wind totally dies away. What a fantastic place to be!
We walk again to the Panorama restaurant to have dinner there. On the way we meet Ismael again, an Egyptian who spoke to us on the first night here and with whom we had a nice conversation. He is a laughing old man, always with a big smile on his face, who cycles a bit to keep in good shape and then watches the sunset from a nearby park. After dealing with all those whining and greedy tourist-lurers it is nice to run into him again. We make an appointment to visit him at his home tomorrow morning to have a cup of tea.
The food in Panorama is fairly good and dirt-cheap: € 4 for 5 drinks and two meals. A good spot for the coming nights to have dinner. On the way back to the hotel we meet more good old and new 'friends'. These people just want to talk with us without wanting to sell or rent anything. And that is surely a good thing, otherwise one would get the impression that there are only swindlers walking around here who want to get rich quickly. So we are happy to report not all people are like this! But, unfortunately, most people working in tourism are...and those are exactly the people a tourists walks into most.
Aswan by nightFrom our room and balcony we watch down on the illuminated island of Elephantine, one of the prettiest views in Aswan. Stars twinkle in the darkblue sky and we flee inside when it gets too dark. It is time to update our website and then go to bed. Another fabulous day!


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