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Aswan, a visit to Ismael and the Philae temple

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Sunday 18 January, Aswan, a visit to Ismael and the Philae temple

We have promised Ismael to visit him this morning for a cup of tea and after some searching we find his house in a small alley. A helpful boy drags us along to a small door and shouts something. A bit later he takes us inside and we see a very old lady in black watching us when Ismael comes around a corner and take sus upstairs to a small open room. He gives us some diaries to read where former visitors have written their tale about their visit to Ismael and he goes down to make some tea.
Visiting IsmaelHe loves to talk and has something wise about him. He has clearly thought about a lot of things and has an outspoken opinion, a sort of Egyptian neo-hippie: make love, not war. He clearly dislikes the way Egypt is run now by the present goverment and the corruption that still rules. All those policemen and military, he says, are not ther to protect you but the mighty, the powerful and rich people who are afraid to loose more money when tourists stop to come.
It is in the afternoon when we leave and Elisabeth even had a foot massage. But next time we rather sit outside and talk with him than inside, it felt really cold inside with this weather. But still it has been a good experience to see such a house from the inside.
Then it is time to fulfil our promise to Mohammed, taxidriver with a stand before the Cataract hotel: he may drive us to the dams, to Philae and the unfinished obelisk. Although, haven't we promised the same trip to do with Ramadan, another cabdriver? We get the same talents in promising things as the Egyptians have and with the same ease we break the promises.
Philae temple Philae templeAt Philae we have a fight with a captain who wants 2 euro per person for the 10-minute crossing to the island where the Philae temple stands. They should include the boattrip in the ticket but since that isn't the case and one needs to take a boat to visit the temple it is a paradise for people who have a boat here. In the end we pay less and within a few minutes we walk through the big Isistemple and the many smaller buildings which all are of quite 'recent' date.
Philae templeA few buildings have even been build by Roman emperors who tried to feel like a pharaoh and thus, a god. Very remarkable in Philae are the reliefs: they are just coming a bit more from the the wall, like three dimensional, than in older Egyptian temples. But they have tried to be as authentic as possible in the schematics of the buildings and in the stories that are told on the walls.
Philae templeAfter the completion of the old Aswandam (1902) Philae was flooded partially for a great part of the year. With the completion of the new Aswandam even more temples would disappear under water and Unesco started a rescue project to reallocate the most important ones. Philae became part of this project since it is a very fine temple. It took five years to cut all the buildings in pieces and construct it again on another, higher island.
The dams themselves were miracles of technique at the time they were build and we see them from some distance, as the Russian-Egyptian monument near the High Dam. We don't find them interesting enough to spend too much time on them.
Desert at Aswan Aswan granite mineWhen we drive to the unfinished obelisk we cross a small section of rock desert but not much. I still remember how I had to walk the few kilometers from Aswan through a bare desert in 1982, now the whole area belongs to the city.
The unfinished obeliskEven of the immense granite quarry almost nothing is left. It was already in use at 3000 BC. Now there are buildings on all sides and the last granite is still being mined. On the picture the unfinished obelisk for an unknown pharaoh. During the cutting of the 42.5 meters long stone it cracked and they stopped cutting it out. Otherwise it would have been the largest obelisk of Egypt. In what is left of the mine we see numerous tracks of cuts to get smaller pieces of stone.
AswanOur driver makes a detour through the southern districts of Aswan and brings us to a spot from where we have a nice view on the city and Elephantine. I am still amazed about the size Aswan has gotten now, a very fast growth in such a short time. It takes a way the old charm a bit. Nevertheless, the centre still feels like the old town.
The Nile, AswanObviously, Mohammed wants extra bakshiesh while we already pay him more than the normal price, so he doesn't get his tip. Considering his body-size he gets enough food. We park ourselves again on the Old Cataract terrace to watch the Nile for a few hours. We could sit here for days, maybe even weeks, without getting bored. Real beauty never gets boring... at least, when the temperature is right, like now with 25 degrees Celsius.
Restaurant Panorama, AswanAt night we have a nutritious dinner in our favourite restaurant along the Nile, Panorama. We get enough vegetables this holiday, more than at home.
When we walk back to the hotel, we try another way to scare the touristticers off: 5 pounds for a carriage? No, that is too cheap, you shouldn't sell your carriage! Or, to a cabdriver: no, I am a cabdriver myself, so I don't need a taxi. We feel quite tired today and this way we don't feel irritated by all the persisting people who want to sell or rent something.
Very early we go to our room to rest. I love Egypt and everything that has to do with it, but today I have symptoms of temple-fatigue and no patience for the tiring Egyptians who impose themselves. I need a good night sleep and then we start afresh tomorrow morning.


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