Friday, July 31, 2009

A day in the life of an "expensive"

Last night we created a rainforest in the hotel room. The hot water wouldnt shut off, and it steamed up the entire room until one of the hotel guys came to turn off the hot water. Thank goodness for AC. The room got down to 28 overnight.

We woke up at 3AM to meet our car and driver that we hired to go to Abu Simbel. This is a temple in a town that is 40km from the Sudanese border. There are two scheduled times for convoys to pass all together on the road. There are many military checkpoints to get through, but mostly a long long desert highway. We were in an air conditioned limousine car (which we have decided means a car that has furry curtains and seat covers). It was comfortable, and we dozed most of the way there. Our driver kept trying to go really fast though, and his car was outfitted with a speed controller, or alarm, so when he hit a certain speed it would beep. He used headlights for some of the way, but mostly to flash at oncoming traffic. There is a different road code here. It seems sensible for them to drive on the wrong side of the road even on blind corners that are labeled in English and Arabic "Dangerous curve".

We arrived at Abu Simbel at 7AM and met our guide (or so we thought). We actually met the man that would take us from the car to the ticket gate to meet our guide. It's quite a life being an "expensive". Our guide's name was Tiger. He spoke English, but sounded like he practiced the entire speech nightly with a tape recorder. He is not even in the running to be named "guidey". He walked us by Lake Nasser, the largest man made lake in the world, and told us about the middle deep and the middle wide of the lake. He pointed out that the Nubian people who had lived along the banks of the Nile were displaced after the lake was created. They were not pleased about having to move to the desert. He sat us down and explained, with pictures, what we would be looking at within the temples. That was a good technique, since the tour guides are not allowed to explain things inside the temples themselves.

We saw many big Ramses statues, and inside, lots of wall reliefs depicting events in his life, or how he thinks he's a god. There may be the first attempt at animation shown on one of the wall carvings. The temple is unfinished, because Ramses died (a very old man, in his 90s), so they didn't continue. We were asked to look for Ramses with the god of fertility......who has "a magic stick" protruding from his loins.

The most impressive thing about these two temples was to realize that they had both been cut up into blocks of 1-3 tonnes and moved from the mountain face, up away from the water. They were reassembled, and a fake mountain was built around them. The temple was even realigned so that the sun entered and shone on the "holiest of holies" in the temple on almost the same day as before (Feb 22 and Oct 22).

We went in the temple that was dedicated to Nefertari (his favourite of of 86 wives). She is depicted with him on the temple facade, and she is the same height as he is. This is rare. There are however only 2 of her image, and 4 of his. So, we get the impression that he was a bit conceited.

Inside the temple we were shown the female goddess of fertility....she is depicted as a cow in a heavenly boat among lotus flowers.

It was sweltering at 7AM. We had had enough by 8:45 and were waiting for our car. On the long drive back we were glad of the AC. We saw mirages everywhere we looked. Quite an astounding sight. I hope my pictures turned out--the driver was surpassing his speed control while I was trying to photograph.

We returned, and had lunch (do not ever order anything called yoghoort, it looks like warm vomit on a plate). We decided that we want a decent evening meal, so we are taking up the offer of a new friend, Captain Hamada, our friendly neighbourhood felucca captain that took us for a ride yesterday for sunset. He's going to cook us fish on his boat tonight. His brother Ali and he live on the boat, and are quite the pair. We are bound to have a memorable evening as we felucca around Elephantine island--maybe we will even see Elephants?

The heat is getting to us, and we still need to catch up on sleep. Next post will hopefully be more sensible. We board the tour boat tomorrow, so it might be a while until we are using the internet--the life of the expensives is a taxing one!


  1. Hang in there... Your observations are priceless, and you will remember the sound and smells, AND tastes as you read these diaries in the future. What a great experience! Thanks for sharing them. T.

  2. anne michaels' new book 'the winter vault' is narrated by the engineer who supposedly oversees this shift in the temple at abu simbel from its old location to the new one. supposedly in 1964. only the beginning takes place there/talks about it but its a really cool i find it extremely cool that you visited in person where im journeying through words. and i must say im just a little jealous.