The…Venice of Egypt? What?
Wrapping up the trip I was on
last week [soooo I started this draft a long time ago and let it languish. I sorry].
After our glorious breakfast and exhilarating truck ride, we arrived in Aswan, where a friend of May’s had planned a full day of touring and delightfulness. I don’t really understand why he decided to organize this and pay for ALL of us to do it (he flatly refused any reimbursement, and there were four of us, man, it comes to a lot of money), but it was very kind of him.
We started at the High Dam in Aswan. I believe I mentioned that one of my companions is Nubian; she told us the story of the displacement of the Nubian people who lived on the banks of this part of the Nile when the time came to change the course of the river. First, a wave of people were moved to the desert. Their traditional way of life was in no way adapted to desert conditions; many died. So the second wave of people who were asked to move refused.
The government opened the dam and drowned them.
The third wave went where they were told. May says the displaced communities are seeking the return of their lands, or at least some sort of redistribution that will put them back near the Nile. Remains to be seen whether anything of the sort will actually happen.
Sooooo, after that sobering story, we were presented with the vista of Lake Nasser, the biggest artificial lake in the world:
Seriously, y’all, this thing is biiiig.
After that, we headed over to the Soviet-Egyptian Friendship Monument, which has gushy statements from Stalin and from Gamal Abd el Nasser in each other’s languages written all over it and is surrounded by a quite nice garden and a fittingly dry fountain.
After that, we got in a little boat and went across to the most gorgeous temple in the middle of Lake Nasser. (They had to move it after they made the lake because it was partially submerged.) This place was stunningly beautiful. It was in the water, like this:
And the place itself looked like this:
I could go on, but this isn’t a photoset.
ANYWAY. I loved this place. After that, we felucca-ed our way along to another island, where we ate “lunch” (it was like 5 or 5:30 pm, the whole schedule got pushed back because it took us so long to get from the hinterland into Aswan) annnnnd I held a baby crocodile. I drew the line when the guy wanted to hang it around my shoulders, though.
The thing was, my Dutch companion and I were supposed to be on the 7 o clock train back to Cairo (the rest were staying). So we ended up getting felucca-ed back to the main part of town, and even THAT was gorgeous, and then we took a taxi to the train station. The dude who was driving the felucca was instructed (and, I feel certain, very well compensated) by our host to see us all the way onto the train and make sure we got off okay, and this he did. He even insisted on carrying our bags onto the train, and then when I tried to tip him he wouldn’t take it. This is why I say VERY well compensated.
After that, the porter dude whose job it actually IS to carry the bags on hung around us, waiting for his customary baksheesh (tip/bribe). I got really pissed off and yelled “WHAT DID YOU EVEN DO” at him in Arabic, and he looked really sheepish and I gave him two guinea to get rid of him.
In retrospect I feel sort of bad. Most people who even have jobs here don’t make anywhere near enough to live on, and they legitimately need baksheesh money. Government jobs pay, like, maybe a couple hundred dollars a month. I don’t think he felt any better about what he was doing than I did. But still, I mean, come ON.
Anyway, we sleeper train-ed our way back to Cairo and even though I was completely exhausted, I was SO GLAD to be back. That was the moment when I realized I feel at home here now.