We arrived three hours late in Aswan much to our dismay. Yousef put us in touch with someone in Awan who said he could show us around, David. He was a fellow Couchsurfing Host who was already showing another surfer around for the day. He said he would pick us up at the train station and we’d spend the day touring Aswan. Aswan is most known for Philae Temple. It is also home of High Dam on the Nile River which I gather the people of Aswan are very proud of.
We stepped off the train assuming David, our guide, would no longer be waiting for us. I had not been on wifi since we left Yousef’s. My last point of contact was letting him know we’d gotten tickets and would be arrived at 8:50 am. Andrew and I discussed finding a guide at the train station or venturing out to see the sites of Aswan on our own. We decided we would see what the guides had to offer, and if we didn’t like them we would try and maneuver Aswan on our own.
We turned the corner to leave the station platform and enter the building and David was still there waiting! I could not believe it. I felt such relief and a knot I had not realized I was holding in my stomach released. We were not going to have to figure out Aswan on our own. Not only that, but my faith in humanity had been restored. I’m not lying when I say that I would not have been at the train station three hours later if the shoes had been on the other foot.
Visiting Aswan High Dam
David is a kind man with a great family. His English was wonderful, and he asked us to please correct him if he used the wrong terminology or word. David and his wife have been studying English to try and migrate to Australia. Australia could only be so lucky to welcome a person like David. He is funny, personable, and welcoming.
First David drove us to Aswan High Dam. The dam reminded me of Wilson Dam in Florence , but seemed smaller. On one side of the dam is the Nile and the other is Nasser Lake. There is a large structure built as a symbol of friendship between Russia and Egypt. To get to the dam we passed a few large vans parked on the side of the road with military men holding guns nearby. David said he had to go slowly past the vans. There were x-ray machines inside of them.
I personally think the coolest part of the dam is a giant Egyptian Russian Friendship Monument. It is in shape of a lotus flower. When it was constructed there was water filling in the pool around it. We could see the monument from miles away. Upon our arrival I was truly floored with just how large it was. The construction was gorgeous and flawless. It is sad that there is no water in it any more, but the grandeur of it still remains.
Our Tour of Aswan Continues
We wrapped up our trip to the dam and David drove us a few minutes to his house. His lovely wife was home and offered us biscuits (cookies) and large glasses of cold water. Their home was cozy. The tv played a Christian ministry conference in Arabic. We had a few minutes to chat, his children came in to meet us, and then we packed up and left. Our plan to meet Vera (his current couchsurfer) at the little marina near his house went awry when she did not have her swimwear. David drove her back to his place to change while we waited. We were taking a boat down the Nile to a Nubian Village so we could swim.
When David told me of his plans for showing us around for the day they did not include Philae Temple. I was a bit bummed, and not at all interested in swimming in the Nile. I thought it was a dirty river filled with trash and I would certainly catch a disease or parasite from the water. We boarded the boat. We had it all to ourselves. David had a friend join us and the captain of the boat was very smiley and kind. We set off at a slow speed through beautiful scenery. The river was clear and gorgeous. There were a lot of plants and greenery in the water which allowed for birds to land and search for food.
We continued down the Nile about 20 minutes and could see a huge yellow colored sand mountain. At the base of the mountain was a gorgeous beach covered in Nubian villagers hawking their goods and wares. People were riding camels and boats lined the shoreline. We jumped out of the boat in to the very cool Nile. With the heat of the day wearing us down the chill of the water was welcomed, but gave us all goosebumps. The riverbed was yellow sand and I could see my toes through the deep water. The riverbed dropped dramatically spilling you out in to the swift current if you were not careful of your surroundings.
David’s friend jumped from the roof of the boat, and Nubian children swam farther out in to the river. We played and talked and got to know one another. The cool water keeping our spirits high as the afternoon heat scorched.
When we’d had enough of swimming we hopped back on the boat a headed a little farther down to the hillside where colorful houses dotted the yellow terrain. We docked the boat and walked up a steep set of stairs to enter the Nubian Village. Children offered us necklaces and other things to buy as we climbed the colorful stairs. David took us to a Nubian household. Along the way we passed various shops selling spices, jewelry, and art.
The Nubian household was large and colorful. We were not the only tourists there. There was ample seating around what seemed to be a communal gathering room. Along the outer edges of the large and open room were bedrooms, a kitchen, and a smaller indoor living space. We had mint tea and relaxed. They also had a crocodile in a cage inside this large room, and three small ones in a tank. I understand why they have them for tourist purposes and for show, but they were not given enough space to stretch their long tails out or even walk.
The tea and drinks were complimentary, so I looked for something to purchase to show gratitude for them inviting us in to their home. David said they were offering to do henna tattoos so I decided to get one! I have always wanted to have henna art done on my hands and feet, but have never gotten the chance, or the cost is too high for me to justify. I picked out a floral design and she went to work. Two minutes later the woman was done decorating my hand and I had to keep still to let it dry.
Camels are the main form of transport in this village!
We headed back to the boat after saying hello to Asher the camel and witnessing some tourists riding their camels to and from the river beach we had just visited. The sun was starting to set as we made our way back on the boat to the main land. We still had some time before David needed to drop us off at the train station. We went to the train station and David offered to buy our tickets for us to Luxor. He tried talking us in to staying in Aswan since we did not get to spend enough time seeing everything.
Our Day Ends
David purchased us second class tickets on the train for Luxor that night. Foreigners aren’t allowed to buy these tickets at the window. (I’ll explain more in a post about Egypt’s rules and differences.) Once we knew we all had tickets David offered to take us to a museum, or show us a few other things. None of us could be bothered, sadly. We were tired from the hot day and swim we had, and we all knew we had a long night ahead of us travelling. David took us back to his house, we cleaned up, and here I will leave you until my next post about our time in Luxor.