After a wonderful morning at Abu Simbel, we arrived in Aswan to find that Roger had booked us into the rather decadent Old Cataract Hotel. A beautiful hotel, no doubt, but I just about had a coronary in the lobby when I found out the extent of the damage that our Nile view room would be doing to our bank account. It was a little bittersweet when, to make me feel better, Lloyd pointed out that this was (forthcoming wedding aside) the final hotel bill of our entire World Trip! It was a sad realization but at least we’re going out in style!
Rog wasn’t feeling too good, so – after two consecutive 5am starts - Lloyd and I were tempted to skip our planned evening visit to the Sound and Light show at Philae Temple. To get there, we’d need a taxi AND a boat, and I think we were both discouraged by the prospect of the required negotiations. But we dragged ourselves out nonetheless. It's a very short boat ride to reach Philae - so short in fact that you could probably swim it - but we found ourselves in the midst of a throng of hard neogiations despite the fact that there were less than ten passengers and more than thirty boats.
And then a strange thing happened. The ten of us customers slowly came together as one group in an unplanned action that immediately strengthened our negotiating hand. The price per person fell dramatically and we all headed over to the show feeling that - finally - we'd got value for money in Egypt.
The show itself did not disappoint and actually was one of the better Sound and Lights I've been to. Of course the commentary was hokey, with loud booming voices echoing around the ancient structures. But the story was told well and - as part of the show - we were walked around and inside some of the key Philae structures. It was - completely - different at night, with shadows from the spotlights highlighting the very deep and intricate carvings all around. Actually one of my favourite Egypt experiences overall and highly recommended!
The next morning, we hired a driver for half a day and headed past the old 'low' Aswan Dam to the new 'high' Aswan Dam. The old dam was completed in 1902 by the British who wanted to improve irrigation controls for cash crops, but had to be raised twice - from its original 54 metres - before it was decided that a new dam was needed to keep the Nile from flooding. So, the new High Dam was added about four miles upstream, opening in 1970 at a height of 111 metres.
At the west end of the new Aswan Dam is a very large monument called the Lotus Flower celebrating the joint achievement of the Russians and Egyptians who cooperated on the Dam.
With Lloyd speaking Russian, and Roger speaking Arabic, I thought this was a particularly appropriate picture!
More fun, however, was had by Lloyd who teased the 'guard' on duty by pretending to press the elevator button. The ride to the top is closed to the public and - no joking aside - we tried really hard to bribe this guy to let us go up....
After visiting the Aswan Dam and a driver-directed detour to Kalabsha Temple which simply magnified our templed-out state, we headed back to Philae to admire it in the daylight. It's impressive at any time of day, but I have to say that the daylight viewing paled in comparison to our experience the night before.
We also managed to squeeze in a quick stop at the 1000 ton unfinished obelisk which was abandoned when it cracked during extraction. Pity, as this would have been one of the largest obelisks ever constructed if it had been completed. Still, the quarry revealed a tiny glimpse into the construction of many of the wonders we had seen.