In less than two hours by air from Cairo International Airport to Abu Simbel, tourists can see a part of Egypt and the interior of Africa that took the Pharaohs years to traverse. The Egyptair jet basically follows a path along the Nile River to a growing area on beautiful and remote Lake Nasser. No antiquities have been found farther south.
Two magnificent temples were constructed more than 3000 years ago from solid rock along the Nile River by Pharaoh Ramses II. These sacred shrines are located quite a distance south of Aswan on the west bank of the river in what was once the land of Nubia. One temple in this holy place is built in such a way that twice each year, on the 22nd of February and the 22nd of October, the first rays of the morning sun illuminate completely through to the back wall of the shrine where the statues of four seated gods are carved into the wall.
A phenomenal aspect of the temples of Abu Simbel is their modern location and how that occurred. As the Aswan High Dam was being built during the 1960’s, it became apparent that the rising water would surely damage or destroy the sacred temples. Therefore, the Egyptian Government, with the help of UNESCO, dismantled each temple and rebuilt them with perfection 200 feet higher on the cliff, overlooking the rising waters of Lake Nasser.
Being so close to Lake Nasser became a major distraction during the short time that I was in Abu Simbel. I knew what was swimming close to where I stood. Consequently, I spent little time looking at the temples. Instead, I grabbed my small pack rod and reel and a few lures, paid the local Egyptian guard to allow me access to the banks of the lake, and set off to catch two fish that were still on my “Bucket List”…Nile Perch and Tigerfish!
Aware that I had no more than an hour to cast, I practically ran to the waters edge and began rigging the tiny Doug Hannon Wave Spin with one of my own Swirleybird spinners. Within minutes, I was fast into a Nile Perch that would have probably weighed more than 10 pounds, but he pulled lose from my hook. In the next half hour, I must have hooked another dozen fish that I promptly lost. Out of frustration, I reluctantly changed to a Little Cleo spoon. My next fish was hooked solid, and I was able to eliminate Tigerfish from my want list!
Soon I was back on a flight to Aswan to begin an exciting and picturesque journey down the historic Nile River toward Luxor on the the TuYa. This luxurious ship is quite similar to many of the “floating hotels” that constantly cruise the fertile Nile River allowing guests to live in comfort as they travel from shrine to shrine.
Before actually leaving the docks at Aswan, however, we were treated to a side trip to the magnificent Philae Temple that was lovingly relocated to an island between the High Dam and the original British Dam. The Temple was initially built on Philae Island, which would have been underwater part of the time. So, during the 1970’s, the Philae monuments were moved to Agilkia Island, northwest of Philae Island. Since some waters had already engulfed the monuments at Philae, a coffer dam had to be built around the island, and the water pumped out. This work began in 1972 and was finished in 1980 as a cooperative effort of UNESCO and the Egyptian Antiquity Organization. The resulting site is one of the most breathtaking of the antiquities today!
After a delicious meal and a good night’s sleep, our northward cruise down the Nile River began with many memorable stops along the way. We first docked and explored Kom Ombo. Located about 28 miles north of Aswan, the Temple dates to the Ptolemies and is built on a high dune overlooking the Nile.
Our next port of call was at Edfu, which is famous for the Temple of Horus, one of my favorite temples in Egypt. This shrine was erected in the image of the falcon headed god during the reigns of six Ptolemies from 237 BC to 57 BC. This is not only the best preserved ancient temple in Egypt, but the second largest after Karnak. The temple is said to have been built on the site of the great battle between Horus and his brother, Seth.
Farther downstream, we found the Egyptian village of Esna, which is the site of a major temple dedicated to the god, Khnum. The temple stands in the middle of the modern town at a level about nine meters below that of the surrounding grounds. This is believed to be one of the last temples built by the ancient Egyptians.
The last stop was at Luxor, which included side trips to the Valley of the Kings and the Temple at Karnak. This was certainly the Grand Finale before flying back to Cairo and on to New York and home! Nothing could ever prepare anyone for the overwhelming intake of information about this historic civilization that is packed into a 24 hour, fast-paced journey through these meticulously restored and kept temples and tombs! One’s senses are simple overpowered with the beauty and intricacy of the ancient artisans who created this ancient culture.
In addition to the phenomenal history lesson that I had always dreamed of seeing, I found most of the Egyptian people to be extremely friendly and helpful, despite the fact that almost all of them expect tips for practically everything! Nevertheless, it was refreshing to engage with them when shopping. Nothing has a stated price, and haggling is both expected and relished by buyer and seller.
Simply viewing the ever-changing panorama, passing traditional Feluccas under sail, and absorbing past and present civilizations from the top deck of the Nile River cruise ship was well worth the trip. For me personally, however, catching a Tigerfish in Lake Nasser was the ultimate, and now I have a new dream. I want to return to Egypt for a two-week canoe-camping trip on the 350 mile-long impoundment that is Lake Nasser with my new friend, Mohamed, from the Egyptian Tourism Office, to explore, catch lots of Tigerfish, and complete my fish list with a Nile Perch!