Monday, December 4, 2017

Egypt: Where Enchanting and Exotic Meet

There is something about the plane landing after dark in Egypt where the vast stretches of darkened desert provide a backdrop to the exotic feel of the adventure. It has a lonely sort of mysterious feel about it; there's no doubt you are leaving your comfort zone behind.

Our plane taxied to a stop some distance from the terminal - even though it appeared to be the only on that had landed in some time - and we traveled the last few hundred meters on a bus.

We were definitely excited but were feeling bit disorientated and vulnerable as we made our way through the empty arrivals area -- following a man we'd just met -- to collect our bags and have them checked through customs. He was also the one who would get us to our hotel.

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Boats on the Nile in the evening's light - Aswan
Such was our arrival in Aswan, Egypt.

(And I have to admit we’d arranged transportation with our hotel so that man we were following was their representative. Well worth the $45US we spent for that service as it was a bit more complex than we'd been led to expect.)

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Sunset on The Nile - Aswan, Egypt
He led us to a van parked some distance from the terminal building and then joined us and the van's driver for the trip to the hotel. After we'd traveled some distance along more darkened expansive desert we noticed traffic slowing to a stop for armed guards ahead of us. They were looking into vehicles and opening trunks. He explained this was being done because our route into town led us across the Nile River and we were about to cross the old Aswan Dam.

A darkened desert. . .armed guards. . .Aswan Dam! Nile River! It all added to the mystery and the out-of-the-ordinary feel of this travel adventure. We were definitely back in Egypt, one of our favorite travel destinations.

This time though we were spreading our wings beyond Cairo’s 'comfort zone.'  This trip we are spending most of our time in Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city. . .in the land of the Nubians.

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Land of the Nubians

The Nubian region stretches from southern Egypt into Sudan. It is believed the first Nubian civilization was in this area now known as Aswan as long as 5000 years B.C. With so much history here, there are plenty of museums and archeological sites to keep us busy. Not to mention two islands to visit, the Nile upon which we plan to spend some time and of course, who could come to Egypt and not shop in their enchanting souks?

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Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
One thing that drew us to this city was our desire to stay in the Old Cataract Hotel. It had a large role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.  Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, the old hotel as well as its ‘new wing’ built in 1961 underwent a major renovation in 2008 and reopened in 2011. We are in one of the 76 rooms (along with 45 suites) that are in what was the original hotel, now called the Palace Wing.

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Lobby area Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
I’ve struggled to describe this place as the words, 'old world charm', 'exotic', 'elegant' and 'magical' are so cliché sounding but sometimes those are the only words that work to describe a place like this. It is simply enchanting and staff members dote on guests. It's as though we've re-entered that golden age of travel for which Cook originally built the place.

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Our room - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We splurged a bit booking a room with a view of the Nile River, although the garden view rooms have beautiful views as well.  But when in Egypt, and staying at this hotel in particular, it seemed we really should be viewing the Nile River. . .and do we ever!

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Our room with a view - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We lucked out and also are directly across the Ruins of Abu on Elephantine Island. That settlement dates back some 3,000 years BC.

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Ruins of Abu - Elephantine Island Aswan, Egypt
While it is difficult to pull ourselves off our deck and the amazing show created by the every-day activities on the river, we have visited the souk (or should I say, 'run the gauntlet' of the souk) and have been out on The Nile. Today we had an adventure when we set off to explore the Nubian villages on Elephantine Island on our own and ended up on a guided tour led by the self-proclaimed mayor of the village. A memorable experience but one we agreed most of our friends would not have enjoyed.

I'd hoped to have some Agatha Christie mojo rub off on me but with so much I want to tell you about this place, I am feeling more like Scheherazade  – so be prepared. I don't have 1,001 tales for you but I've got many more coming from this enchanting Land of the Nubians.

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Old Cataract Hotel Gardens and entry - Aswan, Egypt
Following last week's post, a number of you've sent wishes for a safe trip and others flat out expressed concerns for our safety in Egypt. And we thank you who took the time to write or comment for caring about us. What saddens us is that a group of terrorists can so negatively impact tourism in this country and keep so many travelers away.

We have been traveling on our own and have wondered through Aswan’s souks, along its main roads, and through Nubian villages -- and never once have we felt unsafe or threatened. In fact, just the opposite - we've been warmly welcomed. We’ve been thanked for visiting. People are geniunely flattered that we like their city. 

We've barely touched the surface - and we'll definitely be back!

That’s it for this week from Egypt.  Safe travels to you and yours and thanks for being with us. We hope you'll be back next week  ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel InspirationBest of Weekend

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for the inside story. What an adventure!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Just keep expecting Agatha Christie to be strolling down the hall any time. . .

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  2. Egypt is endlessly fascinating; I've also been there a number of times, including just after a terrorist attack. Staying home doesn't particularly keep you safer (there have been terrorist attacks in lots of Western countries too), and it hurts the country you're avoiding, which is just what the terrorists want! Anyway, enjoy!

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    1. Rachel you've said it well: "Egypt is endlessly fascinating. . ." I can see why you'd visit a number of times. We are still here and talking about where we will expand our travels to on our next visit. I agree that avoiding a place only further feeds the negative forces trying to destroy a place.

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  3. You bring back such memories Jackie. We visited Egypt just two weeks after the horrendous terrorist attack at the Valley of the Kings in November 2007. Our travel agent called and asked if we wanted to cancel, and I said, no thanks, I was sure there would be enhanced security in the aftermath.

    We also started our trip in Aswan. When we arrived, there were only 3 or 4 families staying at the hotel, so we got extra attention, they were so grateful that we were there. When we ventured outside the hotel a carriage driver met us with tears in his eyes, we were his first customers for two weeks. He took us everywhere, refused to take payment, and gave us us lots of advice.

    The Nubians are such lovely, gentle and friendly people, and we were so well looked after. And we had such sympathy for the disastrous consequences such attacks have on the livelihood of the people.

    When the time came for our cruise to Luxor, we were not placed on one of the huge 2000-people cruisers, which were all moored to the river bank, but on a luxury 34-person yacht, but there were only 7 of us aboard, with about 60 crew to look after us. We had a ball, and they pulled out all the stops to give us a good time. When we went ashore to visit the temples and other sites, there were not the usual crowds, the seven of us and the archaeologist guide were on our own to enjoy and see everything so clearly.

    Enjoy the rest of the trip, and I look forward to yhour sharing it with us.

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    1. Rob what a lovely comment you added and it helps enforce what we have been feeling ever since we arrived. The impact of the terrorists continues to be felt, as the hotel isn't anywhere near capacity (from our observations) and the felucca, carriage and taxi businessmen vie for our attention and pounds. The warmth of welcome we've received here has topped any welcome we've had in our years of travel. I want to hug everyone goodbye and assure them I will be back as I hope will other tourists. Thanks for sharing such a touching experience with us.

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  4. You are the second friend to have visited Aswan recently. :-) What a magical place. I especially love your nighttime photo. Swoon. :-)

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    1. It is so lovely and so enchanting that it had me going through the dictionary to find words to describe it and I am still struggling to give it the due it deserves. Lovely people, stunning history and amazing landscapes and The Nile River - a perfect getaway!

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  5. Did you see the Unfinished Obelisk. I remember it being one of the highlights of our few days in Aswan, along with the Old Cataract Hotel and Elephantine Island of course.

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    1. We didn't get to the unfinished Obelisk - sigh - we spent the better part of today in the Nubian Museum which is a gem among museums! And yes, Elephantine Island was a treat and I really could ensconce myself in this Old Cataract Hotel and at least pretend to write some great piece of literature!

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  6. Wonderful account of a fascinating locale...looking forward to the next post. The Cataract Hotel is a memorable place to hang your hat; we enjoyed the Perla Palace in Istanbul, where Agatha wrote “Murder on the Orient Express.”

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    1. Oh Emily, I am so envious of your stay at the Perla Palace in Istanbul. We've been in it but have yet to stay there. Agatha certainly stayed in some great places, didn't she? (And I loved Murder on the Orient Express!) Hope you'll be back and comment often!

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  7. You've done a beautiful job of conveying the exotic mystery (and a little of a traveler's apprehension) of entering nighttime Aswan. I also loved your photos and your description of the Old Cataract Hotel making you feel like you'd "reentered the golden age for travel." What a journey and I'm looking forward to more posts of your time in Aswan!

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    1. Anita, I do hope you two are still considering Egypt as a destination as you would absolutely love it here. And Aswan has simply blown us away with hospitality, attractions, food and accommodations. We heartily recommend this as one of your destinations!

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  8. I went to Aswan many years ago. It was the terminal of a cruise we took from Luxor. We didn't see a lot of the city since we choose to do a day trip to Abu Simbel. I have great memories from my time in Egypt. #TPThursday

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    1. Ruth, glad you enjoyed Egypt. It is one of our favorite places! Thanks for stopping by today!

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  9. I have long wanted to visit Egypt, so I really enjoyed reading about your adventure. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures...I am moving Egypt higher on my Bucket List!

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    1. Oh Marilyn you would love Egypt - the people are so warm and welcoming! Glad its moved up on your bucket list!

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  10. Arriving to any unfamiliar place after dark can be a bit unnerving. I am excited to see more.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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