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After arriving on the overnight train, we were met at the train station by a driver for our trip to Philae Temple, the Temple of Isis. This was our first real temple of the trip, and it was very impressive (not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The temple sits on an island in the lake behind the Aswan Low Dam. As a result, you need to take a brief boat ride to reach it. Originally, Philae was 500 meters away, but the temple was moved block-by-block in the 1960s to preserve it.
My mother-in-law was in awe of the place, which was the case with most sites we visited. She was particularly engrossed with the ornate capitals on the columns that line the sides of the temple.
We were all more impressed than we anticipated by the clarity of the enormous carvings, hieroglyphics, and other figures that were over 2000 years old. Philae temple was taken over by Christians around the 6th century, so some of the Egyptian figures had been scratched out. There was also a cross clearly visible on what became the Christian alter in the heart of the temple.
After our temple visit, we checked in at the Isis Corniche Aswan, had lunch, and did a little swimming to try to keep cool in the 115 degree heat. It was so hot that we were all on the verge of spontaneous combustion. The hotel was mostly empty (a theme with our trip), and it was great to have the pool mostly to ourselves. The rooms are set up as individual bungalows, and they were cool and comfortable with large bathrooms. And being ON the River Nile didn’t hurt either.
In the late afternoon, we took a felucca ride on the Nile to a cafe for some tea. They drink mint tea here like they do all across the Middle East. We LOVE it! The felucca is a traditional Egyptian boat similar to what most people would think of as a sailboat. Some of them are large enough to accommodate groups overnight.
After the felucca trip, we headed by another boat to West Aswan, a Nubian community of about 25,000 across the river from the city. Many of the people there live in less-than-ideal conditions with dirt floors and parts of their homes not having a roof. Interestingly, most people still had cable. We were fortunate to have dinner with a family in their home, which entailed removing our shoes and sitting on a large carpet in the front of the home.
We saw their bread oven, which was very similar to ovens in Peru, and indulged in a delicious dinner consisting of bread, rice, lentil soup, fried fish, grilled chicken, an okra and tomato dish (HEAVENLY) and potatoes with tomatoes. It was our only real taste of how typical people there live, and we were grateful for the experience.