The Orton's on the Nile - 2005


Aswan arrival

Well at least with our boat steaming all night long we were not kept awake by the crashing of the Nile on the hull and there was surprisingly little engine noise. Compare this to the horrendous constant thumping of North Sea ferries, where even in the loudest disco there is a background beat of engines and it meant we had a good night sleep. Just as well, off again at 0600 hours for a gander at e.

Philae is one of the many island locations where they built even more temples and this was to have been an early victim of flooding with the coming of modern engineering. Some of the smaller islands had already started to sink beneath the Nile due to natural flooding and erosion so it could only get worse when the British colonial authorities decided the Nile needed a damn to control flooding.

However, despite all the bad press colonialism receives the Brits went to considerable lengths to protect the best temples and raise them up above the new water level and restore them to a safe location for prosperity. The way to these islands and the main attraction Philae was via a small launch that looked like a cross between a river taxi and the 'African Queen'. Navigating these boats were the usual crazy Egyptians who have no care for themselves or passengers safety.

Like the cruise ships they parked up alongside each other; however these were in an uncoordinated mess stretching half way to the islands. We had been told by our guide we had now reached the land of the Nubians and that here they did not haggle like the rob dogs further north, but asked a fair price and provided reasonable quality. He then invited us to join him on the 'fine boat' he had selected for us to cross over in. It may well have been fine, but it was quite treacherous getting to it as you were never sure whether the boat you were crossing was suddenly going to pull off or be pushed violently to one side as another crashed into the side parking up.

More by luck than judgement we all arrived safely and so did our local Nubian salesman who true to description had some fair local crated jewellery and beadwork and prices that left no need to haggle. Our 'captain' pulled on the outboard motor and it coughed out dark clouds of fumes and died – three times. A few choice Arabic curses and a thump with a large wrench and it spluttered into life pushing us through the tangled mess of boats out into the open water leaving a smoke screen behind that RN radar would have trouble penetrating. Our Brummie gave voice to my and I'm sure everyone else's too: "If this be one of the best I'm glad I aye on the wust un".

Well I thought at long last I might get chance for my insect repellent sun oil and anti malaria pills to be put to the test - the place must surely be crawling with malaria carrying mosquitoes. So far the only sign of insect life we had seen was some stray beetles that occasionally whacked into the side of the ship before fluttering off again. They were quite large so may have been the scarab's the Egyptians found so important.

By lying low over the side of the boat we managed to get enough fresh air to breath as we spluttered our way towards the mess of boats at the far quayside. Mohamed shouted a warning that we should mind our backs and with all the grace of a demented short sighted lady drunken bumping car driver, our helmsman crashed into the centre mass and with a final splutter and black cloud of smoke we had arrived. We did not need much prompting to get ashore. Mohamed had the cheek to ask them to wait for us!!!! Fortunately by the time we returned he had not been able to get the engine started after it had caught fire and we had to go back on what proved to be a similar crazy crewed boat but with a pollution free outboard.

Try as I might I could not see any damn mosquitoes to test my anti-bug stuff on, but then again we soon forgot about that at the sight of yet another set of three impressive temples. The smallest temple, being dedicated to the music goddess (who was also in charge of the goodtime girls) so of course the damn early Christians hacked away all the erotic art forms there. In fact most of these islands had graffiti carvings or defacing damage as they were a natural landing place for many an army including the relief force for Khartoum. There were official monuments carved into the side of the temple listing the men who died on the way down river and then there were an amazing amount of unofficial: 'Giuseppe was here' or 'Powerful Pierre 1807'. Awful lot of Italian, German and French explorers laying claim to temples and minor bits of chiselling away by the rank and file.

The main temple was astounding as usual; it is difficult to stop being impressed even with the cramming in of so many temple visits into such a short period of time. Once again there was major defacing of the carvings by early Church and there and then I could have thrown some of those Christians to the lions myself. They even had the cheek to use the temples as churches and had carved Coptic crosses in the doorways. Nothing against Christians as such, but there does appear to be no sense to the destruction.

Only criticism of this trip was inside the temples it was really too dark to see paintings and carvings clearly. This did not seem to stop the bats enjoying themselves – maybe they had eaten all my mossies!!! As it happened, like most temples they do a light and sound tour at night too and because we enjoyed the crossing so much we decided to go for it tonight. It was well worth the return trip; Richard Burton and other famous actors/actresses read the parts of the gods and you were lead through the temple in a procession from the courtyard as the Egyptians themselves would have entered to worship. Best yet the lighting lit up all the features clearly that were hidden in shadow during the day. Well worth the extra few quid.

The evening was pretty as much as before: more food and booze, and the shock horror of a 0400 hours wake up call for the trip to Abu Simbel. Who's great idea was that asked Annette? Well actually……

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Copyright 2005 D.J.Orton and A.G.Morris