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Getting around

Part 5: Edfu, Kom Ombo, Assuan, Abu Simbel

25.12: Munich -> Cairo -> Alexandria
26.12: Alexandria
27.12: Alexandria -> El Alamein -> Siwa
28.12: Siwa
29.12: Siwa -> Marsa Matrouh
30.12: Marsa Matrouh -> Luxor via Alexandria and Cairo
31.12: Luxor
01.01: West Bank -> Nile river -> Luxor
02.01: Abydos, Dendera, Luxor
03.01: Luxor -> Edfu -> Kom Ombo -> Assuan
04.01: Assuan
05.01: Assuan -> Abu Simbel
06.01: Abu Simbel -> Cairo
07.01: Cairo, Sakkara, Memphis
08.01: Cairo -> Munich

03.01: Luxor -> Edfu -> Kom Ombo -> Assuan
Hotel Pyramisa Isis Corniche, Assuan. 42.50 Euro for a nice double room, not too big, with TV, fridge, A/C, phone, furniture (table, chair, cupboard etc.), bathroom with shower. The hotel is between the Corniche and the Nile river and has a number of restaurants, a pool, some shops. Probably four stars, although the quality of the rooms is not four stars. Breakfast included.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day with a very thin clouds cover. Fresh, although in the middle of the day you can walk around without a jacket, especially in the sun.

We leave the hotel a bit after 10am with Joseph and his car, the driver of yesterday. It's about 210km until Assuan, but in practice we'll only arrive in Assuan at 4:30pm, with two breaks in Edfu and Kom Ombo.

To start with, it takes two hours to reach the temple of Edfu, although the distance is only 120km. The road is bad as yesterday, with frequent checkpoints and speed bumps. In addition the road crosses several villages and cities. The main problem is that there is no motorway. It seems that the Egyptian government is not willing to invest money in this region.

When we visit the temple of Edfu (ticket is 50 EGP for an adult, 25 for a child) the temple is quite empty. The bus loads of tourists have left already or are yet to come. The temple is impressive due to the numerous interior rooms with breathtaking carvings on the walls.

After an hour at the temple we walk back to the car. Tourist prices at the cafe next to the temple: 15-20 EGP for an ice cream, almost more expensive than in Germany. Food in Egypt is quite inexpensive for Egyptians, but tourists are charged up to 5 times what an Egyptian pays.

It's 1:35pm when we finally leave for Kom Ombo. Again the distance is only 65km, but it takes one hour and a half to get there. I have to say that Joseph is not exactly the fastest driver, but better having a safe driver than a fast one.

In Kom Ombo we have the temple almost completely for ourselves, because we are there between 3:10pm and 3:40pm, when very few tourists show up. The temple is relatively small, but is in a nice position overlooking the Nile river.

For the remaining 45km to Aswan we need about 50 minutes. This time I pay 550 EGP to Joseph for the trip. Perhaps I'm overpaying, but the trip was fine and the money goes directly to the person providing the service and not to many intermediaries.

After checking in at the hotel, at 5:30pm we walk into town to the Al Masry restaurant. This is an Egyptian restaurant in Assuan, in the centre of the town, not too far from the souk. The food is not bad, but not exceptional either.

After dinner Shirley and the kids spend well over an hour exploring the souk and looking for stuff to buy. We then get back to the hotel.

04.01: Assuan
Hotel Pyramisa Isis Corniche, Assuan.
Weather: same as yesterday. Actually in Assuan it's a bit warmer than in Luxor.

Day spent not doing too much. After breakfast we take a taxi (20 EGP) to the Philae temple. The taxi brings you to the place on the Nile river lake where you take a boat to the island on which the Philae temple is located. The entry ticket to the Philae temple is 50 EGP for adults and 25 EGP for students or children. The boat ticket costs 7 EGP per person, but that is only for the big groups who take a large boat.

Since we are just five we are approached by a guy who offers to bring us with his small boat to the island for 25 EGP each. We initially decline the offer, then realise that no big boat is willing to take us because we are too few. When two more tourists arrive, we negotiate the price down to 20 EGP per person (15 EGP for the two kids together). This includes the return trip. It's still too much, because it's just one km to the island, but there is no other way to get to the island.

We arrive at the Philae island shortly after 12pm. The boatman will pick us up one hour later. The Philae temple is dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis and dates back to the 7th century BC. It's smaller than the Edfu temple, but bigger than the Kom Ombo temple. Quite scenic, also the setting on an island makes it more appealing. Inside the temple there are many rooms with impressive wall carvings.

At 1pm we leave the Philae island and are back at the parking 10 minutes later. We then take a taxi back into town (30 EGP). There, on the corniche, we spot a KFC restaurant, where we have a short lunch, or let's say try to have a short lunch. The service in this KFC is slowish and we end up spending too much time there.

At 2:40pm we leave the KFC restaurant and walk along the Corniche looking for the ferry to get on the other side of the river where the tombs of Nobles are.

Never mind that we are stopped and bothered by all kinds of people who try to get us on their horse carts, taxis, feluccas etc. or who try to sell us stuff which we don't need, and who are very stubborn and persistent and just don't give up even after the fifth 'no'.

It takes a while to find the place from which the ferry boat leaves. When we finally reach it, we are approached by a stubborn local who wants 25 EGP/person just to bring us on the other side of the river. As a comparison the ferry boat in Luxor charges 1 EGP per person to bring people on the other side of the river.

We try to get rid of this weird individual, but he refuses to get lost. Also there are no boatsmen at the boats, except for the weirdo and a boatman. The weirdo claims he is the manager of all the boats. At this point I regret not to have accepted the 25 EGP offer of a transfer on a felucca on the other side.

Some angry discussion. In the end we settle on 50 EGP for all of us and they will bring us back after an hour or so. Still way too much, but there is no other way to cross the river.

So at 3:20pm we are on the other side, very close to the tombs of the Nobles. The entry ticket costs 30 EGP for adults and 15 EGP for children. The Tombs of the Nobles are on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Nile river. There are a number of tombs of which only a few can be visited. A staircase leads up to the top of the rocky outcrop.

There some staff not wearing uniforms checks your tickets. I wonder if these people are official people of just some local impostors who want to cash in some bakshish (wikitravel warns against such individuals). One of the guys brings me to two tombs which are locked. He has the keys to open them, switches on the lights and shows me the tomb interior.

In these tombs there are wall frescos, very nice, but far less impressive than the decorations in the tombs of the valley of the kings. Some tip for him for being my guide. I continue to the other side and visit two other tombs which are very unimpressive.

In the meantime Shirley has climbed up with the kids on the back of a dromedary. It's shortly after 4pm and we walk down again. We call the boatman and ask him to pick us up.

It's about 4:40pm when we are back at the hotel. Shirley brings the kids back to the room where they have a rest. I wait on the terrace of the cafe for the sunset and shoot some photos of the Nile river.

In the evening we have a dinner at the Salah ed din restaurant on the Corniche (dining area on a floating barge on the Nile river). The food is quite good. We call Ahmed, the taxi driver and arrange that he will pick us up tomorrow at 10:30pm to join the 11am convoy to Abu Simbel. Apparently convoys are still needed between Aswan and Abu Simbel. The price will be 500 EGP.

Later Ahmed will call us and tell us that the price has increased to 550 EGP because we need to pay 50 EGP for the convoy ticket. We decline to pay more than 500 EGP and cancel the trip with Ahmed. Later we find another driver who will do the trip for 500 EGP, police ticket included.

05.01: Assuan -> Abu Simbel
Eskaleh Eco Lodge, Abu Simbel. 60 Euro for a room built in traditional Nubian style, with A/C and an attached bath. Breakfast included, no heating. Very basic, no TV, not even a phone, some old and broken furniture. Oldish toilet, built with cheap materials. This place was set up in 2005, but looks as if it was 30 years old. Strong smell like foul water or shit around the toilet. Flies and mosquitoes in the room.
At 60 Euro/night this place is way overpriced, but the alternatives are either very expensive (90 or 180 Euro/night) or much worse. There are very few hotels in Abu Simbel and the few ones charge high prices. Lunch and dinner are expensive for Egyptian standards.

Weather: sunny, blue sky, fresh. Coldish in the evenings.

We leave the hotel with the car we arranged yesterday (a Hyundai H1 minivan) with a small delay at 10:40am. After a stop at a petrol station (I wonder why the guy didn't arrive with a full tank) we join the 11am convoy to Abu Simbel.

Apparently the police escort is now in the bus in front of us, i.e. there is no separate police car. After leaving Assuan our car and other cars in the convoy overtake the bus with the police escort and drive to Abu Simbel on their own. In practice this convoy is not a convoy at all, since the police escort is missing.

The road to Abu Simbel is simple and straight and crosses the desert. Only a handful of police checkpoints along the way.

We manage to cover the 270km distance between Assuan and Abu Simbel in 2 1/2 hours. I don't understand why Google Maps calculates 4h 43 min for this trip. In any case we are in Abu Simbel well before 2pm.

We pay 500 EGP to the driver + 20 EGP tip, because it was an easy 2 1/2 hours drive. Surprise, the driver claims that he has to pay 500 EGP to the "company" for the car and that the 20 EGP tip is his "pay". This seems very strange, since 500 EGP is more than enough for a 270km trip and why does the driver get no pay at all and has to rely on the tip from us?

After checking in at the hotel we have a small lunch consisting of soup, salad and some bread (overpriced at 35 EGP/person), then take a taxi at 3:10pm to the temple. As almost everything here in Abu Simbel, also the taxi is overpriced at 20 EGP for this short 1.5km trip.

By 3:30pm we are at the Abu Simbel temple complex. The entry ticket is very expensive at 95 EGP for an adult, and 54 EGP for a child. The ticket for the sound & light show costs 75 EGP and can only be purchased after 5pm

Now the main Ramses temple is completely in the shadow, i.e. we should have arrived a few hours earlier. There are now some signs stating "no photography inside the temple" which were not there the last time we visited this place eight years ago in 2003.

Not so many tourists around 4pm, in fact we almost have the place available for us alone. We stay at the temple until 6pm, when the sound & light show starts. Nice show as usual, this time in German language, lasts about 35 minutes.

We are back in the hotel shortly after 7pm and have a dinner at 8pm.

Copyright 2012 Alfred Molon