This was a long day with a lot of flying and waiting in airports. Excepting the two hours spent at Abu Simbel, it was probably my least favorite day. By the time we landed in Abu Simbel, only a half hour flight, I felt sick to my stomach. Turns out, this was the beginning of a stomach bug that would plague us until we returned home.
Despite that, Abu Simbel was breathtaking. Pictures don’t do anything justice in Egypt, but the mere size and splendor of Abu Simbel is hard to recreate. Plus, this was one of the temples they moved to higher ground, a higher cliff, 200 yards back. It means nothing reading it here, but imagine two giant, granite houses with ornate indoor and outer decor, and you have to move them 300 yards up and 200 yards back. And not break them nor destroy their integrity because they are 3,000+ years old. Well, that’s what they did with Abu Simbel.
It’s actually two temples, both larger than life, built by the arrogant Ramses II for himself and his wife Nefertari. He was smug, but he loved his wife because he made her an incredible temple and it’s the only instance of a queen’s statue being the same size as her Pharaoh husband’s. The giant seated statues on the front of Ramses II’s temple are probably well-known, but barely measuring up to one of his toes really put this temple in perspective. Not to mention that there’s an entire interior, decorated in bright color wall-to-wall, displaying the king’s military campaign. The carvings here depict movement, a bizarre thing for the hieroglyphic style. Oh, Ramses is also depicted as a God within these halls, which no other pharaoh ever attempted. The smaller temple is dedicated to the favorite wife, Nefertari. It is simpler and smaller, but the art still sets it apart in Egyptian history with Nefertari’s body depicted in full detail with only a wisp of painted clothing overtop. This was the first instance of such nakedness in Egyptian art.
After drifting through both temples for some time, we made our way back to the airport for the quick flight back to Aswan. But then we had to wait three hours for our 1-hour flight to Cairo. Then drive to our hotel, then drive three hours to Alexandria the next day. I’m still at a loss for why we didn’t fly straight to Alexandria because we missed almost a full day of exploring, but we made the most of it. We went into the bazaar in Cairo that night and ate at a local spot in the middle of the large town square there in front of a mosque. I stopped for some photos and purchases along the way and picked up an old pair of opera glasses at a vintage wares shop.
We were all exhausted by the time we got to the hotel and prepared ourselves for a three-hour car ride the following day.