Day 11 (10/16/2011)   Aswan: felucca ride to Nile and islands


Sleeping train trip

   We will arrive early to Aswan train station and the idea is going directly to the hotel. At that time we can or cannot get a room depending of the hotel vacancy but, anyway, we will have the whole morning for spending it on visiting Aswan highlights, avoiding Philae temple and the High Dam, which we will visit next day as part of Nile cruise package.

   The main highlight then would be to get a felucca and visiting the Nile islands and, overall, the Nubian village.

   We should go to bed very early as we will have to wake up at 3 AM next morning for Abu Simbel trip.


  &nbspWake up call (by knocking the door) at 7:00 for being ready to breakfast; arrival to Aswan is scheduled to 8:00. Beds are seats again and we enjoy landscape through windows until reaching Aswan station one hour later than expected.

Aswan train station   We’re carrying our bags across the platform until arriving to the stairs to an underground walkway to the other side of the track, where the exit is. Immediately, a couple of old men take our bags with no word and do the job through the stairs at both sides. They cannot hide their happiness when receiving our 20 pounds bill because is the smallest we have.

   Once again at the surface out of stairs we’re taken by a taxi driver who we deal a trip to hotel by another 20 pounds with. A short but steeped stairs up to the hotel are receiving us when leaving the car, but driver to strive to help here too.

   At hotel, and despite of the early times, we’re offered one room now for changing cloths and tidy ourselves up or rest, and the other one later.

   So, at 9:00 we’re going out from the hotel in order to start the plans for this journey, which results to be very easy as, at the moment we put a foot on Corniche – the riverside promenade - after a short walk, we’re offered a felucca trip by 50 pounds per hour. When I accept and think it’s very cheap I realize we haven’t discuss if that price is per boat or per person, but answer comes when they states it is 200 pounds. After some bargaining the end price results in 100 pounds by going to Nubian village, at the other side of the Nile, under Noble tombs, waiting for us one hour and coming back. And that’s what we do, but, although we can see our target near, felucca is doing the way very slow, zigzagging by making the most of the wind.

   As you can see in the picture at right, the felucca boarding and landing method is by a simple plank between both points.

Place where we boardOur felucca

   A man with a long stick, which uses for helping while walking although he doesn’t really need it, is sitting at quay waiting for somebody to come. He welcomes us, understand we want to do a one hour visit to Nubian village and start to bargain camel trip. We talk about 4 camels and drop the initial price to 100 pounds, 25 per person. But my parents don’t see themselves riding and end going by walking along us. The Nubian village, which we could see from the starting point, is colorful and we go briefly inside to end “parking” the camels in front of the entrance to a blue house.
Noble tombs

   There, we’re welcomed by a woman, whole in black, who offers soft drinks to us: 4 teas, two waters and two Sprites of lemon which, maybe because of this special feeling while travelling, we like the taste a lot more than ours.

   The main attraction in this house, apart from the special and exquisite decoration, is a baby crocodile in a sort of deep bathtub. The usual is let tourists to take it and make pictures with it, but it is not going to happen today. This one is not a baby anymore and when the man uses the stick they have for immobilize it, it rebels against the stick with such a speed and fierceness that any of us want to have it close, not even our improvised “guide” who seems to have more respect to it than usual .

nubbian houseBaby Crocodrile

   We’re resting in a complete peace for a while before the woman, obviously, shows some items for sell, focusing on our women. We only take three paperknives hand-carved from something similar to bone. Then, women must choice a sample from a notebook which is going to be their henna tattoo. My wife gets a long one in the arm and my mother a very small one, in the arm too.

hena tatooRiding a camel

   When we think it’s time to leave we take our “vehicles” at entrance and come back to where the felucca is waiting for us, under the Noble tombs. Once there, we must arrange prices. The man explains at the moment someone is up to the camel he must pay to the owner, whether this person is doing the tour with or without camel. As my mother managed to be on the camel, even for just few seconds, but my father didn’t, we close the deal by 75 pounds + 25 pounds of the inevitable tip.Hotel Old Cataract
   The felucca man complaints about the time we come back stating we agreed on one hour and we’ve been one hour and a half. He is exaggerating and I guess it is because he wants to get some more money from us. He offers to raise the price to 200 pounds by returning around the long Elephantine Island to be able of enjoying the view from the Nile of the rest of the city highlights, as Kitchener Island, Agha Khan Mausoleum or Hotel Old Cataract, famous because Agatha Christie wrote “Death on the Nile” in it. We finally accept after bargaining the price to 150 pounds. We have time to spend before lunching.

   And lucky of us we could spend time! As the trip around the island takes more than two hours at an average speed of 1 Km/h or even less. We could do that three or four times faster by swimming! We finish really tired of felucca and our butts are hurting for the long time seated on its wooden thwarts. And on top of that the man asks 200 pounds because of the long time spent at felucca. I can see he wanted 200 pounds from the beginning but I complaint about the extreme slowness of the trip and we didn’t want to spend so much time on it. When I say I’m not happy with it and I’m thinking about saving the tip, he accepts and takes his 150 original pounds + 20 pounds of tip.

Mausoleum of Agha KhanKitchener island


   We lunch in ”Aswan Moon”, located just besides the restaurant where our felucca is “parked”. We order three soups, one tabbouleh, three calamari plates and one of fish, with ice cream or dessert. But the pace of life in Aswan, which we could notice in our four hours activity, appears again. We’re completely alone in this restaurant but it takes so long for each plate to be brought. It is exasperating!. After 160 pounds, with all our pending sleep coming after eating, we’re in our way back to the hotel. We’re spending six hours in a single visit nearby and lunch.

   Just before taking the stairs to the hotel entrance, we finally buy an Egyptian SIM card for our cell phone by 2 pounds and charge 150 pounds on it, which is enough for all our pending calls and still remains something for next days.

   At hotel, we’re asked to pay Abu Simbel trip now if we’re already going to sleep. It is 70 pounds per person (around 9 €). They will wake us up at 2:45 AM because we must be ready at 3:15. We will leave the baggage in the small room they’re showing to us and they will give us a picnic bag for breakfast for each of us. I cannot ask more by this price!

   Before going to bed I’ve called to the Nile cruise agency as the emails received few days before offered a boat upgrade which makes me think that, even we hired and paid the cruise eight months in advance, the day before we still haven’t been included in any cruise. They calm me down by saying I must call tomorrow when coming back from my trip and we already got a book on “Nile Style”.