The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Democracy’s birth, Temple’s legacy

The following takes place on Days 188-189, June 3-4, 2011

IMG_7486One of the more interesting side notes that Israa had mentioned was that the revolutionary protests still happen on Friday’s.While not as large as the ones that initially sparked the full out revolution, the protests still draw large crowds of people who are keeping the pressure on the military leadership and to help promote the dozens of newly cropped up political parties. Coming from Canada, where political apathy has reached an unbearable high and the idea of actually being thrilled to have a say in your government is about as exciting a prospect as watching paint dry, I was excited to see the revolution taking place. To finally see a group of people excited to have a democracy and demanding a say.
Canada can certainly learn a few lessons.
Knowing that the protests would not begin until shortly after the afternoon prayer was finished, I took my time leaving the hostel. Already, in early morning, the crowds were beginning to gather, setting up stages and sound equipment. You could feel the energy building in the Square. It was exciting.

IMG_7477To pass the time before the protests really heated up, I headed off across the river to check out the Cairo Opera House, a large, beautiful building in the heart of the city. From the terrace and gardens of the Opera House, you could see the Cairo Tower where, on a clear day, you can look over the city and see the Pyramids. Today was not a clear day.
I headed back when the sounds of protests began to travel towards me.IMG_7471 Seeing them gathered in the square was an absolute thrill. Everyone was incredibly thrilled to see me as well. Random high fives were given and lots of “Welcome to the New Egypt!” were yelled my direction. People were even begging me to take photos of them and their signs. One guy even managed to grab my arm and proceeded to paint the Egyptian flag on it. The last time someone painted something on my arm, they demanded money back. This time, he smiled wide, gave me a thumbs up and a high five and walked away.

IMG_7460Everywhere in the square people were screaming chants into megaphones or into microphones blasted out through large speakers. Though, I will admit that I noticed a very large proportion of men in the audience. Very few women. Not sure of why. I was so enthralled by it all that I completely lost track of time, almost missing the transport from the hostel to the train station where Mick and I, along with an American named Vitaly, were catching the overnight train to Aswan to begin our trip through southern Egypt.

Mick and I got a sleeper compartment to ourselves and were pleasantly surprised at how niceIMG_7494 it was. Sure, it was a bit cramped, but it was nowhere near what I was expecting. We even got a full fledged meal with it consisting of about three different chicken dishes, rice, bread, yogurt, and desert. As the train rumbled down the tracks following the Nile, Mick and I turned on my computer and watched the first three episodes of The Amazing Race Australia which had just barely begun airing and which I had downloaded earlier that day.

Sleeping on the train was relatively easy for me and made the time go by much faster. The train left Cairo at around 11pm and we were pulling into Aswan at just after 10am. We met back up with Vitaly who had been in a completely separate car, and found our guide who was meeting us. He walked us to the hotel and gave us a good three hours of rest before we would begin the tour.

On the van that would be our transport that day we met the two other people who were joining us on our little tour: Ying, from China, and Arnold, a Hungarian-American.

IMG_7500Our first stop was the Aswan High Dam which was built to replace the older “Low Dam.” It is this Dam that actually created Lake Nasser and forced the massive undertaking of moving many temples and monuments to higher ground in order to protect and preserve them. The dam is enormous, the second largest in the world, soon to be third once China finishes building theirs. Though, the tour didn’t allow us for much more than standing on the dam to take photos of the Nile river on the North side and Lake Nasser on the left.

The main attraction of the day was the Philae Temple, which is one of the temples that hadIMG_7513 been meticulously moved uphill about 200 meters to save it from the rising waters of the Nile. To get to it, we had to get a boat to the island that the temple was actually on.

The temple was built to honour the goddess Isis, mother of Horus, wife of Osiris. As the story goes, Osiris’ brother Set killed Osiris and chopped his body up into 13 pieces. Isis, in grief, turned herself into a giant bird and flew over the Nile, locating and retrieving all the pieces of Osiris and, using magic, brought him back from the dead for one day. Seven days later, Horus was born in the reeds along the river.

IMG_7517It was an amazing temple and the reverence that the ancient Egyptians had for the Nile and its life giving properties was not lost. I was most annoyed though of all the “graffiti” that was carved into the temple. Not just from 19th century “explorers” but from people who felt it necessary to carve large crosses into the stone to cast out the demons. In one section, the face of Isis had been completely ripped out of the wall as it too closely resembled the Virgin Mary.

IMG_7527I could’ve stayed at the temple for hours just to stay out of the sun but sadly the tour had to move on. We were dropped off back at the hotel where we decided to chill out until going out for supper after the sun went down.

I took the opportunity to head down to the river and barter my way onto a boat to take me across to the other side. I had heard that the best views of the sunset were from the top of the hill near the Tombs of the Nobles so that’s where I was headed. Sadly, it was closed and a police officer informed me that even though I wasn’t going to the tombs, I couldn’t go up.
So I just went into the little Berber village and snuck around behind the hill and went up that way, out of sight of the police officer.

It was worth it!


  1. I'm pretty sure that the temple you're referring to is Abu Simbel. Enjoying the blog! Have fun and stay safe in your travels!

    -Karin aka nirakmit

  2. Oh I lied! I didn't read that it was on an island. That's probably Philae then. Okay, I'm shutting up now. :)

  3. That's the one! I was just coming back on to add that. I'm an idiot and posted this before I could go back and double check my notes. Thanks Karin!