Escape from Abu Simbel, Felucca to Nubia

Indiana Neuman charters a feluca

The area is famous for pink granite, still mined hereabouts.  It rained once in Aswan – about 6 years ago.  The Nubians were here first. The Nubians are Black people who come probably from Sudan and further South in Africa.  They have another language.  Nubia means land of gold, this is nowadays mainly Sudan.  Nubian tombs of the nobles are 17000 years old.   They made statues of silver & gold.  Kush was the capital of Nubia before the Egyptians took over.  There is a great deal of treasure to be found underground, our guide once saw a gold crocodile unearthed.  Other kinds of items typically include jars & tables in gold and animals not often seen in Egypt, such as lions and ant-eaters.One of the Egyptian pharaoh kings was a genuinely decent guy and the people really loved him.  He took over this area straddling Southern Egypt and Sudan.  So they asked him “What would you like for your birthday?”, and he said “Oh I don’t know.  I am happy just gazing out peacefully over the river.  Just give me a surprise.”So the people carved him a temple directly out of the mountain with 4 giant figures of him, each over 18m high, on the front.   Inside they carved statues and painted murals of him and his wife & children and gods and they all used it for worshipping him as a god. It took  them 20years to carve it all out, but he was thrilled with the result when it was finished in 1249 BC and there was a second temple alongside the biggest one for his wife – Nefertari.  He died aged 90yrs with 150 sons fathered with over 40 wives.

It all got entirely covered in sand and lost until it was rediscovered in 1813.  Quite often these kinds of buildings have gotten all blackened, burned & sooty ceilings where Copts fleeing the romans have hidden and cooked inside on open fires.  The British built the old dam and the railway to carry fruit and soldiers back to Port Said.  When King Farouk was kicked out of Egypt, the Soviets saw an opening and they helped to nationalise the Suez canal and to build the Aswan High dam.  Our guide was the first ever woman driver in Aswan.

Chris before her getaway

But when the dam was nearly done, they all realised the great monument of thousands of years would be swamped below the waters which were backing up quite quickly in the new lake.  Then the Europeans agreed to help move the whole carved mountain out of the flooding area, so it was all cut up into blocks and transported to a new site and reassembled for tourists to visit.

Joanna Lumley passing through

In the desert live the Bedouin, they know secrets about the desert and things like crossing frontiers.  They aren’t registered with ID papers, and they don’t send their children to school.  With no ID papers, they have to go for private medicine.  There are quite wealthy Bedouin and they often own & drive 4×4’s.  They have satellite phones, but they don’t read or write.  They speak Arabic but with a different accent from local Egyptians.

Can get choppy this time of year

Every year some fishermen are lost to crocodiles in Lake Nasser.  Some tourists go on fishing safaris on the lake and take such risks.

We’ve been following Christiane’s traces all the while because she left a trail of Fellafel crumbs and tahini drops all along her route.

So we snuck into the temple and round the back of an ancient figure we could see her struggling to free herself.  We spotted the chief villain who was firing questions at her: “What is the curse of the Mummy?  How do you make Gratin Dauphinois?  How do you know the secret of eternal youth?”  Then we realised: they thought she was Joanna Lumley, returning to make another Nile travel documentary film!”  When they had asked for “some tips”, they had wanted an advice session from a Domestic Goddess!

Suddenly Christiane uttered an extraordinary and hypnotic wailing  ululation and, with one bound, she was free from her captors and ran for the nearest exit. 

She made her escape by a secret back door to the temple which you can see behind her in the pic.

Then it was an easy Feluca ride back to civilisation.

More feluca

Our guide was the first ever woman with a driver’s license in Aswan.   She is a Coptic christian but she is living hard times at present.  She has two children- the boy 8yrs old and the girl is just 9 months and needs looking after, if any freelance work calls.  Her mum did a lot of child care, but the poor woman has just been treated for breast cancer.  She went to Cairo for medical care because there isn’t a good doctor in Aswan or Luxor.   The treatment in Cairo was expensive but as good as a seven star hotel.  Our guide hired a couple of sisters to mind the children while she worked, but they robbed her blind over a period of months, taking all her jewellery, a piece at a time.  They were muslims, and she wouldn’t normally trust a muslim, but there was no one else available at the time.  Something very fishy is going on at her son’s private school which is run by the monks.  They are being accused by Salafists of starting a church within the school, without official authority.  These people are organising protests outside the school, surrounding it and chanting slogans and they are throwing stones as the pupils enter school.  Luckily our guide got a tip-off beforehand about these protests, from a good muslim friend and so she has kept her son out of school for going-on two weeks.

Oaaaaaghhh what a world.  We hope the new government will be able to bring them all security and equality and peaceful co-existence  with mutual respect for everyone’s human rights.

2 thoughts on “Escape from Abu Simbel, Felucca to Nubia

  1. Mark, it is such an interesting report! I remember from the childhood, when in the radio they were talking about the temple threatened by water.
    We definiteley have to go to Egypt

  2. I’m so happy for Christianne – we all have been very worried… thanks God (or Allah!) she is safe 🙂

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