I’d like to make one quick statement. I’m so glad we got in and out of Egypt when we did. I can understand the hostility towards the government however. We noticed that there was some unhappiness amongst the Egyptian people, and saw first hand a group of store owners getting thrown out of their stores by the police and forced to shut down their business because the government wanted the land. But did I think this revolution would occur a mere couple weeks after leaving? No way.
Moving along now, one of the most popular excursions from Aswan is a trip to Abu Simbel to see the two temples. In order to get to Abu Simbel, it takes a 6 hour bus ride or a quick 45 minute flight from Aswan. We took the 5 A.M. flight to get there because the views of the two temples is ten times more spectacular if you can catch it with rising sun shining on them. I’d like to also take a moment to recognize the travelers who were killed in the bus crash on their way to Abu Simbel. The accident occurred the day before we went and needless to say it shocked all of us on the boat.
Like I said, our flight was ungodly early, but from everything we heard, this was a place we HAD to see. Most of the people at the Aswan airport that morning looked like they just rolled out of bed and were heading to Abu Simbel as well. Once we landed, after a little bit of confusion trying to figure out which bus to get on (TIP: If you visit Abu Simbel via EgyptAir – EgyptAir has a free shuttle that goes back and forth from the airport to the temples) we arrived at our destination.
The gate to the temples was about 400 meters away from the sight so we weren’t able to see anything from the start. We followed the crowed down a path which led around a large cliff along the beach. Still not able to see anything, we walked down the path towards the beach on the right edge of the cliff. It wasn’t until we looped around and looked over our left shoulders that we saw:
So needless to say, it’s quite a shock to see that all of a sudden. I was awe-struck at how well preserved the carvings were, and how massive the figures were that were embedded in the cliff. Once again, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the temples (although once inside I did see a few folks taking a few quick snapshots. I wish I had done the same, but I decided not to risk getting arrested). However, I will say about the interior that the paintings inside were the most interesting and exciting of all that we’d seen in Egypt. Most of the illustrations depicted the King Ramesses II conquering his enemies in battle to in order to intimidate the Nubian neighbors. I could certainly see how anyone walking into the temples and seeing this would be immediately humbled.
Here’s another tip if you’ve taken the flight to Abu Simbel. Take your time. Seriously. You’ve probably booked a flight that only gives you about an hour to see the temples (you’ll want two hours). You’ll feel like you need to race back to the shuttle. You’ll get anxious as you see the time ticking past the usual 30 minutes before the flight leaves boarding time. You’ll get on the plane. And then you’ll realize, the plane won’t leave until everyone gets on board. So you’ll sit for another hour on the plane while the rest of the passengers slowly stroll on after taking in the Abu Simbel temples at a leisurely pace. So do yourself a favor and enjoy the temples, the plane won’t leave without you. And you never know when you’ll be back.