As budget backpackers, we should be used to eating light. Well, day two started with what appeared to be deep fried eggs, deep fried toast, and a side of oil. Each day the bread became more stale but Bernie explained how he liked the bread. “The bread’s great,” he said overjoyed, “It’s just a little TIGHT.” We all laughed and the expression “tight” became a humourous catch phrase in the group for stuff that sucked.
We cracked some early morning Stella beers at around 9am and sailed towards a temple called “Kom Ombo”. We stopped for a swim/morning bath in the Nile on the way. By the time we reached Kom Ombo it was pretty hot. Bernie and Toni had seen so many ruins in Egypt already they claimed to be “ruined” (pun intended) and so they stayed back on the boat. Michel, Chisa, Dariece and I headed up and checked out the temple. Kom Ombo is a massive temple overlooking the Nile that was built in the 19th dynasty in honor of the Crocodile God. Its massive pillars and hypostle hall are perched on the rivers banks creating an almost ominous glow reflecting off of the water. We walked through the maze of reliefs and carvings in awe of how something so massive could have been created thousands of years ago.
When we were done weaving our way around the pillars we returned to the felucca and ate the delicious fish lunch that Jimmy had prepared. He explained to us how he had caught the fish with some drawings and hand gestures. We vaguely understood that he used a trap near the village the day before. The fish itself was amazing, we were finally eating well on a backpacker’s budget but we found it slightly odd that we had gone the entire first day without any meat, and in this second day lunch we had Nile fish with a side of canned tuna.
Anyway… after we ate we started sailing again. We sailed for a couple of hours to reach some rock tombs that were carved out of the cliffs and again loomed right on the edge of the Nile. We all attempted to hike up to see the tombs but one by one we all succumbed to the intense heat of Egypt and returned to the felucca without actually entering any tombs.
No one was in a rush to go anywhere so the guys waded and drank beer in the Nile while the girls relaxed on the boat. At one point a giant cruise ship went by and Bernie, Michel and I couldn’t resist, we had to moon it. The rich tourists on the boat quickly scrambled to get their cameras and take a shot of the three white Canadian asses on the Nile. Something I’m sure they weren’t promised in their brochures. I guess there’s a few more pictures of my ass floating around the internet now.
After the excitement died down we boarded the boat and prepared to leave. There’s no way to explain how surreal the views were from our position below the tombs, except to say that it was yet another moment in travel that I will not soon forget.
After swimming for a couple of hours we set sail again, only this time in search of the sheesha we were all promised. Ayeman finally spotted a tiny grass hut with what looked like sheesha pipes glowing in the late afternoon sun just as the day was coming to an end. We got off the boat and sure enough there was a little “cafe” in the middle of nowhere complete with sheesha. We all sat down and the young man who lived there offered us all coffee. We all accepted, expecting the usual Nescafe that comes in Egypt. Instead he brought out fresh coffee beans in a small metal container. He lit a fire and while we smoked away on the potent sheesha pipe he roasted the beans over the fire.
The aroma was better than any Starbucks has ever smelled. He added a little bit of ginger into the beans which seemed odd at the time but actually gave the coffee a nice flavor. The young Egyptian took a liking to Bernie and after they had talked for a while Bernie gave him a necklace he was wearing. Clearly touched by Bernie’s generosity, he thanked him in Arabic, “Shukran, Shukran”, and got up to run into his small hut. When he came back he was holding a small glass vile which he gave to Bernie in return. The vile contained an Egyptian cologne which we all doused ourselves in before saying goodbye to our new friend with the coffee shop in the middle of nowhere.
Our sleep on that second night was much better and we all woke up rejuvenated as the sun peered over the horizon and once again, set the green pastures aglow and brought the villages to life. This is what budget backpacking is all about. The entire day was spent relaxing, reading books, playing backgammon and just talking as life went by us at a slow pace down the river. We stopped for more swimming, had more surprising combinations of meals and napped repeatedly.
That night was our last night together on the Nile so we planned to celebrate with a few beers and the roast chicken dinner we were promised by Magdy back in Aswan. Of course Magdy had failed to tell Ayeman and Jimmy about this chicken dinner so Ayeman had to captain the boat while yelling “Firakh! Firakh!” (“CHICKEN! CHICKEN!”) Finally we pulled up to a village that had chicken so Ayeman went into town to find it. He came back with 3 small chickens and another young man who lived in the village but spoke perfect English.
Finally we could explain to Ayeman and Jimmy what we had been complaining about for the past few days. We explained about the boat Magdy had promised us, about the meals we had agreed to and not received, and about all the little scams he had managed to pull on us. Ayeman and Jimmy, now finally understanding our concerns translated to them in their language, seemed genuinely apologetic and we agreed to a price reduction. They explained that Magdy was a “clefty man” and that we should write about him online so that other tourists and other boat captains don’t fall victim to his scams. Michel has written a warning for all potential Aswan boat customers on Trip Advisor.
We all slept soundly that night and woke up around 8 am on our last day of this epic journey. Ayeman had arranged a truck to drive us to Edfu. We said our goodbyes to Jimmy and Ayeman and paid them the reduced price, plus a tip which seemed to make them both very happy. Ayeman’s face lit up and he kissed each of us on both cheeks (a typical friendly gesture in Egypt) and said “shukran” repeatedly. We boarded the truck and drove through some very rural villages on our way to Edfu. The short 30 minute drive was beautiful. Kids rode bikes and ran behind the truck yelling “hello!”, men riding donkeys strolled down the paths alongside their farms, and our truck stopped to let the goats on the road cross in front of us.
When we arrived in Edfu we could already see the massive temple we were heading to. Michel, Chisa, Dariece and I were looking forward to the Temple of Horus in Edfu more than any other temples on the Nile. Bernie and Toni were still “ruined” so they watched our bags for us while we went in to see the temple. From outside Horus looked like a massive “U-Shaped” block. But as we entered we realised that it was actually an enormous maze of hypostle halls, ancient libraries, perfecly preserved reliefs, and nilometers (ancient tools to measure flood levels of the Nile). The Temple of Horus in Edfu is Egypt’s best preserved and completely intact temple. Some of the carvings on the walls looked like they were done yesterday when in fact they had stood, unchanged, for more than 2000 years. It contained inside it, 56 massive columns all with a different shaped capital carved on top that connected it to the marble slab roof.
This ended up being, by far, the nicest temple we saw in all of Egypt. All the temples before it and even the temples in Luxor paled in comparison because Horus was so well preserved. It was hard to believe that something so massive, was covered by sand and rocks just 200 years ago before it was discovered, and excavated by Auguste Mariette in the 19th centery. It seems impossible that a building so enormous and elaberate, could have been built without the use of modern machinery. It is temples like the Temple of Horus that create legends of aliens helping ancient Egyptians build structures. It seems that there would be no other way to build something so incredible.
What a great way to end such an epic journey down the Nile with our friends. This boat ride could have ended up many ways. We could have had no problems with shifty captains and bad food. We could have had that nice boat we were promised. Sometimes budget backpackers have to forgo certain luxuries (like good food), but in the end, the trip couldn’t have been any better. We had excellent experiences, some beautiful pictures and great company.We made some new memories and new friends which is what travel is all about. And who knows, maybe one day we will cross paths again with our fellow backpackers, Michel and Chisa, Bernie and Toni. “Insha Allah.” (God willing) Either way, the felucca trip down the Nile will be another one for the books.