We got up a little after 5am to head to the airport. The drive to the airport was extremely short. The domestic and international have different entries, although they share the same runway. Inside the airport, we kept waiting to see the immigration line, then remembered we were on a domestic flight. The flight to Aswan was about an hour, saw nothing but desert until we saw Lake Nasser just before landing. Almost everyone got off the plane; just a few of us stayed on to go to Abu Simbel. After 15 minutes or so, other folks boarded, and we took off and had a short flight to Abu Simbel, only about 30 minutes.

At Abu Simbel (just north of the Sudanese border), we were greeted by our guide, who we think was named Abu (we're sadly both really bad with names). Since we landed at around 10:30, and our flight back was at 1:00, we had a very quick turnaround. It was about a 5 minute car trip from the airport to the parking lot for Abu Simbel. It was over 100 degrees outside, even before noon, but thankfully a dry heat. There was a short walk from the parking lot, and on the walk we could see the back side of the hill where Abu Simbel was reconstructed. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. It was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses II (he lived to be 90-something). Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. They had to be moved 50 years ago because of the Aswan High Dam causing Lake Nasser to bury the structures. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, where they now stand.

For our tour, we were with 2 other people. Abu gave us a ton of information, but it was impossible to digest all the names, dates, etc. - fortunately we have Wikipedia for that. The lake looked gorgeous, and quite refreshing, but alas it is full of Nile crocodiles. There are no more crocodiles, or hippos either, north of the dam (i.e., downstream). No pictures are allowed inside Abu Simbel, but the overseers let us take pictures from just outside, and also took some pictures of us with the "key of life." Nefartari Temple was right next door, and we saw that from the outside and inside as well. Again, we could take pictures right on the edge. While not required, the 10 Egyptian pounds probably helped things. It was unstated why cameras were not allowed, but presumably it is to prevent idiots from using their flash. Many of the colors were still present on the walls inside the temple, because they had not been exposed to light to fade them out over time, and flash would eventually do that - theoretically at least. Our suggestion is that photography be allowed, but anyone caught using a flash be shot - presumably then, people would know how to turn off their flash, or idiots would be trimmed from the planet - win win.

On walk back to the car, Abu told us how much busier it used to be. Today, there was a lone flight into Abu Simbel, and thus only about 50 people at the whole site. During high season during better years, there would be 10-15 flights a day, plus the hotels in town would be full as well. Abu indicated he was trying to get a work visa to go work as a travel agent in Dubai, since the market is much better there. The car was scorching hot when we got back in, and we noticed the back window actually had a permanent shade in it, so it would have been even warmer otherwise. We were in the airport for all of about 2 minutes before they called our plane to board, so Abu had timed things perfectly for us. We got back on a bus to the plane, which was dumb because the distance was about 250 feet from the gate to the plane. Perhaps sometimes it is so hot that they worry about people not being able to make the 250 foot walk with their bags. But it's not as if the bus was an air-conditioned 65 degrees, it was probably 80-85 on the bus.

The plane ride back was just like the morning's flights - uneventful with incredibly dirty windows. When we landed in Aswan, we noticed there were a couple of A&K reps - apparently there were several of our boat travelers on board the plane. We all got funneled out to different guides, however - our guide was Ehab (pronounced like Ahab). He said there was some stuff we could view today, view the next morning, or split it up - we chose to split it up so we could sleep in a bit more the next day. So he took us to the unfinished Obelisk, which had some cracks in it that made the Egyptians give up. Because it was left alone, it was possible to see how they carved and moved Obelisks. They carved all around, even underneath, leaving some narrow connection points. When everything else was done, they filled some holes with water and with sycamore trunks, and as the sycamore trunks absorbed the water and expanded, they broke the connection points and freed the obelisk. They then moved the obelisk by rolling it on logs along a clay ramp. Once near the final resting spot, they would fill a pit with sand, slide the obelisk into the pit, and then release the sand from the side to get the obelisk to tilt up (Justin called this).

We didn't stay too long, because it seemed even warmer than Abu Simbel (plus it was "just" an unfinished obelisk). We drove through Aswan for about 30 minutes to get to our boat, the Sun Boat IV. Abu mentioned that, perhaps because of Easter, our boat would be fairly full, with around 70 passengers. He said the last time he was on the boat, about a month or so ago, there were only 12. We put our stuff down in our room, then ate a late lunch - which was quite good - around 3. After lunch, we read by the pool for a bit, finally having a few hours of solitude, then Crystal took a nap while Justin uploaded pictures and worked on the diary.

There was a cocktail reception at 7:30, but we got it started a little early at 7:15. At the bar, we ran into Dan and Kate, who were the folks with us at Abu Simbel, and we chatted with them for a bit, particularly about Namibia, where they are thinking of going. Around 8:20, we were ushered down to dinner, which had started at 8, and which we realized was supposed to be when everyone would go to the restaurant. At dinner, we ate with Steve and Heather from the UK. We chatted with them about travel, dogs, and having bad backs. We were all quite tired because of travel, with them having just come from London and us having the two very early mornings in a row. Nonetheless, we were still the last people to leave dinner, at around 10:00. We fell asleep almost immediately after getting back to the room.