Freshly landed in Ethiopia…. We must admit, after so long in the Middle East, we were feeling a little oppressed by the lack of female interaction and alcohol consumption. There were girls around, but they often seemed unapproachable, and what we had read about the prevalence of honour killings left us a little apprehensive. However, it seems that Ethiopia is making up for such withdrawals tenfold. In fact we’re overwhelmed at the sight of the gorgeous women in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s Capital) and the friendly and approachable attitude of all the people we’ve met so far. With our usual great preparation we showed up in Addis Ababa with no money and no visa. With all the bank machines in the airport out of service, we were in a jam. Thanks Allah, Tom’s friend Seifu was there to pick us up from the airport and was able to bail us out with some cash for the VISA. Seifu is one of Tom’s University friends from his exchange in Korea. After a nice afternoon together he got us settled in. The last 8 days in Egypt can only be described as reggae-licious. Lets recount;
We ended up catching a flight from Cairo to Aswan,. Aswan is a frontier town on the southern end of the Nile and has a completely different culture and vibe from the rest of the country. The people in this area are not Arab, they are Nubian and the culture reflects it; more laid back and with a distinctly African vibration. The day after arriving we woke up at 2 am and boarded a bus to catch the sunrise at Abu Simbel. Being such an isolated area, only 30kms from the Sudanese border, the area is dominated by the so called “Muslim Brotherhood” so any travel in this area is required to be escorted by military convoy. We arrived for one of 2 days a year when the rays of the sun align to reach the very back of the temple and illuminate the statues of the gods back there. Abu Simbel is a giant temple built on the banks of the Nile. It was essentially built as a piece of propaganda by Ramses II roughly 3000 years ago in order to intimidate the Nubian civilizations to the south. On the face of the temple there are carvings of Egyptians enslaving Nubians in order to let the Nubians know who they were dealing with. Now the temple overlooks Lake Nasser. The lake is a result of a dam on the Nile River. The flooding ended up displacing the original Nubian population driving them north toward Aswan and area. Lake Nasser is the largest man made lake on the planet. Although the Nubians are gone, the lake is now teeming with crocodiles up to 6 metres in length.
Immediately upon returning to Aswan, after meeting some American girls we arranged to go on a sail boat tour up the Nile. It was a small simple sail boat with an open deck design. No toilets, showers or amenities of any kind. But by no stretch were we roughing it. Our crew provided delicious food, copious amounts of tea, ganja, and the Nile River was there for any bathing or toilet needs, ignoring the fact that 90million other Egyptians were also discharging and defecating in the same waters. We set off with the Americans and our new friends captain Sayed and first mate Hunny. Hunny loved to get down to any tunes playing at the time. He would just break it down. Like all Nubians, our crew couldn’t get enough chronic and seemed to have an endless supply. We ended up spending 7 blissful days with those Nubians. Just floating down the Nile, watching life go by. Hunny and Sayed cooked us, by far the best meals we had during our entire time in Egypt. That combined with the 35 degree weather and a healthy dose of camel-toes gave us a tropical erection. Seeing the real Egypt along the banks of the Nile gave us a much more penetrating view of Egyptian culture and was a relief from the hot dusty tourist trail. Along the way we met the friends and families of our Nubian crew and countless other villagers. Not to mention all the amazing ruins the ancient Egyptians built along the banks of the river. Including the huge Kom Ombo temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek. We also got to see the cliffs that the ancient Egyptians got the rock from to build many of their monuments, including the pyramids. Since the ancient Egyptians used boats to move these rocks the quarry’s were all right along the Nile and we were able to see the full extent of their excavations. We stopped at a camel market where all manner of beasts of burden are jostled about, inspected, generally beaten and finally auctioned off to the highest bidder. It was quite a sight to see the chaos in the market, as well as the city of Daraw where it was held. At another point we had a 2 hour impromptu stop over where we decided to inspect the local village. Upon entering the village we were eagerly beckoned into a family’s home for tea and awkward conversation. Before long all 4 of his sons and a few other friends joined us to sit on the ground where, covered in flies, we feasted on bread dipped in slorp (a local delicacy). Upon completion we were carted into the back yard where we were hoisted onto the meat scale to see how much we had eaten.
Our American friends left us after the fourth night as one had been experiencing blood infused fecal discharge. The next day a Sahara desert dust storm blew in from the west, our boat was subsequently moored next to a small village for the night. As luck would have it, this was a monumental day in the Muslim calendar – the prophet Mohammed’s birthday. We were treated to a spectacle of dancing Sufi’s, entranced Sufi’s and spinning, then collapsing Sufi’s (watch the video). The next morning, during the dust storm, we walked into Edfu to visit the extremely well preserved temple of Horus. Probably the most amazing ancient sight either of us experienced. You could almost imagine the ancient Egyptian priests shuffling down the halls in their robes. The torch lit hallways and carved surfaces gave us an overwhelming sense of the mystery of Ancient Egypt. After becoming such good friends with the Capt’n and Hunny they offered us free passage all the way back to Aswan – an offer we couldn’t refuse. Tears were welling up as we said goodbye to Hunny and Capt’n even though Hunny insisted Dan give him his iPod.
We spent the next few days in the grandiose ancient capital of Thebes, now known as Luxor. This is the Mecca, or Jerusalem of the Ancient Egyptians, and it shows. Pounding out the tourist circuit was grueling, uninspiring and generally torturous. This city is an absolute treasure trove of ancient sites and ancient monuments, temples and tombs including Karnak; the largest structure ever built in the name of religion. Karnak had been added to by almost every pharaoh over the thousands of years of Egyptian civilization. However, most memorable for us was visiting the Valley of the Kings on the west side of the river where the sun sets. This is the resting place of over 62 pharaohs. The opportunity to go deep underground and witness the array of booby traps, secret passages and decorations deep in these tombs was mind boggling. We got to see 3 different tombs including the still in tact sarcophagus’ of Tuthmosis III as well as Sethknacht. This was the finale of our time in Egypt. We were pretty bagged and eager to get down to the REAL Africa.
We are actually in Kenya right now after spending a month in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the internet was too slow to update our blog. In about 1 week we will have our entire month in Ethiopia uploaded to our blog.