Aswan - the southern most part of my trip. Lonely Planet, encouraging as always - "Outside of the summer months when daily temperatures soar to 50 degrees C, Aswan is an ideal place to..." Not kidding about that whole temperature thing. A local I spoke with told me that the government doesn't actually say what the real temperature is because people wouldn't leave their houses!! I a little bit believe him. The temperatures here posed a challenge for this insane traveler because I was pretty much forced to spend 5 hours mid afternoon tethered to my air conditioned room.
So, why Aswan? It has a few sights to see, but most people use this city as a base to either take a felucca ride (sailboat) on the Nile or visit Abu Simbel. I figured it was entirely too warm to be sleeping on a sailboat but I did want to see Abu Simbel. It is home to two temples - the Great Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathor. The temple of Ramses is breathtaking and truly indescribable. It is carved into the mountain with 4 huge pharaoh statues in the front. It was supposed to be really impressive and even though it involved an insane day trip, I'm all about those (see one day trip to Torres del Paine from El Calafate) so I was ready to go.
Several things factor into the insanity of this trip. The first is that all tours and travelers must go in a convoy. By this I mean everyone gets picked up at their hotel and then a gazillion tour buses and minibuses line up at the edge of town to head from Aswan to Abu Simel together. They claim this is due to safety reasons, but I really can't imagine that traveling at the exact same time every single day with gazillions of tourists doesn't actually say "Attack me please." Also, you go through all these "checkpoints" where absolutely no checking is done. Guards are standing by in highly amusing easter pastel colored booths and not doing much guarding. If nothing else this trip has taught me to never complain about a job again, because I'm fairly certain there is nothing worse than standing guard outside in summer. I think the only person who took the checkpoints seriously was our driver who kept slipping on his seatbelt as we approached each checkpoint and promptly taking it off as soon as we passed through. I don't think the driver safety message has gotten through to this part of the world...
The other noteworthy fact about said convoy is that it happens at 4 am. And hotel pick ups begin at 3. Yes, am.
Initial response is a touch of WTF?? but once you get there and realize how hot it is, all you can say is thank you lord. The convoy arrives at 7 am and you are on your way back to Aswan by 8:45. Yes, that would be six hours of traveling with no breaks down a large stretch of desert road in order to see a temple for under 2 hours. Worth it? Here are some pics - you decide.