Journal entry for Sunday 1 November 1998
On Sunday morning Kit and I were up early and leaving our bags in the hotel reception to collect later, we took a taxi to Philae Port. I had been to Philae several times before, but only with a tour group, so this visit was a journey into the unknown, because from the port we had to negotiate for a motor boat to take us to the Island of Agilika, where Philae Temple rose above the glittering waters of the widest part of the river like a magnificent vision. It was still early and we were lucky that there were few tourists about so that the competition to take us was quite fierce. We negotiated a fare of LE30 for the boat to take us to the island, wait for a couple of hours and bring us back. I didn’t have any idea what the going rate for this trip should be but we were happy to pay what was asked. There were no groups on the island at this time of day and for once the temple was almost deserted. It was bliss to wander the vast columned halls in peace, taking our time to study and photograph the reliefs. To our amazement our boatman was still there to take us back to port when we were ready to go (I had heard stories of people being abandoned on the island).
A taxi back to Aswan took us to the bazaar and we walked along the main street looking at the brightly coloured stalls. I bought some spices, one of the things Aswan is famous for and Kit bought some trousers, a Nubian hat and a darabuka, the kind of Egyptian hand-drum he had seen played on the Corniche. We then spent an hour looking for a suitable bag for the drum, eventually finding a perfect hand-woven bag in a fixed-price shop at the end of the Suq.
By now it was lunchtime though we seemed to have already done so much. After another half hour searching for a small temple of Isis that I was destined not to find for many more years, we found ourselves at the southern end of the Corniche, so I suggested we go to the Old Cataract Hotel for lunch on the terrace overlooking the ruins on the Island of Elephantine. It was lovely to sit there with a band of Egyptian musicians playing in the background like an old fashioned palm court orchestra and I could have happily spent the rest of the afternoon there, but Kit wanted to take another felucca trip. Walking back along the riverfront we met Captain Nasser from the previous day and had an hour sailing on his boat ‘Greenland’ – this time in a more relaxed mode as the wind was not so strong. The songs of Bob Marley, as heard on an old tape player on a felucca, will forever remind me of a chilled-out afternoon on the Nile at Aswan.
The sun was setting over hill of Qubbet el-Hawa as we ate an early dinner in a riverside restaurant named, for some reason, the Mona Lisa and after calling at the hotel to collect our bags we made our way to the railway station. Aswan Corniche is quite long and we must have walked miles along its uneven pavements in the past two days. The train was only half an hour late and we arrived back in Luxor at 11.30pm, a time of night when the streets are still busy. It had been a lovely weekend away, but Luxor was home and we just had to call in at the Amoun restaurant for hot chocolate before making our way back across to the West Bank and the Gezira Hotel.