17 November 2011


Sitting for hours at the front of a boat watching the Nile go by, the sunset around us as children played in the water and buffalo swam, only a hundred yards away the lush green stops and desert terrain with crumbly mountains starts - ‘the Nile gave life to Egypt’ is what they say. I sat with my hair blowing behind me, looking a head I felt free. So peaceful, we passed a town now and then, mosques rang bells and sang, their buildings grew above the tree with different architecture, crescent moons and symbols decorating the top.

It was night time before we docked, the city was alive with cars and lights and music, it could have been India to look at it, where as Luxor had been so clearly Arabic. Luxor seemed a hundred years behind. Like china, the houses were mud huts with no doors and windows, rubble and animals everywhere. This new city was busy and loud; I wondered how I would ever sleep.

During our day in the city we visited a temple, but the vendors were very aggressive. I got some shots but it was hard - our guild said it would be dangerous for us to explore the city without a man. We walked through the cool dark chambers into rooms deeper inside the huge structure. We found a bat in a deep dark corner, hanging from the ceiling alone.

When we set off from Edfu the boat carried us further down the river. Animals were swimming and wallowing in the water, men on little boats fished and we moved slowly from the dirty water and city lights to the country side occasionally hearing the calling of young children though the bull rushes and palm trees in little unfinished houses. From the city it could have been any Arabic country, but from the river it looked like Africa. Children ran beside the boats and vendors sold their goods by tying little rowboats to ours, holding out their garments and throwing them up onto the boat, five stories high. I thought I had seen people try to sell me things in every way possible until then.

After a while on the boat all civilisation disappeared and the Rocky Mountains behind the Nile green turned to sand dunes - we knew the days of travelling had taken us to the Egyptian deserts. The sand dunes et the edge of the Nile felt very biblical, different shaped pylons stood up all over the sand for miles. The sun set early here and by four in the afternoon I could feel its orange glow around me, sitting so low in the sky and glistening on water around a man on a little fishing raft. It was warm and peaceful, you feel like you recognize so many places you have never seen before.

Again we docked briefly, then walked up to a temple on the top of a hill. I sat on the warm stone watching the sunset, listening to the Imam calling and praying. The sound echoed across our high up temple that looked over the Nile. It was my favourite because there was no blazing sun just warmth as the last of the sun disappeared in-between the temple pillars casting a fiery orange colour onto the hieroglyphic covered walls. I loved every moment.

A few days was spent in the city of Aswan our boat parked in a dock by a main road and police kept a guard on each port entrance to stop vendors getting on boats. Sometimes they ran at them holding huge guns. We took a ride on a small boat to visit a temple on an island across the water, it was white and distressed looking with beautiful Moroccan looking material shading our heads - we sat cross-legged on the cushions.

Later that night we walked to the local market. it was dark and the streets were bright full of lights, music and the smell of hot garbage. Everywhere someone jumped at you giving you the same lines ‘look at my shop, no hassle’ as they hassled you down the street. The next day, I went back but in the light of day it wasn’t the same - a lot of the shops were closed, street boys grabbed you if they could, I had had enough of being bugged. I tried to take as many photos as I could, the air was hot and dusty and Arabic music blasted out onto the street. After a while we took off down an alley that sold only food, the ground was thick with sand and dirty water, no one approached us here. Halal meat hung from hooks and pigeons were sold in crates. There were mixed spices and buckets of dried starfish, ground up coloured rocks which made powdered colour dies in strong colours like blue and yellow.

Our last night in Egypt we sat and watched the early sunset, the sky was a black and orange silhouette with its reflections across the river. The imam called and in the distance the sand mountains seemed so hazy. The sunset was orange and then pink, with the green tips of the mosques peaking above, a heron flew across the sky and the Desert Mountains layer just behind.