Monday, April 12, 2010

Up the Nile: Day 6 (Aswan)

My last day in Aswan was reserved for seeing the normal tourist attractions, unlike the somewhat esoteric St. Simeon monastery.  I met Farouk's group bright and early, and we started off driving out of Aswan and over the old dam, which has stunning views over the rocky first cataract area of the Nile.  We took a quick gander at the High Dam, looking out over the Nile below and Lake Nasser--the largest artificial lake in the world I believe, which was created by the construction of the High Dam and destroyed the Nubian civilization as it once was. In addition, many monuments would have been under water without the intervention of UNESCO and other international actors. I'm sure there's reading out there to be done about the controversy of the dam and the problems it has created/solved.

After our trip to the High Dam we headed down to the section of the Nile between the two dams to see the temple of Isis at Philae Island, which is one of sites that was moved and thus saved from being submerged permanently.  The island it is now on has been landscaped and planted to resemble the original island, and the project was excellent at recreating the site without trying to restore it to former glory; just to present it how it was before it was moved.

On the way back into town we swung by the granite quarry which used to serve as the site for smashing out the massive stones the obelisks were made from.  There is still an unfinished one left there, because a flaw was discovered in the stone (obelisks were made from one single piece of stone, so they had to be without any problems obviously) and thus it was discarded.  If it had been finished, it would have been the largest obelisk we know of now!

Here are the pictures--as you can see, I was in love with the columns at the temple of Isis:

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