Allison Carter, an Atlas Travel Insurance customer, recently fulfilled a long-time desire to visit Egypt. She shared with us this blog post, the fourth in a series, detailing her visit to the temples of Abu Simbel.
Abu Simbel is a magical place at the end of the world's dullest drive. We stumbled onto our bus at five o'clock in the morning to make the three-hour trek through the endless beige Sahara. It was worth the drive.
The place is a love letter in two parts: one from Ramses II to his beloved wife Nefertari, and the other from Ramses II to himself. The Temple of Ramses II is mammoth, with four huge statues of the pharaoh impassively watching the Nile, and carvings of the pharaoh doing all kinds of smiting. The temple to Nefertari is smaller, romantic and intimate, with the pharaoh offering lotus flowers to his queen.
Because both temples were covered in sand for millennia, they are remarkably preserved. Lines are clearly cut and crisp and pigments of black, blue, and red still adorn the walls. The temple was painstakingly placed so that twice a year, the sun raced into the Holy of Holies to illuminate three holy statues.
Incredibly, a fourth statue of Ptah, god of darkness, remains dark year round. The ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians is nothing short of miraculous.
The next morning brought another highlight: a ride on a camel. I love camels, with their funny shape and long eyelashes. I rode on a handsome, but huge camel named Titanic for the short ride to the Monastery of St. Simeon. Luckily, the desert was free of icebergs.
Riding a camel is similar to riding a horse. However, the ride might be a little smoother. The main difference is in mounting the beast. Rather than boosting yourself up with stirrups, the camel kneels. This lets you climb aboard before jumping up with an abrupt jerk.
My camel had a need for speed, and we soon reached the sprawling monastery. Built in the six century, it is remarkably well-preserved, especially for a building made out of mud brick. Traces of paint still cling to the vaulted church ceilings and faint halos crown the head of saints. After a brief time here, we resumed our camel ride across a high, scorching plateau to a small Nubian village.
If you have a chance to ride a camel in Egypt, I suggest trying it. Yes, it is a touristy activity. Yes, it is silly, but you will be sorry if you do not try it. We then prepared to take part in another touristy but time-honored tradition as we boarded our Nile cruise ship.