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Thursday, April 03, 2014

FLYING ON A WING AND A PRAYER TO EGYPT

PART ONE: My Egyptian Adventures



It was with some confusion and a certain amount of trepidation that I found myself at the check-in counter of Egypt Air in Toronto on March 13. There had been no clear advice on the meet-up so I got there 3 hours ahead of flight time and waited. I had no idea of who I was to meet but I spotted a young woman with reddish blond hair who was carrying a back-pack and talking on her cell. I figured she might be one of us, and she was. This was Linda, who was to be one of my travel companions on this special media trip to Egypt courtesy of Egyptian tourism.

We waited together at the check-out area, and when nobody else showed up, we decided to go through to the boarding gate. We sat a while and Linda made some calls to the Montreal office of the trip organizer. He assured us that our contact, Marko was on his way by car from Montreal. Trouble was, there had been white-out conditions in Toronto when I had landed the night before, and I knew by TV that the highways were choked with snow and traffic.

Then I spotted a gentleman carrying a back-pack and camera equipment. He looked like a journalist, so I asked him. Yes, he was Yves, from Quebec. And where were the others? There were supposed to be six of us and we wondered if any of the others had arrived.

Once on the plane, Linda got seated next to another man who was with our group. He said that one of the women had herself bumped to first class. But where was Marko?

It was still a puzzle as I stepped off the plane 11 hrs later. Would I be abandoned in the Cairo airport? (Some of my friends had expressed this worry before I accepted this trip!) But no, there they were: Linda. Yves, the illusive Marko and the other two journalists. We were met by a handsome Egyptian tourism rep., Peter, who escorted us to the visa office and then to the boarding gates for our ongoing Aswan flight.

An hour later we touched down in Aswan and from the moment I stepped off the plane I felt that, at last, my adventure in Egypt was more than just a dream.


ASWAN

We were met in the airport at Aswan by Hanan Eldeeb, an Egyptologist who would be our guide through all the ancient sites along the Nile River. First stop: to view the High Dam. This dam is one of the most important achievements in the 21st century in Egypt. The Dam was constructed between 1960 and 1970. The Dam is 3,830 metres long , 980 metres at the base, 40 metres wide at the crest and 111 metres tall. About 11,000 cubic metres per second of water passes through the dam per second. The Nile valley and delta benefit from this because due to an absence of rainfall, Egypt’s agriculture depends on irrigation and the high dam at Aswan releases water into the irrigation canals so it has had a significant impact on the economy. I was amazed at the size of the dam which separates the upper and lower Nile. Before the dam was built the Nile River flooded every year in the late summer. The dam provides protection from floods and droughts and helps increase agricultural and electricity production and provides employment.

Unfortunately, the dam flooded a large area and submerged several archaeological sites. Over 100,000 people had to be relocated and some of the archaeological treasures were moved as well.

One of these important archaeological sites is the Temple of Philae.  Our Egyptologist guide suggested that we should rest up and have lunch and then we would visit this unique temple on an island in the Nile. But first, we stopped by the gravel quarries to see the enormous unfinished obelisk that lies in situ in the quarry. These gravel quarries produce all the red granite used in the building of many ancient structures.  The unfinished obelisk, left where it was because the granite cracked marring it, was discovered in 1922. It would have weighed over 2.3 million pounds making it the world’s largest piece of stone ever handled by man.


Before we left to board the boat that would be our ‘home’for the next three days, we stopped to see the monument of the Arab-Soviet Friendship that commemorates the completion of the Aswan High Dam. The monument is dedicated to the Soviets who provided technicians and heavy machinery in the building of the dam. The coat of arms of the Soviet Union is on the monument along with the coat of arms of Egypt. This towering edifice was the work of Russian sculptor Nikolay Vechkanov.

(photo by Yves Ouellet)

And so, we were here at last, in Egypt, and very soon would board the cruise boat that would take us on a memorable adventure down the Nile River.

NEXT: The Temple of Philae

 

 

6 comments:

Renuka said...

Great! I am excited to hear more about your Egypt trip! It's such a fascinating country.

Sarah Ibrahim said...

I like it Ruth , keep the good work

Sabina said...

From a questionable start to amazing discoveries in Aswan, I'm so happy this trip was a success for you. I know the rest of your time in Egypt was wonderful and am looking forward to reading more about everything!

Marcia Taams said...

The thing with Egypt is that it is not all about the Pyramids and the Sphinx. There are so many interesting things left to be discovered and tourists should dare to visit all the country. I can't imagine anyone not being interested in Egypt.

Wynn Bexton said...

You are positively right, Marcia. Egypt is an awesome place and I just loved the people. can't wait to go back and see lots more!

Wynn Bexton said...

You are positively right, Marcia. Egypt is an awesome place and I just loved the people. can't wait to go back and see lots more!