Jonny's final blog from his recent trip to Egypt concludes with a visit to The Aswan Dam and the spot 'Death on the Nile' was written.
So after four wonderful days exploring both the contemporary and ancient lives of ‘Upper Egypt’ on the Nile, we arrived in the country’s southernmost town of Aswan. We moored up beneath the impressive Aswan Bridge, disembarked and headed by minibus into the center of town.
Although now a large modern city of a million citizens, the part frequented by the modern traveller did not seem to have changed much since my last visit 24 years ago. Beside the corniche, on the dark Nile waters, the pretty, atmospheric felucca sailing boats glided lazily by, small motor launches ferried passengers from the east bank to Elephantine Island and on the pavement by the road persistent, but very polite, tourist touts badgered what foreigners they could find to buy whatever it was they sold.
Of course it would have all been very different here before the British built the first dam just south of town and at the first cataract at the end of the 19th century; a situation magnified a thousand times when the High Dam was constructed during the 60s. Unable to get financing from the World Bank for the project, the revolutionary Present Nasser promptly nationalized the Suez Canal – giving rise to the Suez Crisis of 1956 – and asked the Russians to come in and build it, which, during the 60s, they duly did. Now the three-kilometer-long dam, a giant feet of engineering, blocks the largest man-made lake in the world, stretching 500 kilometers south all the way through Nubia and into Sudan, delivering 20% of Egypt’s power.
As part of our sightseeing tour we visited the dam and learnt about its construction. We then visited the town’s ancient quarry where a giant ‘Cleopatra Needle’ lies unfinished and finished of our trip at the Temple of Isis on the island of Agilkia. Although extremely picturesque, sitting as it does on the shore of the Nile, the most amazing thing about this temple is that it was painstakingly moved and reconstructed, stone by stone, some 300 meters from the island of Philae during the 70s, to prevent it being submerged under the raising waters of the Nile.
Finally, we arrived at the Old Cataract Hotel in time for a late lunch on the terrace, overlooking the Nile. It was here, in a room on the second floor, that Agatha Christie penned her classic Death on the Nile and as elegant and packed with history as it is, this hotel really is the place to stay. We all agreed a final evening here gave the trip a very fitting climax.
I am now sitting on a plane heading back to London and the office, very satisfied that this was a great trip and that Egypt is most definitely open for business.