Main Page > 2022 Roman da Middle East Tour! >
Mike and Bone rose early and packed out of the Hotel, they were going boating, in fact the rest of their trip they did so on a resort boat, floating down the river. The early morning flight took about an hour and a half and provided the Boys a non-buffet breakfast. They landed in a small airport in Aswan, where the Road Scholars were loaded in a new Bus with their gear for a quick tour of the Aswan Dam. There Safwat shared the story of the Aswan Dam. The large earthen and cement dam, 500 miles south of Cairo, begins and ends with the oldest dialogue in human history, politics!
Water has always been one of the biggest concerns in Egypt. Too much or too little. Since antiquity, the Nile floods destroyed cities, crops, and land.
The Aswan High Dam has brought the Nile’s devastating floods to an end, reclaimed more than 100,000 acres of desert land for cultivation, and made additional crops possible on some 800,000 other acres. The dam’s 12 giant Soviet-built turbines produce as much as 10 billion kilowatt-hours annually, providing a tremendous boost to the Egyptian economy and introducing 20th-century life into many villages. The water stored in Lake Nasser, several trillion cubic feet, is shared by Egypt and the Sudan and was crucial during the African drought years of 1984 to 1988.
"Frankly Nasser, I do give a Dam" !
The history of the dam starts with the first Aswan dam built in 1902, which provided valuable irrigation during droughts but could not hold back the annual flood of the mighty Nile River. In the 1950s, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser envisioned building a new dam across the Nile, one large enough to end flooding and bring electric power to every corner of Egypt.
Nassar was an interesting Egyptian Leader in the 1950, during a time that much of the middle east were chafing at the US and European powers like Britain and France. Keep in mind, despite its rich heritage, Egypt for most of history was a vassal state, first to the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, then British. It had only been independent for 30 years and there were many Egyptians that remembered those times. In fact, there was a wave of Pan-Arab nationalism (or pan-Arabism) that brought in aggressive, charismatic leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein or Nassar to power. Nassar was an Egyptian politician who served as the second president of Egypt from 1954 until his death in 1970. Nasser led the Egyptian revolution of 1952 and introduced far-reaching socialist land reforms the following year. Following a 1954 attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member, he cracked down on the organization, put President Mohamed Naguib under house arrest and assumed executive office. He was formally elected president in June 1956.
"A Dam Mess" !
By 1957, pan-Arabism had become the dominant ideology in the Arab world, and the average Arab citizen considered Nasser their undisputed leader. Historian Adeed Dawisha credited Nasser's status to his "charisma, bolstered by his perceived victory in the Suez Crisis". The Cairo-based Voice of the Arabs radio station spread Nasser's ideas of united Arab action throughout the Arabic-speaking world, so much so that historian Eugene Rogan wrote, "Nasser conquered the Arab world by radio." His followers were numerous and well-funded but lacked any permanent structure and organization. They called themselves "Nasserites", despite Nasser's objection to the label (he preferred the term "Arab nationalists"). It was in this mind set that Nassar planned for the Aswan Dam.
The Beautiful Nile River
He won United States and British financial backing for funding a new dam, but in July 1956 both nations canceled the offer after learning of a secret Egyptian arms agreement with the USSR. In response, Nasser nationalized the British and French-owned Suez Canal, intending to use tolls to pay for his High Dam project. This act precipitated the Suez Canal Crisis, in which Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt in a joint military operation. The Suez Canal was occupied, but Soviet, U.S., and U.N. forced Israel, Britain and France to withdraw, and the Suez Canal was left in Egyptian hands in 1957.
A Tribute to Soviets? The Russian Egypt Friendship Memorial
Soviet loans and proceeds from Suez Canal tolls allowed Nasser to begin work on the Aswan High Dam in 1960. This led to a massive monument to the Soviets for their sponsorship of the dam. "F. U. John Foster Dulles and you American Imperialists!" said Nassar! Building the dam required moving more than 57 million cubic yards of earth and rock were used to build the dam, which has a mass 16 times that of the Great Pyramid at Giza. On July 21, 1970, the ambitious project was completed. President Nasser died of a heart attack in September 1970, before the dam was formally dedicated in 1971. The giant reservoir created by the dam—300 miles long and 10 miles wide—was named Lake Nasser in his honor. The formation of Lake Nasser required the resettlement of 90,000 Egyptian peasants and Sudanese Nubian nomads, as well as the costly relocation of the ancient Egyptian temple complex of Abu Simbel, built in the 13th century B.C. Since then, the dam has proven both beneficial and detrimental to Egypt. While the dam’s construction has been integral in generating electricity; erosion, poor silt deposition, and a slew of other environmental problems have developed. After the presentation, Safwat led the Road Scholars back to the Bus for a boat ride on the Nile to the Philae Temple!
Scott, Snoozing on the Boat to Philae Temple!
The Road Scholars got off the Bus, in the high desert warm morning and were loaded in a little motor boat for a 20 minute ride to the first true Egyptian Temple, the Philae Temple!
Mike and Bone chortled on the boat as their charge’ (or mascot) Scott Muller, passed out cold in the beautiful morning sun on the mild Nile River boat ride. Everyone did get up early after all! Once on the island, Safwat started his presentation that the Temple was almost destroyed due to the building of the Aswan Dam. It was the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia which saved the ancient monument which moved the temple complex was located on Philae Island, near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile in Upper Egypt. These rapids and the surrounding area have been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902. The temple complex was dismantled and moved to nearby Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam.
The Fabulous Philae Temple!
As the Road Scholars moved into the Temple area, Safwat went into a great overview on ancient Egyptian religion and its influence on Egyptian Architecture. Since Philae was said to be one of the burying-places of Osiris, it was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians (often referred to as "Ethiopians" in Greek) to the south. It was deemed profane for any but Egyptian priests to dwell there and was accordingly sequestered and denominated "the Unapproachable Place" There is a legend that that neither birds flew over it nor fish approached its shores. These indeed were the traditions of a remote period; since in the time of the Ptolemaic (Alexander the Great Greek) Kingdom, Philae was so much resorted to, partly by pilgrims to the tomb of Osiris, partly by persons on secular errands, that the priests petitioned Ptolemy VIII Physcon (170-117 BC) to prohibit public functionaries at least from coming there and living at their expense.
In the nineteenth century, William John Bankes took the Philae obelisk on which this petition was engraved to England. When its Egyptian hieroglyphs were compared with those of the Rosetta Stone, it threw great light upon the Egyptian consonantal alphabet.
The islands of Philae were not, however, merely sacerdotal abodes; they were the centers of commerce also between Meroë and Memphis. For the rapids of the cataracts were at most seasons impracticable, and the commodities exchanged between Egypt and Nubia were reciprocally landed and re-embarked at Syene and Philae.
The neighboring granite quarries also attracted a numerous population of miners and stonemasons; and, for the convenience of this traffic, a gallery or road was formed in the rocks along the east bank of the Nile, portions of which are still extant.
Philae also was remarkable for the singular effects of light and shade resulting from its position near the Tropic of Cancer. As the sun approached its northern limit the shadows from the projecting cornices and moldings of the temples sink lower and lower down the plain surfaces of the walls, until, the sun having reached its highest altitude, the vertical walls are overspread with dark shadows, forming a striking contrast with the fierce light which illuminates all surrounding objects.
The most conspicuous feature of both islands was their architectural wealth. Monuments of various eras, extending from the Pharaohs to the Caesars, occupy nearly their whole area. The principal structures, however, lay at the south end of the smaller island.
Mike and Bone in the Philae Temple!
most ancient was a temple for Isis, built in the reign of Nectanebo I during 380-362 BC, which was approached from the river through a double colonnade. Nekhtnebef was his ancient Egyptian royal titulary and he became the founding pharaoh of the Thirtieth and last native dynasty when he deposed and killed Nepherites II.
For the most part, the other ruins date from the Ptolemaic Kingdom, more especially with the reigns of Ptolemy II, (remember that Ptolemy 1, was one of the three Alexander the Great's Generals that split and lead his empire, Elizabeth Taylor, err Cleopatra was his descendant) Philadelphus, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, and Ptolemy VI Philometor (282-145 BC), with many traces of Roman work in Philae dedicated to Ammon-Osiris.
Heading into the holy of Holies!
Stories Etched on EVERY Freakin' Wall!!!
Beyond the entrance into the principal court are small temples, one of which, dedicated to Isis, Hathor, and a wide range of deities related to midwifery, is covered with sculptures representing the birth of Ptolemy Philometor, under the figure of the god Horus as explained by Safwat. He also mentioned that the story of Osiris is everywhere represented on the walls of this temple, and two of its inner chambers are particularly rich in symbolic imagery that dazzled Mike and Bone. Horus and Osiris were to become common themes and representations in all the temples that the Road Scholars were to see for the remainder of the trip!
After a couple of hours, Safwat Led the Road Scholars back to the little boat to go to the Bus, so they could go to a big Boat!
One Big Ole' Boat for Cruising down that Nile!!
The Road Scholars got to bunk on a semi-luxury cruise boat which was to be the home for the Boys for the remainder of this trip. Their quarters were typical cruise ship rooms, but still better than the dump in Jerusalem!
A Mighty Nile Fleet
Mike and Bone joined the rest of the Road Scholars in a fairly nice dining area for an Egyptian Dinner Buffet, ok maaaybe a little different from Jordan, but not really! Sharwma, Tabouli salad, and other local delights that made it very typical tourist fare. After dinner the Boys headed upstairs to find two delights!
Cheers for Beers on an Evening on the Mighty Nile!!
Only thing better than a beautiful night on the Nile, is a beautiful night on Nile with beer! The top deck was set up with astro turf, sundeck furniture, and a Bar!!! The Boys enthusiastically made a new friend in a young fellow named Mohammed, who served the Boys two well-deserved and better served frosty 16 ouncers! The Boys enjoy 2 more of the lovely lager as they watched the awesome fire red, sunset over the Sahara Desert on the meandering Nile!