The day started incredibly early due to the 7am flight to Aswan. Although it is a one-hour domestic flight, airport security is so extensive - and repetitive - it took at least 30 minutes from door to gate. That included three security checkpoints with pat-downs and four passport checks.
I’d made no transportation arrangements from the airport to my home for the next 3 days, the Sonesta St. George Nile cruise. I wasn’t even sure where the boat was docked, but it didn’t matter - a small group of travelers on my flight was also heading to the St. George, and their tour guide was kind enough to get us a taxi. The decrepit car (smelling strongly of gasoline) also came with an unrequested guide, who insisted that I would not be able to check in before the afternoon, but luckily he could provide me with several hours of tours - for a few, of course. I had to feign illness to escape.
Upon arrival, the crew of the St. George was incredibly friendly and helpful. I was offered cold welcome drinks in the beautiful lounge while my upgraded suite was being prepared. In less than 30 minutes I had a gorgeous room, my luggage was delivered, and I was able to enjoy a quick nap before the wonderful lunch buffet.
Although excursions to the Aswan Dam and Temple of Philae were scheduled for the afternoon, I opted instead for a quiet and relaxing time in the cabin and upstairs on the sun deck with a lovely pool and covered lounge. If I’d thought Cairo was hot, Aswan is hell. By mid-afternoon the temperature had reached 105 Fahrenheit.
Dinner was as wonderful as lunch. The chef insists in speaking Italian with me, even though I told him I’m from the United States. In fairness, I’ve overheard him randomly addressing people in Italian, Spanish and English, without any regard for the passengers’ nationality. He’s always smiling and seems really proud of every dish on the menu, which range from continental cuisine to middle eastern, Italian, and even Mexican.
I’m slowly getting to know my fellow passengers. The St. George fits 120, but for this journey there are only 30 of us, a sign that Egyptian tourism is still suffering badly. The high season (winter) is winding down and as it gets hotter, tourists disappear. Several of the other Nile boats are not operating this week and may be off for the next several months.
For the next two days we will be broken up in groups of eight, each with a dedicated Egyptologist. My group consists of Americans, French Canadians, a British woman, and a French guy. Our guide Medhat says we’ll be his children, even though he is only 44 years old. We’ve already started to call him Daddy.
We’re staying in Aswan overnight and touring local sites tomorrow.