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Contiki Egypt & The Nile: Day 3 – Aswan

The third day of our tour around Egypt began when we woke up on our overnight train at about 7:45 AM all rested. I slept like a baby on the train, but apparently I was in the minority. I always find overnight trains to be calming & they tend to rock me asleep as if I am on a boat. The steward came down our aisle with our breakfast, essentially 5 different kinds of carbohydrates, which we all picked at before making sure everything was in our bags. At about 9:15 AM, the train began to pull into a main town and we realized we were no longer in Cairo. Instead, the houses looked like they belonged in Aladdin & our tour guide welcomed us to “a real African city”, Aswan.

After arriving at the train station, we boarded a bus which took us a few minutes to our home for the next 4 days and 3 nights, a boat on the Nile River. The boat was 4 stories, had a dining galley, gift shops, about 75 guest rooms, a sun deck, pool and bar.

As the only single male on my trip, I now have my own room, something I’ve never had on a Contiki before! The room is larger than some hotel rooms I’ve had in Europe and has two twin beds and a full bathroom.

After dropping my bag off in my room, I met up with a few people to go to a Duty Free shop & accompany them in their search for an ATM and Money Exchange. The Duty Free Shop was not like something you’d find in an airport – it just had cigarettes and alcohol. I hoped it would have some snacks, too, but it didn’t. After we were done, we headed back to the boat for a buffet lunch. The food was outstanding & the buffet included everything from a variety of salads to soups to chicken to fish to cakes and fruit!

After lunch, we left our boat to board a traditional felucca (sailboat) which took us around an island in the middle of the Nile River. It was my first time on a sailboat & I was amazed how they were always able to keep it moving even when it seemed like the wind died down.

We rode around an island and saw both sides of the Nile River. The side we were docked on was Aswan, but the other side was the Sahara Desert. The island in the middle used to be inhabited by the British when they colonized Africa.

During our trip, children paddled up to our boat and serenaded us with a variety of songs – some I didn’t recognize, but others were classics like dejavaca.

We learned about how Aswan is where a lot of the birds of Europe fly during the winter, so there are quite a few bird watching tourists that come for a month or two in the winter.

The boat ride was beautiful & we felt very, very safe the entire time. Although we probably didn’t need it, the government is trying to encourage tourism, so our boat had a police escort a few hundred yards behind us as well as an armed guard on our boat.

After the boat ride, we boarded our bus and headed to a perfume company. Nearly 50% of all perfume essence in the world comes from Egypt and we had the opportunity to smell a few essences that are used to make some of the more famous perfumes and colognes like Hugo Boss and Chanel #5. The essences are pure in their form whereas the perfumes tend to be mixed with alcohol. Some people bought bottles of the pure essence at a heavy discount.

Then, we headed into the Aswan Tourist Market. It used to be only for tourist goods, but has been expanded to a local market in recent years due to the unfortunate decline in tourism. Our tour guide gave us one job for the evening – find an Egyptian themed costume for a party on the boat the following evening. He even helped us by having us model a few options and telling us how much everything should cost.

Armed with information, we went off in smaller groups! Despite the vendors starting at 8 times what our tour guide said we should pay, we were even to negotiate to even an lower price that what our tour guide said was a good deal. I bought a two piece Egyptian outfit for 70 Egyptian Pounds ($3.80 USD) & a fez for 15 Egyptian Pounds ($0.90 USD). I decided to wait on buying any additional souvenirs until later in my trip so I don’t have to carry them around. I should also say that our armed security guard was roaming the market while we were there, but it really was just for appearance.

After the market, we headed back to the boat and grabbed dinner which consisted of salads, soups, lasagna, fish, veal & desserts. We then went up to our boat’s roof to grab a drink before retiring for the evening at about 9:30 PM since we had a 3:30 AM wake up call the following morning. I watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones in bed before falling asleep at about 10:45 PM!

Aswan is a city that has amazing architecture, scenery & people. I truly hope tourism booms once again & this community can prosper to levels beyond its wildest dreams.

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