RTW Trip Aswan, Egypt Day 56: How NOT to Get Ripped Off at Philae Temple
Other than the Unfinished Obelisk, you can also visit the Aswan High Dam and Philae Temple. While I am not into dams per se, Greg is big on urban planning, and had to come visit Nasser Lake to see the High Dam. He dragged me to Hoover Dam in Nevada/Arizona last year, and I never found it that interesting, but High Dam is vast, overlooks Nasser Lake that supposedly has crocodiles, and has some odd structures that are rather futuristic and Big Brother-like.
If I had to film a movie that had a cult-like séance scene like in Dragnet, but it had to take place in the future, I would definitely use this location. Even the drive out to the dam had a bit of a moody feel with its dry landscape and electrical power lines. It reminded me of the end scene in David Fincher’s film Seven, where Brad Pitt’s character goes out to the desert to see that his wife’s head (Gwyneth Paltrow) has been cut off and put in a box by Kevin Spacey’s character.
The dam isn’t too far from the town, and you can easily combine this trip with a trip to Philae Temple to see some ancient hieroglyphics, carvings, and structures on an island. There was an unexpected “government fee” of 5LE when we entered the high dam area, but they give you a receipt, so I guess it is legit? Our cab driver was kind enough to take us to the High Dam, and then take us to Philae Temple, wait for us, and the drive us back to town. Let me first talk about how surprising nice Philae Temple was. Aswan’s tourist information said that if we were going to Luxor, then Philae Temple would be ‘nothing,’ but I am glad we went anyway. We had the time, and basically had the place to ourselves.
I believe the temple was actually dismantled and moved to a new location due to the original location being submerged by water, but it looked like it had belonged on this island the whole time. You have to take a very short boat ride (about 5 minutes) to the temple entrance, and you are instantly invited to a bunch of shrubbery and bushes, and the large and grandiose temple with a bunch of cool carvings still in excellent condition.
There were narrow corridors, and small rooms to see the various carvings, interesting graffiti with peoples’ names with the year dated in the 1800s, and my particular favorite, carvings that seriously looked like aliens. Hello Roswell!
We spent a good hour and a half there, and our cab driver was happily waiting for us when we were finished. Here is the part of Philae Temple that is absolutely angering. To enter the temple, you must first purchase your ticket to the temple (60 LE per person). The ticket worker takes your ticket, and then you are led down a jetty of sorts, where Egyptian boat drivers are waiting to absolutely rip you off. The only way to get from the landing to Philae Temple is by a short 5 minute boat ride, and the price of the boat ride is not included in your admission. Needless to say, if you are upset with the price of the boat, you can’t really skip Philae Temple, because you have already purchased your admission ticket. The boat drivers are absolutely aware of this, and because you really have no choice, they win, and the tourists lose. When we approached the drivers, the first price we were quoted was 250 LE. What!? A five minute ride for 2 people should NOT cost this much, especially when the Lonely Planet says it should only cost 10-20 LE each if you could bargain hard. I tried to talk to the driver that the price was too high, and after a lot of back and forth, we decided to just wait it out a bit until other people came so we could share a boat with them. We got a couple prices, then 80 LE. The lowest price I got was 50LE, after we waited for two other French tourists to arrive. While I do understand that tourism is low, it never feels good to feel ripped off. I told him if people felt ripped off, maybe less tourists would come. I wonder if that hit home a little, because that was when I was able to get the 50 LE, and that price was still well above the price of 10-20 LE as written in the Lonely Planet. While in US dollars, it isn’t a whole lot of money, we are still on a budget, and I like to think that it is the principle that is important here.
When we finished our tour with our cab driver, we were bad tourists, and visited what I like to call Scottish food. Yup…we went to McDonald’s. We entered the air-conditioned restaurant, even had access to hand sanitizer, and ordered ourselves gluttonous Quarter Pounder meals. It was the first time I didn’t eat kushari (although Greg got some later), and OMG, the fries tasted so good. Don’t lecture me, I know it is bad. I even read Fast Food Nation, and that STILL does not stop me from eating this garbage. Actually, the only reason why we went to McDonald’s, was because we had to meet Mostafa 2 to give him money for the Felucca registration for the following day’s trip. He had to get our passport copies and register our information with the local police. The location where we met Mostafa 2 was a 5 second walk to McDonald’s, so it was really hard to resist! Before heading back to Memnon Hotel, we spent some time walking through the town, getting a feel for the bazaar area at night. People were out and about, trying to sell you spices, drinking tea in cafes, or simple just reading the newspaper. Walking through the bazaar seemed like time stood still.
Later in the evening, we spent time at the Internet Café located directly behind the hotel. The wifi was slow, but we needed to get some internet stuff done, so while slow, we were thankful it existed! We then went back to Memnon, this time staying in one of the back non-Nile view rooms, that are much quieter!
High Dam 60 LE
Water 3.5 LE
Taxi to High Dam and Philae Temple 150 LE
Philae Temple 120 LE
Philae Temple boat 50 LE
Government fee 5 LE
Boat driver tip 5 LE
Mcdonald’s 68.50 LE
Felucca registration 50 LE
Memnon Hotel 120 LE
Bananas 8 LE
Kushari 5 LE
Drinks at Internet cafe 20 LE
Beer 75 LE
Total cost: 740 LE = $99.66 / 2 = $49.81 per person
What I learned: It might be a good idea to go with a large group of people when heading to Philae Temple to catch the boat. Egyptian Tourism should just have a set price listed, but until then, you will need to fend for yourselves!
Actual date of travel: Oct. 29, 2014