Sunday, August 24, 2008

Travel: The Art of the Daytrip

Financial Times UK (Rahul Jacob)

When Florence Nightingale visited Abu Simbel in 1850, she was so moved by the sight of the four colossi of Ramses II that she returned a couple of times at dawn to look at them again. “The figures are clumsy ... excessively short from thigh to knee, the legs like posts. Yet no one would say that those faces were expressionless ... they will live in [the traveller’s] memory as the sublimest expression of spiritual and intellectual repose he has ever seen.” Nightingale’s experience of multiple visits to the site of the temples of Ramses II and his queen Nefertari was akin to a religious conversion. As the boat pulled away from Abu Simbel, “Our eyes were full of sand and tears,” she wrote.

Give or take that in the 1960s the temples have been moved about 200m behind and 61m above their original site in order to escape the rising waters of Lake Nasser – nothing about this extraordinary monument has changed, and yet everything has changed.

In the age of Airbus, Abu Simbel has become the ultimate day-trippers’ destination – an extreme example of the “been there, done that” tempo of our travel. Depart, say, by the EgyptAir 10:10am shuttle from Aswan and about 40 minutes later you will arrive in Abu Simbel, where a free bus takes you to the temples. Soon enough you will find yourself in front of the daunting statues with which Ramses II intended to intimidate his Nubian enemies coming into Egypt. It is quite a shock-and-awe campaign, even millennia later.

See the above page for the full story.

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