Aswan-Luxor School Trip – Part 1

In mid-November the middle school Arabic teacher, Mr. A, came to me and invited me to go on a Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor in Southern Egypt.

egypt-map

I was sorely tempted, but I would be taking the same trip with my mother less than a week later, so I declined. Later, I found out that it wasn’t just a trip for teachers; it was a school-sponsored trip and Mr. A needed a few more teachers to chaperone the 16 middle and high school students going. Again, I declined. I’m doing the same trip a week later, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang around with a bunch of middle and high school students for four days. So, how is it that I found myself packed and ready to leave for the airport at 2 AM on December 22? I’m not really sure, but I’m glad I went.

Day 0:

The flight was at 5 AM, and we left from the school so all students had to be at the school ready to go by 2:30 AM. Since I was a chaperone, I had to be there at 2 AM. Joy. I tried to get some sleep the night before, but it’s difficult to fall asleep at 8 PM when you’re excited for an adventure. I just ended up surfing the net and skyping with my dad.

Day 1:

A fellow chaperone, Mr. D, picked me up at 1:45 AM, after he’d been stopped twice by the police on his way to New Cairo.  It was a chilly morning, and we had to stand around outside the school for quite a while, waiting for all the students to arrive, and the bus that would take us to the airport. As we waited I went around and got each student to enter their name and phone number into my cell phone, in case of an emergency. Some kids showed up in pairs, others came with every family member, and a few were unceremoniously dumped at the front door. Almost everyone made it on time, with two students arriving together at the very last minute.

Keeping track of all the students wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The kids are old enough to be responsible for themselves, if not their things. A few kids left their bags unattended at the airport while they went to grab some coffee; Mr. D gave them a serious talking to. One student left her boarding pass at the coffee stand and had to go back and get it at the last minute. We never let poor A forget it either!

One of the students, R, had never been on an airplane before, and was nervous about flying. I’ve been flying since I was four years old, so she switched seats with Mr. D and sat next to me. It was fun to be there as someone experienced the excitement of flying in an airplane for the first time. Thankfully, the flight was uneventful, and it was great to watch the sunrise over the horizon.

The bus that took us from the airport to the boat was fun. The seats were covered in some sort of fun fur. It looked like Chewbacca‘s Wookie relatives had been sacrificed for seat covers. Poor things. Everyone was starving so we stopped at a roadside and grabbed some food. Most students (and me) went for chips and soda, a few went for some falafel sandwiches.

The boat wasn’t quite ready for us when we arrived, so we hung around on the roof/sun deck of the boat while Mr. A spoke with the receptionists about room arrangements. As we waited Mr. D challenged the students to a table-tennis competition and dominated.

Mr. A, Mr. D, and myself had single rooms, and all the  students were paired up. With the exception of Mr. D, we were all located in the same hallway, to the left of the reception hall. My room was right next to the lobby, and all the students were at the other end of the hallway, with Mr. A in the middle.

After a few minutes rest to settle into our lovely rooms, it was out to the tour bus to go to the Aswan High Dam. It was only 9 AM, but it felt like 2 PM, that’s what happens when you’ve been awake since midnight. We met our tour guide Mr. Hassan, a retired Egyptian professor; a very sweet man, but he was not the best choice to entertain 16 bored teenagers.

Mr. Hassan took us to the Aswan High Dam first, a miraculous feat of engineering. Lake Nasser was created by the dam and named after the Egyptian President who approved the project, thus saving Egyptians from being totally dependent on the flooding of the Nile.

After the dam we sailed to the island of Philae, where a temple had been relocated. The original location of the temple put it under water when the dam was built, so Egypt and the Italians collaborated to move the temple to a nearby island. It’s quite impressive to realize that they took apart the temple and reassembled it so completely. There’s a light show at night, but we didn’t have enough time to see that. Something to see the following week with Mom!

You may have noticed one of the students wearing my sun hat in the photo. This turned out to be one of the best weapons in my teacher arsenal. If the kids were misbehaving, or not listening to directions I just had to threaten them with wearing my hat for a few minutes. Usually it put kids right in line, rarely did I have to actually make a kid wear the hat. The other great weapon I had was hand-holding. Whenever I shouted “Last one on/off the boat gets to hold my hand!” all of the students would start hustling like their lives depended on it. Never underestimate the power of humiliation!

On the boat ride from Philae temple to the bus I told students that I would give 200 LE (about $30) to the first person who could show me a live crocodile on the Nile or in Lake Nasser. That held their attention for about 2 minutes, and I got worried that I might have to pay up when Mr. Hassan confirmed that crocodiles still live in the waters. Thankfully the students lost interest in looking for crocodiles quickly.

We were back on the boat by 1 PM, starving for lunch, and ready for a nap. The buffet on the boat was a nice mix of Western and Egyptian cuisine, but some of the students were not impressed. The food was included, but all drinks were an extra 15 LE (about $2) each. Immediately after lunch I disappeared into my room and napped while we sailed the Nile. A more peaceful nap I don’t think I’ve ever had. 

The boat was scheduled to sail right at 1, but some of the other guests were tardy so we didn’t end up sailing until 2:30 PM or so. This delay caused a change of schedule; we had to skip Edfu temple. I was a little disappointed, but I don’t think the students noticed.

At 4:45 PM we docked and set out for Kom Ombo Temple. At this point the long day was beginning to wear on everyone, especially since I was the only one that took a nap. The kids were tired and bored, the chaperones were cranky, and the temple was too similar to the one at Philae to be interesting. However, it should have been more interesting because this temple was devoted to the study of crocodiles. The attached museum (generous term for one room) showed how the crocodiles were worshipped and later mummified to honor their contributions.

The boat set sail again at 6:15 PM, and we all waited impatiently for dinner to begin at 7:30 PM. There was a Galabeya party in the lounge after dinner, meaning tourists were to dress up in traditional Egyptian clothing (available for purchase in the gift shop, of course) and dance to some Egyptian music. I was bone-tired so I ducked out after twenty minutes of headache-inducing Egyptian music; but the kids, Mr. D, and Mr. A stayed for the evening. The pictures that were for sale the next morning told an interesting tale.

Mr. D preparing for the Galibeya party.

Mr. D preparing for the Galabeya party.

I will be eternally grateful to Mr. A and Mr. D for letting me go to bed early on that first night. I didn’t have to deal with keeping students in their cabins for curfew so as not to bother the other guests. We were all exhausted, so an early night was a blessing.

Tune in later for Day 2!

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