The next morning we had arrived in Aswan and the ship had docked in it's usual manner - stacked up against several others, which together made a fiddly but luxurious gangway to solid ground. Our first sight? A lovely dredging rig taking away unwanted yuk from the dockside. It could only get better.
Today was the first day of the 'optional tours' - extra excursions we had the option of signing up for, at extra cost. Most hyped of all the tours occurred today - the great temple at Abu Simbel. It was quite far away and we had two options if we wanted to go see it; get up at 3am and bus it there, or at still more expense, get up at a far more reasonable 8am, drive to the airport and take a plane there. What the hell, we thought, pay for the flights.
So after a quick breakfast we were off in a coach with Hani once more. The steps up to the main road were more direct and so we had less time to be bothered by vendors. The road took us down the busy Aswan streets; a long straight promenade route passing several semi-empty ferry terminals and the occasional unloved tourist shop - including a shorefront McDonalds that looked quite modern - except that it was burned out and quite abandoned, from what we only hoped was a kitchen fire and not something more deliberate.
Aswan airport had the usual set of baggage scanners on the entrance, but the security was on the whole less strict than we get in the UK - which felt a bit weird - was it them being too lax or us too paranoid? - but nevertheless we were soon all through and into the waiting area for our plane, which was running about a half hour late.
I spent the time leafing through several English language books at a tourist shop - some I had seen elsewhere and others seemed exclusive to the shop, but all were in better nick than what the vendors were passing round, so after a little umm-ing and ahh-ing with the missus I got what seemed to be the most comprehensive for a decent price.
Lesson 3: If you are thinking of picking up some drinks or snacks at an airport shop - or any shop for that matter, you'll notice that the price isn't on anything. That's because you'll get charged anything the assistant wants because you're a tourist and you probably won't be able to work out on the hop when you're getting scammed. If you pick up a few items and the guy informs you that it just happens to work out at a nice round figure - particularly if that figure is a denomination of currency - you're being screwed.
We stood in a queue for the coach ride to the plane for a while with our overpriced drinks before realizing the security would probably not allow us to take it. I glugged mine down in desperation, while my calmer girlfriend relied on her charms to get hers through, which worked admirably.
The main temple, the lake and the dam are all linked together in a fantastic example of archaeological preservation. Had we come a hundred years previous, the temple would not have been there, it would be in the spot where it was originally built - now well underwater. When the Aswan High Dam was built in the fifties, the level of the water upstream naturally began to rise, which was bad news for Abu Simbel. In the mid-sixties, the temple which was by then partially submerged by water was cut up into huge blocks and transported further up the hill, where they were very carefully re-assembled as accurately as possible - right down to the position of the stones of the fallen statue, and the angle of the temple with respect to the suns' rays - necessary to preserve the intended illumination of the innermost statues within on two days per year.
We briefly had time to look inside the small temple, whose contents were much less violent. Square stone pillars topped with carvings of Hathor's face looked out at you with a benign, Mona Lisa-type smile, and the sunken carvings adorning the walls were generally of Gods giving and receiving presents, or acting out stories of old, rather than about to lay the smack down on the non-conformists, although Ramesses did manage to crowbar that into the odd spare space.
We joined the trail round the back of the temples, and followed a less-walked path to complete the circle of the area, arriving back where we started. We were picked up by a particularly persistent vendor on the way thanks to a misplaced glance towards some trinket or other, who followed us with protestations we were ignoring him interspersed with a gradually decreasing asking price for whatever he could carry with him on the journey back to the coach. By the time we had got back, the poor man was pleading for a tenth of the original asking price, but we were never interested in the first place. Hani did his trick of making a one-time offer to provide some exclusive photo prints of the inside of the temples for anyone who wanted them, and giving them out to those who stuck their hands up for a nice bit of extra folding in his pocket. We didn't bite.
The plane ride home was uneventful and we arrived back at our room to find the newest of our towel sculptures - a 'Happy New Year' sign made from loo paper, which was.. nice. We had a little bit of time to have a rest and some dinner, during which we reviewed what we saw against how much we had paid for it, and came to the conclusion that, if given the opportunity over, it really wasn't worth the trek. Meeting up with some of the others in the lobby, we prepared for our second optional tour - a night time light and sound show at the once-submerged Philae temple.
The upper dam was to Abu Simbel what the lower dam was to Philae. When the dam was built - and subsequently shored up in height twice - the waters slowly began to engulf the temple in it's original location of Philae Island. In the sixties, at around the same time that Abu Simbel was being moved, archaeologists erected a temporary dam around the site - which by then had been almost completely submerged - and painstakingly moved the numerous structures out of the water and up onto the nearby hill - now island - of Agilkia.
We staggered from our chairs but it wasn't over. We had to wheeze from the bottom deck to the top, where our hosts had put on some traditional Egyptian entertainment.
But top marks for embarrassment came with the crazy dancing guy. He had a grass skirt and an insane glare. He went round the room and grabbed any volunteers he could - including both of us. Being the tallest, I was put on one end of a half-women, half-men line, and typically, after we were all made to dance and shout as a group, I was chosen to do some shouting of my own.
I had to follow what the crazy guy said and did while people clapped and laughed. Especially the missus, who relieved that he had decided to pick on just me, eyed me with the relieved/amused look of a schoolkid who realised she had just got away without having to read in class.
I did my shouting and waving my hands in the air, and was glad when the others were re-involved once more to spread the embarrassment around a bit. No. There are no pictures.
Feeling that we had done enough for one evening to embarrass ourselves in front of strangers, we took back to the cool air of the streets again. It was about 10pm, and the city was beginning to come alive with the new years' celebrations. We began walking along the promenade, but as you would expect we were soon approached by people trying to sell us things. At night, this is usually what we had: a couple of guys with a horse and carriage. We had been told about the vendors with the carriages on the ship, that they mistreat their horses and can't always be trusted to take you where you want to go. The horse looked a bit on the thin side, a true beast of burden, but they followed us as we walked along, and wouldn't take no for an answer. Eventually, we relented as our walk was going to be all about repeatedly shouting 'no!' at them, and on condition of them giving the horse some food, we jumped on the back and proceeded down the prom.
The streets were alive with young men, and some women, in westernised clothing, while others walked along in more traditional dress. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, hoping I'm sure that 2012 would be the start of a succession of progressive years for the country.
We looped around and headed back; it wasn't the most enthralling journey but we got to see the teeming city by night without a pane of glass between us, and were glad just for a bit of fresh air as well. We stopped and paid our chauffeurs a little early and headed down to the docks. At a few minutes to twelve, I descended the rickety stone steps and dunked my shoe in the Nile water, so I could make the 'in de Nile' joke which I find endlessly amusing, and then, as the clocks struck midnight, we shared a romantic kiss in a quiet part of the dockside to welcome in 2012.
And we got a monkey in our room.