Escape the beaten path of Egyptian tourism.
Beyond Upper Egypt, between the first and second Nile cataracts, on the borders of the by then Known World, lies Nubia. The Greek country of Kush, where more than 3000 years ago, a mighty emperor named as Ramesses II decided to erect lavish temples to impress and warn incoming visitors.
3188 years after their achievement, as the temples were threatened by the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam, Unesco decided to relocated them 64 meters higher, to preserve this World Heritage. The temples were safe, but there was collateral damage: Nubian themselves. Settled since millennia on banks of the Nile, they witnessed their country flooded, and around 100.000 of their people displaced.
In 2005, after working for 10 years as a tour guide on cruise ships on the Lake Nasser, Fikri Kachef decided to create charming hotel in the purest Nubian tradition. Using crude bricks made of Nile mud and straw, multiplying domes and vaults, decorated with Nubian art and crafts, Fikri baptized this ecolodge “Eskaleh” (“water wheel” in Nubian), in memory of the irrigation systems that flourished on the river banks.
Far away from the hords of tourists and crowded downtown Abu Simbel, yet so close to the temples, Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge spreads its terrasse on the lake shore, immersed in pure tranquility, where you will enjoy the best of Nubian gastronomy. A unique experience in Abu Simbel, Eskaleh is a peacefull retreat in the heart of the land of the Pharaohs.
Abu Simbel Temples are not just “ordinary” Egyptian temples.
When the Priests-Architects of Pharaoh designed the temple of Ramesses, beloved of Amun, they decided to celebrate both the Sun-God, Amun, and their King-God, Ramesses II.
They created a 3-rooms speos, a temple carved in a mountain. The first room is guarded by 6 columns-statues of Ramesses II (on which faces you can still see the 3000-years-old painting of the beard and make-up of the eyes.
The second room’s ceiling is supported by four large square pillars.
And after this succession of two rooms, perfectly aligned with them, lies the temple’s Holiest of the Holy : a small oblong room, 3 meters by 6 maybe, with 4 statues, 2.5 meters high, sitting at the very bottom of the temple, facing the entrance: from left to right Ptah, Amun-Ra, Ramesses, and Ra-Horakhty. In the middle of the room is the stone on which the sacred boat lied.
Apart from the beauty of this age-old temple, nothing surprising. But there’s more. Continue reading The last Egyptian temple
As almost everybody in Egypt, we watched the news live on tv.
Tired of received the news either with a two-days delay or from Europe by phone, I finally decided to settle a satellite dish on the roof of the hotel (which didn’t have any television). Those last days, I was watching Al-Jazeera or BBC World, while working on the hotel’s accountability.
So since the beginning of the afternoon something was obviously underway. Al-Jazeera was annoucing an “important and urgent” statement from the Armed Forces Supreme Council, which was in permanent session. The crowds, still peaceful, was gathering not only in Liberation Square, but also around the institutions of the regime (Parliament, Government, State television, Presidential palace…) blocking acces to those. Military choppers arrived at the President’s palace…
And then, Al-Jazeera finally announced that Egyptian State television had launched the opening credits of official statements. I just had time to call (ok, shout) the hotel owner’s wife who was on the terrace, and then I switched to public TV. Suleiman appeared, bolt upright, as a Soviet sentry (probably an old souvenir from his education in Moscow), starting a short statement in Arabic… which I don’t
understand. Until Mrs Amal bursts with joy and starts yelling souts between two “al-hamdulilah”, “thanks be to God” !
In the evening, a real festival would happen at the hotel, from the restaurant to the terraces, where the village inhabitants, friends and family gathered to celebrate this historic moment. A simple and easy-to-share euphoria, the happiness to be “free at last”. Egyptian flags mixed with Nubian music until early morning, announcing a new day, and a new Egypt, celebrated by simple cries of joy: “Misr ! Misr ! Misr !” (“Egypt ! Egypt ! Egypt !”).
Ok, this could have been an image, but it has to be taken quite literally. Today, we planted around 200 tulip bulbs, and 200 other flower seeds.
I wanted to make something of this irrigation ditch since the first time I saw water running in it. It then looks like a little river, the music of the water is exquisite, and the tree line along which the ditch runs provide just enough shade to escape from the heat…
So I’d like to make like an extension of the terrace along those trees and this irrigation ditch. Small round tables, small chairs, candles, sometimes a hammock, because very soon, our sunny terrace will feel like a burning hell under the Nubian sun. Continue reading Planting the seeds for the future…
Cairo is burning, and Abu Simbel has never been more out of time than today…
Since 4 days, Egypt faces unprecedented revolts. Having no tv in the hotel, news are scarce… rumours of hotels burning in Cairo, of a Children Hospital also burnt down, of a policeman dismembered in Suez as revenge because he killed 4 pro-democracy protesters…
I can’t say that here in Abu Simbel life goes on as usual. On the contrary, it has never been more different than before. But for a totally different, although related, reason : tourists are gone. Continue reading Meanwhile, in Abu Simbel…
My name is Michel Mosser, I’m Belgian, 33 years old, and I’m the manager of the Eskaleh Ecolodge.
When I planned the new website of the Eskaleh, I had a pretty clear imagine of what I wanted. Online booking (coming soon), explainations on the Nubian culture, pictures gallery… but a blog wasn’t part of this plan.
Now that I’ve been here for several weeks, I realize there’s so much to tell.
Because Abu Simbel is so far from everything, because the Temples are lost in time, because the village is rapidly growing, and because the story of the Eskaleh Ecolodge is so much more than just a hotel and a restaurant. It is about making this place as sustainable as possible, it is about the Nubian people, it is about the (pretty) big picture : Mr. Fikri’s dream, the creation of a living museum of the Nubian culture. Continue reading A blog, really ?