During our Abu Simbel tour, we had the privilege of meeting a totally crazy (in a mostly good way) traveller from North Korea who spent most of the tour ensuring that we knew it would cost a mere pound to take a ferry to Elephantine Island from Aswan. He only knew a few words of English, but we had several in-depth “conversations” with him (is it actually a conversation when you can’t get a word in edgewise?) that inevitably included him curling his arms into an elephant “trunk”, swinging them around, and shouting “ELLY-FONT!!! ELLY-FONT!!!” loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to stop what they were doing and watch. He was the kind of guy that complete strangers either made an effort to keep a 20-foot distance from as they feared for their safety or, more commonly, crowded around to hear (and watch) his stories. The “elly-font” cry and dance also seemed to be his prime negotiation tactic with local vendors. And from what we saw, it worked.
Not being able to get his “elly-font” chant out of our heads and more than ready to escape the touts in Aswan, we took the ferry over to Elephantine Island and spent an afternoon there. Not being a crazy North Korean, we had to pay more than a pound for the ferry… but talked our way down to two pounds each. (According to our hotel owner, North Koreans are the only foreigners that get local pricing – mostly because they are so crazy that no one wants to deal with trying to rip them off.) As it turns out, the island certainly wasn’t a safe haven from scammers – we were quickly ushered into a house to “tour” a bunch of kitschy crap (all for sale, of course) occupying every nook and cranny. It ended with the owner opening up a metal drum with a poor, dead-looking crocodile crammed inside. It had no space to move and barely blinked when the man poked it with a stick. We had no interest in seeing it in the first place and felt really bad for the poor creature, but the man figured we owed him money for showing us. We quickly made our exit and made no further attempt to talk to anyone else on the island. It was quite scenic, however, and we did manage to snap quite a few photos that make it look like a lovely place to visit.