Imagine sitting in a swimming pool, on the top deck of a luxury cruise boat, sailing down the Nile River. Meanwhile, the rich tapestry of Egyptian life passes by.
From Aswan, we joined the ‘Nile Festival’ cruise boat, for a trip down the Nile River to Luxor. All of the cruise boats are ‘5 star,’ but some are more 5 star than others. Some of our travel companions were booked on another, more luxurious boat, which they had chosen on the basis of pictures and videos in England. So they were somewhat disappointed with their ‘upgrade.’ Still, this one was more than adequate.
The cruise, for us, was a 4-nighter. Other options are available, in both directions, or even return. Just to cruise on the boat and enjoy the facilities, meals and passing views, is enough. But you are also treated to some stunning shore excursions. Just when you think you have seen all that Egypt has to offer, there is more. Those Pharaohs were busy boys with all their constructions, especially Ramses II, who ruled for more than 60 years.
Our first stop out of Aswan was Kom Ombo, site of a magnificent temple. Our visit was timed to coincide with sunset so the weather was pleasant and the lighting on the sandstone temple enhanced its appearance. A lot of the final work and decoration of this temple was done by Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII. Adjacent to the temple there was a collection of 20 mummified crocodiles! Not everyone’s cup of tea, but another interesting sight nonetheless.
Next stop was Edfu, where we overnighted. Here we were treated to an early morning visit to the Temple of Horus, which Lonely Planet claims is the most completely preserved temple in Egypt. In spite of its elevated position and stunning size, it was completely covered by sand and was dug out in the mid 19thcentury. There were quite a lot of visitors there, a comfortable number really, so it must be very crowded when tourism is at its peak!
At one stage Egypt was receiving over 5 million visitors per year, but now it is claimed to be less than 20% that. It must have a huge impact on many businesses and individuals who rely on tourism. You get the feeling too that most of the current crop of tourists are not really in a spending mode, at least in terms of souvenirs.
Transport to and from the temple was by horse and carriage and clopping through the dusty streets between the mud brick houses gives you the feeling of going back in time. On the way back from the temple there were hundreds of children heading off for school, amongst the bread salesmen, donkeys, other horse-drawn carriages, early morning shoppers and inquisitive locals. Great scenes.
Esna was our next ‘stop’ later in the day. There the cruisers pass through two locks and it’s a great opportunity for the local salesmen to draw alongside the boats in smaller boats in an attempt to make a sale. They are very persistent and enthusiastic and happily hurl their goods up onto the top deck of the boats in an effort to sell something. As you pass through the locks they are right alongside on the pier as well. There were a couple of takers for their wares and it made for fun entertainment as some goods landed in the pool or fell into the sea.
Arriving in Luxor in the mid-afternoon, we still had many more sightseeing opportunities in store. Our guide Mohammad is a 24 year old product of the Institute Tourism course. He was extremely knowledgeable and accommodating. We visited the Luxor Temple and the Temple of Karnak on the first evening. Both are well-preserved, stunning must-see attractions.
The following morning we were up before sunrise to experience another amazing highlight. We travelled by van, boat and another van to an isolated area where we boarded one of ten hot-air balloons for a flight over the temples, ruins and sights of Luxor. It was wonderful. Captain Emad looked after us very well and we shared our basket with three Brazilians: Aldo, Bruno and Maria. In spite of a hard landing with four bounces and a flip, due to a 17 km/hr breeze, it was a fantastic experience! Check out Jenny’s video.
More sightseeing followed breakfast and check-out. We saw the amazing Valley of the Kings and were treated to the interiors of three of the many tombs in the area. Stunningly well preserved! Even a lot of the colour remains on the wall friezes. Our final visits were to the Al-Deir and Al-Bahari Temple and the statues of Memnon. All good and made better by Mohammad. By the time we boarded our evening flight to Cairo, we were cactus.
If you do go to Egypt, make sure you do a cruise, experience the pyramids on a camel, don’t miss the hot-air balloon ride or any of the shore excursions. They are all incredible.
If you would like to experience the wonders of Egypt, our friends Sue and Helal, who live near the pyramids, would be happy to arrange it for you:
They are also able to welcome you for a home stay with lots of great local food.
They can arrange the highlights of Egypt to suit all budgets.