There’s been a lot of Egyptian content on Aussie on the Road lately, so when I was approached about accepting an article about somebody’s own experience on the Nile – I couldn’t really say no. Especially when this very river made an appearance on my recent 5 River Cruises to do Before You Die list.
Egypt seems to have an almost magical place in the hearts of most travellers. Hell, even those who aren’t predisposed to the travel bug seem to be affected by its allure. We’re ten days out from my epic US trip, and that means there’ll be a lot less guest posts on the site. Enjoy them while you can!
NB: I am aware that captions are not displaying correctly at this point. This is a documented issue with the new WordPress update and will be addressed later this week when Thesis is updated again. Sorry for the unsightliness!
A Voyage to the Heart of Egyptian Civilisation
A cruise down the Nile River is more than just your average adventure and cultural tour. Once you step inside one of the 240 riverboats that are said carry passengers along this famed waterway, you will be set adrift on a voyage into the heart of Egyptian civilization. The Nile is the longest river in the world, but most cruises operate only between Luxor and Aswan. While you may have dreamed of embarking on an odyssey to unearth the source of this mighty river, as there is still uncertainty as to whether it originates in Rwanda or Burundi, such an expedition is best left up to the ghost of Richard Francis Burton.
History books and tour guides will tell you that the Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt, but it’s one thing reading books and guides on the Nile as it’s a completely different experience when you see the Nile in reality. There are ports of call and ancient cities on the 125-mile stretch between Luxor and Aswan that are sure to keep any budding archaeologist happy. What you are able to see and do on your luxury tour depends on the length of your cruise. Considering that this might be a once in a lifetime journey, it is a good idea to book a lengthy holiday excursion to make the most out of everything.
There are numerous highlights on a Nile River cruise, but here are three stops that cannot be missed:
The Valley of the Kings
If you close your eyes and envision Egypt, then the Valley of the Kings probably comes to mind immediately after images of the pyramids have faded. It is the most world-renowned archaeological plot in the world, and in 1979 it became a World Heritage site. While only 11 tombs have been officially discovered, the area is supposed to be the final burial ground of dozens of Egyptian pharaohs. The most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings belongs to King Tutankhamen, who is better known as King Tut.
It’s not just the Valley of the Kings in the region. Luxor also boasts the Valley of the Queens, Valley of the Artisans, and several other temples worthy of exploration.
After snapping a roll of film, it is time to get back on the riverboat. You will glide past fertile farmland, water buffalo, palm trees and sand dunes. The landscape along the banks of the Nile changes from one spectacular scene to the next, until you anchor again at the next port.
The Temple of Karnak
The Temple of Karnak is one of the most visited attractions in Egypt. While the Great Temple of Amum is the undisputed highlight, the complex is filled with all types of ruins, chapels, obelisks and pylons. You are going to want to spend some time reading up on your Egyptian history before you even try to make sense of this labyrinthine temple complex.
This massive artificial lake, created by the formation of the Aswan Dam, offers spectacular sunrise and sunset shots. It’s not a part of the Nile cruise, but a side cruise along the man-made lake’s 500km is a nice way to soak in the country at a more leisurely pace.
The temples in Abu Simbel are testaments to Ramesses the Great and Queen Nefertari. In the 13th century, these temples were painstakingly carved out of the mountainside. The temples are believed to celebrate the king’s victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
While it’s no longer possible to visit the original sites of the Abu Simbel temples (that spot lies somewhere underneath Lake Nasser), the complex has been painstakingly recreated at a new location and draws tens of thousands of tourists each year.
Sometimes called the City of 1000 Minarets, Cairo’s Islamic culture may not be what you picture when you imagine traditional Egyptian culture. But a visit to Egypt’s most famous city offers a window into the day to day lives of modern Egyptians. Sit back and enjoy a coffee or some flavored tobacco (sheesha), chat with a local, or take investigate some of the city’s countless museums and souvenir stops.
You can read more about Cairo in my 5 Different Things to do in Egypt post.
Finish your journey where the Nile does! A visit to the port city of Alexandria (one of many cities around the world named for the all-conquering Alexander the Great) offers a distinctly different view of Egyptian life to what you will experience in Cairo. The picturesque coastal city, tourism in Alexandria is a booming industry mixing Egypt’s old world charms with modern conveniences.
Its foundation as a Greek settlement in Egypt means you get to see the merger of two of history’s most fascinating cultures and there’s no shortage of Greek or Egyptian history to be explored.
The waterfront boasts no shortage of fantastic seafood restaurants or activities on the water, while further into the city you’ll find museums and guided tours aimed at providing you with a window into Egyptian life.
Ever been on a Nile cruise of your own? What were your favorite stops?