In April we went on a Nile Cruise. The cruise entails flying to Luxor from where the actual sailing starts. Before cruising though, all the well-known tourist attractions in and around Luxor is being visited. All these are temples, except for the Luxor Museum harbouring artefacts from temples. Not really my cup of tea. On the first day we had quite a full program.
After we arrived in Luxor we started with a visit to the Luxor Museum, which paved the way for the rest of the sites, because it was filled with statues and artefacts from temples and archaeological finds. There were even two mummies in the museum. There were a few similar pieces which are also featured in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. One such a piece is the face of a pharaoh who had done away with all the Egyptian gods and declared that there was only one God – the Creator and the only One that should be worshipped. Other similar pieces are horse carts and statues of historical figures.
Our guide on this Nile Cruise tour was an Egyptologist who is very passionate about his job. He is also very patriotic, has strong political views that he is not afraid of voicing and according to him everything and all were invented in Egypt. I realised soon that we would be treated to quite a lot of information we would not always appreciate. 🙂
As a Bible believer I had a tough time staying focused on what we were being told, because the stories about the pharaohs and the gods and the religions were a bit much and one always tend to weigh others’ truths against your own Truth. Anyway, this is an account then of our Nile cruise for any of you who are interested in coming to visit Egypt and wanting to go on a cruise. If you find personal travel pieces boring and just want to know if it worth the while, here is the short answer: Yes, come and visit Egypt and go on a Nile cruise.
We booked into our cabins on the boat after the museum visit and had time to settle in a bit. Our group occupied two ‘ships’. The bigger bulk stayed on the larger of the two boats, The Mövenpick Sun Boat, and we booked into the smaller one, called The Nile Adventurer. The latter is a quaint little boat with nice interior, a pleasant atmosphere and friendly and efficient staff. The food is excellent and way too much on a way-too-regular basis.
Just before sunset on Monday, we left by bus to visit the first temple. There we saw the sun set over Luxor which was a beautiful spectacle. From there we went to see a sound and light show at the Karnak Temple, where we were met by the governor of Luxor. Here listened to an overly dramatic audio narration – which sounded as if was made in the 1930’s – of the history of the gods, starting with someone calling himself the ‘god of the first day’. My attention wondered a bit, but I practiced taking photos in the dark with my newish camera, while another ancient proud himself that he married four of his own daughters and bragged about the amount of children he had with them. Later we moved to a different location nearby in an amphitheatre-like pavilion and were treated to another half to three quarters of an hour’s sound and light narration.
On the second, hot morning of the cruise we visited the Valley of the Kings, the Habu Temple, where in 1997 seventy plus tourists were killed by terrorists, the Hatshepsut Temple and the Collossi of Memnon. All the hieroglyphs and tombs etc. were starting to look the same to me by this time. One must admire the tenacity with which the ancient Egyptians recorded their doings, especially because they did it in stone. Some of the artifacts here are really well preserved. And, now I can say that I had the privilege of seeing the actual mummified body of Tutankamun, the boy king. Mmm, that’s a story for another day.
After the very hot morning, we were welcomed back on the boat with nice warm cloths to clean our sweaty faces and fresh lemon and mint drinks to refresh us. We had a late lunch and we finally started sailing to Esna.
Cruising was my favourite part of the week. We sailed all along the Nile, passing farmed lands and very small villages. Time had stood still alongside the Nile. They are still attending to their crops the way they did a few thousand years ago. On the one hand, I thought, man, these people have so much to learn and they could benefit so much by new farming methods, machinery and expertise help. And on the other hand, I envied them for the absolute quietness, simplicity and peace in which they live.
Maybe this was how life should be. Living from the land, from the hand to the mouth, just sustaining yourself and those living with you. It is mind blowing to find that in a country which had become modernised up to a point, you can still find this way of living. And what blows my mind even further is that the land alongside the Nile still belongs to these people, living their modest lives. It is not yet monopolised by big food corporations or holiday consortiums. Weird. And wonderful. If we are here for the next three years, we will go on the cruise again and again, because this passing by of peaceful Nile existence, and not the glamourous temple visits, was what I enjoyed most.
We sailed to Edfu in the early morning and got off the boat to visit the Edfu Temple. This was probably the most fun visit of the cruise, because instead of getting into an air-conditioned bus, we got on horse carts and were driven through the busy town’s streets to the site. At least now we can say that we have been in a horse cart traffic jam too. I never thought I would be able to add that to my life’s CV. It was very hot here again, and we moved from shade to shade and had our first and only ice cream afterwards. We didn’t enjoy the harassment of the stall owners that much of course, but it’s compulsory of any Egyptian experience.
We were back on the boat for lunch again and cruised to Kom Ombo, a lively town with colourful shops lining the docking space. Here we visited the Kom Ombo temple at night with its small museum housing quite a collection of stuffed crocodiles.
After the visit to the temple it was galabeyya (Egyptian dress-like attire) party night on both boats. It was a lot of fun with a Bulgarian lady friend with camel riding trousers on dancing the night away and a South Korean friend perfecting the Gangham Style. We macarena-ed with our American friends and the boat staff joined in and showed us a few Nubian dance tricks. Michael looked like an oil baron and Deon and I looked cool in our ‘dresses’ too, I think.
Ah, Aswan. We cruised to Aswan and had a full day full of pleasant surprises in this surprise of a town. I know, I’m surprised myself that I use the word so many times. 🙂
We visited the Philae Temple, to where you have to go by bus first and then by boat. The temple is situated in a beautiful area filled with water and rocks and plants, unlike any other terrain we have seen so far in Egypt. It almost feels as being in another country. It was still hot, so we did some shade hopping again.
We went back to town by bus and then caught falloukas – these have engines – to the botanical garden on an island in the Nile. The garden was planted by Lord Kitchener, when he was in Egypt. At least he did some good in other areas of the world, because he wasn’t a popular man in South Africa back then. (If you don’t know why, go and do some research about the Anglo-Boer War between the British and South Africa.) Plants and trees from all over the world were imported to be planted there. The gardens are being looked after and is a peaceful haven in the desert. On the other side of the garden is a huge sand dune or a small mountain full of sand – a beautiful piece of earth.
Our next stop was a Nubian village. The Nubians are an ethnic group who originated in modern-day Sudan. They are a little darker of skin than the rest of the Egyptians, are very friendly and like to paint their houses in colours – mostly shades of blue, which is absolutely beautiful. We visited a home where we met the family’s pet crocodile kept in their sink and drank some good mint tea. Real nice green mint tea, like the Moroccans make it.
We rested a bit on the boat after which we had an appointment for high tea at the old Sofitel Cataract Hotel, where the likes of Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, Tsar Nicholas II and Queen Noor hung out regularly. It is said that Ms Christie wrote part/s of her novel ‘Death on the Nile’ there. So, for me this was a real treat. The wind started blowing fiercely, which provided a nice breeze in the early evening and we had our ‘tea’ on the lawn in front of the hotel. The view is spectacular with the Nile ‘forking’ here underneath it and the one leg flowing pass the one side of the hotel. At a little table outside on the terrace I could swore that I saw Ernest Hemmingway’s son creating a best seller. (I even have a photo to ‘prove’ it!) The rooms are beautiful and old Englishy and just sooo romantic. I could almost see Agatha sitting in her room behind her desk, putting words into Hercule Poirot’s mouth on her old type writer. I took way to many photos of the hotel’s interior. I’m ashamed to say that I will treasure this visit more than the sight of the mummified body of Tutankamen. But, hey, I must be forgiven, because I’m a writer…
Back at the boat we were welcomed by a band and dancers and being entertained on the dock for about half an hour before heading for dinner and a bottle of wine on the deck – the most Deon and I had ever paid for a pretty ordinary bottle in our entire lives…
We were nearing the end of our cruise. We left the boat after breakfast and gone to the Aswan Dam by bus. We got out and ‘inspected’ the dam wall in the still strong blowing wind. From there we went to Abu Simbel – probably Egypt’s most written about temple. Most people drive there from Aswan, which can take up to four hours (just to get there and then you still have to drive back) and can be rather uncomfortable in the heat. Fortunately, we flew and what a sight it was, flying over Lake Nasser for the whole way! It is such a big body of water and it is beautiful to see the water veins flowing into each other from high above. When we landed the water still stretched to the horizon in the direction of the Sudanese border.
The visit to Abu Simbel was pleasant, because even though the sun was warm, there the breeze blew the heat away. After the visit we went back to the airport and flew home to Cairo where we were greeted by very uncharacteristic icy weather in the middle of April!
It was a most enjoyable trip, which for us comes up annually while we are staying here. I can’t wait to go again. Hopefully, we will be spared and the security situation will stay good and we can repeat it next year.
Travel Tip: Abercrombie & Kent is a wonderfully, professional and competent international travel company to use with when planning a Nile cruise.
© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, a stuffed toy dog, named Ike – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters, to functioning normally.