Cruising the Nile
I often wonder why travelers to Egypt frequently skip what could be the highlight of the trip- a cruise on the Nile. The combination of relaxing on board in comfort, the chance to see some of the most fabulous monuments in history, and seeing a timeless side of rural Egypt that calls to mind images of Biblical days is unparalleled. It’s a sharp contrast to the bustle and noise of Cairo and gives the traveler a more complete view of the people and culture of Egypt. So why miss it?
Cruise ships vary in quality from 3 stars to Super Deluxe. If you go, I suggest booking a more expensive boat with a solid reputation as it will most likely fit the hygiene and sanitation standards of westerners. (My favorite line is Oberoi.) Boats of any class will usually have air conditioning, a pool, a Jacuzzi, a restaurant, a gift shop, a lounge, and a disco.
Evening entertainment will vary according to the cruise line you are on. Ships typically include a belly dance show, a Nubian show, and a galabeya party. I suspect the galabeya party is designed primarily to get tourists to drop their dollars on colorful caftans, but it is certainly worth the price. (You may wish to avoid the small boats that come alongside the ship throwing plastic bags full of galabeyas up on deck to tourists.) The party includes games such as “potato butt”, “wrap the mummy,” musical spoons, and even a belly dance contest.
Meals are usually western fare served buffet-style. There is a wide selection of salads, hot and cold dishes, and dessert. Most cruises have “Egyptian night” when local food is served, but even then, there are some western options. Four o’clock is tea time. Hungry tourists can gather for a drink with cookies or just to socialize.
Three and four night cruise options go back and forth between Luxor and Aswan. Both cities can keep the interested traveler busy for several days, but there is only time to stop at the major sites. To see more of either city in detail, you can extend your visit by checking into a hotel before or after checking into the cruise.
Highlights of the Luxor east bank include the Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Luxor Museum, and the Mummification Museum. The west bank is the land of the dead, signified by the sun setting in the west. Here we find the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens where royals were buried. The mortuary temples of many ancient rulers are also found here, including the most impressive, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The Colossi of Memnon, guardians of the ruined mortuary temple of Amenhotop, attract many visitors.
Between Luxor and Aswan lie Edfu and Kom Ombo. Edfu is the site of the famous battle between Horus and Seth. The temple is dedicated to Horus. The Temple at Kom Ombo is unusual in that it has twin entrances, halls, and sanctuaries- one for Horus, the falcon god, and one for Sobek, the crocodile god. This site is unique also for the mummified crocodiles found here and the carvings depicting medical procedures.
A cruise package will usually include excursions to see the Unfinished Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, the High Dam, the Temple of Philae, and a felucca ride in Aswan. This itinerary hits the highlights, but there is so much more to see in Aswan if you have the extra time. No visit is complete without stopping at the souk. While it has become more touristy recently and the shop keepers are more aggressive than in Cairo, it is worth the trip to see the exotic and colorful atmosphere. Also be sure to stop at the Old Cataract Hotel. Agatha Christie stayed here while writing part of her novel “Death on the Nile”. Since then it has become an overpriced tourist attraction that’s a bit rundown. I don’t recommend staying there, but it is worth it to pop in for lunch and to enjoy the best view of the Nile.
The ease, comfort, and value of a Nile cruise makes this an excellent way to see Egypt. It’s the perfect compliment and getaway from the dirty, frantic pace of Cairo. No trip to Egypt is complete without it.