- See the tombs and temple of Egypt
- Visit Luxor, Cairo and Amarna
- See the famous Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the Golden Mask of Tutankhamun
- Cruise along the Nile in a 5-star ship
- Explore the Coptic Museu, the Beni Hassan tombs, the Great Temple of Seti I, and the Temple of Hathor
by Julie A, Operations Department
I’m not sure I can even begin to describe how amazing and breath-taking this Nile cruise through Egypt is. Maybe if I start with the sunrises and sunsets: every shade of pink, orange and yellow, turning the palm trees and lush belt of land bordering the Nile into silhouette, the reflection on the water doubling the effect as you gently sail by.
It’s no wonder the ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra, and the eternal circle of day into night. Watching the sky change and the world go by with the warm breeze touching your face is as close to perfect as it gets. Sailing past an ever-changing landscape, excited children run along the banks shouting ‘Hello! Welcome!’; donkeys graze and flick their ears, farmers working in their fields – using the same systems that were in use thousands of years ago – stop and wave. Motorbikes, mini-trucks and donkeys pulling carts, all laden with people or produce – or both! – travel along the roads and tracks parallel to the river. A lady with a child on her hip and a basket full of bread balanced on her head shyly smiles and waves as we go by.
There’s a particular kind of small truck in Egypt that I hadn’t seen before. It looks like a motorbike with a cart attached to the back; small but efficient and perfect for the agricultural belt along the Nile. We saw many of these carrying sugar cane, palm leaves, and all sorts of produce, but the one that made me smile was piled high with aubergines, more than twice the height of the vehicle, with a very large man perched nonchalantly on top!
Like almost everyone you see, this gentleman was wearing the traditional galabeya, practical and comfortable, but as with many things in this country, giving you the feeling of stepping back in time, especially during one of those sunsets, hearing the muezzins’ call to prayer echoing softly around.
Twenty-first century Egyptians are embracing modernity, especially in Cairo and Aswan, but everywhere you look there are the signs of an ancient traditional culture; in the clothes, the food and in their work. These days, the fields are irrigated through a system whose regulation was made possible since the construction of the amazing Aswan and High Dams, but the principle is the same as it was in ancient times, with ploughing and planting done by hand.
But what of everything else ancient and Egyptian? Here I am rabbiting on about farming vehicles and haven’t even started on the temples, tombs and pyramids. If you haven’t been, however fascinating you imagine the treasures of Egypt, multiply it by a hundred.
It’s not just the size and mind-blowing engineering feat of the pyramids, but every temple, every tomb and column is carved and decorated with hieroglyphs. First you see the sheer size of the columns and rooms carved in rock, and then your eyes start to focus on the detail; beautifully carved figures and symbols, all the birds instantly recognisable as ibis, owls or falcons. Our guide explained the symbols and how to read the cartouches containing the names of the pharaohs and gods depicted. A zig-zag for water, a triangle for giving, the lotus flower for rebirth and regeneration, and of course the raised disc for the great sun god Ra.
The paths to the monuments are always sandy from the ever-shifting desert, and often stepped, but the climbs are worth every moment. Just when you think you can’t see anything more beautiful, another surprise awaits you around the corner.
The condition of the monuments is astounding; from the pyramids at Giza, to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Temple of Philae at Aswan – thousands of years of history and the stories of the great pharaohs laid out in front of you. Akhenaten and his doomed attempt to move his people away from worshipping many gods to just one divine being; the boy-king Tutankhamun and his simple, surprisingly small, tomb which doesn’t seem to have been big enough to hold all the treasures we saw in the Cairo Museum at the beginning of this journey. Stories, too, of the people who served the pharaohs, built the monuments and the skilled artists who decorated them. Hieroglyphs of giraffes, and elephants; of surgical instruments, far in advance of our own culture at that time; paintings of hunters, wrestlers and athletes. And the colours! Some of the temples were closed off or plastered over, sealing in the paintings, so with modern archaeological techniques, they have been revealed, allowing us to wonder at the intricacy of these buildings.
My personal favourite was the Temple of Hathor at Dendera; dedicated to the goddess of love, the first temple on the site was started by Pepi I (seriously? I thought all pharaohs had fabulous regal names!), but what we see today mostly dates from between 116 BC and 34 AD. Even Cleopatra is mentioned here so it’s possible that she visited Dendera.
The added joy of visiting these sites is the lack of crowds; sadly, but understandably, tourists have stayed away from Egypt in the last few years, and whilst they are starting to come back, the feeling of having somewhere practically to yourself adds to the magic and gives time for contemplation.
Safety is obviously a big concern when you are travelling and on the flight out I sat next to two lovely ladies who were, shall we say, mature in years. When asked whether they had any concerns about going to Egypt, they said not at all, ‘It could happen anywhere these days, you can’t let that put you off’. It certainly didn’t put off my fellow travellers, many of whom had been several times before over the years. One lady had been nineteen times! She adores Egypt, not just for its ancient sites, but the beauty of the landscape and the warm hospitality of the people, and I knew just what she meant.
Here I am still rabbiting and I haven’t told you about the beautiful Coptic churches in Cairo, the craziness of the traffic, the boys on bicycles weaving their way through six lanes of cars with a board on their heads the size of a door covered in loaves of bread, the delicious fresh mangoes, guavas and pomegranates, the towel sculptures that housekeeping leave in your cabin that make you laugh out loud, the fresh lemon and mint cooler they bring you just when you were thinking of moving to a shadier sun lounger, the sound of the crew singing a traditional song to the rhythm of drums….OK, I have to stop now. You have to go find out for yourselves – this cruise is THE way to see, hear, feel and taste Egypt.
Egypt is a beautiful and fascinating place. From the waters of the Nile to the Pyramids of Giza, there is history everywhere and something new to discover. We have a collection of tours and cruises to Egypt for you to browse at your leisure. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.