One of the most eagerly anticipated activities on my bucket list was a boat ride in the longest river in the world, the river Nile. My trip to Egypt was the best opportunity to tick this off the list. The Nile is in Africa and has an approximately 4160-mile long course,which makes it world’s longest river. It starts from The Republic of Burundi and flows towards the northeastern African countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia and finally through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea. As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of cities of ancient Egypt were located on the banks of the Nile because of water, transport and agriculture. Modern Egypt used this as an opportunity to convert the Nile route into a tourist destination by starting the ‘Cruise on the Nile’. Because of the Aswan high dam, Aswan became the starting and end point of these commercial cruises.
A few years back, there used to be a cruise from Aswan to Cairo through all the ancient cities on the way. Due to instability in the country in the last few years and the troubled economy that made the country unpopular with tourist, this 15-day long cruise was stopped. Now, the most popular route is a 3-day cruise from Aswan to Luxor or Luxor to Aswan depends on your plan. It’s not the cheapest one for sure, but it’s an affordable one in comparison to cruises in other countries. For locals, it’s even cheaper. For tourists, the cost is 250 – 350$, depending on how much you can bargain and whether you take a 4-star or 5-star cruise. I booked mine for 280$ for the 5-star cruise. I started my cruise from Aswan and had planned to sail to the ancient and most famous city in Egypt, Luxor.
As I mentioned in my last post about Aswan, I took an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan and enjoyed the sightseeing in Aswan on the first day before boarding my cruise in the late afternoon. The cruise was my first cruise experience, so I was super excited. It was indeed like a 5-star hotel inside; for a budget traveller like me who very rarely chooses to stay in a hotel, a 5-star cruise was mesmerising. The interiors were magnificent, and the three storey cruise was named ‘Sun-Times’. Maybe because it was my first time on a cruise, but if you don’t look outside you will never realise you are on a cruise or boat because it was so stable. I was given a room on the second floor. It was small and cosy but beautifully decorated with golden curtains and dark brown royal looking furniture. I almost felt that I was on the Titanic, silly me!On the top deck, there was a pool, small bar, sitting area and sunbathing chairs.
We sailed about 4 hours after lunch and the cruise finally came to stop in a small town just around sunset. The town had nothing much to offer, but the main purpose of stopping there was the Kom Ombo temple on the banks of Nile and easily visible from the ship. Kom Ombo is a rather unusual temple and it was constructed in 180 BC. Later, a few things were added during Roman Empire. It is unusual because it’s called “double temple”. Everything in the temple is in double: two halls, two rooms, two courts and two temples for two separate gods. The building is very well preserved, and its location on the coast of the Nile gave it an impressive aura. Looking at the sunset from the temple with the Nile river on the horizon, it was my first sunset over the Nile and it was divine. After the view of the Dead Sea sunset in Jordan, this was certainly on my best sunset list.
The cruise was supposed to reach the next stop, Edfu town,at night and stay there till morning so that we could go to the Edfu temple in the morning. I must admit the crowd on the cruise was mostly old groups or family, so as a solo traveller it wasn’t a good opportunity to meet a lot of people. Because the cruise is costly, solo travellers usually prefer other modes of transportation between the cities. After dinner, there were some cultural programs on the ship that entertained the old people with traditional dancing and small events. The cruise also had two bars; that’s where I spent my time when we were on the move. We reached Edfu at night, but we weren’t allowed to go out so in morning my tour guide for Edfu temple received me.
Edfu Temple is located in the Edfu town in the South (Upper Egypt). I had to take a horse cart from ship to the temple, as it’s a few kilometres away. It was also built about 257 BC and it’s the best-preserved ruins of an ancient temple in the whole of Egypt. The fact that it’s so well preserved is clearly visible because all the walls and pillars are untouched, and everything looked as it was painted only a few weeks ago. The ceiling had turned black because the Romans used to live in temples and they cooked and used fire inside to keep themselves warm. Over a long time, this made the ceilings of the temple black from the soot. Rest of the temple is fascinating and has a lot of history behind it. I completed the tour in about 1 hour and then came back to the ship. The horse cart cost me about 50LE;I am sure the actual cost is less but my tour guide just took some commission, and I didn’t want to argue so I let it go.
Our ship sailed again after breakfast and this was going to be the longest leg of the journey. It would take us 7 hours to reach Luxor. I spent my day reading a book and having a few beers in the sun on the top deck while enjoying the view. Everyone spent their time on the top deck because there wasn’t really anything else to do. We reached Luxor by midnight and the ship was going to be there until the next day because a lot of people were checking out and new tourists were coming in next day.
I will write two more posts about the things I did in Luxor because it’s a big city and tours were divided into two parts: West bank and East bank. Luxor was the capital of Upper Egypt during the New Kingdom and that’s the reason it has a lot of ancient Egyptian ruins. After two days in Luxor, exploring all the ruins, temples and tombs, I took a train back to Cairo. I did many other things during my trip to Egypt, so stay tuned.