Nile Cruises: In the Footsteps of Pharoahs
Discover Egypt’s historic waterway in all its grandeur with a cruise along the world-famous Nile River.
I’ve been fortunate to visit many countries around the world, but I was as awestruck as the most inexperienced tourist when I recently stepped onboard the Tuya, the boat that would take me on a three-night cruise on the Nile River. Over the next few days, I would get the chance to see many of the most famous landmarks of ancient Egypt, from the temples of Luxor to the Valley of the Kings. My highway would be the Nile, that legendary waterway celebrated in myth and story.
As I boarded the vessel on my Egypt vacation, I couldn’t help but think that I was entering a movie (though with apologies to Agatha Christie, I sincerely hoped it wouldn’t include a murder). My time on board the Tuya didn’t disappoint. There’s a good reason why travelers have been cruising the Nile for many centuries—it’s the best way to tour the fertile valley that contains the monuments of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.
Nile River Cruises
Nearly 300 boats ply the waters between Luxor and Aswan in the south of Egypt. Most visitors take a short airplane flight from Cairo to either city and then board a boat docked on the Nile. Vessels typically feature anywhere from 40 to 120 cabins and offer Nile cruises lasting for three or four nights, depending on whether they’re traveling up or downriver.
After the intense urban bustle of Cairo, the cruise boats offer a calm and peaceful way to see the scenery of rural Egypt. Watching from the shaded sundeck that tops most boats, passengers can see scenes that at times seem many centuries old. Men in long robes wearing turbans lead donkeys along dusty footpaths, while fishermen travel on the Nile in feluccas powered by triangle-shaped sails.
It’s easy to see why the Nile has always been considered the lifeblood of Egypt, for without its waters the surrounding land is a vast desert. Only a narrow strip of vivid green lines the river’s banks, while endless sand and rocks stretch into the distance just beyond.
Boats offer a variety of onboard entertainment that ranges from talks by Egyptologists to belly-dancing performances. Many boats, all of which are air-conditioned, have swimming pools that provide a refreshing place to relax in the heat of the day. As night falls over the river, soft breezes bring a welcome coolness as the desert sky begins to sparkle with stars.
Shore Excursions: Egypt’s Ancient Monuments
As enticing as the boat amenities are, the shore tours of Egypt attractions offered each day are not to be missed.
Luxor—built on the site of the ancient capital of Thebes—boasts the richest array of archeological sites in Egypt. In the city itself, the temples of Luxor and Karnak exude ruined grandeur, their interiors lined with massive statues, elaborately ornamented walls and towering pillars designed to showcase the power of the pharaoh. Outside their walls, bustling bazaars and traditional artisans showcase their wares.
In addition to mass-produced souvenirs, tourists can shop for traditional Egyptian handcrafts such as essential oils, papyrus paintings and alabaster carvings.
More treasures await in a barren valley that lies on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor. Here, the Valley of the Kings served as the final resting place for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, which lasted from 1540 to 1070 B.C. Dozens of royal tombs line the steep sides of this desolate valley, including that of King Tutankhamun, which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. Even the tombs that were raided by grave robbers are still magnificent, their interiors lined with colorful paintings and hieroglyphs.
Just outside the Valley of the Kings stands another stunning Egyptian monument, the Temple of Hatshepsut. Carved out of a sheer cliff face, it testifies to the power and influence of one of only a very few female pharaohs in Egyptian history.
Heading upriver, the cruise boats visit a number of other important archeological sites and temples. Among the most impressive is the Temple of Kom Ombo (dedicated to the crocodile-headed god Sobek) and Edfu, one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt.
At Aswan, passengers can make a fitting end to their trip by paying respects at the exquisite Temple of Philae, where the goddess Isis was worshipped for thousands of years. Located on an island in the middle of the Nile, the site’s ruins provide an evocative spot to imagine life here thousands of years ago. Watching the waters of the Nile flow past, it’s as easy now as it was then to fall under the spell of this most famous of rivers.
. One such feature is the mud-brick homes of the Egyptians. Also, do not be surprised to witness wooden plows and donkeys being used as a means to travel. Watching 5000 years of civilization from the comfort of your deck is the most fascinating aspect of the cruise. I do not think travelers can ask for anything more.
One such feature is the mud-brick homes of the Egyptians. Also, do not be surprised to witness wooden plows and donkeys being used as a means to travel. Watching 5000 years of civilization from the comfort of your deck is the most fascinating aspect of the cruise. I do not think travelers can ask for anything more.
Cruising has its own advantages. With cruising, you avoid the stop and go feature of land and air tours. The antiquities along the banks of the river have been a part of Egypt for thousands of years. One such feature is the mud-brick homes of the Egyptians. Also, do not be surprised to witness wooden plows and donkeys being used as a means to travel. Watching 5000 years of civilization from the comfort of your deck is the most fascinating aspect of the cruise. I do not think travelers can ask for anything more.
Nice post on Nile cruises. I am already planning to go on Nile cruise to Egypt. I am very much excited to go on board.