Egypt – Cruising the Nile
On board the “Sonesta Star Goddess” up the majestic Nile, on a breathtaking voyage in a 5 star modern luxury cruise ship with upscale hospitality, as we watched 5000 years of history unfold before our eyes.
To visit Egypt and soak in the truly impressive story of a civilization that is as old as significant in the world history, has been in my plans for many years.
But Egypt is not just Cairo and its pyramids, or the Sharm El- Sheikh´s sun. It is much more than that.
And that’s why I hopped into a cruise up the Nile from Cairo to Aswan city.
It’s a super smooth ride through the mythical, mysterious and majestic river (longest in the world, with 6853 kms) with a few stops scheduled so we could visit some ancient temples and pharaohs mummies.
CAIRO AND ITS PIRAMIDS
Going to Cairo and not visiting the pyramids is like going to Lisbon and not tasting the famous Pastel de Belém. It is possible not to do it, but we will regret it later.
The enigma of these pyramids goes far beyond the fact that still today no one knows for sure how they were built.
Only standing there, observing their grandiosity, you can really understand why this is the most difficult question to answer.
It is estimated that over 30,000 workers worked to get them built, for more than 50 years. They had to move (or built on-site) over 2,000,000 stone blocks, each weighing about 2 and a half tons .
The necropolis is composed by the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus and the Sphinx, which is believed to be the head of Cheops.
Words can not describe the scenery. You have to see, touch and feel the history. Guaranteed shiver down your spine.
THE CRUISE SHIP
We boarded the Sonesta Star Goddess cruise, captained by Mr.Qadry (25 years experience) and managed by Mr. Ashraf Fawzy, tall, inspiring confidence.
This cruise ship has all the perks that a tourist needs, with excellent Mediterranean food meals, buffet style, like a perfectly good hotel, and with a swimming pool and barbecue on the top deck. There are also some other forms of entertainment like mini golf and “giant chess”.
Featuring 33 suites in 4 stories, named after famous compositors to keep with the elegance and sophistication. Each suite has a private balcony where we could enjoy astonishing views.
In the evening, we can fully enjoy a bar and guaranteed fun provided by a band that will be with us throughout the whole cruise.
On one of the nights, there´s the Galabaya Party, where travelers are invited to dress up in local costumes that you can buy on board, and learn belly dancing.
The journey is extremely quiet and provide us with spectacular views on both banks, which allows us to make some great pictures. The sunset behind the right bank is unforgettable.
Suddenly we feel like we are assaulted by “river pirates”. Small boats that dock to our ship in full swing, and hitchhike with us for miles, trying to sell a little of everything to the tourists on board.
Super fun, with the tourists at the top of the ship haggling prices with the vendors on the small vessels below.
They hand throw the merchadinse to the upper deck (11m high) and receive back the payment…
So much fun.
After the first night on the cruise, we arrived at Luxor, our first stop.
We are now in the city with the largest number of monuments in Egypt.
Little did we know how big was the privilege we were about to have, to see inloco some of the most important archaeological finds from the ancient civilization.
We started by visiting the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak.
I have to confess : these things touch me deeply.
I found myself, several times, just staring at the walls and sculptures and imagining those stones and walls being carved and placed by people who lived there thousands of years ago.
And they just lie there, oblivious to the passage of time. It was truly exciting.
Entrance to the Temple of Luxor is guarded by two huge statues of a sitting Pharaoh Ramses II .
The temple of Karnak, just 3 kms away, is also very impressive, with its large 43m height pillar, huge 8,000 sq/m patio, and the Colossus of Ramses II and obelisk of Hatshepsut – 29.5 m tall.
That´s where James Bond´s “007-The Spy Who Loved Me” was shot.
We continue west to dive in the Valley of the Kings, where there´s about 60 ancient graves, including some of the most important necropolis of Ancient Egypt and the world, including of course the most well known: Tuthankamón´s
You could only visit 3 of these 60 tombs and to enter the crypts as Tutankhamun and Ramses you will have to pay an extra charge of 70 Egyptian pounds.
Sad news for photographers (and everyone else, I believe): you are not allowed take any photos in the Valley of the Kings. As a photographer, this makes me sick every time.
It’s like telling a journalist he can´t take notes.
Entrance to each of the holy sites is controlled by security and only 5 tourists at a time are allowed in.
Once more I am blown away and find myself just staring at the Tuthankamón tomb, 5000 years old, at his head and feet (only uncovered areas) for far longer that any normal tourist.
Before that we payed a short visit to the Cairo Museum where we were able to see the huge amount of objects that were removed from the big box where Tuthankamon´s sarcophagus was found.
The quantity and size of what was found there (by Howard Carter in 1922) seems almost impossible to have fit in there .
Near the end of a morning full of history, we went to the Colossi of Memnon, two huge statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, or at least the little that remains of what is thought to be the largest temple in Egypt, the “Temple of Amenhotep III.”
On the second day, the cruise route takes us to a few more historical sites such as Edfu where we see the Temple of Edfu.
Despite being a farming town, they are now most focused on the tourism industry.
Following up the river we arrived at the Kom Ombo Temple, with a dual worship: the crocodile god Sobek (the god of fertility) and Horus.
We finally arrived in the last city of the tour, and we quickly get aboard a small vessel (called Faluca), to the the temple of Isis.
This temple was originally built on the island of Philae but after the construction of the Aswan dam, and as the temple was most of the year submerged, they had to dismount it and rebuilt it in the Agilkia Island.
This temple honors Isis, the goddess of fertility and motherhood.
THE NUBIAN VILLAGE
Optional excursion, this visit to the Nubian village proved to be one of the highlights of the entire trip. In good time I decided to do (and pay) this extra part of this Nile adventure.
Once again we boarded a Faluca, and off we go from Aswan to the Elephantine Island where camels are waiting for us to take us to a typical Nubian house where we are welcomed with mint tea and shisha and where we can have our arms tattooed.
The Nubians are proud people.
Proud to have their own dialect, colors and traditions. “We are not Egyptians”, they always say.
On a camel towards the Nubian Village
We are delighted by all this children, super happy and very photogenic.
We still had time to stroll through the Aswan market, where we had the opportunity to photograph the people in their daily activities.
And so we reached the end of one of the most enriching trips in the past few years, where the grandness and beauty of the landscapes, competed with the mysticism and wow factor go the history we just witnessed, to win what was the reason why this was such an unforgettable experience.
Sunny all year around with infrequent rain and cold during the evenings
Arabic is the official language but English is widely spread.