If the Nile River could talk, what would it say? After watching man first stumble along its banks 60,000 years ago and civilizations rise and fall for 5,000 years, would the dark, flowing waters grow hoarse narrating its many tales? It’s easier to guess what you will say when you sail down this illustrious river: “Wow!” will be heard quite often, along with, “That is simply incredible.”
Travel agents say the best way to experience Egypt’s extensive and authentic culture is from the Nile on a river cruise. Guardians of useful information, travel agents endorse the unique satisfaction you’ll receive as you lazily drift along on a shaded deck of a floating hotel, enjoying the ever-changing river-scapes and watching millenniums pass by. Their main piece of advice: don’t forget the camera.
Nile cruises visit a wider variety of sites and scenes along the banks of the river than your standard Egyptian tour, introducing you to the rural side of the country. You’ll dreamingly drift past ancient temples and bustling ports, rice fields, and date palms, and witness people living the same way they did thousands of years ago in mud-brick homes, tending their fields with wooden plows and leading donkeys to the market.
The views from your cruise will be as exciting as the experiences aboard it. Riverboats, often called floating hotels, provide the finest onboard entertainment, involving Nubian knights, belly dancers, and whirling dervish. Oftentimes guests are invited to don traditional apparel to join in the festivities. Other Nile tours can occur on feluccas, Egypt’s traditional sailboats, or even ancient steamships like the S.S. Sudan, where Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” was filmed.
The most intriguing stretch of the river lies in Upper Egypt between Luxor and Aswan, which boasts one of the greatest concentrations of ancient temples and palaces in the world. A cruise upriver in this section of the Nile unravels a landscape of layers: mud and reeds, date palms clinging to the banks, buffalos snorting in the shallows, children playing soccer along the shore, farmers leading pack mules along the fringes of small, orderly fields, all with the encroaching dessert looming in the distance.
After photographically tomb raiding, you’ll embark back onto your ship and drift deeper into Upper Egypt, where the temples become more grandiose and the desert more paramount. You’ll rush ashore at Edfu to gaze upon the best-preserved ancient building in all Egypt, the magnificent Temple of Horus. The next day you’ll moor at Kom Ombo and visit a temple dedicated to two gods, Haroeris and Sobek, high on the edge of a cliff above a sweeping bend in the river. According to wall inscriptions, Sobek had the head of a crocodile, which explains the mummified remains of crocodiles found in a nearby structure.
After these wondrous days adrift, you’ll dock in the port city of Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city. Once a central market city, Aswan has changed little in thousands of years as Bedouin and Nubian traders in long blue robes still fill the streets, squabbling over exotic wares. In Aswan, the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through the amber desert, over granite rocks, and around islands covered in palm groves. You’ll enjoy lazy days sitting in floating restaurants, listening to Nubian music, or watching the spectacular sunsets while having tea on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel.
You’ll linger longest in Aswan, mesmerized by the unexpected beauty of the Nile. Each sunset creates a scene so brilliant you’ll consider staying in Egypt forever, urge travel agents both understand and frequently remedy. Travel agents are the invaluable link between you and Egypt, able to set up three-day cruises from Luxor to Aswan, longer cruises further north with day trips overland to more remote places, or exciting excursions to Cairo and on to the Pyramids of Giza, all while reducing the risk of the unknown.