Nile cruise: A memorable journey into ancient Egypt

Friday 25/09/2015
Memorable trip: Cruise ships dock at different ports along Egypt’s Nile.

Cairo - The long Nile cruise from Cairo to the southern­most province of Aswan has been a dream journey for tourists and Egyptians since it was started in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, it continues to be so.

The classic 15-day cruise gives tourists a chance to see and learn about Egypt’s fascinating and unique ancient civilisation.

“It is actually a cruise into the depths of Egyptian life and histo­ry,” said Adel Abdel-Razek, a mem­ber of Egypt’s Tourist Chamber, a gathering of the country’s tour op­erators and hotel owners. “Tourists have the opportunity to delve deep into Egypt’s ancient history as they visit different sites in the course of the journey.”

The Nile has been Egypt’s lifeline since ancient times and there is no better way to trace the passage of Egypt’s history than to follow the course of the river. Each day gives another opportunity to explore new sights or simply enjoy a differ­ent view.

Few countries can compete with Egypt’s amazing ancient tombs, temples and other monuments, which can be explored in the course of Nile cruise tours that were re­cently upgraded, becoming even more attractive for visitors and residents, at highly competitive prices.

Before departing from Cairo on the 675-kilometre journey to As­wan, travellers are taken on guid­ed visits of the Pyramids of Giza and King Djoser’s step pyramid in Saqqara, a few kilometres away.

A tour of Cairo’s landmarks is incorporated in the package and includes visits to the national mu­seum, Islamic Cairo and its citadel, a medieval Islamic fortification constructed by Saladin around the ancient city to protect it from the Crusaders, the old churches in Cop­tic Cairo and the Fatimid bazaar.

Stops on the river voyage include some of Egypt’s finest ancient sites, such as the temples of Karnak and Luxor, Edfu, Esna, Kom Ombo, Philae and Abu Simbel, usually as an optional excursion, plus the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut’s Temple and Aswan High Dam.

As they sail south from Cairo into rural Egypt, travellers can en­joy picturesque scenery along the banks of the Nile and relax on the ship’s upper deck.

At a first stop in Beni Hasan, in the central province of Beni Suef, a visit to unfinished tombs shows the transition from Mastaba-type tombs of the Old Kingdom and the deeply cut tombs that can be found in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings.

Vivid wall paintings depict scenes from daily life including winemak­ing, fishing, hunting and wrestling.

Stops further south at Abu Kor­kas give tourists the chance to visit Tuna el-Gebel and the Tomb of Pe­tosiris, a fusion of Greek and Egyp­tian styles. They can also admire the ruins of Hermopolis, where ancient Egyptians said creation be­gan.

The visit to the fabled city of Tell el-Amarna usually starts early in the morning. The ancient city was once known as Akhenaton. Its mod­ern name comes from the nearby village of el-Till and the name of a local Bedouin tribe.

A short drive to Abydos allows tourists into the home of the legend of Osiris, god of the underworld. Ancient Egyptians said it was at Abydos that Osiris was resurrected after he was killed by his brother Seth. He was then given powers to become the lord of the afterlife.

Saeed Osman, an Egyptian liv­ing in the Netherlands, describes the cruise from Cairo to Aswan as a once-in-a–lifetime experience.

“Nothing in my life matched this journey, in fact,” Osman said. “The cruise was about the best in my life, giving me and other tourists the chance to navigate into the depths of Egyptian history.”

In recent years, long Nile cruise tours have been hard hit because of the decline in the number of tour­ists and volatile security conditions in the aftermath of the 2011 upris­ing.

According to Abdel Rahman An­war, the former head of the Cham­ber of Floating Hotels, out of 288 cruise ships that operated between Cairo and Aswan, only 50 continue operations. “Ship owners are crip­pled with bank debts and workers’ salaries, while bookings are on the decline,” Anwar said. “This busi­ness is down and the government does nothing to help the owners.”

He said, a few years back, the trip from Cairo to Aswan cost no less than $200, “but prices have since gone down to less than $50″.

Declining revenues are leaving ship owners incapable of offering quality services. Some ships have limited their activity to the aca­demic midterm vacation in Janu­ary.

But for Osman, like many tour­ists, the experience of boarding a ship from Cairo to the southern part of Egypt was a memorable experi­ence. The sites, the food and warm welcome of Egyptians in the places he visited are forever engraved in his mind.

“I do not undergo such an expe­rience every day. I still remember every minute of the 15 days I spent on the Nile on the way to Aswan,” he said.