NILE RIVER CRUISE – Egypt in a nutshell

Why to go?
A cruise on the Nile would take you thousands of years back in time, when people harvested their lands according to the Great River’s cycle, worshiped numerous gods and built grand temples for their god-like kings, in the belief that they would get reincarnated. The Nile has been a source of life for the ancient Egyptians, inseparably intertwined with this great country’s history and culture.
On those trips you get to see pretty much all of Egypt’s marvels, scattered along the river and you don’t even have to shift your luggage!
 
 
When to go?

It’s best to visit Egypt from October to April, when it’s not that hot and overcrowded. Keep in mind that during summer temperatures usually exceed 40 degrees Celsius or get even higher inside tombs and temples. Plus, shadows are rare and many places are un-air-conditioned.

Where to go & what to see?

Depending on the cruise company you choose and the number of days you spend on the trip, itineraries may vary. Usually though, they include the area between Luxor and Aswan, plus Cairo, Abu Simbel, Karnak, Edfu, the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings or even Alexandria. Ancient landmarks are not hard to see as they’re pretty much everywhere and they’re also so huge in size, that their impressive outlines are visible from far, far away.
But it’s not just the destination that matters. Cruising on the river is a unique experience on its own. Seeing the busy river banks, the way people live nowadays, the way they tend their land, build their homes, worship their God – it seems so little have changed since ancient times.
Basically, all cruises include an itinerary from Aswan (popularly known as a British resort; providing a sneak-peek at the Sahara desert, marking the beginning of the “real” Africa; home of the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan and the huge Cataracts of the Nile) to Luxor.
On this trip you get to visit the High Dam, the Unfinished Obelisk and the Temple of Philae (in praise of the goddess of motherhood, Isis; used as a Christian church at some point, which stands out most prominently by the crosses, chiseled upon the hieroglyphs) , then moving to Kom Ombo (a curious temple, dedicated to the Egyptian god of medicine and the crocodile god; containing wall pictures of all kinds of ancient medicine tools), Edfu (an amazingly beautiful temple, dedicated to god Horus, with marvelous depictions and wall illustrations) and Esna, before reaching your final destination – Luxor (a brilliant, colorful city, incredibly tourist-friendly; make sure to visit the Temple of Luxor, which once was also a Christian church and nowadays part of it serves as a mosque, although ancient hieroglyphs are still visible at some spots).
Here are the famous Valleys of the Queens and Kings (some of Egypt’s greatest pharaoh’s tombs – including the notorious Tutankhamen’s – as preserved as can be; a ticket buys you a visit to three of the 63 tombs, ask your guide for an advice on which of the tombs are most worth visiting) and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Egypt’s greatest female pharaoh).  


 
If you have some extra time, your guide would probably also take you to the temples of Karnak (world’s largest worship site, built within a thousand years, presenting breathtaking examples of Egyptian grandeur), the Botanical Island of Aswan(created by an English Lord in the late 1890s, this wonderful lush garden is a haven for rare exotic plants and birds), a Nubian village near Aswan(on the very banks of the river, this village has preserved its culture and customs from thousands of years ago), Elephantine Island(filled with ruins of ancient temples) and the Tombs of the Nobles.

The magnificent Abu Simbel, where the stunning (and once life-threating) monuments of Rameses II are situated, could also be included in the tour.
You might also get tempted to include Cairo or any other major city in Egypt to your river experience. And it would totally be worth it. If in Cairo, make sure to visit the magnificent Egyptian Museum, containing millions of intriguing ancient artifacts, the always busy Khan el Khalli bazaar, the Coptic (Christian) Quarter and the Citadel with its Mosque. Naturally, the Giza pyramids are a must. If they seem way too mainstream to you though, some cruises offer a visit to other famous Egyptian pyramids in Memphis and Saqqara – those of Djofer and Snefru.

Thus you get to learn more about the evolution of pyramid building during the centuries.
It’s okay to choose a longer trip. After all, this might be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit all of Egypt’s world-famous attractions. Anyway, remember that those cruises could be quite exhausting, as you actually get to visit the places, not only look at them from afar.  


 

USEFUL TIPS

Clothing – cotton, easy breathable fabrics are advisable, as the temperatures here are high and it’s easy to get hot or dehydrated. Also, make sure to wear comfortable, open-toed shoes and a hat. Ladies, be careful – local customs require of women to be a little more modest in their way of clothing than you might be used to.
Documents – all foreigners are required to get a visa card in order to visit Egypt. Also, always keep your documents with you, in case the police decide to check on you.
Money – as with documents, always keep it close to you and always have some local currency in cash; be prepared to bargain – it’s a local custom, not a means of tormenting the tourists; and always check your change.
Cruising – make sure to book a room that’s not too close to the vessel’s engine; don’t give up to the temptation of opening the window, especially at night – you’d be immediately attacked by mosquitoes; food is usually buffet served; entertainment is also provided though it may not be to everyone’s taste – oriental music and belly-dancing are the norm; alcohol is quite expensive in Egypt and it’s rarely part of the all-inclusive price; most vessels have a small pool on the deck but don’t count on that; try sailing with a felucca boat – it’s a traditional Egyptian vessel.
Sight-seeing – most places allow taking pictures only if you buy an extra ticket for that; beware of the vendors – they could get quite arrogant and even aggressive in their attempts to sell you something; hire a private guide if one’s not included in your trip.
General – avoid drinking tap water or adding ice to your drink; always have a bug spray at hand; hand sanitizers are also a good idea, although it’s doubtful whether they could protect you from the numerous bacteria here (so add an anti-diarrhea medicine, too); never get in the river without making sure first that it’s safe (usually the guides would inform you where it’s okay to swim) – bacteria lurk behind every corner; be prepared to rise early in order to enjoy cooler weather.
Beforehand – make sure to learn some more about Egyptian history, even if it’s a long and exhausting task to do. This way, it’d be much easier for you to comprehend all the new information, accompanying every landmark – it’s more than 5000 years of thriving culture after all! In addition, don’t be stingy – more expensive means safer and more comfortable. Now, that’s extremely important on a trip like this.

A travel blog post by Eva. I'm a Polish born traveler, travel photographer, writer and runner living in Montreal Canada. In the 10-plus years that I've been travelling, living and exploring various travel destinations, I've explored much of the America’s, Europe and the Caribbean Islands.

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