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Egypt: A Nile Cruise from Luxor to Abu Simbel
This is a brief account of a week's cruise I took with Thomas Cook Travel Agent, describing the itinerary planned by the company, so guests will know what to expect. The purpose of the article is to promote interest in Ancient Egyptian culture and to encourage holiday-makers to choose a Nile Cruise. It is a day-by-day personal account of what was to be a holiday of a life-time!
A wonderful holiday
Holiday of a life-time
Immerse yourself for seven nights in Ancient Egypt...on a riverboat on The Nile!
Temperatures in Egypt can be very hot and unpleasant, so the best time to visit Egypt is in Egyptian winter when temperatures and be still hot (30ºC - 70ºF) at the midday but are pleasantly cooler early morning and in the evening.
The 5-hour flight from the UK leaves Manchester at 9:00am and arrives in Luxor early evening, Egyptian time. (Wednesday)
Guests are transported from Luxor Airport to the port of Luxor by coach and welcomed onto the boat by the Thomas Cook representative who informs the clients of the weekly programme and the scheduled times of restaurant service and other facilities provided by the tour operator. installed in modest but pleasant twin-bedded cabins. Each cabin is provided with a flat-screen TV with basic satellite channel service a fridge box, a dressing table and wardrobe. Of course small but adequate shower room with toilet is provided as well within each cabin.
All meals are provided on the river-boat as is accommodation throughout the whole seven days as the boat cruises majestically along the river.
Luxor, Karnak and the Valley fo the Kings are located on the site of Ancient Thebes, the capital of Egypt during the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom
Because there is so much of great arqueological value to visit in Luxor (Temple of Luxor : 1390 BC by Amenophis III) and Temple of Karnak on the East Bank and The Valley of the Kings on the West bank ), the boat remains docked for two nights there (Wednesday and Thursday) in order to allow guests to visit these wonders and take in the beauty and majesty with which they were created.
It's Thursday...It must be Luxor!
Thursday begins with a visit to Luxor and Karnak temples on the East bank of Luxor. The city of Luxor is constructed on the site of the Ancient Thebes. Luxor temple was begun by Amenhotep III (born 1390 BC - 3400 years ago). Luxor temple was completed by Tutankhamun (born 1334 BC) and added to by Horemheb and Ramses II (also known as Ramses the Great) often considered the most important and powerful of all the pharoahs. Guests return to the boat for lunch and spend a leisurely afternoon recuperating from the early morning start! On Thursday evening guests return to the Temple of Luxor to enjoy the wonderful Sound and Light event which evokes all the mystery and fascination of the rulers who once worshipped within these holy sanctuaries.
Temples of Luxor and Karnak
Temple of karnak
Temple of karnak
Luxor by night
The magic of Luxor by night!
West Bank: Valley of Kings/Valley of Queens/Temple of Hatchepsut/Colossi of Memnon
On the west bank, the tour takes you to the Valley of the Kings where, crowds permitting, you can visit several of the tombs which have been discovered. Remember there are very few treasures here as most have been transferred to Cairo Museum where they are on display or are still being researched by experts. It is worthy to note that it is not permitted to take photographs in the Valley of the Kings due to erosion which may occur to the illustrations by camera flash. It is as well to avail yourself of guide books and postcards on sale on site so as notto miss out on any information.
However, you will still be captivated by the beauty and quality of the tomb illustrations and you will be fascinated by the stories told therein. After the Valley of the Kings, the tour continues on to the Temple of Hatchepsut, and then to the Valley of the Queens where you can visit tombs belonging to the Queens and their princes.
A short stop beside the 'Colossi of Memnon' follows and you can appreciate the enormous statues which flanked the entrance of Amenhotep III funerary temple
Valley of the kings
Alabaster workshop and shop
Before returning to the boat for lunch, guests are taken to visit a local alabaster factory and can see craftsmen making beautiful alabaster jars and ornaments. After being invited to refreshments, visitors can browse the goods on sale and buy small souvenirs at the factory.
Saturday; Ensa Dock and Edfu Temple
The river-boat has to pass through a dock on friday evening at Ensa which is an experience in itself and after the boart carries on to Edfu where you sleep, ready to enjoy the wonderful temple on Saturday morning!
Edfu Temple: the temple dedicated to the god Horus was built in the time of Ptolemy. The hawks of Horus guard the gateway. The walls in the temple and in the corridors on the exterior are all covered with elegant bas-relief illustrating many religoius and mythological events and telling fascinating tales
Temple at Edfu
Saturday evening Kom Ombo
After lunch the boat sails on to to Kom Ombo to visit the Kom Ombo Temple in the evening. This temple was also built in the time of Ptolemy on the remains of an ancient temple from the time of Thutmosis. Bas-reliefs in this temple show, amidst many other wonders, surgical instruments being presented to Imhotep, the God of Medicine. You can also see an ancient calendar, denoting the three seasons of an Egyptian year: Flooding, Planting and Harvesting.
Kom Ombo temple
View from the river-boat
Sunday: Aswan: Dam/The unfinished Obelisk/ The Temple of Philae
The next day takes the clients to the modern city of Aswan, home of the world renowned Aswan Dam. A first (low) dam was first created in this area in the year 1902 by the British but then what is now known as the high Dam was built in 1968 in an attempt to control the flooding of the Nile and to harness the electricity which would be generated from hydraulic force. The dam actually caused a great lake to be created; Lake Nasser named after President Nasser who proposed the dam.
The tour talkes visitors to the dam area by coach and you can have splendid panoramic views of the dam itself and the Aswan Cataracts.
After visiting the Dam, guests are taken to view the incredible unfinished Obelisk, still lying in the quarry bed where it was hewn. This obelisk is the largest in Ancient History, and would have had a length of 42m (120ft) and would have weighed a staggering 1200 tons. It had been abandoned after cracks in the granite were discovered. It is uncertain which pharoah commissioned the obelisk, however many attribute this piece to Queen Hatchepsut, as it is similar to her obelisk at Luxor.
Aswan: Dam and Obelisk
Falucca boat trip to Philae
The tour then goes on to take visitors to the Island of Philae by falucca (a small traditional sailing boat) to enjoy the wonders of the Temple of Isis. The temple was built on the remains of the temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor around 380-362 BC. This is a temple which was eventually permanently flooded of the after the dam was built but was rescued from the silt-laden waters. Work began in 1960 to carefully reconstruct the temple on higher ground nearby, after it being carved into approximately 40,000 blocks. A point of great interest in this temple is the coptic altar which was built inside the temple itself.
To the Island of Philae
Aswan city tour
After Philae, the group is then taken to Kitchener's island to enjoy the peace and serenity of the Botanical gardens, which is home to ......
In the afternoon, the party then has an opportunity of taking a coach tour of Aswan, entering a beautiful mosque with a local guide. After visiting the mosque, the group is then taken to one of the local shopping streets to experience a real taste of Aswan. A spice shop can be visited and then visitors are given some free time in which to purchase small souvenirs. This is the perfect opportunity for trying out your skills in that ancient tradition of ...bartering, which many westerners seem to find so extremely diffiicult.
Hieroglyphics: It needs hardly to be mentioned that the walls and columns in all the temples were strewn with the hieroglyphics (Ancient Egyptian characters) and have been the key enabling egyptologysts to decipher the fascinating history of the Ancient Egyptians.
However, it wasn not until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in the town of Rosetta, Lower Egypt that the true meaning of hieroglyphics could be discerned.
See the following link to have a more detailed understanding of Hieroglyphics
Aswan City Tour
It's Monday...it must be Abu Simbel!
On this specific tour, Monday, was a day on which guests can choose their activity from a range of several options. One of the favourite options was a trip to the Abu Simbel Temple at 3 hours drive away or by air. In order to miss the scorching heat of midday, the coach leaves Aswan at 4:00am, arriving in Abu Simbel at 7:00 am.
Abu Simbel is yet another of Ramses II's great works in order to perpetuate his name and image for eternity. The majesty of the statues and the magnificence of the illustrations within the temple are awe-inspiring, like all which Ramses built for his own edification. He also built a temple nearby dedicated to his wife, Queen Nefertari. In this temple, one can appreciate the love Ramses must have had for his queen.
Abu Simbel has a fascinating story as it was about to be drowned forever from the public's sight when the Aswan High Dam was opened in 1960. In an unnerving fight against the clock, Egypt appealed to world leaders to find some way of rescuing Ramses II's great temple from the engulfing waters of the newly created Lake Nasser. Scientists and arqueologists throughout the world came together and planned an escape route for the temple, which was carefully dismantled from its original site and meticulously reassembled 200 metres up on higher ground.
This in itself was a great feat of engineering, almost befitting the feat of engineering the original must have entailed 3000 years ago!
Click here to see detailed information about the rescue of Abu Simbel from the waters of Lake Nasser
Grandeur and Majesty
Abu Simbel: Temple of Ramses II and his queen, Nefertari
The wondrous temple walls embrace you and hold you, enchanted, throughout your visit. The walls depict, among other events, the great pharoah's version of his military victory over the Hittites at the renowned Battle of Kadesh, but they also show historical fact mingling familiarly and blending perfectly with Ancient Egyptian mythology and religion of the time. Where fact meets fiction and the two become one fascinating story.
Monday afternoon..setting sail and heading back to Luxor
The tour is drawing to its close as you head back to Luxor on Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday. After all the amazing historical treasures, this is a elaxing time to wind down and leisurely enjoy the calming waters of the Nile. You can easily contemplate the green banks, and watch how children play on the shores, endlessly waving at all the river-boats as they majestically sail past. You can now take time to soak up the sun and relax, assimilating the great amount of information you have been given by the highly professional tour guides.
The tour sadly ends and guests fly back to Manchester on Wednesday afternoon. It will take time for you to appreciate the significance of what you have seen. Now is the time to start doing more research into the fascinating story of Ancient Egypt and its pharoahs, queens, gods, goddesses and religion. A truly wonderful experience.
Please comment below and let me know if you found this article interesting. Please remember this is not an academic article, merely a subjective account of the Nile Cruise holiday I took in February 2010, and what I learned about such a fascinating subject.
All photographs taken by myself or my partner, except "Valley of the Kings" by Nathan Hughes Hamilton on Flikr