Feeling like a queen on nile cruise
The trip of a lifetime to see the many splendours of Ancient Egypt by boat
So finally I was really on the trip at the top of my wish list, a cruise on the Nile to see the treasures of Ancient Egypt.
I felt quite overwhelmed as I stood in the hypostyle hall in the temple at Karnak, surrounded by soaring columns covered in beautiful carvings.
So what did we see? Wonderful things, as Howard Carter famously said when he first entered Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The twin temples of Karnak and Luxor are spectacular enough now but excavations are taking place to uncover a processional avenue linking the two, with sphinx statues placed all the way along.
This will turn the area into an open-air museum where people will be able to walk between the two temples 24 hours a day. It will be a big boon in the hottest months.
It’s tough to pick a favourite temple: the boats moor right next to Kom Ombo, which is spectacular atsunset, Philae is on a beautiful island, reached by boat, and Queen Hatshetput’s temple in its stark desert setting had stunning wall paintings and architecture.
We also went to the Valley of the Kings and explored several of the ornate underground tombs. The first order a new pharaoh would give was: “Start work on my tomb”.
We saw Tutankhamun’s tomb and the boy king himself, looking tiny and frail in his air-conditioned case.
The tour guides with the groups are knowledgable Egyptologists. Our guide, Ahmed, brilliantly brought the ancient world back to life.
And, although it’s terrible for all those people whose livelihoods rely on tourism, the fact is that Egypt isn’t so busy at the moment, so you can bask in the glories of the temples with smaller crowds.
A lot of people have been put off because the uprisings of the Arab Spring – which I personally thought were inspiring and exciting – and terrorist attacks in other areas like Sinai mean that people worry they will be in danger.
I felt safe and there were plenty of tourist police, plus armed boat guards in port.
A group of us went for a couple of walks at night while the boat was moored in Aswan – Thursday night is the start of the weekend there and families go out for a stroll together.
We encountered no hostility at all. Some of the hawkers were pretty persistent but Ahmed told us to ignore people and not talk to them at all if we weren’t interested. Apparently this isn’t impolite.
If you do look at souvenirs, be prepared to haggle hard and walk off if necessary.
The company we sailed with, Discover Egypt, started Nile cruises again last autumn, after assessing safety.
Our boat, the Royal Viking, was very comfortable and the double cabin was roomy. The staff kept it spotless.
Rooms were cleaned twice a day and the room stewards made the towels into pretty and clever designs – including a huge flower, a swan lake, a crocodile and an elephant.
All the meals were served on board buffet style and there was always a chef to make a special dish in front of you.
We got a tour of the boat and saw food hygiene that is enforced rigorously.
You signed for drinks and paid at the end of your trip: expect to pay £3 to £4 for beer or wine by the glass and £15 for a bottle of wine.
There was entertainment every night and an Egyptian fancy dress party was great fun.
Three things to do
1 We went for an afternoon sail on a felucca, a traditional boat that took us around Kitchener’s Island. Bird watchers were offered the chance instead to spend an afternoon with a knowledgable guide. This extra cost is £18 per person.
2 The Papyrus Institute in Aswan was very interesting. We had a short demonstration on the way that the plant was made into paper and then had a chance to buy some stunning artwork. It’s worth haggling a bit here, too. The colours are beautiful and a friend who bought one 10 years ago said it’s never faded. They will deliver to the boat or pick up the money from you there,.
3 If you fancy a bit of splendour in Aswan, dress up a bit and drop in for afternoon tea at the incredibly elegant five-star Winter Palace hotel. You’ll be following in the footsteps of royalty and celebrities.
Cruise Line: Julia travelled with Discover Egypt, whose seven-night Nile cruises start from £799. Prices for the Royal Viking start at £999. Call 0844 880 0462 or go online to Discover Egypt
More options: All other flight and tour operator options can be found at click here ‘Book Your Trip’.
Flight details: Egyptair is the national airline of Egypt and a member of Star Alliance since 2008. They have one return flight weekly (Monday) to Luxor from Heathrow starts from £350. Egyptair has 14 flights weekly to Cairo from Heathrow and five flights weekly from Manchester to Cairo (excluding Monday and Wednesday). For more information, visit Egypt Air