Why a Nile Cruise Should be on Your Bucket List!

Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile immortalised the Nile Cruise, but there is really something special about discovering Egypt by boat (and also watching the film and saying ‘I’ve been there!’)

In Cairo, we watched on as the banks of the Nile were polluted with all kinds of rubbish, dead animals, plastics…apparently this wasn’t the case 40 years ago. Further upstream between the southern cities of Luxor and Aswan, its riverbanks are nothing but lush green. Perhaps as tourism and agriculture along the Nile in this area is so important, the river is very well looked after.

What makes a Nile Cruise ‘unique’?

A Nile Cruise is not like any ordinary cruise. There is not much time for relaxing! Each morning we were up super early to make the most of the sights before it got unbearably hot. Luckily after a difficult early start each morning, we were re-compensated with free time in the afternoons to relax and make the most of the top-deck’s sun-loungers and small pool.

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The main purpose of the cruise though is to make the most of the historic sites generously dotted along the Nile’s banks between Luxor and Aswan. Most itineraries are 3 nights but you can opt for different ones which are longer.

Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor?

Entirely up to you. The itinerary is the same both ways just in a different order and the cruise takes the same amount of time. We chose Luxor as our starting point as we wanted to finish our trip in Aswan which didn’t disappoint – but more on that later! Cairo, Luxor and Aswan airports are all conencted with regular flights several times daily.

What did we see along the way?

Stay tuned for my next post on Day 1 of cruising the Nile!

Robyn

 

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A Full-Day Itinerary of the Pyramids: Giza, Dahshur and Saqqara

Every traveller comes to Cairo for one thing: the Pyramids of Giza. You can easily visit them in a few hours in the morning and then explore the Egyptian Museum later that afternoon and Cairo is ticked off your bucket list, job done.

If you do your research though and and want to make the most of your trip then make sure you visit Dahshur and Saqqara too!

We asked our travel agent, Emma, to include Dahshur and Saqqara as well into our itinerary, and all of a sudden we had a full day of Pyramid exploring to look forward to and the following day to enjoy the sites in Cairo: Egyptian Museum, the Citadel and the Souk. Most tours don’t include all three pyramid sites in the itinerary as not everyone is obsessed with Ancient Egypt and one Pyramid may be enough for some people (???). I’m just trying to get my head around that…

Dahshur is the furthest afield of the three sites, so this is where we headed first. The roads are bumpy and less travelled. After a while, we made it to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid – the first stops of the day.

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Much to our surprise, the area was empty. There was not a single other person in sight except a few guards keeping watch of the sites. So, with the Bent Pyramid to ourselves, we wandered around each side. It was the most surreal experience – how is no-one else here?! The pyramid was magnificent, albeit wonky! The first pyramid at Dahshur, so-named the ‘Bent Pyramid’ because it is bent – duh. The first pyramid that wasn’t a step-pyramid format, the original angle would have made the structure too high, so at about halfway through the building process, they gave in and made the angle less steep, so as to make it less tall. This pyramid was never used though, it was like a guinea-pig pyramid.

A two-minute drive away is the Red Pyramid which you can see in the distance from the Bent Pyramid. We took ALL the photos:

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Yes my jumping skills are rubbish. This was proven time and again on this day!

This one was built after the Bent Pyramid with better success. It is in good condition, and for a mere 20LE (less than £1), you can even go inside it – which we did.

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I wasn’t smiling 5 minutes after this was taken! The climb down was difficult…

It was amazing going inside a pyramid but it is no easy feat. We had to climb up to the pyramid to get to the entrance, then, it is a long, steep climb down which took me ages as I was quite scared and cautious! J. was much quicker. There is very little air inside and it is hot! The detail of the ceiling inside the pyramid is cool. Our guide said it is better than the one you can go inside at Giza – plus it is a fraction of the price and there is no queuing to get in and out! Climbing up and out of the pyramid was easier than getting in (thank goodness!) but I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like small spaces and doing a lot of climbing!

From here, we made our way to Saqqara – the first step pyramid, older than the ones at Dahshur. This site is interesting as it is not just a pyramid here, but a scattering of hundreds of tombs in the area that you can go inside and explore. The pyramid is having conservation work done on it, so it has scaffolding on it, partially I think to also keep it up!

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We spent quite a while at Saqqara as there is a lot of see.

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Oh look…more terrible jumping!

Our guide stopped off and picked up some sugarcane juice (unusual but good) and koshary – Egyptian street food dish. It has everything in it – macaroni, pasta, tomato sauce, onions, black lentils. It was very tasty but what I wasn’t prepared for was eating in the car…while we were moving! The roads were so bumpy and full of pot-holes, it was difficult to eat, digest and also not spill all the tomato sauce on my white top! I didn’t manage to eat all mine, but J. was more than obliging to help me out as he was starving!

Our final stop was the Pyramids of Giza. We arrived early afternoon. There was still a good number of people here but it wasn’t crowded at all which was still a little surprising due to the importance of this site. I think the morning would have been much busier though.

Our guide ushered us to one side of the Pyramid where no one was, it was like a secret spot. I didn’t know why we were going there, but when I turned around, I could see all of the pyramids in view! So we have a little photoshoot. He made us do lots of jumping pictures all day and all it confirmed was that I am rubbish at them and J. is amazing. The height difference makes it even worse…

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The Sphinx was the most crowded place – smallest area to view it

I’d love to know what really happened to the Sphinx’s nose…

We decided not to ride a camel which is an option at the Pyramids of Giza. There are loads of camels at Giza. But J. and I have both been on a camel before and we were not overly fussed.

Luckily, our hotel was just around the corner from the Pyramids so it wasn’t long until today’s tour was over.

Highlight: Going to Dahshur – having the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid all to ourselves was so special! This day in general was just perfect though…

Lowlight: eating what would have been a nice lunch in the car on the bumpy roads. My stomach did not appreciate it!

 

The No.1 Best Place to Stay in Cairo

When planning this trip, for us there was only one place to stay when we were here, and actually it was not actually in Cairo, but in Giza. Yes, we were staying by the Pyramids!

I just couldn’t wait to get my first glimpse of the Pyramids when I arrived in Cairo. Unfortunately I didn’t see them from the plane as it was nighttime when we landed, but I wouldn’t have to wait long to see them!

We stayed for three nights at the Mena House Hotel, which arguably has the best hotel location to see the Pyramids as well as being a beautiful hotel with historical value. We stayed in a Pyramid View room and upon arrival (after getting driven in the golf buggy to the room), I was clawing at the lock on the balcony door to get outside and see.  It was cloudy and the Pyramids are not lit up at night (disappointing), so all I could see was a faint outline of what may be a Pyramid. I made a wish that they would appear come morning.

I woke up early at 5am to get that amazing view and I was so excited for the day ahead!

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Luckily, I was able to leave the balcony and appreciate the view even more over breakfast:

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Even after three days, I was still mesmerised!20180330_123620.jpg

After breakfast on the first day, we had to leave the comfort of the hotel and the crazy pretty view for now. We were met by our guide, who would take us for a full-day (not half-day) of Pyramid sightseeing – the second part in making the most of our stay here!

Come back next Sunday to read about why a full-day, not half-day of Pyramid sightseeing is a must-do!

This post is not sponsored and is entirely made up of my personal experience and opinions.

3 Reasons Why NOW is the time to visit Egypt

 

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The Bent Pyramid, Dashur

No that is not a stock image above – that is a photo I took at The Bent Pyramid on our first sightseeing day in Egypt. What is missing? People. We were the only living souls there…

Egypt has been suffering from a serious dip in tourism ever since the Revolution in 2011. Speaking with Egyptians during our stay, they say that 2018 is better than 2017, which was better than 2016, with 2012-2013 being the worst years. Tourism numbers are ever-so slowly increasing, but they are nothing compared to ten years ago.

When I first booked the trip, all anyone asked was – but is it safe? Check your country’s travel advice, currently all but North Sinai are safe to visit for British nationals. Use common sense, do all the necessary research and have an amazing time!

Egypt is open for tourism and the locals, the hotels, the shopkeepers, the tour guides, they are all so eager for us to come. ‘Welcome to Egypt!’ ‘You must come again!’ ‘Next time to the Red Sea, it is beautiful there!’ Egyptians are extremely proud of their unique country and what it has to offer for those looking for an adventure through the ages.

The amount of hotels “closed for renovation” and half-empty cruise ships along the Nile (ours was only at 30% capacity), gives you a pang of sadness for what could be, what should be a bustling tourism economy.

Take advantage of this to be the time that you book your dream holiday to Egypt. 

Reason 1: Low tourist numbers? Lower prices!

We splurged on a luxury holiday which would probably have been way out of our budget if Egypt wasn’t begging for tourists. Yes, we still spent a lot, but many hotels and tours have slashed their prices to be more accommodating to travelers.

You can get a great bargain at markets and shops – some of the shops and market stalls we bargained with, they probably didn’t have another customer that day, which meant they were very keen to agree on a sale with us. It’s all about getting a great deal, but making sure you are giving enough for what the item is worth to support the seller.

Reason 2: No crowds

The more I travel, the more I want to go ‘more off the beaten track.’ Crowds of people really put me off enjoying places and it is difficult to get a nice photo when you’re fighting with the group next to you for the perfect spot.

In Egypt, this was not an issue (see the picture of the Bent Pyramid!). Even at the Pyramids of Giza, which is THE MOST famous and popular sight in Egypt, it was by no means busy. It really was astounding to experience my first pyramid on my own – it felt so special and personal. At the Red Pyramid at Dashur, we also were able to go inside the Pyramid alone – no queues to get up or down, we could take our time, it was incredible.

Reason 3: Where Else?

Where else are you going to see incredible temples, tombs and pyramids by the Ancient Egyptians? See beautiful original paintings about the afterlife in tombs from 4,000 years ago that are still there? Marvel at giant obelisks laboriously carved out of a single granite stone? Sip hibiscus tea while watching the gorgeous sunsets on the Nile? Experience the generous hospitality of the locals who are so happy you have chosen Egypt as your destination?

Look out for new posts on Sundays for more about my trip to Egypt.

I have so many amazing stories and travel ideas to share! It was without a doubt, the best holiday I have ever experienced. Everywhere that follows, you have some serious competition!

 

A Sneak-Peek at my 9-day Egypt Itinerary 

Cairo – 3 nights

We start in Cairo, staying at the iconic Mena House Hotel; I cannot wait to see the Pyramids from my bedroom window when we arrive. I don’t think there is a better way to start our trip.

We were originally going to do a half-day tour to visit the Pyramids, but me being me, a girl with a fascination for all things Ancient Egypt since the age of seven, this was swiftly altered to a full-day tour, to include Saqqara and Dahshur.

Our final day will see us spend the morning at the Egyptian Museum and explore the city sites.


Luxor – 1 night

A short flight will take us to Luxor for a brief 1-night stay at the Hilton before boarding our Nile Cruise to Aswan. J. had wanted to take the overnight train from Cairo which he had done before, but we were advised against this form of travel by the agency over safety concerns. I am happy with the short flight that is roughly the same price as the train ticket.


Nile Cruise – 3 nights

The itinerary looks action-packed with an early start each day. We will visit Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kinds and Queens, Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo Temple and Temple of Philae – lots of temples! I can already see J. getting worn out by temple-overload after a day or two but this is the kind of travel I love.


Aswan – 2 nights

We will be staying at the Old Cataract Hotel – the hotel that J. was extremely keen to stay at. There were no rooms available for the night we had originally planned, so the agency changed the itinerary of the trip especially, to work around staying at this hotel. The original plan was to stay 1 night, but due to the changes, we were given a complimentary extra night and in an upgraded Nile-view luxury room – wow. This will be a lovely way to end our trip, before flying back to London via Cairo.


 

Although it will be a cultural trip, the fact that all transport, tours and accommodation are all sorted means it will, fingers-crossed, be less stressful than say doing a DIY version.

This is the most luxurious trip we have taken. I’m more used to backpacking my way around, but I am sure I will adapt!

Have you been to Egypt before? Let me know any tips and ‘must-do’s’ in the comments!

Robyn

The Next Adventure: A New Continent!

2017 was truly an incredible year with regards to travel; it saw me visit Europe three times, Easter in Japan AND three weeks backpacking South America. However since my last trip in November, that’s been it – I am braving the cold, dark nights in the north of England …until the next destination in Spring!

I don’t have a bucket list per-say, however the amount of places I want to visit are close to endless, and ever-growing. Mostly the fault of my fellow adventurous bloggers on WordPress! With limited time due to work, and a budget, it is becoming harder and harder for J. and I to decide which destination we should put first for Easter 2018, as we want to see them all! It took us two months of researching and late-night conversations to finally pick SOMEWHERE, anywhere. Flitting between Jordan, Morocco, Costa Rica, India, Sri Lanka, Cuba…. we couldn’t decide.

We finally agreed on a continent that is still untouched on my scratch-map, and a country whose history has fascinated me since I was a child – Egypt! James already visited when he was a kid, but it is somewhere he wants to return to, luckily!

I remember all the video tapes as a child in my house were recordings of documentaries of Ancient Egypt, I owned a million books on the subject and the first job I wanted to have when I was 7 was to be an Archaeologist or Egyptologist. Difficult words to spell at that age…

Up until this point, we have solely focused on budget-travel. Backpacking and organising our own itineraries and flights. We were students and that was fine for us. This trip is a big shift as it is our first luxury holiday. Not only are we staying in 5* hotels, but we have left our travel agent to sort out everything for us; from our flights, transport, guides and drivers. It does feel bizarre to be so detached in the planning for our upcoming holiday, but it is equally less stressful, which is what you are looking for when you are exhausted from work! All I need to worry about is choosing my outfits.

It is very exciting to do a different kind of travel. Especially as after coming back from holiday the last few times not feeling so relaxed due to all the moving around and having to sort everything out ourselves, and roughing it in budget accommodation. It will be so lovely to do a totally different kind of trip.

We will be visiting Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and doing a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan.

Have you been to Egypt? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

Robyn