Nile Cruise Day 4 – final day: sites in Aswan

Today we had to check-out at 7am before visiting the sights around Aswan: Temple of Philae, the High Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk.

Philae Temple is so picturesque as it is situated on an island between the British Dam and the High Dam. You get there by motorboat.

IMG_4298.JPG

Temple of Philae/Temple of Isis

The High Dam has a major part in the story of this temple, as well as hundreds of others.  Its creation was the cause of hundreds of ancient sites having to be moved to safety or flooded below the man-made Lake Nasser forever when it was built in the 1960s. This is how the beautiful Templo de Debod made it’s way to Spain! The Spanish funded for it to be moved piece by piece to Madrid so not to be lost to the lake.

22894444_10159359151155447_5687475407129636062_n

Me at the Templo de Debod in Madrid Nov 2017. It’s my favourite place in Madrid (especially for sunset!) but I didn’t ever know how it got there until now

We took a detour on the way to the final stop to a Perfume shop. We had already been to one in Cairo where we bought some essence, but we had enjoyed it and were happy to go to another one. The others in our group hadn’t been. I bought some lotus essence – a local scent which is beautiful. I had wanted it in Cairo but decided not to get it. In the shops they give you a bulk discount – if you buy 4 bottles, you get 2 free, if you buy 4 big bottles, 2 big bottles free and 2 perfume bottles free – you get the idea. However, it quickly racks up into a lot of money and I was feeling pressured to buy way more than I wanted to. The quality and quantity is good, but do you really need 6 massive bottles of essence? I really only wanted the lotus essence, so that’s what I did.

The Unfinished Obelisk was our final site to see. It really is amazing. If the obelisk hadn’t have cracked so badly, it wouldn’t still be here. It would have been the biggest obelisk ever made. Thanks to this imperfect obelisk, we have been able to learn the secrets of the Ancient Egyptians – how they made these massive masterpieces out of one single piece of granite.

IMG_4304

The obelisk is free on 3 sides but connected to the main rock on the bottom side still

IMG_4305

IMG_4306.JPG

Before long we were being picked up by our driver, waving the boat goodbye going towards our final hotel for two nights – The Old Cataract – a destination in itself.

Low-Down of the Nile Cruise:

We stayed on a good ship with a lovely crew who were always friendly and chatty with us. We had no complaints – everything was impeccable from start to finish. There were only 30 travelers on-board which was quiet – it’s a big boat that can cater for 100 people. This is all down to a downturn in tourism since 2011 in Egypt. If the boat were busy, I’m sure it would have been a very different experience.

Food on board: delicious. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet-style. There was always a veggie, fish, chicken and beef option at lunch and dinner with plenty of salads, vegetables, potatoes, rice and an array of mouth-watering desserts! Even the pickiest eater (me) ate well. On the final evening there was a BBQ on the top deck and it was such a fun way to end the cruise. The ‘English-speakers’ made a table of 12 and we all dined together for the last night.

Details of our trip: 3 nights with M/S Moon Goddess from Luxor to Aswan

Highlight: Valley of the Kings of course. But I loved sitting on the boat and watching the wildlife on the green riverbanks as we went by.

Lowlight: the 5am start before Valley of the Kings wasn’t great but worth it as it would have been too hot and crowded if we had had a lie-in!

Robyn

This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.

Advertisements

Nile Cruise Day 3: Edfu and Kom Ombo Temples

This was the easiest day as we were up a little later at 7am to go to Edfu Temple and had all day to relax until 4pm when we would arrive at Kom Ombo Temple.

In order to get to Edfu Temple (Temple of Horus), it is a short drive or  – a 10 minute horse and carriage journey. We didn’t have much (read: any) choice in this as it is a ‘done thing ‘but I didn’t enjoy the carriage ride at all. I inspected the horse and it looked the healthiest as it was the only one whose rib cage I couldn’t see. But they just don’t look like they are treated well at all.

Despite the arrival and departure being not so great, Edfu turned out to be my favourite temple. It’s a temple dedicated to the God Horus and was really beautiful, possibly because it is so well preserved being not as old and also being hidden under centuries-worth of sand, mud and silt. When it was excavated in the 1800s, only the top parts of the temple were exposed!

IMG_4182IMG_4193IMG_4195

It had been lived in during antiquity, that is why the ceilings are black and some of stoned carvings of people’s faces have been chiseled away (change in religion to Christianity).

IMG_4219IMG_4221

After another chilled out afternoon, we made it to Kom Ombo just before sunset. The temple also has the small Crocodile Museum next door included in the ticket which has mummified crocodiles found from the temple – the crocodile would have had the spirit of the god Sobek inside it and people would have come to give offerings and see the God in crocodile form! This temple is unusual as it is dedicated to two gods: Sobek and Horus. Normally a temple is dedicated to just one god.

Nowadays, no crocodiles in this part of the Nile, only after the High Dam past Aswan.

IMG_4256IMG_4247IMG_4249IMG_4253

It was our final night on the boat, so we watched the beautiful sunset from our balcony while we set off for our final stop of our journey through Egypt – Aswan. What we didn’t know at this point, was that there were even more spectacular sunsets still to experience in Aswan!

IMG_4276.JPG

Robyn

 

Nile Cruise Day 2: Valley of the Kings, Queens and Hatshepsut’s Temple

Day 2 was the most tiring day, with a grueling 5am alarm . Despite the early start, really we were eternally grateful later in the day, when the temperature started to become unbearable. There is a reason why they do this to us!

The Valley of the Kings is the most impressive stop, so it felt like we had peaked at the start of the day, but you want to get it done early before all the other tour groups arrive.

You buy tickets which will let you in to only 3 of the 9 tombs currently open in the valley. Our guide chose the ones on the list that were most well preserved with the best wall decorations still intact: Rameses III, IV and IX. Rameses II which is closed, is the most damaged- his tomb was broken into the most in antiquity as he was so wealthy and left a great legacy.

For an extra charge you can get permission to take photos in the valley (read: inside the tombs AND outside). It was 300LE (£12) which is ridiculous. But don’t try to get away with it, every time someone took a picture or had a phone/camera out, they were challenged by the guards.

I decided instead to pay a little extra to see Tutankhkamun’s tomb. It’s incredible how well hidden it was as it is so close to many other tombs. It happened to be hidden underneath another tomb so is the only one so far to have not been raided in antiquity. You can see many of the incredible belongings of the boy king in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum which are beautiful. Considering the tomb was so small, and he died so young at 19, one can only imagine how incredible the original contents of the tombs of older, more famous kings which have diappeared…  There are a lot of other unfound tombs still, so maybe it is only a matter of time until we find more?

His tomb is the smallest and least impressive artistically (it was originally made for a high priest, not a king, but changed at last minute after his sudden death), but just for the historical value it is worth seeing. J. wasn’t fussed but I would have been sorely disappointed had I not gone. Inside his tomb, you can still see his mummy (absolutely tiny!) and part of the sarcophagus is still inside. The body is in a terrible condition as Howard Carter tried to cut it into three pieces to move it (oh why…)

After this highlight, we went to the Valley of the Queens. The tombs here are smaller and don’t have much of a wow-factor after visiting the Kings’ tombs but still worth seeing. For 1000LE (£40!), you can pay for entry for a measly 10 minutes to Nefertari’s tomb – arguably the most beautiful and intact. However the cost is crazy! I just looked it up online…

Before visiting Hatshepsut’s Temple, we went to the Artisan Village nearby. Obviously a tourist stop along the way, but it was an interesting stop. We got to see how the locals use the original techniques with the same type of tools to make handicrafts like vases and pots out of local stones like alabaster. We did a fair bit of haggling and got the price of a handmade white alabaster vase and two smaller blue onyx vases together from 4600LE to 2100LE (£80~). It was a bit of money but they are absolutely beautiful and I will keep them forever as a memory of this trip.

Hatshepsut, the female Pharoah, has an interesting history and so does her temple which was partially destroyed by her stepson, Tutmosis III. However it has been laboriously restored in recent years and is stunning. By this point in the day it was boiling and there was no shade.

IMG_4175

After a short journey back to the boat, we got to enjoy lunch and relax by the pool all afternoon before a ‘cocktail party’ and à la carte dinner while the boat sailed south down to Edfu.

The entertainment this afternoon was having locals trying to sell their wares on little rowing boats which they tied to our big boat and the Italians on board bartering for what seemed like forever for an overpriced tablecloth. The whole situation was ridiculous and funny but after 45 minutes, the sellers were getting annoyed and the incessant hassling was wearing thin.

Buy my stuff!

After a dressy dinner, they put on Death on the Nile in the bar area. It was my favourite version but I was shattered and had seen it so many times before. I should watch it again so I can point out all the places I have been to and how different they looked in the 1960s!

Day 3 would be a more relaxing day which was welcome.

Nile Cruise Day 1: Luxor Temples

IMG_4144

After a buffet lunch on the boat, it was time to meet our guide, Robert, and get a coach back to Luxor for our first of many temples for the next four days: Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.

There are a lot of temples on this cruise – so either be excited at the prospect or deal with the fact that you are going to be temple’d out by the end! I was the excited-kind.

Karnak is absolutely massive and we only scratched the surface of the ruins. The temple was added onto many times over the course of centuries by many different rulers. As we arrived late afternoon, there wasn’t much time to go off and see everything. After a guided tour of the main sights and an introduction to ‘What to Look for in an Ancient Egyptian Temple’ – a pylon, courtyard, columns area and ‘holiest of the holies’ which would be repeated everywhere we would go for the next four days, we were free to explore for half an hour.

It was busier here than in Cairo, but it wasn’t hard to escape the hoards of groups. We managed to find a quieter part of the temple and get some nice snaps!

IMG_4137IMG_4128IMG_4147

After Karnak, we went straight to the smaller Luxor Temple. Work is currently being done to reconnect the two temples so people can walk between the two again. Not sure I would do that in this heat… In front of this temple is an obelisk. Its identical twin which stood next to it, is now the one that stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The sun was setting and was bathing the temple in a lovely glow.

IMG_4156IMG_4168

That evening, we watched a belly dance show on the cruise and another type of dance, Dervish, originally from Turkey. The Dervish dancing was absolutely mind boggling and impressively skilled.

 

After dinner, we decided to have an early night as we would be up at 5am the next morning to go to the Valley of the Kings!

Robyn

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.

IMG_4237.JPG

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

 

3 Reasons Why NOW is the time to visit Egypt

 

IMG_4009

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