The ONE THING you MUST do in Aswan

What was the ultimate highlight of our Egypt trip? Probably the entire trip, but if you are in Aswan, there is one experience you cannot miss out on, it is too special.

Upon arrival in Aswan, we knew exactly how we wanted to spend our first afternoon – hire a ferlucca. Ferluccas are traditional small sailing boats which have no motors. Originally they would have been used for fishing but now they are geared towards tourism. You can hire a motorboat, but trust me – you want a ferlucca. All the tourists who were on motorboats were looking on at us with envy/wanting to take pictures of our boat.

We negotiated a price with a ferlucca captain, Iwa (sp?). He asked ‘Elephantine Island?’ We did want to go there later, but our destination was rather Soheil Island.

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I read in the Lonely Planet that this was a lovely destination for a longer ferlucca trip and a bit more  off-the-beaten-track. There, you can see hieroglyphic ruins of the famous seven year famine and there is also a Nubian village on the island – but that is a wonderful story which I will save for another post!

As we pushed away and meandered south towards Soheil, it became quieter and quieter until we were the only boat on the river. It was just us, the Nile and it was so quiet. It really was pure bliss. It took about half an hour to reach Soheil, but we were in no rush.

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J driving the ferlucca!

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Direction: Soheil

 

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Other ferluccas moored up

After spending over an hour on the island – we lost track of time, it really was such an interesting place and the people were equally interesting to talk to – we returned to the ferlucca for the journey back to the hotel.

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Leaving Soheil

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J. paddled his feet in the Nile water to cool himself down, all until we saw a dead dog floating passed us and the feet were briskly put back in the boat for the rest of the trip! We were going so slowly so it took a while to escape the dog on the river…

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hibiscus tea time!

We were going against the wind so it took well over an hour to get back. The boat meandered left to right, left to right, up the Nile. The sail changing direction each time. This was absolutely fine. We had timed the trip to perfection as the sun was setting and it was the most beautiful sunset of the trip.

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the cataracts on the Nile, swirling

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enjoying the sunset

 

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So yes, visit the pyramids, but make sure you hire a ferlucca in Aswan for a spectacular sunset!

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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!

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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).

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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.

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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!

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Robyn

 

Nile Cruise Day 1: Luxor Temples

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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