Just before Covid I decided to take the long awaited Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan. Many cruise ships offer 4 or 5 day explorations to this fascinating part of Egypt. I just picked one and took the one hour flight from Cairo to Luxor to start my Nile cruise.
A Nile cruise is one of the most popular ways to see the ancient sights of Egypt, as many of the sights are right on the river.
DESERT AND GREEN
After visiting Cairo, I had visited the city’s fascinating and educational Egyptian Museum and the nearby Great Pyramids of Giza.
Therefore, after arriving in Luxor by plane, I was immediately struck by the contrasting landscape. The desert and ruins of Cairo have now been replaced by a greener, cleaner and more fertile area.
The desert was still nearby, but there were crops of alfalfa, wheat, cabbage and sugar cane. As we traveled up the Nile, we saw cattle and water buffalo grazing on the banks of the river.
SPEECHES AND HISTORY
During our cruise, several of us attended a “Galabeya Party” on our boat. We were encouraged to buy traditional loose Egyptian clothing and enjoy traditional music and join in the fun.
There was also time to read our Nile cruise route. Each day was a dream come true for a historically minded traveler as we visited many of Egypt’s most important sights.
KARNAK AND LUXOR TEMPLES
At the beginning of the trip in Luxor, I visited the east bank and visited both the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple. These two magnificent structures are just over a mile apart and are joined by a line of sphinxes. These structures were built at the time in the ancient city of Thebes (now Luxor).
Karnak Temple is the larger of the two. It is actually more of a village as it has several temples and chapels in the complex. I just couldn’t understand how such a gigantic and ancient structure could still be in such good condition.
Especially when my guide told me that this area has seen a lot of flooding and erosion over the centuries. However, I also learned that hundreds of tons of mud and silt were removed to make the complex as it is today.
I was particularly impressed by the well-preserved antique colored ceilings and the intricate carvings on the walls and pillars. Likewise, the nearby Luxor Temple is another large complex built centuries ago.
The giant statues, obelisks and colonnade were fascinating.
FALL OF KINGS
After my tour of the West Bank, my first big stop on the West Bank from Luxor was the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of the ancient pharaohs.
Although most of the tombs are not open to the public and the valuables have already been removed by ancient grave robbers, there is at least one worth visiting.
The most famous Visiting tomb is the tomb of King Tut and the most famous of the tombs is the tomb of King Ramses IX. In one of the tombs I visited, I encountered a steep descent of 192 steps.
I marveled at the beautifully decorated walls and ceilings. Then of course I had to climb these stairs again to get back to the surface.
THE TEMPLE OF HATSHEPSUT AND THE COLOSSUS OF MEMNON
Near the Valley of the Kings is the Temple of Hatshepsut, a masterpiece of ancient architecture. It has three huge terraces that rise above the desert floor on limestone cliffs.
Not far away is another wonder: two gigantic stone statues known as the Colossi of Memnon.
These twin statues show Pharaoh Amenhotep III in a seated position with smaller figures of his wife and mother. These stone statues originally guarded a large temple complex.
However, the statues are now damaged by time and the complex has practically disappeared.
THE TEMPLE OF EDFU
After exploring Luxor, we sailed to Edfu and visited the Temple of Edfu, also known as the Temple of Horus. It is also well preserved and I was particularly interested in the many statues of Horace.
These include several Horuses as a falcon and even Horace as a solar disk protected by two cobras. I also saw the blackened roof of the kitchen still in the temple and the fascinating lotus pillars of the temple.
KOM OMBO TEMPLE
Continuing our Nile cruise, we passed from Edfu to Kom Ombo. Here we visited the Kom Ombo temple, often referred to as the crocodile temple.
The nickname comes from its location on a bend in the Nile, where crocodiles were known to frequently bask in the sun. The temple is dedicated to both Sobek, the local crocodile god, and Horace. There is also a crocodile museum and a large crocodile cemetery here.
TEMPLE OF ISIS
We finally arrived in Aswan, the destination of our cruise, where we boarded a Nubian speedboat to reach the nearby island of Agilkia. Here we visited the Philae Temple, also known as the Temple of Isis.
It was located on the nearby island of Philae (hence the name of the temple), but the temple and shrines were carefully dismantled, moved and rebuilt in Agilkia.
This happened because Philae was flooded by the Aswan High Dam and it was decided to move it to preserve this beautiful complex.
ASWAN on a Nile cruise
While in Aswan, I recommend exploring Nubian culture at the Nubian Museum. Many of these people were driven out of their villages due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the construction of Lake Nasser.
Furthermore, I recommend a visit to the dam itself and to one of the new Nubian villages that have arisen after the construction of the dam. I decided to add to this type of trip while in Aswan, so I hopped on a speedboat with a guide and visited one of the very colorful villages near the Aswan High Dam.
We passed Kitchener Island (where you can visit the Aswan Botanical Gardens), the Tombs of the Nobles and the Aga Khan mausoleum. Also the Cataract Hotel (where Agatha Christie wrote part of her mystery novel Death on the Nile) and a nice beach (where tourists can ride a camel to a Nubian village).