Africa, Egypt

A Trip to Egypt – Part 5 A River Nile Cruise

No trip to Egypt would be complete without sailing along the world’s longest river, the River Nile. The river was of much significance to the ancient Egyptians. The river banks were the most fertile lands which were used for farming. It was also used to transport goods and people. Since the river was so important, many temples were built along the Nile. Today, they are popular attractions to visit in Egypt via Nile cruise ships.

The Ship – The MS Amarco II

We spent 4 nights aboard this 5 star cruise ship leisurely sailing down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. You need not worry about motion sickness on this cruise, it’s a very smooth sail. The ship itself was very nice; The facilities included restaurants, a bar, a gym, a small pool, and spa. We had a spacious executive suite that allowed great views sailing along the Nile even when soaking in the tub.

Nile Cruise room
The bedroom in our suite

All meals and afternoon tea except beverages were included in the cost of the cruise. Depending on the weather lunch was sometimes served on the top deck. There was a good variety of meats, rice, pasta, salads, breads and my favourite …dessert! At home vermicelli dessert (which I love) is usually served during the celebration of Eid ul Fitr, in Egypt, it’s served for breakfast (on the ship at least). It’s really easy to pack on some extra pounds because of all the deliciousness on this cruise.

Nile Cruise Dessert
Dessert!

Nightly entertainment included belly dancing, Nubian themed skits and sufi dancing. The daytime sail time did get a little boring for me because there wasn’t a lot to do on the ship and on our trip there weren’t many other guests aboard. I entertained myself at times by visiting the spa and the bar. The cocktails on the cruise were quite expensive as Egypt has a primarily Muslim population and alcohol isn’t widely available.

You can check out full details and costs of the MS Amarco II but generally the various cruise lines are all very similar.

Esna lock

The water level of the Nile is so low in Esna, it is impassable to the river cruise vessels. These ships are elevated by entering locks where water is pumped in allowing passage. We took around an hour to sail through, during this time vendors at street level skillfully threw packages of shawls and other souvenirs up onto the slow moving ship. Patrons would negotiate and pay or return the package by throwing them down to the street.

Esna Locks River Nile
The Esna locks
Esna Locks River Nile
Ship sailing through the Esna Lock

Edfu temple

The city of Edfu was an important one in ancient Egypt because of its fertile land and is said to be the battle ground between Set and Horus. We took a short carriage ride from the ship’s docking point and arrived at the temple of Edfu. The temple is dedicated to Horus and the construction dates back to 237 BC, taking a whopping 180 years to complete (new additions and inscriptions).

The temple contains inscriptions of many famous battles including that of Set and Horus, a Nilometer (used to measure the Nile’s water level and clarity), chapels and a depiction of the Goddess Nut travelling on her solar boat.

Our guide even gave a brief lesson on how to read some inscriptions on the wall, none of which I can remember (this is an example of why I should write things down, Things I’ve learnt in 2017).

Entrance Cost: 100 EGP

Kom Ombo

The next stop along the Nile was the magnificent temple of Kom Ombo which was mainly dedicated to the Falcon God, Horus and Crocodile God, Sobek. This location is significant because this area along the River Nile was once inhabited by a large crocodile population. The temple has a stunning hypostyle hall filled with lotus topped columns and also contains several chapels dedicated to other gods like Hathor and Nut. Over 300 mummified crocodiles were discovered in this temple, they can now be found in the crocodile museum beside the temple.

Entrance Cost: 80 EGP

Temple of Kom Ombo
Hypostyle Hall

Abu Simbel

The ship docks in Aswan, from there it was about a 3hr drive to the temple of Abu Simbel on the west bank of the Nile, near the Sudan border. You’re going to get a bit more of a history lesson here because I think that it’s really interesting (this part is for you Desh!!).

One of Egypt’s most famous temples, it’s the second to the pyramids for the most visited spot. It was built by the pharaoh Ramesses II, the longest ruler of ancient Egypt. The recorded construction date of the temple is unclear, but it was built either between 1264 – 1244 BC or 1244-1224 BC.

Abu Simbel remained undiscovered and buried under the desert’s sands until about 1817. In the 1960s the temple faced being lost to the Nile due to the construction of the Aswan high Dam. Salvage efforts would see a team commissioned by UNSECO cut the temple into blocks and reconstruct it 65 m higher and 200m back from its original location. Preservation of the temple was so important that even the broken statue at the entrance of the great temple was not repaired but rather positioned in the same spot it was found in at the original location.

Our guide suggested that the temple’s location was chosen because of its remoteness and serene surroundings. Ramesses would go there to perform his worship and mediation with the intention of achieving god status. He is depicted as a god by the temple’s statues. If you are winning all battles, it makes sense that the next logical step is becoming a god… right?

Abu Simbel is made up of 2 temples carved from rock: The Great Temple and The Small temple. The entrance of the great temple has 4 very large statues of a seated Ramesses surrounded by little (but still HUGE) statues of family members and gods. The Temple was dedicated to Ptah, Ra, Amun-Re, and to Ramesses II with the inner sanctum having statues of each against the back wall. It was constructed such that twice a year, on the 22nd of February and October, sunlight enters the temple illuminating 3 of the 4 statues i.e. all but the God Ptah (god of the underworld). Sadly we missed this by one day, but there’s always next time. The significance of the dates are alleged to be Ramesses’ birthday and coronation day.

The smaller temple was dedicated to the queen Nefertiti, Ramesses II’s most favored wife. Its exterior has 2 statues of Nefertiti each protected by 2 Ramesses. This temple’s interior is simpler when compared to that of the great temple but the walls are filled with depictions of the queen in worship to the Goddess Hathor.

Photography isn’t allowed inside the temples

Key of Life that is used in lock of the door to the temple

Entrance Cost: 160 EGP

Nubian museum

This museum is focused on the history of the region that spanned Aswan to Sudan, known as Nubia. Construction of the Aswan High Dam left the history rich area submerged by the Nile’s water. The Egyptian government collaborated with UNSECO to salvage the regions historical treasures such as the temple of Abu Simbel. The museum is a well displayed collection of artifacts from the prehistoric era to present day.

Entrance Cost: 100 EGP

Philae temple

A short boat ride away, it’s another salvaged temple that was submerged as a result of the construction of the High Dam. The temple was dismantled stone by stone and transferred to the new and current site. Every single stone was individually numbered to ensure that the 9-year reconstruction was accurate.

This temple was dedicated to Isis, the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus. The walls are filled with depictions behind the lives of these gods such as Hathor nursing Horus while is mother Isis is off in search of the body parts of the murdered (by his brother Set) Osiris.

Entrance Cost: 100 EGP

Kitchener’s Botanical Garden

This island was named after Lord Kitchener who used it has his base during military campaigns in the Sudan. Today it’s a botanical garden filled with many different types of rare and exotic plants.

Entrance Cost: 20 EGP

Garden view

Elephantine Island

A panoramic view of ruins on the island

This island’s ancient name was ‘Abu’ which translates to elephant and was once an important part of the ivory trade. There are ongoing excavations here as most of the island is in ruins. The most significant remains are that of a temple dedicated to the ram head god Khum.

Extras

On days with good wind, you usually visit the islands via a Felucca. Unlike my very windy desert safari, the day of our tour there was almost no wind. So the islands were visited by motor boat. We did however get a taste of a felucca ride, we spent around 30 minutes mostly drifting very slowly from Elephantine Island across the Nile to the mainland.felucca

Like most of the other cities in Egypt, Aswan has a marketplace known as Sharia as-Souq that is jam packed with lots of souvenirs, gold jewelry, spices, clothes etc. It’s definitely worth checking out if only for the shops filled with aromatic scents.

Souq things

El Tabia Mosque in Aswan is one of the oldest in the city its minarets can be spotted from almost anywhere in the city. If you are are into Mamluk style architecture be sure to visit.

Religious architecture has always been interesting to me. Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral has painted domed ceilings that deserve a visit if you are out walking around and can spare the time.

For more photos check out the Travel and Treatz Facebook page. Now it’s your turn to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Savita.

Up Next Sharm El Sheikh

More on my trip to Egypt

More on Abu Simbel

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34 thoughts on “A Trip to Egypt – Part 5 A River Nile Cruise

  1. WOW how fantastic, this sounds like it was a great trip with a good variety of history and culture. It is also useful to those of us looking into a trip to Egypt…I can not wait, thank you

  2. Thank you for sharing what looked like a wonderful vacation. Your article certainly made me add it to my bucket list. I am sure the experience will stay with you. If I sound like I am envious of your travels I am:) Very nice images by the way. Please, will you email me more detail information about the cruise at your convenience?

  3. Hi Savita, Absolutely loved this blog. As I read it could just imagine being in all these wonderful ancient ruins and temples. You have described the trip so well. As it is the only way I will be able to see these marvels, will always be reading your blogs. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Jill, I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post. You can follow along on social media also. I also hope that this blog inspires you to go out and experience some of these things at some point. Hope to hear from you again!
      Savita.

  4. This was great to read. I like to travel but I’ve never been to Egypt even though I want to see temples and pyramids. Sailing down the Nile sounds very interesting. After reading this post I have a great desire to visit Egypt. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi Savita, this looks like an incredible trip! That is a lot to see in only a few days and the history is overwhelming. If we get the chance to go to Egypt, we’ll definitely be looking into this cruise. I love your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  6. Hi Savita,

    This was a great article! I liked all the photos and especially all the narrative around the temples.

    Actually, one big selling point was the photo of your ship cabin. I think a lot of people have had the experience of going on cruises and being stuffed into rooms slightly larger than a closet. Your ship photos make it look like every part of the journey was comfortable and stress free.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi Phil, I’ve actually never been on an ocean cruise, sailing really isn’t my strong point; but the suite was indeed spacious and the facilities were great. It was a good experience. Our tour operator did a good job with execution.

  7. I would love a Nile cruise. The food would be interesting to try and there is some much historical ancient events that took place in the Nile River. All the sights and ancient monuments would just be so amazing to see and maybe even some to touch!!!

    1. LOL! I’m glad i’m not the only one who wanted to touch the monuments. Egyptian food was one of the best parts of this trip, even the street food is good. You definitely need to watch the calorie intake though, it’s easy to get carried away.

    1. Hi Steve! My next trip should be next month, I’ll be hitting Europe. On my last trip to Panama, I met a married couple travelling with their 4 kids all under the age of 5. The youngest was less than a year old, they stayed in hostels and travelled around the country for a month. I thought they were amazing! Where there’s a will there’s a way, don’t rule it out!

  8. What a ton of information in this article. You literally bring Egypt to life with every paragraph. I would love to go there on an actual vacation and get the chance to visit these places and see for myself how the people back then lived and thought of life and the after life. Great pictures and you even put the price of admission on each destination though I have no idea how much it is, lol.
    Well thought out article full of useful information. Makes me want to pack a suitcase and look up my passport. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Deborah. The currency is quoted in Egyptian Pounds because it floats freely against the U.S. Dollar. This was, it’s easier to get an idea of the actual cost because it varies a bit. However, you do make a good point, I’ll see if i can include a block somewhere on future posts with a dynamic currency calculator.
      Thanks,
      Savita.

  9. I loved this! Your article is rich in history. You really captured the beauty in Egypt. With all the details you paint a really good picture. Well written article, great pictures, and I will be checking back to see more of your adventures

  10. Hi Savita,

    Look at that Botanical Garden. Brilliant. Even though I know the Nile makes for a fertile area I marvel at the lush green garden in Egypt. I also dig the Coptic Christian note because I worked with 60 plus Coptic Christian Egyptians at my former pier guard job. Fun crew of folks. Rocking post my friend.

    Ryan

    1. Thanks Ryan! Stay tuned for an upcoming post about religious Cairo. It contains several coptic churches one of which housed the Holy Family at one point. Egypt is so rich is history in so many ways and definitely full of warm people!

      Savita.

  11. Wow Im jealous! I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt ever since I was young. I was always in awe of the larger than life statues and pyramids. The pictures you took are gorgeous! I’d really like to experience Egypt at some point in my lifetime. Thanks again for the great read and looking forward to the other travels you have in store!

  12. The deserts look exquisite and I so want to see the botanical gardens. I had no idea there was so much to do in Egypt!

    How was the weather? Was it really hot most of the time?

    1. Hi Jacob,
      Thank you for reading my post!
      As for the weather when I initially arrived the highs were 14°C which is COLD for this tropical baby. It eventually warmed up more to highs about 28°C. It gets hot in June-Aug. I think outside of those months it’s ok.

      Hope to see you again!
      S.

  13. Oh my, Egypt is on my essential bucket list, along with Greece. Thank you for the history and details on the Nile. That dessert looks very tasty. The presentation seems a little ‘Beetlejuice’ did you get that impression?
    You chose some wonderful locations to visit on your trip. I’m curious about the social media sharing reminder that pops up on your page. What is the name of that app or plugin? I see it a lot around WA sites. Is it useful?
    Kom Ombo looks wonderful and must be full of interesting things to see. Did you see any of the mummified Crocodiles? What do they look like? Were they standing?
    Hypostyle is a new term. I’ll have to research that. The detail you put into your trip location descriptions is appreciated and valuable to those thinking of heading that way on vacation. Do you have this information from previous trips yourself or do you do research for each of these travel blogs?
    Your travel blog is incredibly educational. I truly enjoyed reading your article. How long have you been an avid traveler?

    1. I’ve only recently started this type of travel, just last year actually. I had a very nerdy life before this, work and school. Greece is on my radar as well. Now is a great time to visit Egypt. It’s pretty cheap. I had guides (Egyptologists) throughout all the visits to historical sites, which I found to be most informative. I did do some online research while I was doing the posts, but the information came from the guides. In fact, what is posted here, is VERY high level. I’d be writing for pages if i went into all the fine points. Egypt is really amazing!
      LOL! I didn’t think of beetlejuice until you just said it! As for the plugin I used the Ultimate social media Icons plugin for wordpress, I like it. There’s also a feature to allow blog subscriptions.
      As for Kom Ombo, there’s a whole museum full of mummified crocs! They all look very dehydrated. The crocs are in all shapes and a sizes.

      Hope to see you again! You can flick on over to the facebook and instagram pages as well for more photos.

  14. Thank you for the article, Savi. I’ve loved everything about Egypt since my childhood and your articles are having such a detail like I was there. Excellent stuff!
    Looking forward to seeing more articles from your journeys.

  15. You had me with that dessert tray!

    My wife and I have been working on planning a “trip of a lifetime” and we are having a difficult time with this. Egypt is very high on our list. I have to admit though, you have shown me so much more that I didn’t even know about Egypt. I assumed we would see some pyramids, and that was kind of the main attraction. I was certainly wrong! There is a lot more to see than I even imagined. Those gardens look amazing and just the river cruise itself is a fantastic way to see the sites. Thank you so much for providing all of the images and such a real life experience.

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