Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cruising the Nile through Upper Egypt

February 7, 2010
By Claire

Although Luxor and Aswan are in the southern part of Egypt, because the Nile flows northward and downward toward lowlands, the area we are cruising through is known as Upper Egypt. We got up early to get ready to meet our guide at 8:30. They actually serve breakfast from 5:30 am to 8 am! At 8:10 the phone rang and when I picked it up, they hung up. We have figured out that this means we are wanted. We went to the lobby and found Nermeen who informed us that yes, everything is paid for and our driver was waiting. Wow. I really didn’t expect this.

Our cruise cost us €500 and I assumed we’d be in a large group tour from the boat. As it turns out, this is a fairly small river boat with maybe 100 people on board and it’s very low key, just the way we like it—no dressing up. However, when we went to dinner last night we were about to be seated with a group of French people when the maitre d' realized to his horror that we were Americans and pointed to our table. Great, some people we can talk to! Nope. We were banished to our very own table. We are the only English speaking people on the boat—everyone else is Egyptian, French or Spanish—and each nationality is seated together. The food looks great but I haven’t really been up to much—mostly soup and a little salad and bread. I was so glad to see yogurt this morning for breakfast. They serve massive quantities of food for lunch and dinner and people really fill up.

I have to mention our shower. It is without doubt, the best shower we have experienced in our 5 months of travel: Hot, forceful and it even has additional spray nozzles for a thorough cleaning—a little like a car wash. It doesn’t leak all over the floor and the temperature was perfect. Our beds are also the best of any of the hotels we’ve stayed in. Have I mentioned that we’re having a great time?

But back to Nermeen—she led us to the car (another Toyota) with Mustafa at the wheel. She gave us a nice executive summary of the dynasties and where we would be going today: The Valley of the Kings and Queens and the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut. It was a long drive, almost an hour—we never would have been able to do this on our own in the time available to us. Along the way, we stopped to see the Colossus of Memnon.

Mustafa dropped us right at the door of the Valley of the Kings and Nermeen bought our tickets, included in the cruise cost. She hustled us in front of the line and started us off with a tomb of Ramses—in fact we went into three. They were gorgeous with wonderfully preserved hieroglyphics in beautiful colors but unfortunately, no photos are allowed. After that, we drove a ways to see Hatshepsut, one of only a few female pharaohs. This place is enormous and there were quite a few people, a good number of them Egyptian tourists. Nermeen told us that this is when Egyptians come to see the sights—the weather is ideal at this time of year, and it was! We were thrilled to see Howard Carter’s house, the archeologist who discovered King Tut’s tomb.

Howard carter abode

Hatshepsut temple


Time was moving on and we had to get back for our 1 pm sailing. I was getting a little nervous but she assured us everything would be alright and not to worry. We could take a motor boat to our boat if it had left. Hmmmm…jumping from one moving boat to another—I don’t know about that. We arrived at 12:55 to see that the Nile Jewel was gone! We were feeling a little frantic (even she was a little stricken), so she started yelling at some men below, “Nile Jewel? Nile Jewel?” Someone waved to us and indicated that it was there. It had been moved and was now moored behind some other boats—a common practice. We had to walk through 5 or 6 boats to get to ours—sometimes people have to walk through 10 or 12! We made it onto the boat in the nick of time. It took off almost immediately.

Moored boats

We went upstairs to lunch—they always have a nice soup—then adjourned to the upper deck to watch the Nile go by. Oh my. This is what I’m talkin’ about!

Nile view from the upper deck

Boys playing soccer on the banks of the Nile

Water Buffalo

We were so relaxed and the weather was about as perfect as it could be. At 4:30 on the dot tea was set up along with pound cake and cookies. It really was fun to just cruise along, enjoying the “movie” of the Nile as we slowly, gently moved up the Nile towards Aswan. We do not feel any movement at all—in fact, it’s hard to tell the boat is moving except for the scenery unfolding in front of us.

Later, in bed, we received a call from the desk telling us that we were entering the lock at Esna in case we wanted to watch. Wow! We worked our way through along walls several stories up. It was quite interesting and we could hear people calling to each other. Our boat was gently raised up until we were level with the next stage of the Nile.

I highly recommend a Nile Cruise with private guides and drivers!

A gasp of wonderment escaped our lips, so gorgeous was the sight that met our eyes; a golden effigy of the young boy-king, of most magnificent workmanship. ~ Howard Carter

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