The Nile is one of the world’s great rivers. Not only does it run for over 4,000 miles, making it the longest river in the world, but at its end, before it pours into the Mediterranean Sea, it flows through some of the most historical fascinating and beautiful land in Africa: Egypt. In ancient times, the Nile was the centre of civilization and the many sights that lie along its banks testify to the historical significance of the river.
These sites, along with the stunning beauty of the landscape, make a Nile cruise a truly unique experience. A cruise down the Nile is often said to be a journey into both the history and soul of Egypt, and, indeed, the ‘ankh’ or principal symbol of ancient Egypt was a representation of the river. Below are some of attractions the visitor can enjoy.
Luxor and its surrounds are arguably the most historically significant area in Egypt. It is thus an ideal place top start a cruise down the Nile, and many flights from the UK arrive here. It makes a perfect starting point for a cruise down the Nile as you are immediately surrounded by some of the most important and best-preserved historical monuments in the country. Visitors can explore what was the ancient city of Thebes, which includes the immense temples of the Valley of the Kings, with its tombs decorated by hieroglyphics, and its sister site the Valley of the Queens, as well as the temples of Luxor and Karnak, with their statues and columns hewn from sandstone, making them symbols of pharaonic power. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance in terms of human history. It is like stepping back in time, and an experience that visitors never forget.
At Edfu visitors can survey the Temple of Horus. Over 2,000 years old it pays homage to the God of the sun, with statues depicting the falcon-like form of the deity. One of the best-preserved temples in the country, it is intricately carved with inscriptions on its walls concerning the mythology of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Further upriver from Edfu is another temple, Kopm Ombo, dedicated to Horus, in tandem with Sobek, the deification of crocodiles, to whom the ancient people prayed in hopes of avoiding attack by the god’s earthly brethren.
Agilika is an island in the Nile. The temple here, Philae, is interesting in that it was moved, piece by piece, to avoid being destroyed by floods when the Aswan Dam was built. The vast size of the temple impresses upon the visitor just what a feat this relocation was.
Aswan has long been an important town in Egypt. It was the southern outpost of the ancient population, serving as a trading post (and military strategic position) with the countries to the south. Today, it remains central to Egyptian society. Primarily this is because, just outside its borders sits the Aswan Dam, one of the largest in the world, holding back the mighty Nile to control flooding and provide water to the people. It is an impressive example of modern engineering. But Aswan has much more to offer the cruise visitor. It was from Aswan that the rock to build the Pyramids and other monuments was carved, and visitors can still see the traces that the masons made some 3,000 years ago at sites along the river. Trips can be taken from Aswan to see the Nubian Village and Abu Simbel, where four towering statues of Ramses II, carved from the side of a mountain, sit surveying the land. Visitors may also want to explore the markets and restaurants of this vibrant city, or enjoy an afternoon cruise in a motorboat or traditional sailing boat, a felucca.
Winter is a great time to take a cruise on the Nile. You can escape the cold of the UK and travel into temperatures averaging 30 degree Celsius and an average of 10 hours of sunshine a day. What makes it an ideal time is that the humidity is low compared to other times of the year, making both sitting on deck and sleeping the the cabin a comfortable experience.
Visitors may wish to combine their cruise down the Nile with a relaxing stay on the coast of the Red Sea. Resorts such as Hurghada, with its golden sands and world-class diving, and Makadi Bay, which boasts tranquillity and enviable water sports facilities, provide the opportunity to experience another side of Egypt before or after a cruise down the Nile.