Christmas Break this year brought me three full weeks of time off from my students. What to do with this time off? If you are a teacher you know exactly how I feel and if you are not a teacher then I’m sure you are hating on me right now. The first part of my vacation was a 4 night/5 day Nile Cruise. I’ve heard only good things from others that the Nile Cruise was really nice and I definitely should go. Taking the cruise is also a great way to see a lot of the history that Egypt has to offer as well as see the different landscapes along the Nile River. To accompany me on this journey were my friends Heather and Luke and their friend, Justin, who was visiting from Namibia and my roommate Autum.
We started our journey by getting up for a 4:45 am flight out of Cairo down to Aswan. Now Aswan and Luxor are referred to as Upper Egypt but are south of Cairo so don’t be confused or think that I’m really bad at geography. The Nile River flows south to north so even though Cairo is north of Aswan and Luxor that is technically down the river thus Aswan/Luxor are considered Upper Egypt because they are up river. The plane ride was only an hour and twenty minutes, which was really nice especially that early in the morning. Our guide, Medhat, met us at the airport with a piece of paper that said “Brandy” and then whisked us off to start our tour. I got Medhat’s name from some other teachers who have used him as a guide around Upper Egypt and they said he was great. He turned out to be even better than what I had expected. He scheduled everything our for us, took care of tipping all of the people that we came in contact with from the workers on the boat to our drivers. This was nice because we didn’t have to worry about not paying the correct amount or even worse getting ripped off because we were westerners, even though we live here. Medhat was very professional and knowledgeable and told some great stories.
Our first stop was the Aswan Dam. First of all I did not even know that Egypt had a dam or how great of significance it played in keeping Egypt from flooding. Medhat told us that Aswan is heavily guarded by the Army and has fighter jets that are ready to fly within five minutes to protect the dam. If the dam were to break it would only take about twelve hours for the water to reach Cairo and to flood almost everything. This really blew my mind because I thought the Nile River just kind of was there and wasn’t as large as it really is. After the dam we took a felucca ride over to Philae temple. Now with each temple there is a great deal of history that goes along with. Most of the history has to do with Gods and Goddesses, Pharoah’s, Kings and pretty much people fighting over religion and power. I do not remember all of the stories that go along with each place we visited. I’m going to post pictures and a little history of what I remember.
Next stop was our cruise boat. We checked in, got our rooms, and relaxed for a bit. The cruise boat was very nice. Now it wasn’t as big as a Carnival Cruise but of course we were on the Nile so for the size of the Nile the cruise boat was pretty big. The cruise staff was very accommodating and we got the five star treatment. The dining room was at the bottom of the boat, then the lobby, then rooms along with the bar and dance area, and a sun area on top. Each day at 4 p.m. there was teatime. The entire boat would drink tea and eat little cakes. I love tea so this was very nice.
After a rest we took a faluca ride across the Nile to a Nubian village and got to hold a real crocodile. We went into a families house and got to see how the Nubian people live. Once inside we looked at items that the woman had made such as bracelets, masks, and scarves. There were also crocodile’s that the family raised. We each got to hold one and get our picture with it. I think it peed on me but I’m not sure. All I know is that it didn’t bit my face off so I was happy.
We headed back to the boat for dinner and to relax. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the trip it wasn’t so crazy busy that we were running around sight seeing all day. We saw just the right amount of sights during the day and then got just enough relaxing time on the boat each day.
The next day we woke up early to drive to Abu Simbel. This was my absolute favorite. As we entered we had to walk a little way through the entrance and then took a little shortcut right over a little dirt path. In front of us was a huge mountain of dirt, sand, and/or rock. As we walked around the huge mountain the sun was shining directly into huge statues that were cut directly into the rock of the mountain, it was an incredible site to see. My exact words were, “Oh wow!”
After we walked around for a while we got back on the bus and back to boat for lunch and then we started sailing to Edfu to see the Kom Ombo Temple of Horus and Sobek. Sobek is the crocodile god and Horus is the falcon headed god. Sobek was the enemy of Horus. In the story of Horus the allies of Sobek turned themselves into crocodiles to escape.
The next morning we woke up early to take a carriage ride to the Temple of Edfu after the god Horus. We had to wait in line for a little bit before it opened and then once we were let in it was a mad dash to see who could get there first. I’m not sure why everyone wanted to be first but it was nice to get a good picture without people in it.
After that we rode back to the cruise boat in a carriage and we started sailing for eight hours to Luxor. We went through the Esna Lock where we went down 7 meters (almost 23 feet for my American friends). While we were waiting in line for the lock small boats would pull up to the cruise boat and the locals would be selling different items. They were mainly selling scarves. They would throw them up you at the top of the cruise boat and you would yell back and forth what you wanted to pay. If you wanted to purchase something they would throw a bag up to you and then you would put the money in the bag and throw it back to them. I’m not sure if I saw anyone actually buy anything but I did see a scarf land in the water, but they retrieved it, no problem. Once we arrived at Luxor we went to the Luxor Temple. This temple was another one of my favorites. The temple is right in the middle of Luxor and the city is basically built around it. It’s crazy to think that this temple has been there for 4,000 years and people come to view this site of ancient history from all over the world while the locals get to see it everyday. I like that we went at night and got to see if with the lights shinning on it.
The last full day of our cruise we went to the Valley of King’s, Hatsheput Temple, and Karnak Temple. Most people say that the Valley of the King’s is one of the best things to see especially on a trip like the Nile Cruise but I wasn’t overly impressed. Now if you are into tombs and such then this would be amazing for you. Some people I know love going into the tombs and they loved Valley of King’s. To each their own. I’m more of a, carve giant statues out of a mountain of rock kind of girl. Although it was crazy to think that all of these tombs have been under the surface for thousands of years and have only been recently found within the last hundred years or so. There are still many tombs out there that have not been found. Hatsheput’s Temple was built for the female god Hatsheput. She’s one of the few female god’s that you hear about let alone has a temple built for her. I liked it just for that reason – Girl Power! Karnak was our last stop. Karnak was huge – so much that is was almost impossible to look at it all before being overloaded.
After the Karnak Temple we headed back to the cruise boat for dinner and then hung out. We flew out early the next day and were back in Cairo by 11 a.m. This was a great trip and I’m glad I decided to do it December, the weather was perfect for walking around and sight seeing.