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Monday, December 12, 2011

A Nile Adventure – cruising and other stories

By Kim Molyneaux

Imagine yourself cruising serenely down the great river Nile. Not an obvious choice for a vacation given the current political climate? Think again – the Egyptians would most likely want to encourage more tourists to boost their severely damaged economy, which means there are probably travel bargains to be had. As a benefit to the tourist, you could be amongst the ‘few’ who have chosen to visit. No crowds, no queues, no forcing yourself to the front to take photographs and appreciate the wonders of modern and ancient Egypt along with hordes of tourists.

My family and I made the trip in July this year (2011). Of the 300 ships that normally cruise up and down the river, we were told only 14 were running. It was like an oasis. I have photographs of the monuments without a soul in sight – a rare occurrence! This does not mean that the place felt void and isolated, far from it. The people we met were warm and welcoming and proudly shared the delights of their country with us.

Our party consisted of myself, my husband and our two children, aged seven and 15. We flew to Luxor and boarded our ship – a beautiful vessel with four decks and the most ornate marble staircase I have ever seen!

Let me set the scene for you: you are lounging on the top sun deck with the warm breeze gently caressing your skin. You are compelled to look at the passing scenery to reassure yourself you are actually sailing, the ride is so smooth. The moving landscape passing before your eyes reveals lush green cultivated fields, farmers ploughing with oxen, and donkey-drawn carts piled high with hay are trot-trotting down the narrow mud path beside the river. There are children swimming in the river, shouting and waving at you. A few kilometres further upstream and the landscape has changed to clusters of high palm trees swaying majestically above long-leaved bushes overhanging the river banks, which in turn morphs into richly coloured rock outcrops and abandoned ruins with light sandy backdrops beyond. As time passes, the sun begins to set and within a few minutes you are witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets you could ever wish to see.

Life on board the ship is relaxing and the crew pamper to your every desire. Our cabins were elegantly decorated, well-equipped and cleaned three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board were all included and served in the dining room. Breakfast consisted of a buffet selection of breads, cakes, cereals, yoghurt and cheese, accompanied by hot croissants, spiced potatoes with sausage, omelettes and scrambled eggs. Lunch and dinner were sumptuous affairs – often several courses – all delicious and scrupulously prepared with either silver service or help-yourself buffets. The afternoons were spent lazily lying back and watching the fascinating landscape go by. For further amusement, on board was a little trinket and jewellery shop and the wonderfully cooling swimming pool to play in. The evenings could be spent in the bar watching traditional Egyptian shows.

We booked the ‘full excursion package’ which included mostly morning guided visits to Kom Ombo Temple, Philae Temple (Temple of Isis), Edfu Temple, The Valleys of the Kings and Queens, Habu Temple, The Colossi of Memnon, Karnak Complex and Luxor Temple. The visits were fabulous. If this wasn’t enough culture, there were optional visits to Abu Simbel and other exciting trips including a Nile Adventure where we visited the beautiful botanical Kitchener Island and rode camels to a Nubian village where we actually held a baby crocodile! There was the spectacular Sound and Light show at Karnak, an early morning hot air balloon ride, and a horse drawn carriage ride around Luxor.

After all this, as you would rightly expect, a good deal of rest and relaxation was in order! Making a tour of all these monuments in the space of a week, not to mention the heat, is hard work, but well worth the effort. We travelled by private taxi to the resort of Hurghada on the Red Sea where we stayed for a couple of days in a most opulently-decorated, all-inclusive hotel (The Titanic Beach). Many of our fellow travellers stayed here a whole week to unwind in the sun. The perfect end to the perfect holiday!

We really did have the most wonderful time. Before our holiday, I’d found it difficult to gather useful information about travelling in Egypt with a family, cruising and descriptions of all the monuments we would be visiting, so I decided to write a journal of our travels. Since our return, I’ve spent a most enjoyable time putting all my discoveries together in a book and packed it full of photographs, in the hope that other travellers thinking of heading in the same direction will find it a useful guide. Equally, I hope that the virtual traveller can immerse themselves and enjoy the experience through our story.

A Nile Adventure – cruising and other stories is available on Amazon.

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