In addition to the pyramids, I couldn’t help but sign up for another touristy Egyptian excursion: a multi-day cruise along the Nile. Cruise ships sail from Aswan to Luxor for 4 days/3 nights (which is what we picked) or against the current from Luxor to Aswan for 5 days/4 nights. I read that one of the cheapest options is through viator.com, and we paid $280 each for what typically would have been the high season in mid-December. We even opted for a group tour for the lowest price, but somehow ended up with a private guide anyway. Yay!
After independently exploring Aswan for several days, we boarded our ship for 4 days of mostly all-inclusive treatment. This post will highlight the cruise experience and cruise stops; excursions at Aswan and Luxor are described in separate posts.
Tip: Most cruise ships are exclusive of beverages, so we brought all our own water/soda from all the docking points. Also, the first night on board is actually spent in Aswan, which leaves plenty of time to explore the city after the guided tour.
This section of the Nile once saw over 300 active ships busily cruising up and down, but sadly only about 20 are still in service. Between the 20, the ships seem to only run at half capacity. Like tourism in Egypt, Nile river cruise ships were barely surviving.
Perhaps it was due to inadequate funding from a lack of tourists, or perhaps it was because we were simply in Egypt, but we felt that the cruise companies had a very loose definition of the word “luxury.” Still, we enjoyed our relaxing cruise despite the food being mediocre to decent, the December chill keeping us from using the pool, and being shuttled around like cattle during temple tours. We especially loved our comfy bed after having spent the previous week in basic hotels.
As the ship sailed north toward Luxor, we made two stops along the Nile for the Temple of Kom Ombo and Temple of Horus at Edfu. The Temple of Kom Ombo is dedicated to the crocodile god, and the structure itself compared to other wonders in Egypt isn’t too inspiring; however, the museum at the temple that showcased all the crocodile mummies is the highlight. I mean come on…crocodile mummies! How cool is that?
And to our amusement, we returned to our hotel room to discover that housekeeping was a clever bedmaker. A crocodile of towels and bedding:
Our second Nile river stop was for the Temple of Horus at Edfu, an incredibly preserved ancient monument in Egypt. It was only excavated in the mid-19th century; before that, it had been buried by sand. To get to the monument, all tourists were obliged to ride a skinny horse carriage through town. Because all groups literally arrived at the same time when the temple opened, we found it difficult to admire the beautiful temple. We ended up mainly dodging selfie sticks and giant crowds.
Between these two temple visits, we indulged in breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets, read books, and watched the small Nile river towns slowly drift by. Sitting on the ship’s top deck and waving to delighted children was also an enjoyable experience. And to my surprise, the Sufi performance on our final night was mesmerizing. Ever see a man twirl in circles nonstop for a quarter-hour simultaneously spinning a brightly-lit skirt? I had never heard of such an idea. It was incredible.
To top off the cruise, we finished in Luxor, a premier travel destination in not just Egypt but the world. Temples, palaces, magnificent ancient ruins, a relatively large city, and amazing restaurants/food options make Luxor a must-visit city in Egypt. While the cruise included a tour to a handful of Luxor’s most iconic sites, one must tack on an additional day or two to explore more of what the city has to offer. We were glad to experience this “luxury” cruise, but we were relieved to break away from the crowds and be on our own schedule again. Our account of Luxor is detailed in the next post!