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Travelogue: cruising the Nile

It wasn’t my first time. In fact, this would be my second time cruising the Nile. Excited to find out what had changed in the four years since my last visit, I was eager to set sail…

Sanctuary Sun boat III

Abercrombie & Kent's Sun Boat III (pictured above) was to be my home for the next 3 nights. Sailing from Luxor to Aswan was not a typical route for this boat. This short trip would tantalise me to return again for the full 7-night experience. It is an elegant vessel with the discreet ambience of an exclusive club, which can’t be found on other Nile boats. After a very comfortable first night docked in Luxor and a breakfast fit for a king, the cruise began.

Sanctuary Sun boat III

Sun Boat III's deck

I was in awe of the captain’s skills. The accuracy with which he navigated our way through the depths of the river, from his years of experience and knowledge gained from growing up on the Nile, never ceased to amaze me. The beautifully furnished sundeck was to be my stage post for the next three days. Shaded from the scorching midday sun, I armed with camera at the ready to encapsulate the beauty of the countryside.

We arrived at the new Esna lock, a monstrous piece of engineering and a new addition since my last visit. The completion of the new lock allows you to pass in just 10 minutes. Long gone are the days of 4 hour queues waiting for your slot. As the water began to fill at a rate of knots, traders seized the opportunity to throw souvenirs for us to buy. This was great fun and a first opportunity to practice or refine my bartering skills for galabayas to wear that night at the Egyptian evening.

The Nile waters are calm and perfect for those who have always wanted a cruise experience without the worries of travelling on choppy waters. Time passes you by as you watch children playing in the water waving for your attention. Villagers washing the carpets carried from their homes, and donkeys and cattle enjoying the comfort of shade from the date palms. I felt like I was watching scenes from ancient times, witnessing how the Egyptians would have lived all those years ago. Their cultures are deeply rooted; the way of life and many of the farming practices passed down through the generations.

The Nile is home to an abundance of birdlife. Egret perched on reed beds. Kingfisher hiding amongst the rushes. Eagle gliding gracefully on the thermals. From every angle, I was spoilt with a different view – from farmland interspersed with villages, to sugar cane fields and date palms, to the stark desert. Added to that, the call to prayer engages all of your senses. I was relieved to see these things had not changed.

Since the so-called Arab Spring, tourists have largely stayed away from Egypt, and over the coming days we were privileged to have a private viewing of Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philae Temples. Typically receiving thousands of tourists every day I was able to take picture perfect photographs without another body in sight. Not a single queue and an eerie unfamiliar silence added to the mystery as our guide retold stories of the Pharonic gods to whom these temples were dedicated.

Slowly but surely, our journey was coming to an end as we moored up in the sunny city of Aswan. Rain has not reached this part of Egypt in over 9 years. Aswan is an iconic image of Egypt, somewhat African in flavour and charm with a laid-back atmosphere. Here the Nile waters were alive with the sight of traditional feluccas zigzagging across the waters as the sun slowly set. The Nubian people who live here are charming and their faces beautiful. Crime is almost unheard of, as our post dinner walk through the tourist bazaar confirmed – local traders shutting up shop leaving their goods on full display.

Cruising the Nile is without doubt the best way to experience Egypt. Almost every day a new relic or statue is found by archaeologists enticing you to make a return journey. The newest discovery being the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor. I will never tire of the sights and hope to return again soon.