The Nile, referred to as the Father of African Rivers, has always been an essential conduit of life for Egypt, both in agricultural and tourism activity. Cruises along the Nile had been a quintessential component of bucket list adventure until, without warning, the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 dealt a death blow to its healthy tourism sector. With a virtual Death On The Nile (a decline to a 5 to 8 percent occupancy rate along with it), many of the Nile riverboats became virtually derelict.
Thanks to a comforting degree of recent political stability, tourism to Egypt and riverboat activity is once again on the rise. Respected river cruise operators like Viking, Uniworld, and Emerald Waterways are offering appealing cruise-tour packages that have reignited the interest in the country and its immense historical heritage. Sailing from Cairo to Luxor is a 600 kilometer journey of cultural engagement, with extensions also available that continue on to Aswan.
Chaotic Cairo serves as an alternating embarkation or debarkation port and serves up more than a heaping plateful of not-to-be-missed sites. The Pyramids of Giza remain one of the most iconic sites of not only Egypt, but the entire world. Visitors now have the opportunity to actually wander the pyramid complex minus the overwhelming barrage of selfie-stick warriors of years past. Unlike sites like the UK’s Stonehenge, where chainlink fences surround the monuments, visitors to the pyramids can still take Instagram photos directly on the massive boulders of the structure and even enter the interior.
Multiple days in the capital provide opportunities to witness the Step Pyramid, Memphis, and Sakkara, but no visit to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. The halls and rooms of a former palace are filled chock-a-block with mummies, statues, and relics – none more impressive than those of King Tutankhamun, all providing a fascinating glimpse into Egyptian heritage. Hopes run high that the massive new Egyptian Museum will soon be completed and open to visitors in 2020.
Sailing down the Nile allows Egypt to take on a new perspective, as the bursting energy of Cairo gives way to the calm serenity of the river. With inclusive riverboat cruising, a cross-section of Egyptian life is viewed in contrasting luxury and while there is plenty to witness along the way, nothing holds more promise of discovery than arrival in Luxor.
The Lure Of Luxor
Luxor is reputed to hold more than one third of the entire world’s antiquities with another 70 percent still to be uncovered. Across the river on the Nile’s West Bank lies the iconic Valley Of The Kings, home to 62 unearthed tombs of pharaohs, kings and assorted nobility. Due to new technologies and satellite imagery, new tomb discoveries are made each year. It was here, in 1922, that the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun and a plethora of relics were unearthed to be shared with the world. Visitor admission permits entrance directly into many burial chambers set deep into the barren mountains. On the other side of the valley is the terraced Temple of Hatshepsut, paying tribute to the country’s first female ruler. In the city itself, the two-mile-long Sphinx Avenue, containing hundreds of sphinxes, connects the entrance of the Temple of Luxor with the even more impressive Temple of Karnak, one of the largest and oldest religious complexes on the planet.
It’s Nile Or Never
After years of devastating hard times, now is a perfect time to satisfy your intrepid wanderlust and plan a cruise tour to this fascinating region. The crowds that had previously clogged the ancient sites are sure to return and along with them higher rates. For me, having recently returned to the country after a 9-year absence, it was comforting to observe a significant degree of discreet security and competent organization making visits to this bed of antiquity even more enjoyable.