Thursday, January 1, 2009

Down The Nile Without a Paddle!

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

Just as Cleopatra sailed down the Nile in her luxurious royal barge, the bank along the river Nile probably looks the same for that many years. A timeless picturesque scene, life has not changed much over the years. Buffaloes and cows grazing, farmers working the land by hand, women washing cloths on the waters edge, children fishing or jumping into the water, waving and screaming at the passing boats. Egrets fly over the water surface alongside the boat and a kingfisher hovers, ready to dive down into the water to catch a fish. As an important migratory stopover between Africa and Europe, the banks of the Nile are the perfect place for bird-watching. Lining the banks are date palms, willows, acacias, mimosa and sycamore trees.

The river Nile, the source of all creation, life and beauty, is the life-line of the ancient Egyptian civilization, and the unending source of sustenance to its people. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that 'Egypt was the gift of the Nile.' Sailing by the serene beauty on a Nile cruise ship, with all the luxuries of royalty of a Pharaonic barge, is a once in a life time experience. With all the facilities of a land based hotel, Nile cruise ships are fully air-conditioned, with a small swimming pool, bars, restaurants, shops, private baths and TVs.

The large sliding window of the cabin room opens directly on to the waters of the river emphasizing the closeness of nature even further. I can never tire of gazing out at the life on the Nile as it drifts by, and the single-sailed feluccas, that remind me of giant butterflies. My personal favorite is the sun-deck, especially during the early hours of the cool morning breeze.

During the actual motion of the Nile cruise ship there is little sense of motion, so even within the smallest cabin room there is no danger of any seasickness. With an all inclusive package, you can enjoy three meals a day with all the transportation to the tours and temples. A typical cruise will include visits to the Luxor Museum, the magnificent Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon on Luxor. In Esna the Temple of Esna and at Edfu, there is the Temple of Horus. At Kom Ombo, there is the temple of Sobek, the crocodile god associated with fertility; it is directly on the edge of the Nile where crocodiles were fed red meat in ancient times.

At Aswan the sites to see include a visit to the Aswan High Dam, Lake Nasser, the Unfinished Obelisk. The Temple of Philae is on one of the most romantic and beautiful site on Earth. It had become the center point to the worship of the cult of the goddess Isis. Optional is a relaxing felucca trip to the Botanical Island and a visit to a Nubian village as you float past the Elephantine Island and the Agha Khan Mausoleum.

The cruises range from a quick, three-night cruise usually departing from Aswan to Luxor, to a moderate four-night cruise usually departing from Luxor to Aswan. The seven-night cruise either starts from Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor, this trip is for those who seek full relaxation.

Besides the day visits these cruise ships have active night life including cocktail parties, Nubian shows, belly dancers and whirling tanoura dancers, there is even a night where guests have a dress up parties putting on traditional Egyptian costumes. The meals onboard most Nile cruisers are usually buffet style and include a variety of international and local cuisine.

The best time to book your Nile cruise is between October and mid April, when the weather is cool and the locks along the Nile at Esna are all open. These locks will be closed around mid April because of the water levels. However there are cruise boats operating all year round, but due to the closed locks, cruise operators will arrange boats on either side of the locks, and a transfer must be made between boats. Although a visit to the Pyramids and the Sphinx maybe the pinnacle of your trip to Egypt, there is nothing like floating down the Nile on a cruise boat, truly an unforgettable and magical experience.

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem