Our Nile Cruise, from Luxor to the Aswan Dam and back.

We flew to Luxor for a week in March 2005, and stayed on the MS Grand Star booked through Panorama Holidays. This is a holiday we had been thinking about ever since 2001, when we did an overnight cruise from Cyprus to see the Pyramids at Giza. From the busy itinerary in the brochure, we expected to be completely worn out by the end of the week due to all of the travelling and visits to monuments. However, in reality we would spend a few hours each morning visiting the sights before the sun got really hot. A good part of each day was spent back on the boat in total relaxation watching the Nile go by.

Monday – Fly to Luxor and join the MS Grand Star. Lunch and dinner on board. Overnight in Luxor

Tuesday – Visit Karnak temple. After lunch, sail on to Edfu via the lock at Esna.

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Wednesday – After passing through the lock at Esna, visit the temple of Horus at Edfu. Lunch on board, then sail on to Aswan. Dinner and overnight in Aswan.

The lock at Esna is an interesting but lengthy experience. Thirty or forty ships arrive and are held in a large pound below the lock. They each pass through in turn (two at a time), so it can take several hours before it’s your turn! The road bridge must be closed to traffic far more than it’s open during the tourist season. Pedestrians can still get past via a footbridge over the lock.

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Egyptian night on the MS Grand Star

Lots of fun shopping for the Egyptian night. Local traders take advantage of the delays at the Esna lock, and paddle round in little boats selling their traditional costumes – Galabeyahs. They throw them up to you in a plastic bag, and after a bit of haggling you throw the money back down to them in a floating purse.

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Thursday – Visit the Philae Temple, the unfinished obelisk at Aswan, and the Aswan High Dam. After lunch, a felucca (sailboat) ride around Aswan.

The Philae temple was quite impressive. Moved stone by stone onto another island, to avoid the rising floodwaters of the dam. Red hot day in scorching sunlight. We started out really early in the morning, to avoid the huge numbers of tourists being ferried out to the island on motorboats. By the time we were leaving the island later in the morning, there were some hilarious scenes at the quayside with masses of motorboats all competing to try and land their human cargo! Another victory of commonsense for our tour guide!

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Back on the boat, the food was up to the usual standards. An international style buffet, with hot food freshly prepared in front of you by the chefs. Good service from the staff, in a cosy restaurant atmosphere. Although I was struck down by Tutankhamun’s revenge towards the end of the week, the rest of the family were fine. Obviously I was unlucky enough to pick something up, which could have happened anywhere. We were really careful, even using bottled water to brush our teeth! Who knows – just one of those things.

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Friday – An early morning start, flying from Luxor to Abu Simbel (one of the optional tours).

We arrived at Abu Simbel in time to see the sunrise over the giant statues of Rameses. Our tour guide raced us towards the admissions gate, then a fast march round to the other side of the artificial mountain. Well worth it though – we were the very first visitors to an otherwise empty site, which was still in darkness except for a few floodlights. By the time we were leaving a few hours later, the site was beginning to get quite crowded with groups from tour buses. We spent friday night at the sound & light show at the Philae Temple, which made this a very long day for us.

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Saturday – An early morning sail to Kom Ombo, and a visit to the temple of Sobek and Horus. Continue sailing to Luxor via Esna. Overnight in Luxor.

Best part of the day was spent sailing back from Kom Ombo to Luxor. Another opportunity to lounge around on the sun deck, and watch the world pass slowly by. Sunbathing near the pool was ok for short spells, but most of the time was spent in the shade drinking ice-cold cans of Fanta.

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We had two cabins opposite each other, one for us and one for the kids. Good views out of the windows while cruising, but often the ship was moored side-by-side with others blocking the view when stationary.

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Sunday – Visit the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir El Bahri. An evening visit to the Temple at Luxor, and overnight on board.

Really weird experience at the Temple of Hatshepsut. A big group of Muslim women all wanted their photo taken with Charlotte. Must have been something to do with her blonde hair. Just a bit strange being surrounded by all these years of ancient history in a fabulous monument, yet they seemed oblivious to it and wanted snapshots of us!?

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Monday – Souvenir shopping in Luxor, then transfer to the airport for the flight home.

Some useful links…

Monuments of Egypt: http://www.mysteries-in-stone.co.uk/

Theban Mapping Project: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/

CultureFocus Travel Photos: http://www.culturefocus.com/

LexicOrient: http://lexicorient.com/

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