The Best Way to Cruise the Nile: Part 3

After an incredibly restful sail & swim day, we were ready for more sightseeing. We had spent the night docked at the floodlit Temple of Gebel Silsileh and now it was time to see it up close.

Less impressive than the tombs of El Kab, I didn’t snap many photos, but I did have a love/hate relationship with the sand we climbed through to make it to another nearby temple – Horemheb’s.

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This tiny little temple was the smallest we’d come across so far, but the area all around had been one of the most productive quarries and there were carvings all along our walk.

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It was hard to make up my mind whether to pay more attention to the engravings on my right or the Nile River on my left, both offered impressive views:

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And the quarry was impressive in its own right. Larger than I had imagined, much of it was off limits and posted “No entry” signs for safety. But at one time, this quarry was filled with workers and well-known for its incredible sculptures – including the sphinxes that line the streets in Luxor.

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It was a great morning hike and by the time we came back to boat I was already sweating despite the cool winter air – that sun is no joke! And I don’t help matters by my refusal to wear a hat : ) Don’t worry, sunscreen also does the trick.

That afternoon we got to see an “unscheduled” sight on Nour El Nil‘s itinerary. Another cruise boat: The Sudan. A steam ship built between 1911-1921, it is perhaps most famous for it’s 1933 passenger, Agatha Christie, who writes Death on the Nile after her time there.

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The Best Way to Cruise the Nile: Part 2

My last post on Egypt focused on our cruise – traveling up the Nile with Nour El Nil. In this post, I want to focus on some of our stops along the way.

Our trip began in Esna, a merchant town 33 miles south of Luxor. While our luggage was being loaded onto our dahabiya – boat – we were dropped off at the Temple of Khnum. Located nine meters below street level, the location reminded me of Bet Giyorgis or the Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia.

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Because the roof is still intact, a lot more of the color remains on the walls than in the previous temples we visited in Luxor. Covered in bird excrement – the birds like having a roof as well – a dedicated crew is carefully cleaning the walls to reveal the colors beneath.

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Afterward, we went on a walk through the town, passing by vendors and shops, happily selling their wares.

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That night we docked again, in a small fishing village, and we got to know our fellow travellers, as well a local family. Dennis showed his brilliance by stuffing his roll in his pocket and pulling it out any time someone came by with another round of bread. The rest of us kept eating to remain polite and we nearly had to be rolled back to the boats.

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The Best Way to Cruise the Nile: Part 1

Let’s rewind to spring 2014: Chandler and I wanted to travel somewhere for spring break…but we needed to be thrifty (upcoming wedding in July & our move to Accra just a few weeks after). However, we didn’t do much advanced planning and the only thing that really fit our budget was a Caribbean cruise.

And…I hated it.

I tried to keep an open mind, but it just wasn’t for me. The stops were interesting (Chichen Itza was incredible!), but the sea sickness, lack of space, and absence of decent vegetarian food made the trip less than spectacular.

So when Chandler mentioned a cruise on the Nile, I was even more skeptical. Which, of course, he had already taken into consideration. He had done his research and National Geographic had recently listed the 21 Best Cruises in the World and, wouldn’t you know, they had one on the list that took you up the Nile River in Egypt.

The photographs were stunning and we couldn’t find a bad review about the company: Nour El Nil. Despite it being pricier than our average vacation (plus we still had to pay for a week in Cairo and a week in Jordan!), we decided to book a week-long cruise on their most affordable boat – the Assouan.

At 1,100 euros a person, it was hard to deem it “affordable,” but after our last cruise, I wasn’t going to save a few hundred on a cruise that had likewise cut corners to save a few bucks as well.

Plus, the Assouan had something no other boat on the Nile could offer: intimacy. With only eight rooms onboard, we’d be sharing the space with a maximum of 14 other guests.

We were picked up at our hotel in Luxor on Monday, December 18th. As soon as we saw the boats, we knew we were not going to be let down:

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We’d been upgraded to the slightly larger El Nil, which holds up to 18 passengers, but were pleasantly surprised to find out we’d be sharing it with just six other people: An American couple from Seattle, a French & British couple from London, and Tunisian sisters from Paris.

And, for once in our lives, we were the least traveled people in the group! That alone made the trip worthwhile – hearing everyone’s stories and adding more trips to our bucket list. Many dinners were followed late into the night with wine, memories, and plans for future adventures.

Most days involved a stop at a historical temple or tomb, but even the scenery as we sailed our way up the Nile was spectacular. We had foolishly believed that so much of the river would be industrialized, but due to the Nile’s unpredictable flooding, very little was built within a mile of its shores.

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And what was built, usually added to the ambience. Whether it was ancient tombs or the more practical floating petrol stations:

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It was never too much time on the boat (which, anyway, is probably the most relaxing place I have ever been). Even on full sail days, we still stopped for some fun in the sun & Nile:

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A pirate’s life is not for me!

Fun fact: Jimmy John’s has nicer toilet paper than my cruise did.

Ok, let’s back up a bit: A few months ago, Chandler and I began talking about what we wanted to do for Spring Break. He mentioned a cruise and I wasn’t really into the idea, but we didn’t cement any plans.

Fast forward a few months…we still hadn’t made any Spring Break plans…and we were running out of time. So we started looking into Central and South America – at airfare, all-inclusive resorts, and small beach getaways…keeping our options and locations open. However, the more places we looked into, the more we realized we were way late to join the game. Between 17+ hour layovers and room prices of $300-400/night it just wasn’t working out.

So Chandler once again broached the idea of a cruise. I still wasn’t completely sold on it, but it seemed like our best option and I was determined to have an open mind.

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Our first night we were crazy sea sick. I grew up on boats, but let me tell you, a lake is nothing like an ocean (seems pretty obvious, right?). We rocked and rolled all night long and I was running to my Dramamine. Thank God for Dramamine : )

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