Drifting Up – and Down – the Nile: Egypt by Boat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASerene. Soothing. Relaxing.  Our week-long cruise on a Dahabiya was wonderful.  This was not a 100-150 passenger boat for tourists, but a comfortable sail boat with eight cabins, each with its own toilet facilities.

Unfortunately the two sails seemed only for show. We were towed by a tug.  We and 12 other passengers repeatedly asked our jovial crew when we would be under sail. FinallyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

they gave in to pressure. One sail was hoisted (quite a procedure) but stayed up for a very short time.


No matter. Now I can relate to a comment by my friend Lynne, who spent much of her youth living on a boat.  “There is no place I’d rather be than on the water.”

The Nile is calm.  The only sounds for us were the purr of  the tugboat motor and the occasional call to prayer from a mosque on shore. Meals, delicious and copious, were on the open upper deck, but under a roof (the Egyptian sun is powerful). Our cabin mates came from six different counties.  The Egyptian staff were friendly and helpful.


The Nile is the world’s longest river, originating in the highland lakes of Uganda and Ethiopia, and flowing into the Mediterranean. For centuries civilizations have settled along the fertile Nile Valley.  The rest of  Egypt is mainly desert as we saw on our long ( four hours) and boring ride from Hurghada on the Red Sea where our charter flight landed.

Temple of Edfu was dedicated to Horus (below)
We cruised from Luxor up the Nile to Aswan, then back to Luxor. We disembarked for part of most days to visit Egypt’s wondrous sights, ancient temples and tombs.

Horus, the falcon god, played a star role with the ancient Egyptians.
The Valley of the Kings just outside  Luxor with its richly decorated royal tombs is astonishing. For a period of some 500 years (16th to 11th century BC)  ancient Egyptians buried the mummies of pharaohs in secret, elaborate tombs here believing they would

Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahri, site of her temple near Luxor
thus be saved for eternity.  Sixty -three tombs have been discovered; eight are open to tourists, but not all at the same time. The most famous is  that of Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. It was closed during our visit.

Descending shafts into this underworld of murals depicting gods, goddesses, kings, queens, symbols, snakes, beasts and battles is a mesmerizing  adventure. Guides give lessons on Egyptian mythology,  explaining who’s who, but keeping track is a challenge. Hats off to Egyptolgoists.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On our return to Luxor, we visited its other treasures: Karnak and Luxor Temples, as well as it bazaar.  In between we made shore visits to the temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo, Esna and its temple of Khnoum, the temple of Horus at Edfu and the temple Philae on the island of Algikia.

From Aswan, an optional tour to Abu Simbel was offered. I remember being blown away by this monumental sight with is gigantic statues on a previous visit to Egypt many years ago.  I wanted Bob to see it.

He could have done without it.  The trip by car from Aswan is four hours through the desert.  To avoid the heat, we had a 4 a.m. wake up call.  And, even though we arrived at 9 .m. the sun was already blistering.  Throngs of Chinese tourists with cell phone cameras clogged the narrow passageways inside the tombs.

Abu Simbel
What is really remarkable about Abu Simbel, and several other huge temple complexes, is that they were all moved to be saved from drowning under the waters of Lake Nasser, the world’s largest reservoir created when the High Dam (the second dam) was constructed on the Nile.  Between 1964 and 1966 Abu Simbel was hand sawn into 1041 blocks weighing up to 30 tons each.  It was reassembled 210 meters behind its original site.

We visited the dam and the impressive Soviet-Egyptian monument honoring cooperation between the two nations in the dam construction.

Soviet-Egyptian Memorial
Another optional tour – to a Nubian village — was also disappointing.  Nubians, the earliest settlers on the Nile with their own culture and language,  still live in traditional villages in southern Egypt.  Unfortunately, the one we visited was primarily a collection of shops selling the usual souvenirs. However, it did include an entertaining visit to a school where a “teacher” stood at a blackboard and instructed us in how to pronounce our names in Nubian.  Lots of laughs. This time we were surrounded by Taiwanese.  They loved it.

We had hoped to end our visit to the Nile and its sights with a balloon ride.  British passengers on our boat had been enthralled with views of the river, the Valley of the Kings, the desert and more.

Not a  ski slope…
Another 4 a.m. wake up call.  We were driven to a field where huge colorful, deflated balloons blanketed the  ground, surrounded by groups of eager passengers.  It was cold at that early hour. No refreshment stands offered coffee. We waited, and waited, and waited, about three hours, for the signal that visibility was OK and we could soar up into the sky.  Sadly, visibility never improved.  No balloon ride.

Sunset from our boat
But, the boat was bliss.

More on Egypt – the beach and the Red Sea — coming soon.

Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo
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School group visiting the temple of Philae.
 Please feel free to comment.  Click below, following photos, then scroll down to bottom of article, Leave a Reply and add your thoughts.






16 thoughts on “Drifting Up – and Down – the Nile: Egypt by Boat”

  1. I’ve been fascinated by all things Egyptian since childhood and definitely envy this trip. Your gorgeous photos and informative text really bring Ancient Egypt to life. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is all fascinating. And, you are spot on about being on the water. This part of the trip gets A+. The beach, maybe C-. Next post will have more on that, Thanks for commenting. .


  2. I was happy to be able to read your article and to see your beautiful pics again. Thank you so much. I love being on the water just like you. This cruise on the Nile must have been very pleasant. I am glad you could make it.
    I can understand why Robert found your photo interesting in terms of composition.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your tales! Egypt is on my bucket list for sure. Alannah & I just attended a lecture and exhibit of mummified animals plus a description of the mummification process. Hi to Bob.


    1. Now you know all about mummies, you are ready for Egypt. We did not see any. I think they have all gone off to museums, as well as the tomb treasures. . But, the sites are magnificent..Hi to John..


    1. It was an adventure. That photo was taken with the artsy/crafts option on the Olympus which has replaced the drowned Canon. Fun for experiments, Thanks for commenting.


  4. Good trip blog. Our silly Egypt story was getting stranded on shore after a trip to the ATM in Karnak. The boat actually pulled away from its parking spot. We didn’t even have our passports. It turned out to be an afternoon security drill. Lots of soldiers, cops and fire hoses. Jeesh. No wonder the tour guide advised we nap. We located the boat’s new spot and reboarded a couple hours later. We did enjoy the trip, despite temps of close to 120 F.


    1. We, too, had a scary stranded adventure, at night in Luxor. We were on our own, but a small boat had been arranged to pick us up and take us to our boat anchored somewhere on the opposite shore. It never showed up. There were other small boats with pilots offering a ride, but none recognized the name of our boat, nor had an idea where it might be. We had no phone numbers to call. I was stressed. Finally we threw caution to the wind, boarded a boat and instructed the “captain ” and his mate to take us by all the boats on the other side (many). I figured we would recognize our home. But, I was very nervous, What if these guys were terrorists who wanted to kidnap us? Maybe they were thiefs who would steal our money and cards and throw us into the Niile to the crocodiles (we saw none, but there were plenty of evil germs in that water)? We passed boat after boat. Where was ours? I needed more than a drink. Alas, second to last boat was ours. What a relief..


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