The River Nile


There are parts of Egypt that haven’t changed for thousands of years, and some of the scenes along the Nile are iconic of the Ancient Egyptian way of life. This great river, which snakes its way from Alexandria through Sudan and Ethiopia to the heart of Africa, is a classic journey, particularly in Egypt, which is the most popular aspect of the route. During the 5th century, Herodotus, a Greek historian, described Egypt as “The gift of the Nile”, and when visitors sail along the shores it is easy to see why this great river was once worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians. In Egypt, the Nile is the lifeblood of its civilisation and is ingrained into the soul and the culture of its people.

In Egypt, a journey down the River Nile can be done by cruise ship and can also be sailed in a traditional felucca or sailing boat. There are also opportunities to cycle along the banks of the Nile. Many people typically fly from Cairo to Aswan and take the river journey from there to see the best historic sites and some of the scenery that has not changed since the days of Ramses. Some journeys start in Luxor and sail down, rather than up, the Nile. A Nile journey is not just about the historic places of the Ancient Egyptian era but of traditional village life that comes into view as the boats sail along the river. There are farmers working the land using traditional methods, children playing in the water, oxen being washed, and the green banks of the Nile have all manner of crops and plants. Villages, fishing boats, and the necessities of daily life can all be seen on a Nile journey.

The Temple of Karnak is one of the most famous sights on the River Nile and is linked by a two mile promenade along the river to its twin site, the Temple of Luxor. Karnak’s temple was built over 1500 years ago and is one of the most remarkable architectural achievements ever done. Dedicated to the Theben tribe of Mut, Amun, and Khonsu, it was seen as the place of the Gods by the Ancient Egyptians and in its day was a spectacle. Today, on the shores of the Nile, it is the highlight of any journey up this famous river. The city of Luxor is built on the ancient city of Thebes and the whole area has often been referred to as the “world’s greatest open air museum.”

Many people visit the Valley of the Kings, which is close to Luxor, and see some of the tombs of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. The Valley is known to contain at least sixty- three tombs, with excavations continuing as more of ancient history is discovered. Most famously, the tomb of Tutankhamun is located here, as well as the reputed Curse of the Pharaohs.

Abu Simbel is another famous location on a journey down the Nile. Around 3000 years ago, Pharaoh Ramses II ordered the Sun Temple of Abu Simbel to be constructed by carving figures of himself into a cliff. This remarkable architectural feat took thirty six years to complete and has been salvaged following the construction of the Aswan High Dam. As a result of the Aswan Dam project, Lake Nasser was formed, and the Sun temple now overlooks the largest man made freshwater lake in the world.

As the Nile reaches the Sudanese border the scenery is more dramatic, with palm tree filled islands and huge granite boulders, and creates a spectacular approach to Aswan, which has long been a popular resort for winter visitors and is Egypt’s southernmost town. A wander in the souk is a fascinating experience in this town known for its trade routes, which were once ivory, gold, and slaves. Today’s visitors, though, are more likely to leave with spices or a carpet after some serious haggling. The Nile and the ancient temples inspired Agatha Christie to write Death on the Nile and the famous Old Cataract Hotel where she stayed is at a scenic bend in the river at Aswan and is a popular place for afternoon tea. Her writing room is still in the hotel. The Nile is a feast of history and of everyday Egyptian life and is a classic journey with some incredible sights and experiences. To travel the Nile is to experience Egypt at its very best and to get to the very soul of this country.

(Image by Flickr user : pasujoba)

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