It wasn’t exactly the Hilton but it sure felt like it! I had a three night Nile cruise as part of a package I’d arranged from my hostel in Cairo. For the price I’d paid I expected maybe a felucca or a rundown old boat but I was in for a big surprise. I was taken to an extremely nice and fancy cruise ship where I had butlers offer me a drink upon arrival and take my backpack to my room… But hang on, don’t do that, that means I’ll have to tip you!
I certainly felt out of place with my big pack, dirty clothes and most importantly, the surprised look on my face of where I was. I had a large private bedroom with a view of the river, there was a swimming pool on the top deck and wifi throughout the boat. But perhaps the best part was the open buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It felt like free food even though it had been included in the price but I was going to make the most of having too much to eat for once. So many days on the road I either only eat two meals or if I’m on a bus all day I’ll often live on bananas. I’m glad I didn’t know anyone on the ship so I didn’t care what anyone thought if I went back for seconds. It was four days of heaven.
I cruised from Aswan up to Luxor stopping in Kom Ombo and Edfu where I had a tour guide on board who took me and two other families to the temples. It was amazing to see all the cruise ships doing the same trip as mine. Every stop there would be about 20 ships docking as well which meant that at the temples it was ‘crowded’ with tourists. I thought ‘pfft who said there were no tourists in Egypt!’ but my tour guide said that in fact this was still very quiet compared to what it was like prior to 2011. He said instead of the 20 boats sharing the dock like now there would be 100. In 2010, Egypt saw 17 million tourists but in 2014 there were only 5 million. I knew he was right because there was a large number of empty cruise ships not operating docked at Aswan and Luxor.
Another sad reminder of the desperation people face in the tourism industry was with the souvenir sellers. We went under a bridge in Esna and had people trying to sell us things from the top. At one stage I was sitting on the sun deck reading and could hear a constant, “HELLO! HELLLLOOO!” I peered over the edge and there were two guys in a small row boat waving scarves at us. “5 Egyptian pounds! Madam! 5 pounds!” “OK, OK, 1 pound!” “1 pound?” “No, no, no, 5 pound!” It was actually pretty amusing. They even threw us a dress on board but we gave it back. Twenty minutes later I went down to my room and when I opened up my door to outside there they were, “Hello madam, where are you from? Scarf? 5 pound.” I couldn’t help but laugh, I think even they realised how ridiculous it was but it was a stark reminder that people are really getting desperate for tourists to come back to the country. But the positive for me meant that prices were cheaper and I could have a bit of luxury for a change!
You can say that there’s too much of a good thing. Like in China I had seen too many Buddhist temples by the end of my time there, they all started to look the same. But Egypt was different. I’d seen a lot of ruins and a lot of temples but they all had the same mind blowing effect as each other no matter how many I saw.
After seeing Philae in Aswan, Kom Ombo, Edfu and Karnak and Luxor Temple in Luxor, you would think I had seen enough hieroglyphics for one trip, but I never got sick of them. I think it was their sheer size and architecture. They all had massive pillars, huge entrance gates and amazingly detailed statues. One of the most amazing things for me was all the carvings of images and hieroglyphics on the walls. Most temples were completely covered everywhere with them and I could only imagine how many years it must have taken to complete them all. The Egyptians really were ahead of their time as excellent architects, builders and artists. You can’t deny that they must be regarded as the most interesting and advanced ancient civilisation.
And that’s the thing that I couldn’t get my head around, the age of the temples I was looking at. Some of them were over 3000 years old. Some of the wall paintings even had the original colours still on the rock and some temples had even been submerged under water or sand and been recovered. I don’t even think the buildings we construct today would last as long as the Egyptian temples.
I eventually did lose track of the eleven different Pharaoh Ramses and got confused between Queen Nefertari or Queen Nefertiti, but how could you not? It’s such a unique and compelling civilisation and period of history that could easily be studied for a life time!
*post adapted from my trip here in March 2015 and from my original blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com