A personal account from a Nile Cruise
My journey began at London Heathrow. As this was my first trip out of the UK since the pandemic, I was intrigued to see how the new processes in place would work. I was pleased to experience a very smooth and efficient journey from London to Luxor, which hardly felt different to pre-pandemic travel.
Upon arrival in Luxor, we were greeted by a very pleasant representative; the passion for his job and love for his country was contagious, and instantly made me excited for my tour ahead.
We joined our Jules Verne group on ‘The 600-Mile Nile’ tour onboard the MS Darakum. We were then introduced to our Egyptian Tour Manager and Egyptologist. The vessel felt like home away from home. All crew members were so attentive, and nothing was ever too much trouble. All meals onboard are included and served as a buffet style. Each night there was a different theme with an abundance of choice available to suit any preferences.
On our first evening we experienced the Special Event, exclusive to Jules Verne customers; Luxor Temple by Night. Located in the heart of the city we found the famous Luxor Temple, a site very easy to see at any time of day, however experiencing this breathtaking temple, illuminated in the darkness was sensational, as it really highlighted precise carvings against the night sky. We finished off the evening with cocktails at the elegant Winter Palace Hotel.
On our second day in Luxor we visited the Valley of the Kings. From the outside it looks like a giant gorge, but underneath there are tombs of 63 of the most important pharaohs in history of Ancient Egypt, including Tutankhamun. My favourite tomb was the tomb of Seti 1; the longest and deepest tomb, yet easily the most beautiful. 11 chambers filled with the most mind-blowing quality of carvings. I found it hard to wrap my head around how the colours were still so rich and vibrant.
We finished off the day with a visit to Karnak Temple and what a way to end our first full day. This open-air museum is rich in history and presented so beautifully. No photos can capture the true size and beauty of this site.
The next morning, we started to sail towards Qena. I’ll never forget the feeling of pure content, opening the curtains relaxing in bed with my morning coffee as we cruised along the Nile. I remember thinking about how remarkable it was that I could see water, lush greenery and desert all at once, there isn’t many places in the world that could offer that!
Qena was our first stop in exploring the secret gems of the Nile. We were onboard one of the very few vessels who cruise on this part of the Nile. On our way to Denderah Temple we travelled through local towns and villages by coach. All the locals were waving at us and were so happy to see tourists in their towns and villages – the attention made us feel like royalty! I felt really immersed in the culture and I loved every second of it.
The Temple of Denderah is one of the best preserved in Egypt and the owner of the only carved image of Cleopatra, yet there were times we could have been the only group there, having this fascinating site all to ourselves. The site sings with the music of birds hidden in the hollows in the walls and the distant sound of the call to prayer.
Our Nile cruises are always led by an Egyptologist, which allows there to be lots of informative lectures onboard available. Our guide had a passion for photography and took the time to teach us all about the bird life in Egypt – so make sure to bring your binoculars so you can keep an eye out! The lecture I found most interesting was one about modern Egypt; it was fascinating to learn about how the locals live in comparison to how we do.
The evening entertainment provided onboard the vessel was very relevant to the Egyptian culture. We had the chance to purchase our very own Galabeya from the shop onboard and we had a Galabeya party. This was a highlight for me as all the crew got involved with music and traditional dance and there was the option for passengers to get involved. Other entertainment included a folklore show, oriental Takht music performance and a quiz night.
As we sailed towards Amarna we were able to view Prince Tawadros’ monastery from the Nile. Even on days where we spent most of the day sailing, there was always so much to see along the banks of the Nile. The perfect time to reflect on what we had experienced already, meet fellow passengers or read a book under the clear blue skies. On one of the days spent sailing, the crew made us a BBQ, so we didn’t have to leave the sundeck to enjoy our lunch.
When we arrived in Minya we visited the tombs and catacombs of Tuna el-Gebel. Here we saw many mummified artefacts and were able to hold a mummified Ibis, which is a sacred bird of Ancient Egypt. Later that evening we took an escorted walk of the town for a chance to experience and immerse yourself in the local life along the Nile.
Before cruising to Cairo we had one more stop; the Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hassan. This site holds some of the most impressive tombs of the Middle Kingdom. There was an incline walk up to the cemetery however, there is the option to wait at the bottom for the group if you prefer to avoid the steps. I especially enjoyed seeing these tombs as they represented daily life, from agriculture to hunting and even playing games. It was fascinating to see how some of the day-to-day activities are still influenced by Ancient Egyptian times today in modern Egypt.
Finally, we arrived in Cairo; a bustling city and probably the craziest roads I have ever experienced, but we were in safe hands with our fantastic driver. We visited Coptic Cairo where you can find the Hanging Church, museum and the Jewish synagogue. This is described as of the most beautiful and historic spots in Old Cairo and it definitely lived up to its description.
On our final day we visited the Pyramids of Giza. Where the only one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still to be in existence today; the Great Pyramid. If I wasn’t already in love with Egypt, I was now. We were so lucky as there were hardly any tourists there, so we were able to get some amazing pictures. I can’t put into words how blown away I was and still am, at the sheer size of the Pyramids and how they were constructed. This was the perfect end to a truly breathtaking tour.
I felt an abundance of emotion as I left Egypt and at Cairo airport my holiday blues were already in full swing. Egypt has quickly become my favourite destination I’ve visited, it has so much to offer; culture, wonderful people, rich history and beautiful weather. A Nile cruise is something I would recommend to everyone, and if you have time; a long cruise is worth it to get the full experience.
The long Nile cruises we offer at Jules Verne that will take in some or all of the sites mentioned above are ‘The 600-Mile Nile’, ‘Secret Nile’ and ‘The Original Nile Cruise’.