TRAVEL EGYPT; NILE CRUISE: PAPERBACK EXCERPT

(NOTE: Ebook version contains colour photographs)


The British have been in love with Egypt and the Nile for a long time, ever since tourism was introduced by an adventurous man called Thomas Cook from Derbyshire who in 1869 organised the first tour of Egypt when he took a party of people from England to witness the opening of the Suez Canal. Then, later in 1872 the first ‘Thomas Cook and Son’ travel agency was established in Cairo and business began to flourish. By the late 1880s they began to lease steamers in order to reach the ancient sites in Upper Egypt and the famous cruising tours of Egypt became the enduring tourist attraction it still is today.
Unfortunately due to security reasons cruises from Cairo to Luxor are no longer available. There are a few cruises on Lake Nasser but these only visit the monuments in the old Nubian region, such as Abu Simbel. Therefore the most popular cruises by far start at Luxor, some 315 miles south of Cairo, and travel south to Aswan and it is for that reason I have concentrated on these. Besides, as Luxor houses over seventy percent of Egypt's ancient artefacts and sites, it’s a very good place to start your voyage of discovery.


A land of biblical images

There are more than 300 ships cruising the Nile, many of which are five-star, offering trips of various durations including three, four or seven nights. Most of these ‘Agatha Christie’ style boats just seem to quietly slip through the landscape and are an excellent way of travelling the Nile.
As you leisurely cruise, the natural beauty of the river can take your breath away.
With the desert always in the background, life along the River Nile goes on much as it did in the days of the great Pharaohs, with villagers working the land, rearing livestock and fishing the river.
I could stare at the mostly unspoilt riverbank forever, imagining the life of the ancient Egyptians and a land bathed in legend and superstition.
As you travel you can’t help but notice the proliferation of date palms that border the riverbanks. Dates have been a staple food in Egypt for thousands of years, possibly as early as 4000 BC. The dates are harvested in September. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine. Date palm leaves are still used for Palm Sunday celebrations in the Christian religion. In North Africa, they are commonly used for making huts. Mature leaves are also made into mats, screens, baskets, fans and their oil is suitable for use in soap and cosmetics.


Nile cruises are a mix of conducted tours, wholesome food, coddled relaxation, comfortable travel, fantastic sunsets and romantic scenery. So enjoy!
Many years ago a Nile cruise was my first introduction to Egypt and it whetted my appetite so much so that I couldn’t wait to get back the following year to see the pyramids and ‘Tutankhamun’s treasures’ at the Museum of Antiquities. Of course, you could always include a stay in Cairo as part of your Nile cruise package however your holiday will become more hectic and costly, involving extra accommodation and an internal air flight between Luxor and Cairo. One year I incorporated Cairo, Luxor and the Red Sea into a 10-day holiday, which proved very tiring. It’s not too bad if you are fairly young and physically fit but the older you are, the more you will probably feel the pace. You will find that there are many online travel companies who offer package holidays, tailor-made vacations, specialist tours, or all-inclusive stays. You can find Internet links to travel companies offering Egyptian holidays on our website. (www.travel-egypt.co.uk)
The price of your holiday should include flights with meals, resort transfers, taxes, accommodation, around ten excursions and hopefully a free late checkout for your cabin. Child prices are usually only applicable when sharing with two full fare paying adults. Children are usually classed as 2-11 years old, however many cruises do not allow children. Also note there will probably be an extra charge applied, around 2%, to the cost of your holiday if you book with a credit card, rather than a debit card. Baggage allowance varies between airlines but the norm is around 20kg (44 pounds) and 5kgs for hand luggage. (Take soft material hand luggage to keep the weight down.) Your included excursions should incorporate; Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon, High Dam, The Unfinished Obelisk, the temples of Karnak, Luxor, Deir el Medina, Edfu, Kom-Ombo and Philae.

NILE HISTORY
In order to get a little understanding of the importance of the Nile we need to look first at its history. The river actually flows for some 4000 miles from its source in Rwanda to the Sea. In Egypt the length of the river from Aswan to Alexandria, where it flows into the Mediterranean, is some 560 miles (900km). The Nile has always been the backbone of Egypt and was crucial to the everyday life of the ancient Egyptians. Even their first calendar was based around it and drawn up long before the first dynasty, some 5000 years ago. The year had 360 days, with 5 god days. There were 3 seasons of 4 months with 3 weeks in each month and 10 days in each week. The year’s seasons were named;
Akhet: Inundation (flood). July–October
Peret: Emergence out of the flood. November–February
Shemu: Time of drought. March–June ........

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PHOTOGRAPHING THE ANCIENT SITES: EBOOK EXCERPT

KARNAK TEMPLE, LUXOR
When you arrive at the site you will be taken through a fairly new visitor’s centre. Here you will have the opportunity to photograph a model of the temple as it would have been in its heyday.



Karnak Temple is a very large complex; in fact it is the largest religious centre in the world and, in my opinion, the most striking site in Egypt. With its sacred lake, open courtyards, imposing colonnade, huge pylons, tall statues and grand obelisks, you can’t help but wonder at the majesty of the ancient temple which is more than 3500 years old.
In ancient times the temple would have been out of bounds to the ordinary folk but within its walls thousands of people would have carried out their daily work. This would have included officials, priests, farmers, teachers, stonemasons, carpenters, all of whom dedicated their lives to the gods and pharaoh. Karnak covered over 100 acres and was a place of staggering wealth and enormous power. Today, thousands of tourists visit the complex daily.
The ancient Egyptian called Karnak Iput-Isut, meaning ‘the most esteemed of places’ and for over thirteen centuries consecutive pharaohs continued to add structure to this magnificent site. It is so large and contains so many buildings and monuments, that it is advisable to obtain some information before visiting the site in order not to be overwhelmed and exhausted by its sheer size and complexity. As you can imagine doing justice to the temple in one short visit will be difficult. It should also be noted that some parts of the centre are usually closed to the public because they are either under active excavation, restoration or too badly ruined.

Basically I have divided the temple into five main areas of interest.

1. Outside and the Processional Way:
This walkway is lined on either side with statues of ram-headed sphinx that represent the ancient Egyptian god, Amun, to whom the temple is dedicated. Originally these were inside the temple but when the First Pylon was constructed they were moved outside of the main enclosure.


The Processional Way at Karnak Temple, showing the rows of rams and the high walls of the 1st Pylon.
Closing in on the rams will a zoom lens will make them appear more imposing.

The road has recently been made into a one-way system so you pass the majority of the rams on the way in, so I would suggest you take photos then, rather than later. But don’t worry if you don’t manage it, as you will find more rams inside the first courtyard. To the left of the walkway you can see the original mud-brick walls that used to enclose the temple. However due to the one-way system you will need to photography this on your way out......

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AROUND LUXOR: EBOOK EXCERPT

In Egyptian history Thebes was the seat of power from 2100 BC to 750B.C and was referred to as 'The Hundred-Gated City' by the renowned Greek historian Homer, because of its buildings and numerous large gates. When the Arabs invaded Egypt in 642AD they were particularly impressed by Thebes and re-named it Luxor, ‘City of Palaces’. Luxor is often referred to as the world’s greatest open-air museum. And rightly so, considering the number of awe-inspiring monuments the area holds, which is unequalled throughout the world.
Luxor has been a major attraction for foreign visitors for thousands of years. Even in ancient times, the temples and tombs were a source of wonderment to both the Greeks and Romans. You will notice as you travel around the town that many of the buildings from the first half of the 1900s have been constructed to appear pharaonic in design. This includes the National Bank, Railway and Police Station. This happened following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 when the western world became passionate about anything Ancient Egyptian. Today, Luxor actually consists of three different areas, the main city on the East bank of the Nile, the town of Karnak just north of Luxor, and finally the west bank of the Nile.
The West bank of the Nile in ancient times was known as the City of the Dead and this is where you will find the tombs, mortuary and commemorative temples of the Kings, Queens and Nobles. The ancients believed that life followed the same pattern as the sun, rising (birth) in the east and setting (death) in the west, hence the reason why they buried their dead in the Valley of the Kings on the West bank. The East bank of the Nile was known as ‘The City of the Living’ and it is here that you will find the main Temples of Luxor and Karnak where the priests and officials lived and worked serving Pharaoh and the gods. Karnak Temple is the largest place of worship ever built. As you walk through history and past huge statues of the gods and stroll beneath enormous stone pillars carved with lotus buds and papyrus, you can’t help but marvel at the wonderment of it all.
Today Luxor is a thriving area with a well-established tourist industry that is able to deal easily with the vast numbers of tourists that descend into the city each year during the main holiday season. It has many superb four and five star hotels that offer very comfortable accommodation, in pleasant surroundings and with good food. It also has all the amenities you would expect from a main tourist area, including bars, shops, nightclubs and restaurants. Over 150,000 people live in and around the city and many livelihoods are dependant upon the tourist industry.
There are three main streets in Luxor, Sharia al-Mahatta, Sharia al-Karnak and the Shari Kornesh (Corniche).
Sharia al-Mahatta runs in front of the train station.
Sharia al-Karnak, runs from Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple and it is along this colourful street you can find many restaurants, cafes and bazaars.
The Corniche runs parallel with the Nile and often reminds me of the old Victorian promenades in England. This is where you can catch the ferries that will take you across to the west bank, or hire a felucca to leisurely sail the Nile.

GETTING THERE AND GENERAL INFORMATION
Flight Your first glimpse of Egypt will probably be the North African coastline from thirty-two thousand feet. The flight from the UK generally takes 6 hours, give or take thirty minutes depending upon head winds.
There are several routes that your flight can take. On my last trip we travelled from the UK over Holland, Germany, Switzerland and the Alps, old Yugoslavia, the Greek islands and onto North Africa. Once you cross into Africa it takes approximately one hour to reach Luxor. Regarding the US, some flights do fly direct non-stop to Egypt, whilst others fly via a European stop-off, such as London or Frankfurt. You will need to check at the time of booking.....

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