Egypt is dominated by the Nile. As you approach from the air you see miles of desert – I mean real sand and nothing else. Then the Nile comes into view and all along the banks there is habitation, crops and the life of Egypt.
We were in Upper Egypt which confusingly is in the south of the country. The Nile is a perplexing river as it is one of few rivers which flows from south to north. We witnessed a variety of wildlife, people washing their cows and clothes, swimming and generally using the waters of the Nile which are the lifeblood of the country.
We took a week-long river cruise from Luxor to the Aswan High Dam and return. The food was fantastic with amazing presentation including vegetable sculptures. Everyone could find food to their taste from the wide range available.
One of the best things was relaxing on deck with maybe a glass of wine and watching the activity on the river both human and wildlife. There was always something new coming into view but just when you thought you might like a change you are whisked away to your next shore excursion. In our case these were all included.
The first temple experience proved awe-inspiring and subsequent visits were no less impressive. We had a very knowledgeable guide who interpreted the wall paintings and architectural styles.
There was plenty of time to wander around and be truly amazed. I had thought that visits to temples would become tedious but, in fact, they were all different and appealing in their own individual way.
The Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. You can’t fail to be impressed by the scale of the excavations and the intricacies of the tombs and their decorations.
The Nile Cruise was action-packed and left us exhausted partly because of the unremitting heat. We stayed on in Luxor at the Winter Palace Hotel for a relaxing week to recover. In fact, we had a thoroughly busy time exploring the museums, the markets and the modern city formerly known as Thebes.
The main impression is the friendliness of the people and the pride in their heritage. We were treated at all times with courtesy and kindness. Yes, there is some pressure to buy and haggling is traditional. A friendly “no” or a bit of banter is enough to deter any over-enthusiastic approach.
We felt safe walking around but there is a visible presence of armed security police to protect tourists and the tourism industry. A truly outstanding moment was the dawn balloon ride over the west bank with its valleys of kings and queens, artisans’ villages and temples. In fact the whole trip was a highlight and an experience I treasure and would love to repeat.