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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Sunday, 07 October 2007

We have just come back from our Nile Cruise in Egypt, and we certainly can say it was a thoroughly enjoyable – albeit tiring at times – holiday. 

 

I wouldn’t really call it a break as such – okay, maybe a “break” from work, but it was a busy time away.  We certainly toured the sights of Egypt – with a mix of sightseeing, sunbathing and relaxation during a 13-day trip!

 

Our holiday itinerary and summary of what we experienced, is outlined below:

 

Day 1 – Saturday, 22nd September

We took the mid-afternoon EgyptAir flight from London Heathrow (I’m getting to “love” Heathrow – NOT!), to arrive in Cairo at around 20:50.  Not a bad flight and the planes were pretty modern, clean and efficient.  Cabin Crew were okay, service seemed quite good, better than some of the other National Carriers that I’ve recently been with, so a nice way to start the holiday.  As Ramadan had already started, the hours in Egypt had already sprung back an hour – so the time difference was only an hour ahead of the UK – until UK BST finishes at the end of October.

 

The tour group consisted of 3 other couples, a couple of the West Midlands, 1 from Cumbria and 1 from Dorset – 8 people in total, with me being the youngest of all. 

 

Upon arrival in Cairo Airport, we were met by the Tour Manager, Mohamed Sorrour, and the local Egyptologist, Neveen el Desouky.  Bales were working closely with Eastmar Travel – the local Travel Office in Cairo – who were managing our tour whilst we were in Egypt.  They seemed very methodical and took care of all of the duties.  Some small additional touches included, managing our luggage from receipt through to delivery to our hotel room (we didn’t need to lift a finger!).  They also arranged and managed all of the transportation and more importantly the “tipping” throughout out trip – something which is always a nightmare when visiting a Country on holiday from the outset!  There were also a talk about additional tours, in Cairo on during our stops along the Nile; however, we didn’t want to do this, as we also wanted to relax rather than being “on the go” all the time.

 

We were transferred across the City to the Nile Hilton – which took about 40-45 minutes from the airport – in the madness that they call traffic in Cairo.  Even though 2 lanes were set-up on the carriageway, there was nothing stopping the creation of 1 if not 2 more lanes by the drivers.  Hmmm . slightly different from our UK roads!

 

We were welcomed into the Hilton, and as I was a Hilton VIP member, I decided to leverage my privileges by getting an upgrade to the Nile balcony-view room.  It certainly was a great sight.

 

We were a little peckish, so had a meal in the Restaurant Café, nothing special but did the job.

 

 

Day 2 – Sunday, 23rd September

As we were visiting Egypt during the Ramadan month, we were expecting to visit the majority of the tourist sights during our tour during the morning, as most places would close by mid-afternoon.  This wasn’t too bad, but obviously meant early starts were expected!!

 

Our first morning trip involved a visit the Egyptian Museum, which was actually located a stone-throw from the Nile Hilton, so we were able to walk there.  Unfortunately, we were unable to take any photographs during our trip to the museum, but the historic value was very impressive indeed, especially seeing the Tutankhamen tomb and various artefacts – a whole exhibit dedicated to this find. 

 

We then spend the afternoon relaxing back at the hotel, and looking around the area to see if there were any nice authentic places to eat.  We didn’t find any, although we did notice a fair number of river boats on the opposite side of the Nile which we discovered included floating restaurants. 

 

In the evening, Neveen (our Egyptologist) took us to one of the Floating Restaurants, called La Pacha 1901, where we went to “Le Tarbouche”.  Was pretty good, and this was our first “authentic” Egyptian meal – and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  We couldn’t wait for more!!

 

We returned to the hotel, where we just relaxed on the balcony and watched Cairo life pass us by for the next couple of hours, before we retired for the night.

 

 

Day 3 – Monday, 24th September

After a breakfast buffet in the Hilton, we set off for a mini-bus ride to the infamous Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.  The Pyramids are the only remaining monuments of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and now part of New Seven Wonders of the World – announced on 7th July 2007.

 

Reading and viewing the images previously on websites and books, it was hard to imagine the sheer size of these pyramids, until visiting them in person. They certainly were vast in size and scale – with what appeared to be 3 main temples in decreasing sizes, accompanied by two sets of 3 queen pyramids.  So it appeared that there were 9 main pyramids as part of the main Giza complex.

 

I also visited the main the Great Pyramid – spending £100LE (approx £10GBP), to crawl through the entrance to see one of the tomb rooms inside.  I think this was a bit of a rip-off, but at least I ‘experienced’ it!

 

One of the special benefits of a Bales tour was the inclusion of a visit to the Solar Boat Museum, which was a nice bonus.  This was unearthed during the 1950’s when Kamal el-Mallakh an architect and archaeologist, was working as an Antiquities Inspector at Giza.  Further inspection uncovered a cedarwood boat neatly disassembled and packed into a air-tight pit.  Seeing the work painstakingly assembled was amazing, and the final assembled “product” was on display in this museum.

 

After this visit, we went to another vantage point to take some further backdrop photos of the 3 main pyramids.  I opted for a Camel ride in the desert from here, at a cost of 20LE (plus 5LE tips).  Not too bad, and certainly was a fun ride!  I was the only one in the tour group that opted for this “ride”.

 

We then went off to visit the Sphinx which was an interesting site to visit.  A monument that resembled a head of a human, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird.

 

We returned back to the main City, and opted to eat at a nice Eatery near our hotel.  I cannot recall the name of the place, but it was meant to have been part of a small restaurant chain in Egypt, and the one we went too was meant to be the best of all of them.  The restaurant had a fish-tank above our table, as well as bird cages towards our side – certainly interesting decor to say the least.

 

We returned to the hotel and decided to spend further time relaxing on the balcony.  We decided to go to the Food Court of the Nile Hilton, where we had a take-away Thai meal.  Nothing too special, and it wasn’t as cheap we would have thought, but we just wanted a quick and easy meal.

 

 

Day 4 – Tuesday, 25th September

We had a late breakfast, and simply relaxed in the room and on bathed on the balcony.  We did a bit more window shopping at the shops within the Hilton, nothing too special, and quite pricey really.  We ventured outside, and when we were walking, what appeared to be a friendly local advised us to cross the road as it was easier and better to view the area.  Uncertain, we obliged this suggestion, on to find out that he was actually suggesting (recommending) that we visit “a Papyrus shop” – hmmm, we were certainly caught by this trap, hook, line and sinker, we managed to exit the shop and we decided to return to the  hotel – having had enough of this “experience”.

 

We skipped lunch and rested in the hotel – we watched the Cairo life flow by from the balcony.

 

We opted to go for an evening meal on the Blue Nile, we opted for the Al-Amar Lebanese restaurant.  The meal at Al-Amar was very nice.  We weren’t sure what to eat so became quite noisy with what our neighbouring table were eating.  We decided to enquire with the waiter on the name of the dishes, and he indicated that it was a “Ramadan Special” set-menu, so we told him that we would have two of them instead.  Talk about the easy option!  We certainly weren’t disappointed, and there was a lot of variety, dishes and more!  It cost £125LE per person – which although a bit expensive, seemed pretty good compared to what we ate.  The dessert was extremely delicious where we were introduced to the “Om Ali” desert – a very nice, but quite sweet pudding seemingly similar to the bread and butter consistency, topped off with some traditional Egyptian Baklavas.   What a night and what an experience that was!

 

We returned to the hotel and retired for the night, as we had an early start in the morning.

 

 

Day 5 – Wednesday, 26th September

Well we were warned of an early-morning flight, and it certainly was quite an early start.  We woke up at 01:30, as we had to eat breakfast, check-out and catch the tour bus for the airport for the 04:15 flight.  As our tour group had implied (continuous reminders) that they were going to “tip” the mini-bus driver (who took us around Cairo), we weren’t keen to give the amount that they had quoted.  We also didn’t like the approach a couple members were using.  I think tipping is at our own discretion and there should never be a mention of “how much” a particular couple gives.  Although, the one “co-ordinating” the tipping was using an envelope to give the collective tip, I think there should have been less pressure to “match” his tip.  The other 3 couples gave £50 LE (£5 GBP), in my opinion this was way too much, as our tipping was already covered by Bales for all elements of the trip.  In fact the tipping we were expecting to give the driver via Bales was £120 LE (£12 GBP), so we were adding almost 40% on top.  This was wrong for just a driver.  We decided to only give £20 LE, knowing that even this was too much - £10 LE would have been sufficient.  We were advised that the approach on tipping in Egypt (like anyway really!) is little but often!  Silly people.  What we would find is that we would actually be giving 40-50% premium on top of the tipping we were expecting Bales to provide, and would mean we would be spending way too much on tipping alone.  We stepped away from falling down this track, and left the other couples do what they wanted, simply commenting that we would just give £20 LE.

 

The flight was okay; although we sat towards the back of the plane again.  One of the comments upon arrival at Aswan is that we would have thought our tour-guide would “meet” or “check” that we left the plane okay, she jumped straight on the bus and waited for us at the terminal building.  As we had two people that weren’t expected to depart, as they had opted for the additional excursion to Abu Simbel, we felt this was a slip-up, as if those two had departed the plane, it might have been difficult for them to re-board again!  Alas, the couple did stay on the plane, so I guess there was no harm done!

 

We were greeted by another mini-bus, who took us to the waiting boat, the Flotel Nile Beauty (Floating Hotel – “Flotel”, get it!?).  It was a pretty nice boat, slightly aged and not as modern as we would have expected – and later based on what we saw of some of the other boats, but it was going to be our “hotel” for the next week, so I guess we had to accept it. 

 

So about the cruise boat (or ship), well it was really a floating hotel, it had 52 outward facing and quite comfortable and spacious cabins – spread over 3 decks (we were on the second – and Bales only booked cabins on the 2nd and 3rd deck).  It had air-conditioning throughout the boat; it had private en suite facilities which marvelled some of the hotels I’ve seen before, fridge, TV and an internal telephone.  There was a nicely furnished bar and lounge on the 4th deck.  It had an open area on the 4th deck – with a plunge pool, with an owning offering shade and fresh air whilst watching the world go by.  There is a further open sundeck too.  All-in-all, a pretty nice setting for the 7 days that we would be on the Nile.

 

Our itinerary was meant to include a tour of Aswan during Wednesday afternoon, but instead we had a relaxing day acclimatising ourselves on the boat.  We finished the remainder of the “Hilton-packed” breakfast, and waited almost 2 and a half hours before our cabins were ready.  This was also one of the negatives of the trip, but we were advised that this was down to the EgyptAir early-morning flight schedules and nothing Bales or EastMar (Tour Operator) could do.  Once our cabins were ready, we freshened-up and then simply relaxed in the warm sunshine overlooking Aswan (including catching up with some well-earned sleep!). 

 

Lunch and dinner was pretty good, although nothing extremely special – but we didn’t expect the Ritz-quality on board such a boat.   We then had a relaxing evening watching the sun-set on the Nile, walked into the main part of Aswan – where we visited the Spice Markets, and the various shops along the main area of Aswan.  Was a very interesting experience although our group weren't being that adventurous.  We decided to haggle for some seeds (for mother), we managed to get 2 types of seeds for 200grams in total (100grams each) at £50LE each, with a free 100gram bag of another type of seed.  Not too bad you see, we showed our fellow travel companions how to do it (they were terrible at haggling!).  We then returned to the ship to retire for an early night.

 

 

Day 6 – Thursday, 27th September

We woke up pretty early (circa. 06:30) and munched our way through the buffet breakfast.  After refreshing ourselves, we left the boat and took a mini-bus to visit the Aswan tourist sites.  Firstly, we visited the Ancient Granite Quarries.  Again, we felt our tour-guide slipped up a little bit again, as unlike other tour parties, we were left to our own devices once we arrived at the quarry site, whilst the guide briefly explained the value of the site (noting the “unfinished obelisk” attraction), and then advised us where she would be waiting for us.  Ho-well, maybe we need to summarise our thoughts directly to Bales when we settle back into the UK.

 

We then went on to visit another engineering marvel, the Aswan High Dam – this was paid by a loan provided by the Soviet Union, which was repaid by Egypt with “goods” in return (cotton, gold etc).  We also visited the Small Dam, which was designed by a British Architect.

 

Our mini-bus then took us to another site, that of the “Temple of Philae”, but we had to take a boat to arrive here, as it was located on an island.  One of the things we also noticed upon leaving our cruise boat; is that all the other tour groups were taking their life-jackets, but we didn’t.   The site was pretty amazing, especially the quality of the structures. 

 

We left the island by the small boat again, and arrived back on the mainland, and had to walk through the parade of shops again – this is seemingly a common approach during each tourist visit. 

 

It was an Egyptian Themed-Night accompanied by an Oriental Buffet (weird that it wasn’t Egyptian cuisine too, but alas!).  We didn’t really feel like taking part, but as all of our travelling companions were aiming to take part, and had already made purchases, we had to get (buy!) something (garments, that is!).  Having spoken to one particular companion, we knew she didn’t really want to dress up too, and indicated she was going too, we indicated the same, but we thought that we didn’t want to be the only two fools not dressing up.  We decided to haggle for a couple of garments.  We got two nice Egyptian shirts for £60 LE (approx £6 GBP).  Another couple managed to get one for £50 LE – so we certainly showed them a thing or two on how to haggle to get a bargain!

 

Anyway, another thing we noticed was that our tour guide had not prepared the return that well, as we were waiting for over 30-minutes for the mini-bus to arrive.  Definitely no additional tipping would be given by us!

 

When we re-boarded the cruise boat, it then set sail northwards (“down the Nile”) to Kom Ombo, where we made a stop.  We disembarked to visit the Temple of Kom Ombo, which was about 5 minute walking distant from where we moored the boat. 

 

Another fault we picked up from our tour guide was that she started to make a couple of “passing comments” about some of the important points of interest, such as a Crocodile Pit – which was significant because the site included two mummified crocodiles, the Temple had been shared by the two Gods, Sobek & Haroeies, the crocodile god of Nubian.

 

After about an hour, we rejoined the boat, and we set sail for Edfu, where we were mooring overnight. 

 

During the evening, the Egyptian-theme night (Galabia Party) took full swing.  We weren’t actively participating, but enjoyed the fun of the fools playing silly games.  Not really our cup of tea.  Give me a pool table any day.

 

Anyway, after an hour or so watching, we decided to go into the town and walk around.  We felt pretty save, although we were still getting slightly harassed by the stall sellers as well as taxi/horse-and-cart owners.  Just a way of life, I guess.  Someone did advise us not to even acknowledge them, just to keep walking.  Seemed rude, but I guess it might work.  We didn’t want to try it just yet, in any case.

 

Having returned from our trek, we retired for the night.

 

 

Day 7 – Friday, 28th September

Today was rest-day, where we simply expected to sail throughout the day.

 

We set-sail soon after mid-morning; we had already gone for an early-morning stroll in Edfu, which surprisingly meant we weren’t harassed by many sellers.  We seemed to have got it right! 

 

The sailing was very smooth, and we simply relaxed, and watched the world go by.  Certainly amazing and changing landscapes along this stretch of the Nile.

 

We reached the Esna Lock around mid-afternoon.  We were pre-warned that we could be delayed for several hours here depending on the “traffic” (boat traffic – that is!)  We were delayed slightly, but it was just over an hour – so didn’t seem too bad at all! 

 

We were also pre-warned by our tour guide, that seller’s in small boats or on the quay side would try to sell garments during the time we were travelling in the lock.  She wasn’t wrong!  In fact, the sellers would “throw” (yes throw!) samples onto the boat, that’s throwing upwards about 2-3 stories high from the water-level.  In fact one of the fellow passengers tried to throw one of the garments back, but it fell way short and fell into water – by the look on the seller’s face, he wasn’t best pleased!

 

After what appeared to be another 30minutes or so, we made it through the second lock; we continued our journey sailing towards Luxor, arriving during our dinner.

 

The evening entertainment included a Belly Dancer and a male dancer doing some amazing colourful routines.  Amazing stuff!

 

 

Day 8 – Saturday, 29th September

We woke up pretty early again, another 6am start.  Whilst we waited for the breakbast buffet to open on board the boat, we watched some hot-air balloons lift up into the sky on the West Bank of the Nile (opposite side of where we were moored).  Was an amazing sight and we were definitely looking forward to do the same on Day 9 – Sunday.  It was good to prepare ourselves and marvel at the amazing sight from a distance.

 

After breakfast, we visited the Colossus Memnon in Luxor.  They are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and are known to locals as el-Colossat, or es-Salamat.    They originally stood guard of the Amenhotep's memorial temple.  Following a quick photo-stop, we jumped back onto the mini-bus, and visited our next sightseeing stop, that of the Valley of the Queens.

 

The Valley of the Queens was really fascinating, the tombs amazingly intricate.  There were only two tombs open to us; we visited Tomb of Amenhikhopeshef (Tomb QV55) and the Tomb of Queent Titi (Tomb QV52).  Amenhikhopeshef’s Tomb was probably the most significant of the site.  Amenhikhopeshef was a son of Ramesses III and scenes show him with his father and the gods Thoth, Ptah and others. He was probably about nine years old when he died.  The reason of the significance is that a mummified premature baby was also found in to tomb. This belonged to this mother, who aborted upon learning of Amenhikhopeshef's death.  Chill went down my spine, but it was an intriguing to view.

 

We then headed off to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, again after been given a brief overview, we were left to our own devices again.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but not good either, especially as we couldn’t remember all of the specific significances of the site.   Upon arrival, we had to go by a choo choo train (my words not the guides!) to access the Temple itself.  Very much a desert landscape around, and the temple was build within the mountainside.

 

The famous Punt relief is engraved on the southern side of the 2nd colonnade. The journey to Punt (now called Somalia) was the first pictorial documentation of a trade expedition recorded, and discovered, in ancient Egypt; until now. The scenes depict in great detail, the maritime expedition that Queen Hatshepsut sent, via the Red Sea, to Punt, just before the 9th year of her reign (1482 B.C) This famous expedition was headed by her high official, Pa-nahsy, and lasted for 3 years. His mission was to exchange Egyptian merchandise for the products of Punt, especially gold, incense and tropical trees.

 

We then returned by the short mini-train transportation, we noticed another Tomb, the Tomb of Monthemhat (TT34), although it was not open for visitors.  We then header back to the waiting bus.

 

We header of to the Valley of the Kings, something which we were keen to view; at the entrance museum we noted that there were actually 62 tombs, but unfortunately only 4-5 were actually open to the public, alas “business”.   Again, another site we couldn’t take any photos on the inside of the Tombs, but the outside was still amazing.  The site was seemingly located due to a Pyramid shape mound on one of the overlying mountains.  Quite interesting!

 

Our ticket only included 3 tombs, so we decided to visit the tombs of Tuthmosis IV (KV 43), Rameses IV (KV 2) and Rameses IX (KV 6).  We noticed the difference on some of the tombs, as were we advised that during the lifetime of the kings, the Tombs were stated to be ready for their respective death, however, you can tell some were rushed (depending on WHEN the deaths happened), where the detailed inscriptions on the lower chambers weren’t as detailed as the more meticulous carvings on the entrance chamber.

 

Access to the Tuthmosis IV tomb was quite interesting; it involved climbing up a metal stair case (obviously added years later from the origins of the tombs) and then a climb down to the tomb chamber.  It was the only tomb that involved a change in direction, mainly as during excavation it was discovered that another tomb wall was on the other side, so the tomb corridor had to be positioned at a different angle than originally intended.

 

Anyway, once we completed our visited we made our way back to the bus and back to the boat, for a relaxing afternoon.  We stayed moored overnight at Luxor.

 

 

Day 9 – Sunday, 30th September

We were expecting a very early and entertaining morning, and it was certainly fun!  An early start with a different – our first Hot Air Balloon experience. 

 

We had at take a short mini-bus journey down the East-Bank (a few hundred yards), where we joined a boat which took us across the Nile to the West-Bank, where we were intending to enter the Hot Air Balloon.  Normal health and safety brief, I didn’t know that there was a special way of landing, not just for the balloon but for those in the basket too.  You are meant to face the OPPOSITE direction of where you are landing, so you are looking away from the landing direction.  You then need to grab the rope handles within the basket and crouch down a little bit so your knees are bent but back is straight.  Weird feeling, but it was all to do if the basket toppled over and you were bumped along the ground!

 

Once we climbed into the basket, we slowly took off.  We had approx 32 people in our basket (full capacity), some were relatively large, so for balance were situated in the centre.

We had a slow start, as seemingly we weren’t very lucky with the jet up-streams.  But our patience was well-rewarded, with a flight that slowly rose and took us above the West-Bank landscape.  We could see the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the near distance.  What we witnessed next was breathtaking, the sun-rise from over the Nile – starting around 05:40 – lasting about 5-10 minutes before it rose above the horizon.

 

We then descended a bit and we started to worry that we were going to have an abrupt end to our journey.  We were quite close and could see some of the homes of people – a mix of homes for humans and animals alike.

 

We then went over another Temple, and then slowly but surely header towards the Nile.  The landscape was amazing and views below more so.  We went closer to the River, and we could see the Ships moored along the East-Bank, ours was recognisable, being on the outside, and in front the “6 ships” parallel parked behind it.   Down below were some fields still on the West-Bank, where there were clear imprints of what would appear to be other “balloon” landings.  As we glided over but very low across the Nile, we started seeing the East-Bank sites of interest.  We went over the Temple of Luxor, we saw a cub of foxes run around some of the monuments.  We also saw what appeared to be a Total Eclipse by a neighbouring Balloon across the Sun. 

 

After this part of the journey, we slowly descended into one of the fields, neighbouring someone’s home – which included a pet-camel!  The total journey lasting just over an hour!  Wow!

 

We made it back to the boat, and freshened up; as we had to have breakfast and then make our way to the last two visits in Luxor; the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor.

The Temple of Karnak is the largest temple complex ever built by man, and represents the combined achievement of many generations of ancient builders. The Temple of Karnak is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples located about three kilometres north of Luxor, situated on 100 ha (247 acres) of land.  Karnak is actually the sites modern name.  Its ancient name was Ipet-isut, meaning "The Most Select (or Sacred) of Places".

The entrance to the first Pylon is lined with an Avenue of Rams leading to the West gate of the Karnak Temple complex.

There are two standing obelisks located within the Temple complex, both by Hatshepsut, there is also an unfinished one now resting on its side in the complex.

There is also a Colossus measuring 45 feet high, representing a king with several cartouches.

The Precinct of Amon-Re (the only section opened to the public) consists of many pillars.  The most significant being a depiction of what is termed as the “one arm, one leg man” (he was called “Min”).   The Myth is that Min stayed behind to watch the City whilst the other men went out to war, in doing so; he impregnated the ladies of the City.  The result the menu returned, and made him a god, and this chap is shown with one arm, one leg, and an erect, large penis.  I don’t actually believe this version of events, and feel it is a less sinister story.

The other part of the site we visited was the Sacred Lake, used in ancient times by priests to purify themselves before a service.  Also next to the Sacred Lake is a giant scarab, dedicated by Amenophsis III to the God Khepri. The Egyptians believed that the Sun was pushed by a scarab on its daily crossing of the sky. It came to symbolise eternity. One unusual feature of this specific scarab: it is said that if you walk around the scarab seven times, you will never again have love problems, and if you go around it twice, your get blessed with good luck.  I did the 2-round option – we’ll see what happens.

We then moved onto the Temple of Luxor.  The Temple was dedicated to the Theban Triad of Amun-Re, his wife Mut, and his son Khonsu.

It was called "Ipet resyt" which means the Southern Opet or the Place of the Seclusion of Amun-Re. It was directly connected to the temple of Karnak, the main cult center of Amun-Re or Amun-Min, the sky god or the ithyphallic fertility god.

The temple had another group of divinities that included Iunet, Hathor, and Atum, whose statues were discovered in a hidden storage pit.

On the Colonnade Hall: East Wall, during excavation, they noticed that the Pillars starting leaning inwards – it looked like the excavation on the hidden pit was causing some foundation issues to the pillars.  They were creating the ‘Leaning Towers of Luxor’, so it was decided to re-enforce the pillar’s foundation and there were painstakingly disassembled and reassembled during many years of restoration.

One of the other Walls on the complex reviewed an interesting find, the historic depictions were located on the wall, but it would appear that during the Roman occupation, the walls were covered over with frescoes.  Amazing hey?

Anyway, we made it back to the boat but our returned journey towards Aswan.  A new group of travellers had joined the ship, as the two Kuoni UK groups had disembarked after arriving at Luxor.  Our new group were 70-odd Polish people. 

During the afternoon, journey we noticed another cruise ship was moored in one of the marshland areas, with the upper decks burnt out.  It would seem that a fire must have broken out on the second deck resulting a war that destroyer the back and upper decks of the ship.  I wouldn’t have liked being on that boat during the incident, not a good way to end the holiday, hey?

We had a relaxing journey back to Esna Lock; we were hoping that we would make it through the lock relatively quickly to enable us to moor at Edfu for a nice evening walk.  I took some nice photos of the sunset as we approached Esna Lock, after which I noticed that there were at least a dozen ships waiting to go through the Lock.  So it would seem we had a multi-hour wait at Esna, temporarily moored to the quayside.

It actually took us over 7 hours to get through.  We had dinner, settled in our cabin, and had an early night. 


Day 10 – Monday, 1st October
We woke up and realised that we had made it to Edfu and had moored successfully.  We must have arrived in the early hours, but better late than never.

We were getting towards the end of our holiday, and today we visited the Temple of Edfu (aka Ptolemaic Temple of Horus).  It was a nice place, but we were getting pretty Temple-out, this was our seventh temple in as many days.  But the Pylons were again a fantastic site, and really made one wonder how the ancient Egyptians managed to build such structures so many years ago.

The pylons of the main Temple are about 118 feet high with typical scenes of the pharaoh in battle with his enemies. Within the pylons is the colonnaded courtyard with distinctive, pared columns, which leads into the great hypostyle hall. But on either side of the courtyard there are gates which lead to an area behind the temple and inside the bounding walls. Here, there are inscriptions recording donations of land which were probably transferred from demotic documents. There are also dramatic images depicting the defeat of Seth by Horus. There was an annual ritual called the known as the Triumph of Horus (10 harpoons) which ended in the slaying of a hippopotamus, the symbol of Seth.

The carvings inside the temple were very intricate and detailed.  This is not only the best preserved ancient temple in Egypt, but the second largest after Karnak.  There are numerous reliefs, including a depiction of the Feast of the Beautiful Meeting, the annual reunion between Horus and his wife Hathor. The reliefs are mostly situated on the inside of the first pylon, and spiritually connect this temple with Hathor’s Temple at the Dendera complex.

The facade of the first hypostyle hall has images honoring Horus and Hathor, and there is an immaculate ten foot tall colossi of Horus as the falcon god here (a matching colossi was destroyed).

Our guide did another little blunder by making another passing comment about one the rooms inside the Temple, the ‘Perfume Room’ – where the perfume formulas in the form of hieroglyphics are inscribed on its walls, which hold the key to some of the mystical perfumes of the past.

We even saw an interesting site; Horse and Carriages were seemingly the transport of choice here, rather than Taxi’s.  So just outside the Temple site was what I would term the Horse and Carriage Rank (equivalent to the “Taxi-Rank” term).

We returned to the boat, and continued our journey back to Kom Kombo.  Whilst the other (Polish) Tour Group disembarked to visit the Temple of Kom Ombo, we stayed on the boat to simply ‘chill’  We were sitting in front of the boat, and had just moored, when an really scary sight occurred.  A ship that was moored in front of the us, was reversing our of its space pretty fast, we had a feeling it was going to quickly, but we thought it would slow down as soon as it manoeuvred itself away from the quay side.  It didn’t stop.  Too our right we could see two ships, one after each other, travelling at a slow speed to prepare themselves to moor alongside.  You can imagine what happened the next step, the one ‘reversing’ slammed into the side and T-Boned one of the other ships, even though both ships slammed on the brakes (whatever they are called in the boat-world!), it was too late.  There was an almighty crunch, and the one that was reversing then shot forward and moved alongside ours before going right around the one it had T-boned and continued on its way.  We were expecting to see a large amount of damage to the side of the one that got hit, but remarkable it was just the gang-plank that got the full force of the collision – and a little bit of damage to the walkway along the side of the ship.  And the other boat (where the life-boats were located), didn’t seem to get a scratch.  Remarkably to see something we see only happening to cars, happening to Cruise Ships too.  What an eventful “relaxing” period this was.

Anyway, our Tour Guide took us to drinks at Kom Ombo in the evening, where we tried a new drink – something called “Dom Drink”.  It was a very “rooty-drink, but quite pleasant.

We then relaxed for the evening, whilst we left Kom Ombo for our final leg of the journey back to Aswan.

It was the Egyptian Theme night again, and we again didn’t fancy dressing up again – also as it was largely the Polish group’s night, we believed it was for them to enjoy it, as we already had the entertainment last time.  Anyway, two parts of our group dressed up again – both looking like folks really, and we could see they felt very uncomfortable – but alas its there embarrassment, not ours.


Day 11 – Tuesday, 2nd October
Having arrived back in Aswan, it was a chill-out day.  We ended up just relaxing on the boat, doing some more sun-bathing and reading, and watching the world go by. 

We really didn’t do that much today, apart from relaxing and reading,

We ventured back to the Spice Market, was we were keen to get some genuine and reasonable saffron.  We didn’t in the end, but we did get 1kilo of Dates for £10LE.  Very nice indeed and all of a £1GBP!!

The evening involved a Nubian Show, was quite entertaining.  Certainly fun and a nice relaxing way to spend the last evening on the boat.


Day 12 – Wednesday, 3rd October
This was our full day in Aswan, and on the boat, we did the normal breakfast routine.

We then took a small-Boat to visit the Botanical Gardens on Kitchener Island.  We noticed that there were a lot of cats present, very cute – obviously didn’t want to get too close to them as they didn’t look that humanised. 

As our Tour Guide didn’t show us around, we simply walked around the Gardens and viewed some Mint, Citrus and other plants and trees in the Gardens – very quaint atmosphere.

We returned to the boat, and finished packing.  We decided not to have lunch, as felt we had enough to eat until we arrived back I Cairo.  Our flight was early afternoon, so we said our farewells to those (half of the group – 2 couples) that were leaving the main Tour Group and heading off to their Resort break for the additional 3 days of their holiday.

Whilst the other 50% of the group (us included) went to Aswan Airport to catch our flight back to Cairo – it would have been nice if we could fly back to the UK from Aswan, rather than spending an overnight stay in Cairo – but alas, that’s the itinerary.

We wrote a thank you letter to the Boat Manager, as felt although the boat itself was slightly aged, the staff and crew treated us very well.  We also wrote a letter to Neveen, thanking her for her efforts during our trip – although we did advise we were aiming to pass some general feedback back to Bales when we returned to the UK.

We arrived back to Cairo, and our mini-bus took us the short distance to the Le Passage Heliopolis Hotel, located at the Airport site.  We were keen to find a nice Egyptian Restaurant – for the Ramadan Special again – but as there were none in or near hotel; we decided to take the courtesy mini-bus to Khan al Khalili – where we were recommended we would find some nice restaurants by the Concierge.   In fact, we didn’t find anything that we were rally after, I think it was an incorrect recommendation, so we were aiming to go back to the Blue Nile, where we had an enjoyable meal last time. 

We asked a Tourist Policeman for assistance; and soon after, some other locals came to try to help – I think they were after our “business”, and sure thing they were.  They ‘managed’ the Taxi’s, so suggested to take us to another place where they suggested were meet our dinner needs.  We declined, but requested that they take us to the Blue Nile.  As the Concierge advised us that it would cost approx £50LE to return from Khan to the Le Passage Heliopolis Hotel, we asked the Taxi ‘co-ordinator’ how much it would be for the returned trip.  He indicated £100LE.  We said no way, and managed to haggled the price down to £70LE to the Blue Nile and back to the Hotel afterwards, including a 2-hr stay for our meal.  What bargaining power, hey?

We had a nice meal at the Blue Nile; the meal worked out to be approx £120 LE per person, inc drinks.  So wasn’t too bad at all.  We managed to survive the Taxi Journey too – it was sure a journey.  It was absolute madness, he drove without lights, and he swerved in and out.  God my heart did jump a couple of beats!  We arrived back to hotel, relaxed, readied ourselves for our return flight tomorrow morning.


Day 13 – Thursday, 4th October
We had a nice morning breakfast in the hotel, we freshened ourselves for the trip home, and we caught the short mini-bus ride to the Airport.  Having checked in, we then relaxed ready for the journey home.

On board, the flight crew were very nice (in fact, one of the crew was VERY attractive – made it a pleasurable journey at least.

During our journey, we flew by Greece, and as the weather was very clear, I could make out some of the Greek Islands.  Santorini was there, and no doubt some of the others I had previously visited (Syros, Sifnos etc) – but couldn’t recall the shape of those islands respectively.  We then could see Athens in the distance, remarkable seeing the City from such a distance.  Look stunning.  We could also see some of the charred landscapes, following the recent Forest Fires that hit Greece; was an amazing sight, even now!

Towards London, we had an amazing view too, we reached London, and then swung around to then flow from the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf area, and travelled along the Thames westward, seeing the City of London, the London Gerkin, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Wembley Stadium and then finally descending towards Heathrow airport.  Wow that was a thrilling view to say the least.

We arrived at Heathrow around 14:00, and collected our luggage.  We didn’t have to wait too long which was a slight shock to me.  We were booked for the 14:35 coach heading to Brighton.  We were actually spot-on time-wise, and caught to National Express coach for Gatwick and Brighton.  We requested a stop over at Hickstead, and got my father to pick us up and bring us back home.

Well, what an interesting 13-14 days, shame it’s over and I have to go back to work on Monday, but at least it was an memorable and existing trip!  Bring on the next one!

 

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