Travel: Egypt: Unwrapping the gift of the Nile River

Editor’s note to KTW readers: As the COVID-19 pandemic has placed travel on hold indefinitely, there will come a time when we emerge from this crisis and travel once again. Kamloops This Week will continue to publish weekly Travel columns, as we see them as a way for readers to escape the daily stress of pandemic coverage.

At the edge of the expansive city of Cairo, on the dusty Giza plateau, the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, Egypt’s monuments to eternity, rise above the desert sands.

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Though I had seen photos and films of these magnificent structures, the sight of the pyramids still takes my breath away, which of course has always been their purpose.

This was my day of arrival in this ancient land, and the pyramids were not the first thing to leave me breathless — that honour belonged to Cairo traffic, another wonder to behold.

Cairo streets at first glance appear to be utter chaos; there doesn’t appear to be any designated lanes, as cars, buses, motorcycles (often carrying a family of four and all their provisions) and trucks weave an interesting tapestry.

All the while pedestrians walk through the tangle without care, and horns present themselves as the music of the city. The result is as beautiful as it is terrifying.

Also a wonder is the Egyptian Museum and its more than 100,000 antiquities from every period of ancient Egyptian history.

My Egyptian journey will take me from Cairo to the vibrant city of Luxor.

Once known as Thebes, this ancient city was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms.

With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Luxor is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.

From Luxor I have booked passage on Scenic’s Sanctuary Sunboat III, for the 228-kilometre trip south to Aswan.

The Nile is the unifying thread that runs throughout Egyptian history, culture and politics, and travelling the Nile is the best way to feel the pulse of the country.

In the fifth century B.C., Greek historian Herodotus described Egypt as the gift of the River Nile, because the Egyptian civilization depended on the resources of the great river.

In 47 B.C., Julius Caesar sailed up the Nile with his love Cleopatra, and the journey has become a favourite of the curious and romantic ever since.

From the top deck, with a cold Sakara Gold beer in hand, I watch life on the Nile.

We sail past villages, cities and dazzling ancient monuments.

Along the shore shepherds ride burrows while herding cattle and goats, people fish in tiny row boats, hawkers paddle alongside our vessel to sell their wares, camels shelter beneath sweeping trees and women wash clothes while children splash about in the shallows.

The scene seems unchanged over thousands of years.

Nile cruisers ply the lush, foliage fringed river and offer the best way to visit the temples and small villages.

We docked at a bend in the river and took a short excursion to the Temple of Kom Ombo, a monument that commemorates two gods, the falcon-headed Horus the sky god and Sobek the crocodile god.

Many still have intact hieroglyphics adorning their walls, providing a fascinating insight into Egyptian culture.

Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost city and once the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes.

Here is the great dam, the Temple of Philae and the Old Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christie penned Death on the Nile. It is a beautiful view across to Elephantine Island; feluccas and shallow-drought motor launches crowd the narrow passages.

Our last stop is the temple of Abu Simbel, 300 kilometres south of Aswan. A short flight takes us to the shores of Lake Nasser.

For thousands of years, Ramses II’s Great Temple sat along the banks of the Nile in Nubian lands, then when the High Dam created the artificial lake and threatened to drown this magnificent monument, UNESCO rushed to the rescue, disassembling the temple stone by stone and moving it to high ground.

In Egypt, the old and the new live side by side, a physical and spiritual culture of pharaohs and kings, and a contemporary population whose past is tightly linked to its economic future.

Travel Writers’ Tales is an independent travel article syndicate. For more information, go online to travelwriterstales.com.

 

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