Cruisin' Down the Nile

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Al Baḩr al Aḩmar,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just as the Pharaohs did long ago, we surveyed upper Egypt from the Nile River.  What an immensely relaxing form of travel.  In one place with your bed, meals and entertainment…someone else planning your itinerary, arranging transportation, and buying the tickets…you just get to sit back and enjoy the ride!

During the cruise, our days were full of seeing all the various temples and sites along the way.  Some days we were even getting 6am wake-up calls (maybe it wasn’t so relaxing after all).  But there was so much to see!  The remains of buildings and temples built 1000’s of years  before Christ…it’s really hard to imagine. 

We saw so much!  I don’t want to bore you with long descriptions (nor do my fingers want to type them), so I will write a few stories and post some pictures and hope you enjoy (the photos will be quite limited as cameras seem to be banned from the majority of sites in Egypt!). 

~What a strange reality to be on a boat in Egypt, floating down the Nile river, yet be sitting in air-conditioned comfort, feasting on beef Wellington, mashed potatoes and gravy.  With staged belly dancing shows and gift shops charging  5 times the value of items that can be purchased on the street.  All while wealthy Europeans splay themselves out on the top deck like bloated beached whales, but sunburned.  We may have spent more time eating than anything else.  With a huge buffet breakfast and lunch, then afternoon tea, even cocktail hors d’oeuvres and finally dinner itself, I think we ate more than on this whole trip combined!   Every once in awhile we were herded off onto a tour bus to join in with the massive crowds attempting to catch a glimpse of the ancient temples between the wall-to-wall people.  Thank goodness we didn’t have to wear nametags!

~Walking through these Temples and buildings of antiquity, I have a hard time grasping the reality of this greatness.  Even after countless documentaries and movies, I guess I still only thought that they existed in the past.  And although they did, their decaying skeletons still remain for me to walk through in awe of their magnificence.  And as impressive as this is, it is but a faint shadow of what it once was.  Where carved rock is seen today, once was brightly coloured and guilded gold when it was created.  What a people!  What a civilization with such elaborate beliefs, rituals, art, and history.  What do we do with our time that will be around for 1000’s of years afterwards…

~The Valley of the Kings has a presence to it.  A greatness is felt upon entering.  Rocks rising on either side and climaxing into a natural pyramids shape at it’s center.  Even beyond the excavations, signs, teeming tourists and hassling totes, you can imagine what it was like when 1st chosen.   It’s no wonder that the pharaohs chose this as a sacred resting place.   Sought as an alternative to the pyramids (which were already being looted for treasures, this was a new site hidden and peaceful to be used to shelter the bodies and belongings of the Kings.  Sixty-three tombs have been found so far.  All but Tutenkaman’s have been raided previously, so perhaps it wasn’t as hidden as they had thought.  What a shame though, because the knowledge and antiquities gained from just one tomb fill an entire room in the museum and countless volumes of text.  Terrible to imagine all that history being melted down and sold. 

The ancient Egyptians put much belief in the after world and had to amply prepare it’s leaders for such a journey.  These elaborate tombs buried deep into the bowels of the mountains do look a bit like intestines as they twist and turn and overlap one another through the rock with many sacred rooms as offshoots.  Walls and ceilings of the halls tell the stories of the book of the dead and chapters of life.  Leading ever further until you reach the final tomb for the body to rest incased in a series of Russian-doll type sarcophagi.  One begins to wonder where such an elaborate belief system came from for a people of such ancient times to follow.  Walls covered with a language that looks like it should be deciphered with a cereal-box secret decoder ring, but is far too complex for such a thing.  Imagery and symbolism abound and professors spend their whole lives studying and only understanding a fraction. 

I can’t help by think about the explorers and treasure hunters of old who first burst through out of the scorching sun into these dark places.  Standing in shock as their eyes slowly adjusted to the light and the weight of what they had discovered began to press down on their shoulders, they must have felt a great desire to discover more and learn more about this great civilization. 

~Like the Pharaohs of old surveying their Kingdome, we cruised slowly down the Nile.  Egypt’s never-ending sun on the skin is as intense as a hand pressing down.  The slight breeze from the moving boat is the only thing that makes it tolerable (and we’re here at the coldest time of the year). 

Silent palms drift by continuously while people tend their fields in the rich flood plain.  Washing cloths, watering animals, fishing - it’s easy to see how life completely revolved around this river, and how it’s annual flood helped to set the seasons and the calendar.  Just a short distance away, you can see the barren and rocky hillside of the desert where there is never any rain (even when Brian and Sharilyn visit). 

Seems like a harsh existence, but with year-round growing conditions, the people didn’t have to continuously struggle for food and survival like their northern counterparts, so they were able to furnish great legends, extravagant art and magnificent architecture. 

As I survey this landscape from the boat, scenes of hieroglyphics from the temples play in my mind.  Soon the landscape changes into one large temple wall.    Then the pictures come to life - like a comic to a cartoon - and I watch 2D people moving in amongst the reeds, papyrus, and lotus.  Soon there’s a basket make of reeds floating in the water alongside the boat.  At the next temple, I see a queen and servant fish it out of the water and take the baby into the palace.  At the next palace, I see the boy grown up in all the splendor I can only imagine this dynasty might have been.  Clothed in jewels and crowns I’ve seen in museums.  How hard it must have been to leave all the comforts for the harshness of the desert beyond.  In a similar way, I must leave the comforts of this cruise boat for a more realistic experience of Egypt.  

Off to Alexandria!

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Sandra Fitzpatrick on

i am so jealous we really miss you at the studio.. still going weekly.. i find your entires so interesting... almost like i am right along beside you...

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