Nile Cruise - Page 1
Merry Christmas 2006! Happy New Year 2007! Robin and I spent our holidays on an 8-day Egypt Nile cruise.
Our vacation began with a flight early Christmas morning, which required us to stay in a hotel near Gatwick airport Christmas Eve. We flew for 5.5 hours on the (unimpressive) Monarch Airlines, touching down in Luxor, Egypt in the late afternoon. Egypt is 2 hours different than London, and 9 hours different than Denver. We were greeted at the airport by the tour group manager and, after passport control, taken by caravan from the airport to the Nile River and our cruise ship, the M/S Sinai.
This trip is broken up into 3 pages. This page primarily includes the first few days of our trip, focusing on the East bank of the city of Luxor. The pics are in roughly chronological order, though I try to break up the temple pictures with other subjects. The descriptions are unusually long, but I have included them for my future benefit.
Ship: This is our cruise ship the M/S Sinai. There are many cruise ships that sail the Nile, usually between Luxor and Aswan although some come from Cairo as well. The ships often share one dock, so that people wanting to disembark walk through the reception area of all the docked ships to reach land. We've seen it as deep as 6 ships!
Luxor: All the ships dock on the east bank, where the city stands. The Sharia Al-Corniche street runs alongside the Nile, and serves as the main tourist district in Luxor. The area is blocked off by tourist police, so it is quite limited as to what can safely be seen.
Cabin: This is our cabin, which is about the size of our guest bedroom in our London flat. As you can see, we have a small balcony as well. We had a TV too, but it almost never worked. The bed was two single beds pushed next to each other. We could never figure out why, but the room smelled bad.
Tour Group: Our tour group consisted of about 20 people, all British citizens except for us. They were a great group of people, and a lot of fun to talk to. At the beginning of our stay, the ship was almost empty because there was only our group and a few others! Closer to New Years Eve, the ship filled up with Romanians there to celebrate. The ship probably holds 150 people and has a crew of 20. The ship includes a reception desk, lounge/bar, a large dining room, a small shop, a massage therapist, a disco lounge, and the whole top deck is open for sitting in the sun or soaking in a swimming pool.
Our vacation package included 9 excursions to temples and whatnot with our egyptologist guide Aymen. In addition, we could buy several other excursions. The vacation really started on Tuesday, 26 December, the day after all of our group arrived (late at night due to a delayed flight from Gatwick and Manchester).
The day started off with a visit to the Karnak temple after breakfast. We arrived early in the morning to avoid the heat (it wasn't hot) and the crowds (many tourists - almost all British). Yes, you get to wander all around it as close as you like.
Karnak temple is Egypt's most important Pharaonic site, after the Giza pyramids. The site is very large, and of course the ruins are enormous.
One of the many large Colossi, a very large statue of a pharaoh or god. For more than a millennium the temple was buried under the sand, before being excavated in the 19th century. Most Egyptian temples have a similar story.
A great picture of the hieroglyphs that mark almost every surface of every Egyptian temple or tomb. Some of the symbols represent words, while others are phonetic and their grouping creates a word. Also, at the top of the picture, is a cartouche, the oval shape that encloses several symbols. These cartouches represent names.
Hieroglyphs were carved out of plaster and painted. In rare cases like this one, some of the paint has survived. Typically, the walls were painted white and the symbols were painted other colors, but the white background has almost never survived.
Robin is standing in front of the Colossus of Ramses II, which is very well preserved. At Ramses' feet is one of his daughters. Greg is standing next to a statue of another statue. Notice that this one has his left foot forward, which meant it was built when that Pharoah was still alive.
Karnak temple was the most important temple in ancient times. The vast complex includes the Temple of Amun, the Great Festival Temple, and is the only temple that still has its Sacred Lake intact and full of water.
Top left shows how the ancient Egyptians did accounting (those are numbers inside the grid). Next to that shows the tree of life, central in many Egyptian myths. The bottom row begins with an obelisk dedicated to Nefertiti or Nefertiri. Finally, a depiction of several gods, including the "naughty god".
This is one of the huge pylons that face the entrance to Karnak temple. This on is unique because it still shows the dirt mound used to build it.
At the entrance of the temple is this row of sphinxes. It originally led all the way from Karnak temple to Luxor temple, half a mile away.
Here is a small example of the Egyptian Bazaar, a colorful place to buy stuff cheap. The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EL), roughly 5 EL to 1 USD. However, they all take British Pounds, US Dollars, and Euros as well. As I was walking around with 2500 EL I felt rich just having that large amount with me.
Most tourist attractions are designed so that one must walk past a lot of them upon both entry and exit. The selling technique can be called aggressive.
These shops do not always post prices, and the buyer is expected to bargain with the seller. An interesting technique that is employed is for the seller to not really negotiate on price too much but instead offer more items for the same price.
The best way to get past a bazaar without buying anything is to look straight ahead, walk quickly, and not acknowledge anyone or anything shoved in front of you!
We visited Karnak temple and the Papyrus Institute on Tuesday afternoon. This row of sphinxes originally stretched all the way to Karnak temple, as shown above. The tall building shown is the minaret of a mosque, of which Egypt was many.
The great colonnades at Luxor temple are very impressive. The pink granite obelisk on the left is 82 feet high. There used to be one next to it, but in the early 19th century it was cut down and moved to Paris, where it now stands in the Place de la Concorde (I have a photo of that one as well).
This is a picture of Aymen, our Egyptologist guide, who wandered around with us on all our visits. Here cared for us very very well, and we really liked him. Generally, he would walk around with us to the various sites and show us some of the most interesting parts. Then we get some free time to explore ourselves and take pictures.
A giant black statue of Ramses II. This temple remains surprisingly intact, since it was completely buried in sand and debris. In fact, a small city grew up on top of it and had to be removed when the temple was rediscovered in 1881.
This temple shows the remnants and influences of multiple civilizations. The top left picture depicts Alexander the Great who visited the site. The arch shows Hellenic and Greek influences, and is not common in temples. The colorful painting demonstrates the significant Christian influence until the Arab invasion in 646.
The immensity of the site is shown in this picture. Note the minaret on the right, which appears to be sticking out of the ruins (it is).
A well preserved pharaoh and his queen.
Between the statues of Ramses are columns. The top is meant to look like a papyrus-bud.
This is the Abu al-Haggag Mosque inside Luxor temple. It was built in the 13th century, on top of the buried ruins of the temple. It remains standing, and is a striking contrast to the ancient stones.
This is the top deck of our ship, where we can come to relax. It was warm enough the first day to do that, but the weather turned cold and windy afterwards.
On Tuesday night, most of the group went on a Luxor city tour by horse-drawn carriages. We even left the confines of the tourist area, to look around at the farming area. We didn't take any pictures, partly because the government doesn't really want people taking pictures of some of the poor living conditions. But it was interesting to look around. We went through a sidewalk market, but another cart was going the other way carrying plywood. It was a traffic jam, because the street was too thin for both to pass. Somehow, we squeezed past!
Around Luxor, the Nile River is pretty busy. It is about a quarter of a mile across here.
This shows the west bank of the Nile River, across from Luxor. In those hills are the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. The slope facing us is where the tombs of the nobles are located. We visit all this the next day, on Wednesday.
To get to the west bank, you must drive 15 minutes south to cross a bridge and then back up. Robin and I had the option to take a hot-air balloon ride early Wednesday morning over some of this. It was kind of expensive, and we decided to visit Abu Simbel temple instead, which cost about the same. Unfortunately, the Abu Simbel trip was later cancelled because too few people signed up. By then, the balloon trip already happened. The balloon actually crashed and was dragged along the ground sideways for 300 feet! Glad we weren't on it, although a very nice couple from Birmingham came through unscathed.
This is from the front of our boat, with the Egyptian flag blowing in the breeze.