Egypt…Monuments, Mummies and Memories09/06/2023
Ramesses the III (better known as Ramesses the Great) ruled Egypt from 1279BC – 1213BC, longer than any other pharaoh. Estimates of his age at the time of his death are all around 90 years of age – not a bad effort for that time in history.
Although he conducted, and personally led, many campaigns against invaders and Egypt’s neighbours (including possibly his most famous victory at the Battle of Kadesh against a resurgent Hittite army) he also focused much of his early reign on building cities, temples and monuments.
And his most renowned monument is that which he had built with his most famous wife, Nefertari, at Abu Simbel…although Luxor and Karnak are very impressive too.
The best way to see Abu Simbel and, indeed to explore Egypt and all it’s glory, is on a fully-hosted tour. My small group with On The Go Tours was perfect – much nicer than when I did a very similar itinerary in my mid-20s…and much more luxurious.
Be aware that Abu Simbel is a good 2.5-3 hour drive from Aswan, where you will most likely stay prior to visiting this majestic monument, so a very early start is operated by most tour companies…for two reasons. One – to get there when the temperature is a ‘little’ cooler than most of the day and two – to get there when there are fewer tourists. But, my god, it is well worth the effort.
On my return to the Nile River cruising vessel, the M/S Royal Lotus a welcome dip in the pool and a few very cold beers were in order. Early morning departure…forgotten!
Cruising The Nile:
The luxury M/S Royal Lotus (by Mövenpick) is the perfect ship to spend 2-3 days (or longer) cruising the Nile…in my case from Luxor to Aswan.
The Mövenpick MS Royal Lotus offers a great chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the banks of the Nile, seeing the temples and tombs of the ancient world as you cruise by in a relaxed setting. This flagship cruiser comprises 60 cabins of approximately 22 sqm and 2 magnificent Royal Suites. Embarking from Luxor or Aswan.
Enjoy the scenery from your room featuring an ensuite shower, individually controlled air-conditioning, TV, minibar. Deluxe rooms can accommodate a maximum of 3 persons including children.
The Crescent Lounge and Bar elegantly decorated in natural hues with its warm colours and the flair of the large ocean cruisers is the ideal location for a small gathering, some quiet reading or a game of backgammon. It is located on the Salon Deck and features a semi-circular bar, a dance area and panoramic windows.
Likewise, the Observation Bar with breathtaking views is perfect for a sunset cocktail, a mid-morning coffee and cookies or afternoon tea while watching the world go by.
Whilst in Aswan try to stop in for a drink at the Old Cataract Hotel. This is where Agatha Christie wrote Death On The Nile, and enjoy a felucca trip to Elephantine Island. The Aswan Museum is at your feet, as are the rock Tombs of Amarna, where ancient Egyptian nobles are buried.
Built during the reign of Ptolemy II (around 280 BCE. – Egypt’s Greco-Roman Period), the Temple of Isis at Philae is dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The temple walls contain scenes from Egyptian mythology of Isis bringing Osiris back to life, giving birth to Horus and mummifying Osiris after his death.
Until the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia, the temple complex was located on Philae Island, near the expansive First Cataract (rapids) of the Nile in Upper Egypt. These rapids and the surrounding area have been variously flooded since the initial construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902.
Much like Abu Simbel, the temple complex was dismantled and moved to nearby Agilkia Island as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project, protecting this and other complexes before the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam.
The temple of Esna, dedicated to the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka and the goddess Neith, was remarkable for the beauty of its site and the magnificence of its architecture. It was built of red sandstone and its portico consisted of six rows of four columns each, with lotus-leaf capitals, all of which however differ from each other. Here you will find a small but exthralling musuem dedicated to the Crocodile God Sobek.
If you have ever, even remotely, thought about travelling to Egypt then make sure you do it. It is a remarkable place full of amazing history, great food experiences, markets and scenery…along with so many stories you will return with that your friends and family will want to go there themselves.
The author would like to thank Etihad Airlines for their tremendous service in getting him to Egypt, via Abu Dhabi. www.etihad.com
Thanks also go to the amazing experience provided by On The Go Tours on my Jewel Of The Nile 10 day tour. www.onthegotours.com
Note: Trains that run throughout Egypt are ‘not the best’ – neither is the food supplied, nor the service – even if you are in one of the ‘so-called’ better cabins. It is likely that you will return, as I did, to Cairo from Aswan by overnight train. It is not a pleasant experience, although the market in Aswan, next to the railway station, is fun to walk around – make sure you barter with the vendors. Most good tour companies, like On The Go Tours, will offer you the opportunity to fly between Aswan and Cairo – take it. It may cost you a little more but once your fellow travellers meet back up with you at your Cairo hotel you’ll hear stories from them and understand why.
When travelling through Egypt it helps to be aware of the following:
- Markets/Hawkers: You WILL be approached and ‘hassled’. Don’t flinch – these people are only trying to make a living and I have found that the majority of them respond to positive banter and bartering. Tip: put a maximum amount of cash in one of your pockets that you’re willing to spend. When your shopkeeper insists he wants more money than you are offering show him you only have ‘x’ amount of $$. They’ll come down to meet your offer pretty quickly.
- Visas: Visas are required for all visitors to Egypt and it is easy to apply for on-line. Currently the cost for a single entry tourist visa is US$25. www.visa2egypt.gov.eg Note: You can get a visa on arrival (payable in cash only) but this will hold up your passage through customs.
- Currency: The exchange rate of the Egyptian Pound is controlled by the government so it doesn’t matter which exchange place you go to. I suggest you take US$ cash in with you and exchange next to the baggage carousel in the arrival hall. The current exchange rate sees 1 NZ$ equate to around 19 Egyptian Pounds.
- Camera Fees: There is no longer a camera fee for using your cellphone BUT there is a fee (payable separately) for larger digital cameras and various sites around the country. Your guide will know where and which ones will charge.
- Etiquette: Remember this is a Muslim country, albeit one that has a fine reputation (generally) for looking after foreign travellers. Be respectful – dress accordingly – don’t kiss in public – and ask permission if you wish to take someone’s photograph.