Mid January 2015 I had the opportunity to do a two week trip through some of the main historic sites of Egypt. If you are interested in history and old building, Egypt is basically the jackpot. The country is full of ancient treasures. Many of them probably still hidden under the sand.
I took about 2’500 pictures during this trip and visited approximately 20 different cities or sites.
Travel and accommodation
For the first time since my childhood I chose an organized travel in a so called study trip. This means that I was accompanied by experienced tour guides basically all the time. Also I chose to spend much of the trip on river cruise ships. The main reason for this was that I did not trust the (travel) infrastructure in Egypt very much. Also the distances in the South are quite big. Therefore a ship is the only comfortable way of traveling if you do not want to spend all of your time on the completely crazy roads.
The travel provider was OFT Reisen. They then outsourced this to a local Egyptian company which provided all guides, busses and even owned the ships.
First I flew from Frankfurt to Cairo. Spent a few days in a hotel in downtown. Afterwards I flew from Cairo to Assuan. There I boarded very new cruise ship sailing north on the river Nile until Luxor. In Luxor I spent again a a few nights before then going on a different older boat back to Assuan.
In Assuan I boarded the largest cruise ship of Egypt: MS Omar El Khayam. The boat is about 120 meters long and has about 80 cabins.
The boat then sailed for several days south to Lake Nasser until Abu Simbel. This is almost on the border to Sudan. From there I took a bus back to Assuan and spent one night in town before flying back to Cairo and then immediately to Frankfurt.
Since almost all sites in the South are somewhat next to the river Nile, you basically just have to walk from the ship into the temple. Could be almost called “drive-in” or “sail-in” tourism. Some of the archeologic sites along Lake Nasser are probably only reachable via boat – unless you do not mind driving through the desert on sand roads for hours.
Full staff attention
This was a study trip to explore ancient Egypt. Therefore I was almost constantly accompanied by a guide. These guides had an extensive training and vast know-how. All of them were able to read hieroglyphs fluently. They literally knew every statue or relief in every temple or museum in the entire country. I was really impressed. They could tell detailed stories about every site. I was probably able to memorized less than 10% of what I was told during these two weeks.
Egypt recently went through a lot of changes and turmoil. The revolution of Januar 2011 led to a new government. Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. In March 2014 the military took control and installed a new president. These turmoils and the related fears of insecurity led to a massive decrease of tourists coming to the country. Locals said that the figures decreased by approximately 90%. The Valley of Kings used to be visited by 3 million tourists per year. Now it is only 300’000.
As a consequence much of the gigantic tourism industry of the country has come to a standstill. At its peak there were somewhat like 400 cruise ships running on the Nile. When I was there in January 2015, maybe 40 of them were active. All the rest is mothballed and anchored in Luxor or Assuan.
In Cairo I was the only guest of OFT Reisen. So I had my personal guide, personal driver and own bus. On the trip from Assuan to Luxor I joined another OFT group of probably 10 people. From Luxor until Abu Simbel I then again had a personal guide.
It became even more exclusive on the MS Omar El Khayam – the largest cruise ship in Egypt. It was built for about 160 guests. We were only 17 paying customers on board. It is quite odd if you sit in a dining room for 160 guest with such a small group.
This full staff attention is brilliant when it comes to visiting temples. With a personal guide you can see the sites at your own pace and ask a lot of questions. Also it is of course nice for me the place it not completely crowded with tourists.
However, just to illustrate what happens if there are probably 5 to 6 people staff per passenger on a ship:
- A server is constantly watching you while eating. They fill up your glass and take away your plate at the blink of an eye.
- After lunch a nervous cook was following me through the ship (!) to remind me that I did not eat desert (I was not hungry and skipped the desert after eating some salad).
- When arriving at the cabin after dinner there were two cleaning gentlemen waiting at the door (!). They introduced themselves, shook hands and then showed their towel creation with swans and a little heart. How touching.
Personally I prefer being left in peace and not in the center of staff attention. Am just on a cruise ship because it is the only comfortable way to visit all the monuments in the South, next to Sudan.
I really, really hope that Egypt is soon doing better with its essential tourist industry. It is really sad and spooky to see all this and feel how desperate the nice people are.
You could group the trip basically into four segments:
- Cairo and surrounding
- Lake Nasser / Abu Simbel
I spent almost most time on cruise ships. The only exception was Cairo where I stayed in a downtown hotel and travelled with a small bus.
The following list shows all the main cities or sites visited during this travel. Most of the sites are temples. The simple reason for this: Ancient Egyptians used stones only for temples or graves. All other building – including the royal palaces – where built using mud bricks. Therefore none of them survived.
The links lead to my picture gallery where you can find snapshots taken at this respective location. Please note that I have not uploaded all pictures to the gallery.
- Citadel and Alabaster Mosque
- Ibn-Tulun Mosque
- Temple of Kom Ombo
- Temple of Edfu
- Valley of the Kings (it was not allowed to take photos there)
- Temple of Queen Hatschepsut
- Temple of Dendera
- Temples of Karnak
- Temple of Luxor
- Temple of Edfu
- Temple of Philae
- Temples of Kalabscha
- Temples of Wadi es-Sebua
- Temple of Amada
- Qasr Ibrim
- Temples of Abu Simbel