April 26, 2020

Egypt: Life On The Nile

Africa ›   Egypt ›  

By Angel ​"The Travel Ambassador" Castellanos (

Every day on the Nile is a day frozen in time. The Ancient Temples of Karnak, Luxor, Edfu, Philae, and Abu Simbel make​ your childhood memories of hieroglyphics and the Ancient Egyptians come to life. The highlight for me was the ​​Edfu Temple, still mostly intact and physically imposing as it was in the days of the Pharaohs. Running around the Ancient Thebes Necropolis where the Valley of the Kings & Queens is located made my inner Indiana Jones come to life. Face to face with the tiny mummified body of the boy King Tutankhamun deep within his ornately painted tomb was like looking back 3000 years into the history of humanity.

As the Nile flows through Egypt, you close your eyes and wonder if you are living in the present or​ 2500 BC​. The majesty and stillness of the ancient river is seductive. Feluccas, the traditional boat of the Nile, drift by on the calm waters while farmers tend to their grazing livestock.

Each night the call to prayer creates a melodious cacophony of sound that echoes from village to village. Then the sun becomes a massive emblazoned orange fireball along the horizon, an iconic sunset shared between generations along the Nile.

We began our trip in Cairo. Egypt is a massive country and we spent 3 days in the capital. Staying on the island of Zamalek, or in any of the major hotels along the edge of the Nile, will offer views that will be branded into your memory. Plan on the first full morning exploring the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids of Giza. Our guide was sorted well ahead of time which made things a whole lot easier. We got an early start from the hotel to beat the heat and the crowds. Don’t forget your sunblock, plenty of water, and small bills for tipping. Our guide was invaluable in helping to navigate the large Giza plateau and brought ancient history to life.

​​Don't rush the experience. Kicking up sand by either horse or camel under the blazing morning sun is one of my favorite ways to explore this area. Take the time to touch, feel, and sit on one of the massive stone blocks that make up each structure. Let your mind try to grasp the expansive 4000-year history of the Pyramids.

The massive construction site near the Pyramids is the unmissable Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The brand new museum was set to open this year but it will likely not be ready until 2021. It is the largest cultural project in the Middle East. The new GEM will not only house all of the important treasures from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, but it will also display ancient treasures from all over Egypt. Some will be together for the first time.

Getting around Cairo is easy. The organized chaos that is intrinsic in the Middle East might be unnerving for those who are not prepared, but I relish in the unfamiliar and unknown. Uber is inexpensive in Cairo, limits how much cash you need to carry, and drivers tend to be reliable. As you zip across the city, do not miss the opportunity to stop in Tahrir Square, close to the big pink Egyptian Museum. It was the epicenter of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 that became part of the Arab Spring. Today, the square is just a busy roundabout, and peaceful, just like any other busy square in the Arab world.

Egypt just gets better the further south you go. Luxor is the traditional jumping-off point to explore the South. Formerly Ancient Thebes, it is full of stories of Pharos, Queens, and Mummies surrounded by glistening gold treasure. Nothing really compares to the grandeur of the temples, monuments, and tombs that travelers can explore in southern Egypt, especially between Luxor and Aswan.

Getting to Luxor from Cairo is easy. Egypt Air has daily flights. I opted for the slow overnight train that typically departs at 7 pm and arrives in Luxor at 7 am. There are many 3-4 day cruises that sail between Luxor & Aswan. Various cruise ship companies, both local and international, sail this route. It’s one of the best price value propositions in Egypt to maximize budget and time. Most cruises offer the same packages that include: cabins with River views, full meals, fully guided excursions,​ and​ entrances to all of the main sites​.​

​​After dinner on the ship, I would go to the top deck and look up at the stars that light up the sky. I was not certain about what I would find in Egypt, but I had come face to face with a civilization that I had only read about in history books. The deep sense of the vast span of humanity was not lost on me as I made my through this ancient land. I went to bed each night ready for the sun to knock on my door and start another day where everything will be ​legendary.