When I arrived at its banks for the first time, the Nile was cool and inviting, there was no rush to its waters and tethered cruise ships – like the one I would call home for the next 6 days- lined the water’s edge. Smaller dahabiyas and a few dozen single sail feluccas were joined by scores of darting water taxis, but on the water there seemed to be room enough for them all.
The ancient town in Upper Egypt, Luxor, known as the world’s greatest open-air museum was my starting point. Here are some of the unforgettable highlights of my first discovery voyage sailing the Nile.
Valley of the Kings
The name is as majestic as the dusty valley where well-hidden underground mausoleums once overflowed with ostentatious treasures and a stockpile of every item the pharaohs needed for their afterlife. In this valley are elaborate crypts which chronicle the stories and achievements of royal entombed pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramses II, as well as queens, high priests, and other elites. While these tombs were raided some centuries ago, it’s still impossible not to appreciate the detailed preparation and importance the ancient Egyptians ascribed to future proofing themselves.
Karnak Temple, was one of the most important religious sites of the New Kingdom spanning 1539-1075 BC, it is the biggest religious complex ever built. The significance is evident by its architecture and colossal monuments. Even today, in its derelict state the sheer magnitude of the temple and its imposing sculptures are awe-inspiring.
From Karnak I discovered that a 1.9-mile avenue of sphinxes once lined the route to my next stop, the legendary Luxor Temple. Today even the remnants of this glorious avenue are still impressive. Perched on the east bank of the Nile the grandeur of this temple is revealed from the river. Imposing statues and soaring columns make this an outstanding site. This temple is one of the best preserved of all of the ancient monuments with large amounts of the structure, statuary and relief carvings still intact. This is the main reason that Luxor is called the world’s largest open-air museum.
The Temple Of Hatshepsut
At Deir El-Bahri
At Deir El-Bahri
A short distance from the Valley of the Kings I walked onto one of the “incomparable monuments of Eygpt” – the temple of Hatshepsut. This temple was originally built to commemorate the achievements of the great Queen Hatshepsut. In addition to the temple’s historical importance, this three terrace temple is also touted as one of the greatest Egyptian architectural achievements. Hatshepsut’s rise to power and legacy is one of the most fascinating stories of Egypt and the temple captures her incredible contributions.
The Temple of EDFU
The Temple of Edfu is the second largest temple in Egypt. It is also known as the Temple of Horus (the falcon-headed God) and it is the most beautiful of all the Egyptian temples. The grand entrance facade is still clearly guarded on either side of the doorway by huge granite falcons. So well-preserved is this temple, that once you walk past them into its sprawling courtyard you are physically transported to another time. It’s easy to picture it all- the ceremonies, offerings and festivals, just standing in this space thousands and thousands of years after.
The Temple at Kom Ombo
Kom Ombo may look like just another temple that overlooks the Nile, but this temple aptly called “The Hill of Gold,” is one of the most picturesque and beautiful sites along the river. The temple is unique because it is a double temple, dedicated to Sobek-the crocodile god, and Horus-the falcon-headed god. The Kom Ombo temple was known for its healing powers and people made pilgrimages just for that. In fact, on the back wall of the temple exists the very first known representations of precise surgical tools. In this temple, in particular, the wall carvings and hieroglyphics reveal how advanced this civilization was in every area of daily life.
Abu Simbel Temples
One of the most stunning treasures of the ancient world is the Abu Simbel temples. A UNESCO world heritage site, Abu Simbel is an enormous ancient temple complex, originally cut into a solid rock cliff, in southern Egypt bordering Sudan. The two temples of this complex were built during the reign of the great and powerful Ramesses II whose colossal seated statues still oversee the entrance of the Great Temple and majestically gaze upon all who approaches. As for the Small Temple, which may have been built for Nefertari- the wife of Ramesses II, they are guarded by two statues of the queen, and four of the pharaoh.
Considered one of the greatest temples in Egypt and located on Agilkia Island on the Nile, this was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style and erected to honour the goddess Isis. Its scenic location and intriguing stories come alive at night in a spectacular sound and light show.
The Nubians were an ethnic group coming from southern Egypt and northern Sudan, who during the course of history started a number of settlements along the Nile River. Today these colourful villagers allow visitors the opportunity to step inside their welcoming homes to enjoy a chat and some refreshments.
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