Finding myself with 11 days holiday left to use before the end of the year, I immediately checked out the Explore website for late availability and was delighted to find a Nile Cruise amongst my options. Egypt had long been on my "to go" list, but the temperatures had put me off. In December however, the climate is ideal for those who can't take the heat! For those of you who are not familiar with the "Explore" holiday concept, they operate small group tours all over the world, attracting both single travellers like me and couples or friends travelling together. If you want to see a country beyond the confines of your luxury resort, I cannot do better than recommend Explore.
The links on the left will take you to photos of the trip which went something like this ...
We flew to Cairo arriving late on Saturday 10 December. Sunday was my birthday, and what a place to spend it ... the morning at the pyramids and the afternoon in the stunning Egyptian Museum. We spent most of Monday on a train travelling south to Esna to join the M/S Doma, our home for the next week. Cruising through the night, we woke up at Edfu on Tuesday morning and visited our first (of many!) temples, before cruising on to our second ... Kom Ombo. We then continued up river to Aswan and on Wednesday had our earliest wake up call of the trip (3.15am) to travel by bus to Abu Simbel. Returning to Aswan by lunchtime, the afternoon was spent visiting Philae Temple, which like Abu Simbel was rescued by UNESCO from the rising waters of Lake Nasser after the construction of the High Dam. The evening was spent in a Nubian village, enjoying dinner under the stars.
Half way through the trip now, and Thursday started with a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeone before cruising back down the Nile to join the queue to get through Esna lock ... closed twice a year for maintenance, it held us captive in Esna until late Friday, giving us the opportunity to see Esna Temple and enjoy a little retail therapy! Fortunately we were 13th in line of over 80 boats and just made it to Luxor in time for Saturday's donkey trek to the Valley of the Kings. Cameras are not allowed inside the tombs, so the photos are limited to two taken on route before moving on to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. In the afternoon we explored Luxor and surrounding villages by calesh (horse-drawn carriage) and had a quick look in the fading light at the impressive Temple of Luxor.
Our final day before travelling home found three of us up bright and early to join three others on a hot air balloon flight over the west bank of the Nile. For me, this was the highlight of the trip ... my first balloon flight and I got to watch the sun rise over Luxor ... wow! Returning in time for breakfast, we joined the rest of the group on a tour of the Valley of the Artisans, the Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Medinet Habu. Again photos are limited to the latter due to camera restrictions in the tombs. Our final temple was the most impressive of all ... Karnak. Its scale is almost impossible to show in photos, but is truly awe-inspiring.
A holiday that will live long in my memory, not least due to the excellent company of my fellow travellers ... many thanks to all who shared my journey.