Egypt is a desired destination for any history buff. This was a travel company package we contracted through a Romanian agency, because it’s hard to make the trip alone in Egypt, or so we read.
Unlike our city breaks and other experiences, you find on the travel blog, this is more of a vacation review of this specific package>A Nile Cruise. A vacation you can probably find at your local agencies. The offer most of the time includes a few day stay in Hurghada, a day in Cairo, boarding a Nile cruise ship in Aswan, and sightseeing of old temples on the way up to Luxor.
Egypt has 1 million square km with 90% desert and 90% of the people here practice the Islam religion. And we wanted to go there since we were children. Seeing Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Nile formed the image of what was to come, but after watching the movie don’t get the impression you’ll see crocodiles or be able to climb up up on the pyramids.
We will include tips and tricks for a nice stay in this country and some of the best things we discovered.
Egypt Nile Cruise review: 10 things to see
Getting a package like this will get you close to several sights. Make sure to check in with a photo at the next objectives:
1. The corals in the Red Sea at Hurghada
The sea is beautiful, full of relief and color, but you will also experience ebb and flow, for a few hours of the day as the sea recedes. We were delighted because we walked in the sea and found sea animals in the sand. Then I went on the pontoon and further out into the sea to have a swim.
You will see the Coptic Quarter (three Jesus lookalike walked by us), the bazaar, the Museum and some mosques and of course, the Giza Plateau. With 20 million people, this intense city is amazing in a number of things: the state of the buildings (most unfinished), the old close to the new, the huge mosques and poor neighborhoods, the contrast between the new city and the old architectural treasures.
You’ll board the Cruise Shop here. Before departure, you can see some objectives here. Take a short trip to El Nabatat Island or Kitchener’s Island, a botanical garden basically in Aswan. Take a short trip to Elephantine Island, the largest of the islands in the area, to see the Nilometer, a station that measures the water levels of the Nile. In ancient times, when the level was low, no taxes were paid. Fair. From the boat, in Aswan, you can also see the Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Nile.
Then, also nearby, you can see the dam that separates the part full of crocodiles (the one towards Abu Simbel) from the part that goes up towards Luxor. I admit, not knowing about crocodile hunting, I was waiting to see them.
See the Nubian village in the Aswan area, before the boat leaves, with a civilization that is one of the oldest cultures on the planet. In fact, their history predates that of the Egyptians by millennia! Today there are wealthy merchants, and the village looks colorful and full of things to buy.
Once the cruise starts, the experience itself is pleasant, with the breeze in your hair and the five o’clock tea is still served on the ship. With dunes in the distance and great sunsets, with merchants who hang onto the vessel and throw the goods up so that you can see it and then get money back, the experience is great.
The night with the belly dances and the traditional spinning dance is an experienced on itself. Enjoy every moment!
5. Kom Ombo
This is a unique temple, being dedicated to 2 gods, not just one. The name means the pile of gold. The inner chambers are replicated, for the crocodile god Sobek, the god of fertility and for the god Hathor, the god of creation. Here we also find the first calendar in the world, discovered to be the oldest.
You get to by carriage, on roads that really look like 3000 years ago, made of dirt. The temple is the second largest, took 180 years to be built and Edfu means the powerful city. The temple is dedicated to Horus (or Apollo for the Romans), the son of Isis and Osiris, the god of fertility, killed by the brother of Seth, the god of chaos. The temple was built between 237 and 56 BC, much like the Kom Ombo temple. The construction is impressive and in some places, where the colors of the hieroglyphs are still preserved, it is mystical. The columns in the form of papyrus, palm, lotus are wonderful. I learned with joy that a new non-invasive technique has been discovered to restore the original colors to the temples, which is starting to be used and can already be seen at Karnak.
Karnak Temple is the second most visited site in Egypt, after the Pyramids. And I understand why. It is magical, with its light, with the obelisk and the rooms and passages, constructions from 4000 years ago, which the Romans also considered ancient. Its construction lasted 2000 years and every important ruler from the period of the new kings added something to the complex, including Alexander the Great. What you see most often in the pictures is the hall with 134 cylons on 16 rows, The Great Hypostyle Hall. Here the new color restoration technique is tried.
8. Hatsheput’s temple
Before the actual valley, you will see Alkornam the village of the robbers in ancient times and a place for many alabaster factories now.
Farther, you will see Hatsheput’s temple, built for the only woman – pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. It looks imposing from a distance, due to the rocks that rise nearby. Most of the sculptures depicting the queen were destroyed by her stepson and her successor to the throne. But the columns and what’s left still take you to the past when, incredibly, there was a green oasis here.
9. Valley of the Kings
he Valley of The Kings was chosen because of the pyramid-shaped mountain nearby. The unbearable heat outside gives you an idea of what it’s like to dig here for history. The riches, both as designs and as jewels, are indescribable. The most famous tombs are those of Ramses VI and that of Tutankhamun (entrances are paid separately).
Even if you come on your own and not with an agency, there is little chance for you to rent a car and get to Cairo, as the filters on the road are terrifying (war class guns and soldiers) and we even had a special agent with us in the bus, armed and careful. The real Egypt you can see in transit, from Hurghada to Aswan. If you see how food is prepared you will not want to try street food. On the road to Aswan, beef of goat carcasses were mounted on hooks, into the scorching sun. It made me sick.
A vacation here amounted in the end to more than one in Crete. And if not for the historic places, I would never ever recommend you going here.
What to Expect and What to Avoid when you choose
The Egypt Nile Cruise Trip
We knew we wanted an experience that included hot spots and the wonders of ancient times. So relaxation was just in the background, as the main objective was seeing as much history as possible. When faced with this, every 2 and 4 am wake-up call was worth it.
TIP 1> Check with the agency because the itinerary will suffer changes. For some, the changes to our program meant no sleep and grueling wake-up times and travel times.
TIP 2> Alternatively, you can travel solo and make all the bookings and optional travels with agencies contacted through the resort.
This is the best time to visit Egypt, October to April being months with perfect temperatures. So in September we packed and traveled to Hurghada airport (with its spectacular entry).
Part 1> Our stay in Hurghada
The 4-star resort in Hurghada can only compare to a 2-star hotel in Romania, when talking about the rooms and the food. From the start, be sure to choose a 5-star hotel with grades over 9 on Booking and demand the name of the hotel from the travel agency.
Our agency only gave us 3 choices on the itinerary and we were taken to a 4th unknown and terrible hotel. The beach saved the stay, as it is rated at 9. One night they had a grill close to the beach and then the food was good, but the rest of the time my husband was having difficulty finding anything edible. But I guess they have the views
„The Red Sea is a great location for a sun 🌞 holiday and can be as relaxing or as busy as you want it to be. Egypt 🇪🇬 dominate the holiday scene along its shores, and you must be willing to put up with there ways if you want to stay.”
”My favorite place on this Earth. ✨
There is nothing more beautiful i ever laid my eyes on, than on the red sea! 🐠🐚🌊🐬 ”
Hurghada is renowned for scuba diving and has numerous shops and a mall. Once the tide set in, we went marine life hunt and captured a cute little guy. Also, the reefs are more visible and it’s a great experience if you also have a place to swim.
You can go to the shops and the mall in Hurghada, but there isn’t much else to see. You can take a taxi there, but be careful who you call and best ask for help from the hotel.
All resorts have beautiful pools and views, and while our hotel had an amphitheater for the night shows, a wellness and fitness center, we benefited from none of the above.
Part 2> Our stay on the Cruise Ship
NOTE> There was news that the Egyptian government will double or even triple the entrance fees to the objectives starting October 1st, 2023, and the cruises will increase with 20% in price.
reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s a completely new experience for us, so we appreciated the wood and the chandelier and topside, the nice sitting area. It makes the feeling that you went back in time even stronger.
Our agency made the complete package and we had all-inclusive meal program, but we had a hard time finding anything really tasty. Also, all the drinks must be purchased separately and they are quite expensive. Make sure to get water in the Aswan area and then along the way.
The views are amazing on a boat. Both at waking up and from up above.
„King Tut1 is one of the best cruises in the nile with a fantastic service. Its very beautiful but may be when you see it before entering it, you feel its old but when you enter, you will find yourself like in a palace”
”Don’t be fooled by the look when it was brand new. The ship is not well-maintained. Mold everywhere in the bathroom. ”
General advices for the Nile River Cruise package and Egypt in general
General advice for Hurghada
- wear sunscreen of course, the sun is ruthless in Egypt. The last time they had snow was a small miracle, in 2012.
- make sure the hotel’s beach is not that affected by the tide, or else you’ll miss on swimming for some hours.
- the private sandy beaches are clean, spacious and with calm, warm and clear water. There are rocks and reefs in the water, so water shoes may be necessary.
- ask the agency about the hotel’s all Ultra all-inclusive package, which gets you international drinks, otherwise prepare for some nasty drinks (warm beer anyone?). The food is a gamble, look for reviews as some hotels are far from best experiences. Choose the grill when in doubt, prepared in front of you, fresh, and diversified, it’s perfect for any taste.
- a special note on the DESERTS – one of the highlights of my stay in any country. I fell in love with all the greek sweets when I went to Greece and some sweets here had the hiney based recipes and I loved them.
- the all-inclusive experience at a 4-star hotel is underwhelming. Go for the 5 star resorts just to be sure, with a 9+ stars rating.
- people constantly ask for tips and a rather horrifying experience I had even scared me. I went to the room alone to leave the phone and the cleaning crew (all male) was on the floor. After I entered the room, I saw they already cleaned our room so I relaxed. That is until they started to knock on the door. Once, twice, three times. I got scared. Told them to leave, and they knocked one more time. I then waited some more and with the phone, to my ear, I exited the room and passed them, and ran into the elevator. I know they only wanted some tips, but it still made me afraid.
- prepare to say NO a lot, to the people selling you optional things to do, classes and beauty services.
- the staff is not that friendly (compared to Greece or Croatia) and even the guide who knew Roumanian made some strange comments and faces at some of the tourists, making us feel like burdens to him, or stupid or nuisances. I can speculate that once you chose a trip from the hotel and not a prearranged one the people are nicer, as they rely on reviews to make business.
- the drinks are so bad…even or especially with the all-inclusive, the drinks are local and in a Muslim country where they don’t drink, they are just bad. And what we found to be a lack of customer service was that even the beer they had, they kept in the sun and not on the ice, so it was warm and disgusting. Go for the ultra all inclusive that has an international drinks menu.
General advice for Egypt and the Cruise package
- make sure you know the name of the boat, as some are older and may not offer the best experience.
- make sure to call someone and ask them to join the beds if you’re a couple, as they have the beds separate.
- be above deck when you pass through Esna Lock. This amazing feet of engineering will alow you to see dozens of boats maneuvering through a gate. This damn and lock has an elevation difference of 8 meters. And you’ll experience the ”fall”. Also, it’s a perfect time for the salesmen to throw things at you from boats.
- bring mosquitoes spray, and drink water from a bottle, always, as the quality of the tap water is bad.
- when you take a photo of a hieroglyph, make sure the include the bigger picture, as it is very hard for the guide to translate he story to you if your photo has only 1 symbol.
- be polite, always, just because it’s a good way to be, not only because people appreciate it and keeps you safe.
- don’t walk alone in remote places as a woman, I’m not saying it’s unsafe, all I’m saying is the pushiness of the salesmen made me a little afraid and uncomfortable and I wouldn’t recommend a woman to be alone.
- there aren’t so many filters to the south, to Aswan, but still, the condition of the roads and the general feeling make you want to avoid traveling without a local guide at least.
- expect to find all the Instagramable places you saw everywhere but with 100000 people in the background. And considering you can’t get there at dawn or late at night…Don’t have many expectations for pictures with an empty background, as it is one of the most touristy places on Earth maybe.
- in cities, like Aswan, the backstreets are to be avoided. People will call you into their shops and try to sell you things. Police or army forces are on the main streets, but if you are tempted to go into the bazaar in Aswan or Luxor, get into a group or convince the guide to take you.
- if you want to look for a place to buy drinks, there are some Duty-free shops that sell international brands. Beer is 3-4 euros and whisky at about 40-50.
- make sure to go now, as from October 1st 2023 the prices will rise.
Impressions about the Nile river cruise Package
It’s a general theme in Egypt, the mentality that you’ll still visit their country because they have these amazing places, and they don’t have to be welcoming, civil, and make an effort for you. They have all these amazing structures and history and it’s like that is enough.
They expect you not to be afraid when you see the guarded filters and the armed agents from the Tourism Police.
The poverty and filth is just so obvious…The infrastructure is terrible, aside from the highways, the historic temples are hard to reach and look decrepit on the outside. There are mini bazaars with aggressive salesmen at every stop and they can only be there if the government condones this behavior. It’s like they make no investment in protecting these sites and the people there. And all the ticket money goes to … something else. Maybe building that monstrosity of a city called New Cairo, surrounded by walls, in the desert near Cairo.
The rest is poverty.
Curious Facts about Egypt
- A lot of the new buildings aren’t even finished because of a loophole in the law that allows you not to pay taxes if the house is not finished.
- Saʿīd Pasha | Ottoman viceroy of Egypt made the Suez Canal in 1859. It took 10 years.
- The Rosetta stone was found in Egypt by the French.
4. Memphis was the first capital city, with a double crown, red and white as a sign.
5. Snefru, the father of Keops, was the first king to build a pyramid in the shape we know today, The architect was Imhotep, a great doctor, engineer, and writer. Before the pyramid shape, the tombs were in mastabas.
6. King Akinaton and his wife Nefertiti of Nubia made the first Nice Cruise as a honeymoon. They had 3 sons, one being Tutankamon himself.
7. You will see a lot of cars and bikes with lights like they are in a constant Christmas.
8. The oval shape of the cartouches in the drawings is reserved for the pharaohs.
9. The Squat toilet is sometimes called the Turkish toilet, but the Egyptians invented it.
10. From 1882 until 1954 Egypt was under British occupation, becoming a republic after that.
11. Egypt had 6 queens (and to think the controversial Netflix Cleopatra series could have been about any of them).
12. The obelisk shape comes from the legend that a god rose from the water and made people and animals, and the tip of the obelisk received light and shared it on its four sides. There are only 9 obelisks left in Egypt. Rome has more.
13. Look at Ramses’s statue in Karnak. When you see the statue with a foot in front of the other it means the King is alive. When you see him represented with the hands on his chest, the King was dead.
14. All colors on the drawings are mixed with animal bone clay to last for a long time.
Take a historic vacation and go all-inclusive in Egypt! Hope this review helps, let us know!
The GALs, Catalina&Florin
”We’re a couple in love with travel and research. We hope to give you some good tips from experience so that you can have the best of times.”
Decide on a trip to Egypt with these essentials:
- A special dress, a shawl for the beach, or a beautiful fan from here.
- A special dry body oil made for glamourous feelings, by the French from Nuxe.
- Must have feet protection for the rocky shores from here.
- A book with the same vibe and atmosphere, like Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.
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