Sailing on the Nile like in the time of the Pharaohs, treading the ground of temples thousands of years old, and observing the strength of this river with its impressive annual flood, does that interest you? I have just returned from a dream cruise of 5 nights 6 days from Aswan to Luxor, and believe me, it’s the journey of a lifetime.
The Steam Ship Sudan, the only period steamboat still operating on the Nile, is the ideal way to discover ancient and modern Egypt in the greatest luxury.
Sailing on the Nile is fine, but doing it on a 1921 steamer that welcomed Agatha Christie is even better! It is said that the famous writer had the inspiration for her novel Death on the Nile after her stay on the Steam Ship Sudan.
A cruise on this small 23 cabin ship, including 5 suites, gives the impression of being back in the era of the high European society of the 1930s, who came to discover the riches of Egypt, already popular with tourists.
The period decor, the traditional costumes worn by the crew and the exceptional service help the magic work. I spent hours relaxing on deck while sailing, watching the banks of the Nile, bubbling with activity, drinking a good mint tea or hibiscus flower juice.
In the evening, after a drink in the period lounge, I had a 4-course meal with Middle Eastern flavours in the 1930s dining room.
After a hard day of relaxation, I found the freshness of my large cabin for a refreshing night. After only one day, I felt like I was at the end of the world and had been gone for a week already!
Every day, the Steam Ship makes a stopover in a city near the Nile: Kom Ombo, Edfu, Esna, Luxor and Qena. Due to the relatively high temperatures in Egypt, temple visits are made early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and rarely last longer than 3 hours.
He is a French-speaking guide who transported me to ancient Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs. The discoveries are many and although the temples have similarities, they also have beautiful differences that only a guide could show me.
From the Philae Temple in Aswan to the most famous temples of Luxor, these visits taught me a lot about these grandiose buildings that sometimes took years to build with blocks from quarries miles away.
The pharaohs did not hesitate to worship their favourite gods and goddesses, thus guaranteeing an easier passage into the other life.
In addition to the temples, it was the tombs that impressed me a lot. Of course, we know the great pyramids of Egypt, but the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings are full of these enormous underground palaces dug to offer eternal rest to the royalty.
Today, these tombs are empty of all their treasures, whether at the Egyptian Museum or in other museums around the world, but their beauty lies in the coloured hieroglyphics that is still intact. The deciphered stories tell the passage from life to the afterlife and present the divinities worshipped by the deceased.
The most magnificent tomb of all is that of Queen Nefertari, the favourite wife of Pharaoh Ramses II, in the Valley of the Queens. Closed to the public for several years, it is once again accessible, but for 250 people a day and at a high cost of $95 for a 10-minute visit only!
Do you also want to experience such a dream trip to Egypt? From Montreal, we head to Cairo with your favourite airline, and then we take an internal flight to Aswan for about 1h30.
From there, you will be taken care of from the beginning to the end of your cruise; visits, meals and moments of relaxation included!
The high tourist season in Egypt is from December to March, which means that there will be 300 boats sailing the famous river. To enjoy the tranquillity, both at the temples and on board, consider visiting the country in the low season, from April to November.
That said, the disadvantage of going there during this time of year is the extreme heat, which sometimes reaches 50°C in the shade. However, since visits are concentrated at the “cooler” times of the day, if you tolerate the heat well, it is not so bad to avoid high traffic.
That was the first thing that came to mind before I made this trip: security in the country. We hear a lot of things in the media and I was very surprised to see that there is no more danger in Egypt than in Paris these days.
Obviously, there is something reassuring about being totally taken care of on the Steam Ship Sudan as soon as you arrive in Aswan. At the entrance to all tourist attractions, vehicles are checked and bags are X-rayed. The country is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of tourists and restore its reputation.
Although you are on board the boat most of the time, it is recommended to follow the customs and habits of the country, which invite you to cover yourself completely. A hat, light pants and a blouse will help you protect yourself from the sun and respect the local dress code.
On the Steam Ship Sudan, on the other hand, you can dress as you wish, although a “cleaner” outfit is recommended for parties. Depending on the time of year, the evenings could be cooling, which was not my case in the middle of July.
Egypt is a dream destination and to enjoy this “journey of a lifetime”, a cruise to discover the mysteries of the Nile and its temples and tombs is the perfect way to return with your head full of memories.
One thing is certain, I will never forget this trip and I will return tomorrow morning to the upper deck of the Steam Ship Sudan to enjoy the warm breath of the Nile.