The unforgettable Nile river cruise
'So many things seen in such a little time. I want to go back again'
As a schoolkid, I was fascinated by the Nile. I had come to know that it is the longest river in the world (7000kms), flowing through 11 countries from south to north. I was also interested in knowing about the Nile valley civilization. So when an opportunity came my way to visit Cairo, I made it a point to go on a cruise on the Nile.
After seeing the Pyramids of Giza, the mosque and the bazaar in Cairo, and the Cairo Museum, we went to Cairo Railway Station to catch the overnight train to Aswan, the starting point of our cruise. We boarded the train at 10 pm and reached Aswan the next morning.
Our tour guide met us at the station and took us straight to the docks, where our cruise ship was docked. After checking into our comfortable room, we had breakfast with our fellow passengers. Later, we were taken in buses to see the Aswan High dam.
Temple of Isis
Built in 1970, replacing an older dam, this multipurpose dam is pivotal to Egyptian economy. After seeing the huge Lake Nasser, formed as a result of the dam, we went by boat to the temple of Isis. Located on the Philae Island, this temple is an architectural marvel. Built in 300 BC, the temples in the island have quite a number of architectural beauties.
Author infront of Abu Simbel Great Temple
From Philae, we sailed to Abu Simbel. Situated on the bank of Lake Nasser, Abu Simbel is known for its twin temples carved out of rock in the 13th century BC. The temples were relocated due to flooding by the backwaters of the Aswan Dam. There are two temples - the Great Temple and the Small Temple, both built by emperor Ramses II. The Great Temple is renowned as the most beautiful temple in Egypt. Cut 200 feet into a solid rock, the temple has long halls having two rows of statues of Ramses. The four massive statues in a seated position at the entrance are spectacular.
After Abu Simbel, we boarded the ship which sailed through the night. Morning revealed to me fertile lands all around and people starting their daily activities. Small fishing boats would come near our ship and wave to us. Soon our ship arrived at Kom Ombo. We were taken to the Kom Ombo temple built in 180 BC. It is a huge temple complex, similar to Khajuraho in India, having many temples dedicated to crocodile god, falcon god and others. And the carvings depicting surgical instruments and dentistry took us by complete surprise. There are also mummified crocodiles in this temple.
Surgical instrument Kom Ombo
Carving- depicting child birth
Later, we sailed to Edfu to see the Edfu temple dating back to the Ptolemaic period. Dedicated to the god Horus, it is one of the most beautiful Egyptian temples and the second largest temple after Karnak. Built in 237 BC, this temple is known for its inscriptions. It had lot of religious significance to the Egyptians.
As we sailed to Luxor, we halted briefly at Esna, as the ship had to pass through a narrow gate called Esna lock. Because of a dam, a level difference exists in the river, and the ship is made to safely manoeuvre the river. All the guests in the ship came out to see the ship being lowered mechanically and put into the other side of the dam through the gate. This was very exciting indeed.
At night, we had a grand dinner as we were served Indian food! There was a lot of merry-making on the deck where people partied and danced.
Valley of the Kings
The next morning we reached Luxor, known for monuments such as the Valley of the Kings. For a period of nearly 500 years, from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the kings of Egypt. The highlights of this place include the temple of queen Hatshepsut and the Karnak temple complex. We were taken to all these spots by buses and returned to our ship. The cruise was very comfortable and we made many friends from all over the world.
Travelling back on the night train to Cairo, my mind was flooded with images of Egyptian gods, kings and queens, and the great Nile Valley Civilisation of 2500 years ago. So many things seen in such a little time. I want to go back again.
(Note: The entire tour comes in a package and suits all pockets. Cairo is well connected with Mumbai).
Dr.Guruprasad is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.