A thousand miles up the Nile
~In the footsteps of Amelia Edwards.
in 1888, Amelia Edwards and her friends cruised from Cairo south to Abu Simbel and beyond by Dahabeeya. Her nineteenth century tale was published and is a charming and insightful view into life on the Nile. As a keen amateur Egyptologist, she explored many temples and tombs on her journey, and described them with a sense of excitement and exploration that inspires even modern readers.
The intimate nature of the Dahabeeyas with only a few guests and crew, enables an authentic interaction with local Egyptians, and the flexibility to explore sites when the large tourist cruise boats are not there. Even in Amelia’s time, she appreciated the ability to travel at will, rather than following the “Cooks tourists”. The journey is relaxed and guests get to feel the real experience of being on the Nile, rather than being on a “floating hotel”.
The Dahabeeyas still travel on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. This tour allows you to follow in Amelia Edwards’ steps. From your first night in Cairo at the Meena House Hotel, overlooking the Great Pyramids of Giza, to your trip on the Dahbeeya’s you will experience the magical atmosphere of Egypt as seen through the eyes of a 19th century explorer.
Your guide will accompany you throughout the trip to ensure your utmost comfort and enjoyment. As a qualified Egyptologist and Restorer, he will give you an overview of how the sites have changed since Amelia’s visit, some of the techniques that have been used during their restoration and help you to imagine them as they were when first discovered.
The dahabeeyah is a large comfortable sailing boat of a simple but elegant form with two large lateen sails. The word dahabeeyah is Arabic for “the golden one”. They are fully air-conditioned” and contain separate cabins with shared bathroom facilities.
Due to the size of the boats, no more than ten or fifteen people can travel together, enabling you to share this experience with a small group of people rather than a large crowd. The time frames of the visits can be flexible so that every beautiful temple can be visited at the right time of the day. A walk through a small village can take place at the golden end of an afternoon. In addition, the dahabeeyahs are relatively small and manouverable and therefore you can sail to less accessible monuments, islands in the river and villages along the banks, where the huge cruise ships never come or moor.
Your Dahbeeyah Captain (or Rais) in his galabaya with his skilled and experienced crew, knows every inch of the river, and will ensure your every need is catered to.
Day 1: Arrive in Egypt
Arrive in Egypt and transfer to your hotel, in the heart of Giza, just opposite the imposing Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Accommodation: Mena House Hotel (4 nights)
Day 2: Cairo Orientation
Amelia Edwards felt that the first thing a traveller should do on arrival in Egypt is to visit the Bazaars to get the feel of the people, the culture and the general feeling of being in Egypt. There is no better place to do this than to visit the famous Khan El Khalily markets, with a visit to El Fishawy, the oldest coffee shop, where Nagiub Mafouz and other famous Egyptian novellists found subjects for their many works.
Visit the Sultan Hassan Mosque which Edwards described as: “the pinnacle of Arab architecture” and the Citadel of Saladin where she describes the overthrow of the Mamlooks by Mohamed Ali Pasha.
Day 3: Great Pyramids of Egypt
Although these are not the oldest pyramids in Egypt, they are the first to be seen by Amelia. Take the opportunity to climb inside the Great pyramid of Cheops and experience the quiet space where this great Pharoah hoped to spend eternity. Visit the Solar Boat Museum, and then the inscrutable Sphinx.
Day 4: Saqqara and Memphis
Amelia Edwards described Memphis as unimpressive but vital to visit, to show the starting point of our Pharoahonic journey. This is the oldest capital of the two kingdoms. Then visit Saqqara, the oldest building on the earth, and wonder at 7,000 years of human industry as it stands before you. Explore the site which was the testing ground of ancient kings in Egypt, as well as the museum of Imhotep, the amazing architect of Djoser’s Pyramid, who was later deified by the Ancient Greeks when they came to Egypt.
Day 4: Fly to Thebes (Luxor)
As the Dahabeeya is not available to us, we will fly to Luxor,the modern name of Thebes. Here we will stay at the Winter Palace, an imposing building on the Nile Corniche, which was commenced in 1886, two years before Amelia Edward’s arrival. Prince Charles, Agatha Christie and Howard Carter all stayed here. To fully experience the luxury and old world atmosphere of this place, we will enjoy high tea in the Victorian room of the hotel. This afternoon is free to explore, perhaps enjoy a walk along the Corniche, or ride a hantoor through the city. Tonight there is the option of attending the Sound and Light Show at Karnak temple.
Accommodation: Winter Palace Hotel (1 night)
Day 5: East Bank of Thebes
Today visit the East bank of Luxor, including Luxor Temple and the great temple of Karnak. Amelia Edwards saw this temple when it was still inhabited by upwards of 30 local families complete with their stalls, their animals and more. Of this village that was contained within the temple walls, only the Mosque of Abu El Hagag remains. This small mosque is perched upon the top left hand side of the entry to the temple, and contains the original pylons with Pharoahonic inscriptions on them as part of its structure.
The Avenue of Sphinxes between the two temples has only recently been further excavated, although some of the sphinxes were evident in Amelia’s visit, and she knew that there must be more below, but as with Luxor Temple, they were generally covered by houses, churches and mosques from many centuries of civilization.
This afternoon board the Dahabeeyah and settle in to your cabin for your relaxing Cruise up the Nile.
Day 6: Setting Sail – for Abydos
The Dahabeeyahs are a romantic way of discovering the Nile. Having some sails, they can float up the Nile, but this is against the current, so the journey is slower and more relaxing. In Amelia’s time, when the wind dropped, the Egyptian crew were left to either tack across the river by pulling a series of ropes, or punt. This was arduous work, and the alternative today is to be pulled along by a motor boat. Egyptian sailors are good cooks, and the food they produce from the Dahabeeyahs is both delicious and fresh.
Day 7: Abydos
Although Amelia Edwards left this most important temple until her return trip to Thebes, you will see it first as it provides an excellent overview of the pantheon of the main Egyptian gods, Osiris, Seth, and Horus and their sister/wives: Isis, Nepthis and Hathor. One of the most significant aspects of this temple is the magnificent colour on the walls, and the strong carvings. From an historical point of view, it is important for its scene of King Sety I instructing his son Ramses II on the lineage of the kings of Egypt. After the visit, we will make our way back down the Nile towards Dendara.
Day 8: Dendara
Visit the beautiful temple of Dendara, dedicated to the goddess Hathor and one of the only temples in Egypt to have a full carving of Queen Cleopatra VII, the consort of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony on its walls. The zodiac roof, delights with its carvings of the astrological signs as do the massive pylons in the hypostyle hall, with their capitals of Hathor. Hathor was the goddess of love and beauty, motherhood, red wine, music, makeup and was later adopted by the greeks as Aphrodite, and the Romans as Venus. Experience the excitment of Amelia Edward’s party as they explored the ancient sites of Egypt, as you descend into an underground crypt.
Day 9: West Bank of Luxor: the Valley of the Kings, Ramesseum, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Today explore the west bank of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, including the tomb that could not be visited by Amelia, the tomb of King Tutankhamun, the only royal tomb in the valley of the kings to be found intact. From here, you will visit the Ramesseum, made famous in the poem by the English poet Shelly called Ozimandius and referred to in Amelia’s book. Finally we visit the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the funerary temple built for her by her lover, with its detailed accounts of her amazing expeditions to Punt Land (somalia).
Day 10: Sail to Esna
These days the large tourist cruise boats do not stop at most of the smaller towns along the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. The stop on most cruise boats to Esna, is not any longer than it takes to pass through the lock. Local traders visit the large cruisers in small row boats, and trade with the tourists by throwing their wares in plastic bags onto the decks of the cruise ships. The sugar factories in the distance are all that modern travellers tend to see of this town, however a visit to the market will show the temple of Knum, or the Soul of the world. The town itself was once an important stopping point for the caravans trading between Cairo and Sudan and across from the Red Sea into the Western Desert. Several examples of 19th century architecture still survive, helping us to see how Amelia may have seen this place.
Day 11: El Kab and Hierakanopolis (Kom Al-Ahmar)
Sail to El Kab, and Hierakanopolis, dedicated to the goddess Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of protection that is seen in many sites. El Kab was a capital of ancient Egypt, and there we will also see the tomb of the fighter and knight Ahmos, son of Abana.
Day 12: Edfu and the Temple of Horus
The Temple of Horus at Edfu is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. The structure is in good shape, largely as a result of the work of August Marriette, who did much of the restoration work here. The large statues of Horus are in excellent condition. Normally when the cruise boats arrive, the site becomes very crowded, however, our small group can choose the quietest time to arrive. Access to the temple is via Hantoor, hired from the river bank.
Day 13: Gebel Silsilis
Most visitors to Egypt are familiar with the unfinished obelisk in Aswan, but here we find the sandstone quarries of Silsilis. This is where the Ancient Egyptians found much of the sandstone that was used in their temples.
Day 14: Kom Ombo
Kom Ombo is unique in Egypt, being dedicated to two gods, Sobek, the crocodile god and Horus, the falcon headed god. The temple design reflects this with two doorways and each section replicated. On one wall there is a beautiful carving of several important gods of Ancient Egypt that is in excellent condition, particularly for its size. There is also a section at the back of the temple which shows many of the tools introduced by Imhotep, into Ancient Egyptian medicine that would be familiar to most doctors today.
Day 15: Aswan sites
Arriving at Aswan gives us the chance to cruise through the first and only remaining cataract of the Nile in Egypt. Since Amelia’s time, the High Dam has stopped the flow of the waters from Aswan through to Sudan, and as such we will have reached our destination. However, we will spend some days exploring the riches of Aswan, where the Nile is a beautiful sapphire blue against the yellow sand of the desert and bright cobalt blue of the sky.
On arrival visit the unfinished obelisk to find out how these massive stones were quarried and transported all around Egypt to furnish the temples, and then visit the High Dam of Egypt, constructed by President Nasser.
Day 16: Nubian Village and Philae Temple
We will visit the Nubian Village to meet the local people who have a unique and separate identity and culture from the rest of Egypt. Displaced from their traditional lands during the construction of the High Dam, they have settled in and around Aswan. We will visit one of their houses, and a school, as well as wandering through the village.
This afternoon visit the beautiful temple of Philae, the namesake of Amelia’s Dahabeeyah. Her description of this site is fascinating as it chronicles the changes of religious dogma in Egypt over many centuries. You may choose to wander through the temple at night if you stay back for the Sound and Light Show.
Day 17: Abu Simbel
Today travel by car to Abu Simbel. After a four hour drive through the changing desert landscape you will arrive at the site. These two temples were relocated to enable the construction of the High Dam. The large colussus outside the temple are impressive and the scenes inside depict the first peace treaties in the history of mankind. Beside the main temple is the temple of Hathor, which Ramses II dedicated to his most beloved wife Nefertari. Inside the temples the scenes show the couple worshipping the gods and goddesses. Most tourists spend only two hours in this historic place, however, after your visit you will transfer to your accommodation in the night to stay overnight in the village and experience the sound and light show.
Day 18: Abu Simbel to Cairo
Today board your plane for your flight back to Cairo. On arrival in Cairo you will visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to see the many treasures of the tombs and temples that you have seen in your travels around Egypt.
After a farewell dinner, you will say goodbye to Egypt and your newfound friends.