You'll Love a While Going Up the Nile; TEMPLES & HOT AIR BALLOONS - AMAZING EGYPT HAS THE LOT

Sunday Mirror (London, England), April 22, 2007 | Go to article overview

You'll Love a While Going Up the Nile; TEMPLES & HOT AIR BALLOONS - AMAZING EGYPT HAS THE LOT


Byline: By DAVID WALKER

MEN have always been intoxicated by the heady trappings of power and ego.

The proof? Pretend you're Doctor Who and take a trip back in time to Egypt. There you can view some of the world's most incredible temples and statues dating back over 3,500 years.

Invariably, the biggest and most imposing monuments will be in honour of Ramses II. He was the ruler who did everything on a grand scale - including fathering 110 children by eight wives.

Our trip to Egypt was built around a cruise down the Nile on the Viking Premiere. We flew into Luxor to meet the boat and then sailed south to Aswan. There were many memorable moments, but the highlight has to be the sight of Abu Simbel. The great sun temple of you know who, Ramses II.

Ramses was adamant the world should be impressed by his power and glory. To emphasise the point he had four 60ft statues (of himself of course!) hewn from the mountainside in southern Egypt.

The scale is staggering. You're left wondering how did they do it. Then you realise that in the 1960s the awesome temple had to be moved. Yes, man can move mountains.

The Egyptians needed another water supply apart from the Nile, so they built Lake Nasser. Abu Simbel would have been flooded - so was cut into 1,041 blocks, moved on to higher ground and a mountain constructed to match the original setting.

Don't think you're short-changed though. It's an epic place and the preserved, interior walls featuring scenes from battles are superb.

Getting to Abu Simbel isn't that easy though. The boat had docked at Aswan and we had a 3.30am start to join a convoy of coaches heading through the desert to reach Abu Simbel by 10am.

In fact, early starts are part of this kind of trip. The midday sun is scorching, so it's better to get your visits planned for early morning or late afternoon. Our guide Maja was very funny as well as a great source of information. She quickly spotted the class swot, who was nick name Clever Trevor by the rest of us.

Although we all tried to pretend we were keen Egyptologists we soon realised Maja could tell when her explanations about hieroglyphics and ancient history were failing to hit home. Clever Trevor was always ready to ask a question that only Maja could fathom. Even the groans of the masses could not dissuade him from his course.

But Maja knew there was a question we could all get right. When she pointed and asked, "And who do you think built this?" we could all shout: "Ramses II."

The fact there were so few experts in Egyptian history in our party fuelled our collective sense of wonder at our daily discoveries. I defy anybody not to be stunned when they walk into the temples at Luxor and Karnak. They leave you gob-smacked - well everyone bar Trevor.

Given your hectic schedule the boat does offers some sanctuary. You mustn't travel on the Viking Premiere in the belief you're sailing on the kind of modern luxury liner we see cruising the Atlantic or around the Med.

This is much more old-fashioned, Murder On The Nile territory - and yet there was something charming about the old boat and friendly staff. Before entering any public room guests were asked to rinse their hands with antiseptic lotion. Proof of cleanliness, true. Evidence, also, that bacterial infections are rife in this part of Africa.

This par ticular traveller escaped unscathed. Others were not so lucky - most seemed to be hit by a 24-hour dose of the galloping trots.

If you have bought a day ticket to the loo a flight in a hot-air balloon may not be recommended. …

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