TRAVEL: Life on the Nile; EGYPTIAN CRUISE IS JUST SPECTACULAR

The Mirror (London, England), March 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

TRAVEL: Life on the Nile; EGYPTIAN CRUISE IS JUST SPECTACULAR


Byline: By JON BIRD

IT'S a bit cheeky to knock the Queen of Crime but Agatha Christie missed a trick in Death On The Nile.

She was so busy penning a mystery for Poirot that she forgot to include much about ancient Egypt.

Death On The Nile could have as easily been Slaughter On The Seine or Murder On The Manchester Ship Canal.

Even the Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me made the awesome Temples Of Karnak in Luxor, look ordinary.

True, Karnak's statistics are startling - it covers 62 acres, was built over a 2,300-year period and has 140ft gates - but that's not the whole picture.

The giant statues, rows of sphinxes, towering obelisks and colossal columns defy description. It is simply overwhelming - a familiar emotion during Discover Egypt's Nile cruise.

Many of the pharaohs who built Karnak were buried with great riches in The Valley Of The Kings, near the Nile's west bank, believing that tombs instead of pyramids would thwart grave robbers.

Mostly they were wrong, but one pharaoh did evade the thieves and become the valley's most famous resident when his final resting place was unearthed in 1922.

Tutankhamun's treasures dazzled the world but his tomb is disappointing and not worth the extra pounds 8 entrance fee. Visitors to the valley can choose any three of the other 62 tombs to explore and some are absolutely breathtaking.

The valley will make your spirits soar. The rest of your body can join them with a hot-air balloon ride over the west bank. It's not cheap at pounds 70, but it is unforgettable.

Whisked hundreds of feet in the air, you look down on farmers on donkey-drawn carts and fields surrounding the ancient mortuary temple of Ramses II and the Colossi of Memnon, two 60ft, 3,500-year-old sandstone statues.

Nearby is the Valley Of The Queens and the terraced-temple of Hatshepsut, the female pharoah who ruled for 18 years.

It is one the finest monuments of ancient Egypt. However, 10 years ago 58 tourists were killed there. This event and subsequent Red Sea resort bombings mean armed police now guard tourist spots and escort holidaymakers' coaches.

The other troubling aspect to Egypt is the beggars. Street traders flock around trying to flog you postcards, scarves, little figures of pharaohs, galabias (full-length robes) and assorted tourist tat.

Mercifully, there is a haven - the 58-cabin Viking Premier, our friendly floating hotel.

Reclining on the open-top deck in 27C of November sun, drinking a cold Sakara beer and watching the feluccas slide by on the glittering green Nile takes some beating.

Life on board for the trip from Luxor to Aswan and back was easy-paced with plenty of time to relax between the guided tours. Nearly all the passengers, Britons from 18 to 70, took part in the themed evenings such as the galabia party and treasure hunt.

The tours are fascinating because the sights are spectacular and the guides good. They brought the past to life so convincingly that it felt as real as the present. …

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