Cairo and a Journey Down the Nile by Diana Saint James, February 2023
I'd dreamed all my life of seeing Egypt’s incredible monuments to pharaohs and gods of Egyptian history. I was so eager to see the Pyramids of Giza and Abu Simbel and I love river cruising. This February, during winter break, I finally made this happen on an Avalon Waterways cruise-tour on the Nile with my friend Christine. It was an adventure!
We flew to Cairo via Emirates Airlines, spent three nights in Cairo with our group, flew to Luxor to board our river boat, sailed for four nights from Luxor to Aswan, flew to Abu Simbel, then back to Cairo. Note: I was surprised by how physical this trip proved to be - on and off a camel, walking on uneven surfaces, climbing many steps, small hills, on and off buses and small boats, and crossing somewhat narrow gangways. There was no elevator on the ship. This is not a journey for someone with mobility or health issues. Do it while you are young at heart and fit!
Cairo Hotel: We began by meeting up with our Avalon group of 26 people at the Marriott Mena House in Giza, right next to the Pyramids. The hotel offers deluxe pyramid-view or garden view rooms, two lounges, a large heated swimming pool and pool bar, spa/fitness center, and several fine dining options including Alfredo's (Italian), Mogul (Indian), 139 Pavilion (Continental cuisine and a substantial breakfast buffet) and 24/7 room service. 139 also features outdoor dining with pyramid views.
Exploring Cairo: Ahmed, our professional guide and knowledgable Egyptologist was outstanding and would be with our group the entire trip. Of course we explored the pyramids, inside and out, and by camel.
We visited the Cairo Museum (including the priceless face mask of King Tutankhamun), Muhammad Ali Mosque (built in the 18th century with limestone from the pyramids), and Tahrir Square (site of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolution).
Nile River Cruise: We flew to Luxor and boarded our riverboat, the M.S. Farrah. The Avalon crew was fantastic and the variety of food was superb. On our two free afternoons, I was able to soak in the heated pool and watch Egypt go by as we floated down the Nile.
Temples: As we cruised, we visited Karnak (by day and at a night sound & light show), Luxor, Esna, Edfu, the Valley of the Kings (18-year old King Tut's body is in his tomb), Deir el-Bahari (Hatshepsut's Mortuary), the island temple of Philae, and Kom Ombo (with its crocodile mummies!).
Artisans & Experiences: For variety, we alsovisited Aswan High Dam, papyrus makers, alabaster sculptors, rug makers, spice merchants, exotic oil distillers and even visited a Nubian village where we had tea and got henna tattoos. The jewelry store onboard the ship also created many personal cartouche necklaces for our group members.
Abu Simbel: The grand finale of the trip was an optional morning flight excursion ($400) we could do to see the magnificent Abu Simbel, which of course we did. I highly recommend everyone do it. The temple complex was built by Ramses II to honor himself and to honor his wife Nefetari (his favorite wife out of his 34 wives). The 3,500 year old carvings inside were outstanding.
Back in Cairo: We flew back to Cairo and stayed at the Hilton Heliopolis. It was located just 10 minutes from Cairo International Airport, which made an easy departure spot for our flights home. While back in Cairo, we visited Khan El Khalili bazaar, the Museum of Egyptian Civilization (many mummies here!) and sailed on a felucca boat one last time on the Nile. The Hilton is a deluxe high rise hotel featured 6 restaurants, an atrium lounge, 24/7 room service, spa, heated swimming pool, and beautifully appointed rooms. We all had different flight times home (a Lufthansa 2:00am flight for us - ugh) , but Avalon Waterways staff accompanied each of us to the airport and made sure we departed safely. This trip was everything I dreamed and I highly recommend it as a journey of a lifetime! Contact your favorite travel advisor at Dimensions in Travel to book it for you.