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Cruising the Nile
Cruising the Nile


Thursday, June 2, 2005
Sorrel is not only on the longest river in the world, but undoubtedly the most spectacular river of all time.

Aswan, the southernmost city in Egypt, has been important for centuries. A garrison town and frontier city, gateway to Africa, the now-inundated land of Nubia was a prosperous marketplace at the crossroads of the ancient elephant and camel caravans which carried spices, gold, ivory and other treasures. More recently (well, since the early 19th century), it became a popular winter resort. Its close proximity to Sudan gives it an ambience more African than Egyptian.

Just to confuse matters, Egypt's south is known as Upper Egypt, while the north of the country around the Nile Delta is known as Lower Egypt.

The modern town on the east bank of the Nile, the world's longest river, on whose banks 90 percent of the 68-million Egyptians live, is considered to be one of Egypt's most beautiful. Its souks, though small, rival those of Cairo. It is a place to relax after the rigours of exploring ancient Egypt, to soak up a totally different Egypt and maybe take a felucca cruise on the Nile, one of the great travel experiences.

Aswan is the heart of the Nubian people. The tall, dark-skinned people have a proud and rich heritage and existed long before pharaohs. In 580AD, Christianity became their official religion. In 632AD, Arab conquerors took Islam to Egypt and for two years Muslim Arabs invaded Nubia.

Once Dongola was conquered, the Arabs made a treaty with the Nubian king — if trade along the Nile routes were re-established, Nubia was allowed to remain Christian. Other terms were exchanging 400 Nubian slaves each year for horses, cloth and other goods.

Nubia gave way to Islam in the 16th century and the last Christian church was closed. That freed Nubians from the bonds of slavery.

They were forced to move from their homeland on the African border during the 1970s damming of the Nile.

Feluccas, simple sailboats which have been used for transport on the Nile for centuries, are wooden with canvas sails. You can take a one-hour sail or go for a whole day to visit nearby islands. They generally carry eight people. It's a good idea to bargain with the owner before boarding.

The Corniche is one of Egypt's most attractive boulevards. There you can visit pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic, Islamic and modern monuments, a good museum, magnificent botanical gardens, the vast High Dam and Lake Nasser.

Elephantine Island is the largest in the area and one of Egypt's most ancient sites, with artefacts, many in ruin, dating to predynastic periods. The German Archaeological Institute has been excavating there for many years and some of their finds, including a mummified ram of Khnum, are located in the museum.

There are references to a Temple of Khnum as early as the third dynasty and it is thought it was the home of the important Egyptian god. There are also ruins of a Temple of Satet, Khnum's female counterpart.

Elephantine Island's Nubian villages are very pleasant places to visit. The people are friendly and their houses colourful, often carved with a crocodile at the bottom, a fish in the middle and a man on top. A woman's hand made of brass is used as a door knocker. Others have a sacred black cube of Mecca with a painting depicting the means of the owner's pilgrimage to Mecca.

Oval-shaped Kitchener's Island was a gift in the 1890s to Lord Horatio Kitchener in gratitude for his part in the Sudanese campaigns during his time as British consul in Egypt. A keen gardener, Lord Kitchener turned his island home into a botanical garden, importing exotic plants which flourished in the climate. Along with native trees such as the sycamore fig and date palm, many imported trees were cultivated for use in the timber industry. Experimental oil and fruit crops were also propagated by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Today it's a peaceful paradise, full of shady trees, beautiful flowers and many unusual plants among paved walkways. It's a haven for rare, exotic birds.

One of Egypt's most famous, historic and luxurious hotels is the Old Cataract. Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, largely to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists he was leading down the Nile in the 19th century, its design is Moorish. World leaders and celebrities have enjoyed staying here. It featured in the film Death On The Nile, quite appropriately so, as Agatha Christie spent much time there writing her novels.

The hotel has 131 rooms, including eight suites, magnificent views of the Nile, Elephantine Island and the mausoleum of Aga Khan, particularly beautiful from its famous terrace. It has a pool, tennis courts, health club and a choice of restaurants and bars.


Aswan, southern Egypt


MISR Travel/Allsun Holidays has 10 night Discover The Jewels of the Nile packages from Cairo including twin share accommodation, tours and transfers for $1490 per person.

Flight Centre has return economy airfares to Cairo. On sale until March 31, 2005 and for travel between August 26-November 29, 2005 and February 01-March 31, 2006, prices, including tax, start at:
  • Brisbane $1684
  • Sydney $1729
  • Melbourne $1899
  • Adelaide $1955
  • Perth $2379
    To book call Flight Centre on 131 600

    Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

    More information

    MISR Travel/Allsun Holidays
    Level 3, 37-49 Pitt Street, Sydney 2000
    Ph: (02) 9241 3211 Fax: (02) 9241 3313
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