Jason Dundas discovered that Egypt is not the destination for a quiet, relaxing holiday. It is the place for noise, crowds and lessons in the nation's amazing history. For something a little more sedate, you might like to follow in his footsteps and take a cruise from Aswan to Abu Simbel.
Egypt's southernmost city, Aswan is where the Nile flows into Lake Nasser, a massive man-made lake lying in the Lower Nubia region.
Aswan is a laid-back city and is pleasant for strolling along the river or sailing in a felucca, a sailing vessel popular in the area. It is one of the world's driest inhabited places. Residents in Nubian settlements don't even bother putting roofs on their houses.
Jason boarded MS Eugenie, a 74m five-star cruise ship. It has just 52 cabins, two sun decks, pool, Turkish bath, sauna, library, restaurant, lounges and bars and it's all air-conditioned. It was built in 1993 in the style of a late 19th-century Nile steamer and was the first boat to cruise Lake Nasser.
The launch of Eugenie heralded a new era of tourism for those keen to take in Egypt's natural beauty and archaeological treasures.
The lake is 565km long and just eight boats are permitted to sail on it which means you don't have to share the sights with as many tourists.
Wadi el Seboua Temple
One of the places you will visit, Wadi el Seboua Temple is as ancient as it comes. It was dedicated by Ramses II to the gods Amon Ra and Ra Harmakis. Its name means "Valley of Lions" referring to the avenue of 10 sphinxes that stood in front of the temple.
Original reliefs showing Ramses making offerings to the gods, some with traces of colour, are well-preserved. Temple remains are spread over a kilometre of sand dunes, and there are camels standing by to take you to see them.
An archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples around 290km south-west of Aswan, Abu Simbel is part of a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.
Abu Simbel was carved from solid rock at the bottom of a cliff, and as Eugenie approaches it is positively spectacular. They came during the 13th century BC rule of Pharaoh Ramesses II as a lasting monument to himself and his queen, Nefertari.
The temples gradually became covered by sand. By the sixth century BC, sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. It was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. In 1817 Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni succeeded in his attempt to enter the complex, removing everything valuable and portable for "safe-keeping".
Interiors have scenes depicting prisoners from the battle with Syria, and hieroglyphics cover the walls. It was designed to that on just two days a year the sun shines through one entrance and hits the statue of Ramesses. The angle remains the same after the monumental move.
There's a very good sound and light show for those at Abu Simbel in the evening. It includes projections onto the two temples showing how they once would have looked. The program is presented in a number of languages with the provision of ear pieces.
From Aswan to Abu Simbel in Egypt.
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has three-night Lake Nasser cruises on the Eugenie
out of Aswan starting at $849 per person twin share. All meals and shore excursions are included. They also have nine-day Nile Explorer tours from Cairo including accommodation, transfers, four-night Nile cruise, sightseeing, sleeper train and felucca trip from $1407 per person twin share.
Prices correct at April 16, 2009.
For further information
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Visas: Visas are required to enter Egypt and passports must have at least six months' validity. Visas can be obtained from Egyptian embassies worldwide.
Electricity: 220V/50Hz using European plugs with two circular metal pins.
Time zone: GMT +2.
Currency: Egyptian pound.
International dialling code: +20.
It is recommended travellers to Egypt see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.