Journey To the Niles | How Real Travel Experience Dwarf Our Imagination

posted in: Postcard, Egypt | 0

When I told my 8-year-old son I was going on a trip to Egypt and the Nile, he replied, “That is my life dream!” At first all I could think was, “You’re 8! How do you already have a life dream!?” But once I started to think about it, it was probably my dream around the age of 8, too. In and out of the classroom, the stories of Egypt are told from us from a young age. Maybe we built a pyramid out of sugar cubes or made a miniature tomb as part of a class project – either way, ancient Egyptian history was prevalent throughout our education. And to finally see it all in person? Absolutely surreal.

Egypt sits in the northern part of Africa, with a population of around 100 million. The main feature is that the entire country is separated by the very fertile Nile River. In fact, it has made for the perfect conditions for civilizations to not only survive but thrive around the river for thousands of years. While most of Egypt is desert, the banks of the Nile River are a lush and vibrant green. And what’s also interesting about the Nile River is that it flows backward, from south to north. It’s all due to the terrain, and it can be a bit confusing when you consider Upper Egypt is the south and Lower Egypt is the north.

View from our balcony

Our 14-day Egypt trip began in Cairo in Lower Egypt in the far north of the country. As the capital, the city is bustling with people, aromas, and noises. It has a truly infectious energy about it and it was incredible to just dive straight into it. Talk about sensory overload.

However, just a short drive away from Cairo is Giza. Home to some of the most famous ancient sites in Egypt, we had the pleasure of staying in an unbelievably picturesque hotel about as close to the pyramids as you can get. When I walked out onto my balcony and had a clear view of the pyramids standing hazily on the skyline, I was in shock. It is one of the wow-factor moments that leave you at a loss for words. That feeling — that is what I love about travel. And this trip had a lot of those moments.

After time in Cairo and Giza, we moved on to Luxor where a world of wonder began. Luxor lies on the southern banks of the Nile, surrounded by fertile land, and is home to the most concentrated number of Pharaohs’ tombs – known as the Valley of the Kings. More than 60 were buried here, and after thousands of years, they still haven’t uncovered all of them.

Walking into an ancient tomb is both eerie and dreamlike. They are dark and musty, yet colorful and intricate all at once. Hieroglyphics paint the walls, the ceilings, the pillars – everything. Sure, in school we learn that Egypt had that level of sophistication, but seeing is believing. It’s mind-blowing in person. I felt like I was having my own Indiana Jones experience.

It was perfect that we started our trip in Cairo because we had the opportunity to tour the Cairo Museum that houses massive amounts of ancient artifacts and the Pharaohs’ belongings. Historically, they were buried with all of their belongings, but most items were moved to museums to help keep them safe and intact. So, seeing the unique displays and getting a history refresher before seeing the monuments in person really helped sort things out in my mind.

felucca sailboats on the nile
Nubian sailors pilot Felucca boats on the Nile

From Luxor, we hopped on a luxury cruise down the Nile River. This is a major highlight of the trip because it packs in so much – beautiful towns, greenery, monuments, and the desert. With Supera Tours, memorable experiences are at the forefront. That’s why this cruise is unlike any other. We book only suites that boast the luxuriousness of traversing the Nile River. That is then combined with quality meals, a sun deck area, a sparkling swimming pool, cooking class, themed parties, live performances, and the fresh air of Egypt all around. It’s 5 nights of just living our best lives, between days of adventure and sightseeing around the country. The cruise seriously helps make this trip the best of all worlds: cultural experiences with comfortable, laid-back, and adventurous experiences all in one trip.

When it comes to culture and adventure in Egypt, I’m giving the prize to the village of Abu Simbel. It’s about as far south as you can go, just near the border of Sudan. To get there, we traverse the Sahara Desert, passing picturesque dunes of sands that even create the occasional mirage. Spectacular.

Abu Simbel is where you’ll find two of the most picture-perfect temples in Egypt – The Great Temple dedicated to King Ramses II, and the Small Temple dedicated to his wife Queen Nefertari. The temples create those views that end up on the posters and the cover of travel magazines. The thing is, though, is that it gets pretty busy during the peak hours because most people come to Abu Simbel for a day trip. Everyone wakes up around the same time, arrives at the temples at the same time, and goes for lunch – you guessed it – at the same time.

We did things a little differently to counter all that unwanted chaos. We took our time in the morning because no one wants to wake up at 4 a.m. and spend the entire day in a jet-lagged state. So, we took that scenic Sahara Desert drive and arrived at Abu Simbel in the late afternoon, and checked into a cozy hotel that offered a beautiful location just next to the temples.

Those who come on a day trip miss out on two very special experiences. The first one happens in the evening. Incredible artists created this legendary spectacle called the Abu Simbel Sound and Light Show. They use projection technology to tell the story of this special place against the backdrop of both temples, including narration, music, and hieroglyphics. It is unreal and left me with a tingly sense of fascination.

The second thing people miss out on when they don’t spend the night in Abu Simbel is the sunrise behind the temples. Not only does it make you want to take out an easel and paintbrush to recreate the impeccable scene but it leaves you relaxed and in awe. There is hardly anyone at the temples during this time and you get this feeling that you have the place to yourself. Needless to say, getting to spend the night in Abu Simbel was definitely one for the books.

Visiting Egypt offers a sense of wonderment in every corner. We can read books, watch movies, and even play video games that depict the beauty of Egypt, but nothing replaces the real-world experiences and those “loss for words” feelings that travel gives us.

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Born to Taiwanese parents, Roy grew up in the US and has been traveling since childhood. Raised as a regular middle-class kid, he quickly developed a taste for things that don't suck, including travel experiences. He is driven by his passion for sharing amazing tours with everyone. As a busy father to two exceptionally fun monkeys, he values time the most, and knows the difference between good and bad travel experiences.