The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Luxor. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumors of the Curse of the Pharaohs) and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
At the Temple of Karnak, you will marvel at the size of the columns. Hypostyle Hall, part of the Karnak complex boasts 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are over three stories (33 feet) tall, and the other 12 are over 6 stories tall, with a diameter of over ten feet…just massive. How did they build them with no modern equipment? The architraves on top of these columns are estimated to weigh 70 tons. These architraves may have been lifted to these heights using levers. This would be an extremely time-consuming process and also would require great balance to get to such great heights. A common alternative theory regarding how they were moved is that large ramps were constructed of sand, mud, brick or stone and that the stones were then towed up the ramps. The top of the ramps presumably would have employed either wooden tracks or cobblestones for towing the megaliths. Similar columns and buildings can be seen nearby at the Temple of Luxor.
Our river boat is the Movenpick Royal Lily and each spacious room includes a five by six foot picture window, giving us panoramic views of the Nile River and the ever-changing scenery along its banks.
We cruise to Edfu and disembark to tour the temple there, then we sail on to Kom Ombo Temple. In the evening, we dress up in our newly (and cheaply) purchased beaded and bejeweled Egyptian Gallabiyahs* for an onboard dance party. Luckily, my fellow travelers are not inhibited and we dance the night away to rock and roll and lively Egyptian music.
Our next stop is in Aswan, where we visit the Temple of Phalie, dedicated to the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris. The temple was moved to the Island of Agilika, after it’s original site was flooded by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. From here, we board a felucca* and sail to the Aswan Botanical Gardens. Schools in Egypt are on holiday, so the grounds are brimming with Egyptian families, picnicking and playing. From here we stroll through the market in the center of Aswan where spices are piled high in wagons, and families buy their vegetables, clothing, cooking utensils, mattresses, you name it. There is no shortage of souvenir shops interspersed in this open air market.
On our last day on the Royal Lily, we disembark and take a short flight to Abu Simbel. Hewn from a solid cliff in the 13th century BC, the temples at Abu Simbel are a stunning sight along the shimmering Lake Nasser. The Great Temple was built to honor Ramses II, while the smaller temple was built by Ramses II to honor his favorite wife, Nefertari. These two temples are considered to be the most sophisticated of all the temples in Egypt and were worth the flight to see them.
From Abu Simbel we fly to Cairo and spend our last night in Egypt at the spectacular Le Meridien Hotel, conveniently connected to the airport. Our farewell dinner is another delightful culinary experience. I say goodbye to this group of adventurous, like-minded women, and goodbye to the land of the Pharaohs.
*Gallabiyah – ankle length, lose fitting garment
*Felucca – a traditional wooden sailing boat used on the Nile River. Some have oars and sails, some just sails.
A practical word about packing and laundry….
We have all been guilty of overpacking. I cringe when I think about the amount of luggage I hauled around as a young traveler in my twenties. After many continents and countries I have learned to pack much more efficiently. Many of my journeys have included small planes, jungles, and the bush. This often means much smaller bags and weight limits. So even though I am usually gone for a month, I pack for one week, then find ways to do laundry. In Israel I waited until we got to a Kibbutz where I knew there would be a coin operated laundry. In Jordan and Egypt the hotel laundry service was so inexpensive that I used it in both countries more than once. A bag of laundry (2-3 pairs of pants, PJs, 5 shirts, socks, undies) cost from $4-7. In South Africa I paid $3.89 per week to have my laundry done. In the jungle north of Chiang Mai, Thailand, I paid $5. In Europe, I always make sure the AirBnB I rent has a washing machine. Laundry service in American and European hotels is extremely expensive, so I always pack a couple of my workout shirts to wear under other shirts. They are lightweight, dryfit, and can be washed in a hotel sink at night and they are dry in the morning. This allows me to wear the cover shirts multiple times. Unless you spill something on them, pants can be worn over and over. I don’t pack white pants unless I know I will have access to cheap laundry. Dresses – I have two that can be rolled up in a ball and still wont wrinkle. Happy travel packing!
In addition to online articles, my research on Egypt included the following:
Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir, by Collette Rossant
A Traveller’s History of Egypt, by Harry Ades
In an Antique Land, by Amitav Ghosh
Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story, by Thanassis Cambanis
Butterfly Mosque, by G. Willow Wilson
DK Eyewitness Travel Egypt
Cleopatra, a film directed by Joseph Mankiewicz