Time to try a berth on the Nile

An­drewSanger takes a trip back in time dur­ing a cruise on the Nile and

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

GEN­TLE, WARM air moves over the wide river at dusk, strange birds fly low, voices and l i l t i n g m u s i c drift across from the shore, blend­ing with the call of the muezzin. The lush river banks are gar­landed with green palms, but ris­ing be­hind, bare hills are sil­hou­et­ted against the sky, a re­minder of the empty Sa­hara that lies be­yond.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary re­mote­ness of this part of Egypt pre­served the Pharaohs and their world for thou­sands of years. And in the mil­len­nia since, the dry heat has pre­served scores of their gi­gan­tic stat­ues, their im­mense tombs and mighty stone tem­ples carved from top to base with sym­bols and signs.

The big­gest sur­prise is that the River Nile to­day is a busy place. As we trav­elled se­dately for 130 miles from Luxor to Aswan, other cruise ships jour­neyed just ahead or be­hind, to­gether with flocks of feluc­cas, the quiet wooden sail­boats, and small row­ing boats each with a fish­er­man or two on board wear­ing their gal­abyas, the tra­di­tional an­kle-length Arab kaf­tans. As it hap­pens, al­most ev­ery pas­sen­ger ended up with a gal­abya of their own — they make handy dress­ing gowns.

To buy one, browse the stalls of the bazaars at any of the ship’s stops, where traders swarm around, in­sis­tent, de­ter­mined to make a sale at any price. Some of­fer shirts, shawls and scarves which can be hag­gled down to £1 each, oth­ers hold out racks of jew­ellery, with beaded neck­laces cost­ing as lit­tle as 50 pence.

Al­ter­na­tively, buy in un­hur­ried tran­quil­lity on board ship, where the prices are al­most the same.

In be­tween the tem­ples and tombs, life on board is thor­oughly re­lax­ing. All cab­ins have a river view, of­ten with pic­ture win­dows that open wide. There is a friendly, in­for­mal at­mos­phere, even in the din­ing room. On the top deck, lie back un­der an African sun, re­lax at the bar or cool off in the pool. Crew mem­bers are al­ways on hand to bring a drink to your sun-lounger.

With none of the for­mal­ity of an ocean cruise, din­ing was buf­fet-style, an all-you-can-eat abun­dance of de­li­cious dishes, in­clud­ing fish, soups, veg­eta­bles and sal­ads, plus Egyp­tian cakes, fruit and other desserts. Break­fast was equally good, with pan­cakes, fresh breads, salty lo­cal cheeses and eggs freshly cooked to or­der.

De­spite th­ese on-board de­lights, the

Aswan, where the Nile ‘be­comes vast and still, with large is­lands in mid­stream’

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