Egypt went straight to the top of a very early bucket list, and since that date I have found so many more reasons to visit this extraordinary country.
First of all, it dates back so far, already a civilisation in every sense of the word in the days when our own ancestors were building Stonehenge. For almost 30 centuries, starting around 3100 BC, Ancient Egypt dominated the Mediterranean world, and we have a treasury of information about it in the form of monuments, objects, pictures and hieroglyphs fascinating not just to Egyptologists, but also to any interested lay person.
Overlaid on the riches of Ancient Egypt is the chaotic exuberance of the country as it is now, with its charming people, great food and appealing winter climate. For many, the noise, traffic and dust can be somewhat overwhelming, which is why we recommend visiting in the company of a trained Egyptologist, with a passion for explaining every detail of Egyptian life, past and present. A Nile cruise gives the perfect balance.
Starting your trip in Cairo gives you time to acclimatise to the buzz whilst also touring some of the most extraordinary sites, including Giza, just a few miles out of the city, to visit the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, and Saqqara, a vast, ancient burial ground which served as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Don't miss the Egyptian Museum with its extraordinary collection of treasures: with any luck, you will see the new version, due to open in 2020.
Fly from Cairo to upper Egypt, and cruise the short stretch of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan - we recommend AmaWaterways' new vessel AmaDahlia, coming into service in September 2021.
Luxor, some 300 miles to the south of Cairo, is the site of the ancient city of Thebes on the banks of the mighty Nile river. It includes the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor, which you can explore by day and maybe revisit at night for a magical 'Son et Lumière'. On the opposite side of the river are the monuments, temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, including the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
An early start each morning will help you to avoid the heat of midday as well as the thronging crowds, for fascinating hours of exploration before returning to your comfortable cruise vessel for a leisurely lunch and siesta, and each day will bring more wonders amongst the millennia-old monuments. You will learn of the history, religions, art and culture of this extraordinary ancient civilisation.
We thoroughly recommend a side-trip southwards to the Nubian monuments at Abu Simbel, close to the border with Sudan. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC and serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari. The entire complex was moved in 1968 to take the treasures clear of the rising waters of Lake Nasser following the building of the Aswan High Dam.