As my wife Fyllis and I sat on the sun deck outside our river boat cabin on the Nile River, overlooking the surrounding scene, many of the most fabled attractions of Egypt came into view. There were the towering Pyramids of Giza guarded by the world-famous Sphinx whose face, believed to portray that of a former pharaoh, sits on the body of a lion.
We spotted and marveled at some of the more than 100 pyramids which were dotted about the country. While they are the focus of much-deserved attention, we soon realized that equally impressive monumental temples which were dedicated to the worship of gods, and commemoration of pharaohs, compete with them in size, beauty and wonder.
These were among countless treasures that became assessable as the sleek ship in which we were sailing and staying was making its way along the Nile River. We were passengers aboard the Nefertiti, a boat that was designed for the Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) tour company to ply the waters of one of the most famous waterways in the world.
Five-star Accommodations on the Nile River in Egypt
Our accommodations rivaled those of a first-class hotel. The stateroom was sizeable and comfortable. The congenial cabin attendant left imaginative towel sculptures on our beds each night, ranging from his depiction of a sturdy elephant to a graceful swan. On-board meals were as diversified and delicious as any we ate at restaurants throughout the rest of Egypt.
We soon realized, and appreciated, the fact that one of the most appealing attractions of a Nile cruise is that the river passes close to a number of the must-see archaeological gems that have been attracting sightseers since ancient Greeks and Romans went there to goggle at the magnificent man-made monuments. Later, Napoleon showed up and looted treasured artifacts that were transported back to France.
In addition, while land-based day trips during our week-long voyage took us to some of the most prized places, our time spent on the boat itself provided introductions to equally fascinating aspects of the people, life and culture of Egypt.
Everyday Life as Seen from a Boat on the Nile River in Egypt
Whether peering through the oversized glass door that led outside our comfortable cabin, or seated on our private deck, we were able to observe people going about their daily lives. We passed by tiny towns of modest mud brick and concrete houses where women were grinding seeds into flour between stones as their ancestors did.
We saw farmers working in fields using tools that might have been passed down for generations. We watched fishermen in tiny rowboats pulling in their catch, and helmsmen steering felucca, the traditional wooden sailboats that are used to ferry both goods and people.
Men sitting in the sun sipping tea and smoking a shisha (hookah) pipe watched us as we peered at them, while children playing at the river’s edge jumped with joy and called out greetings, which we returned. After washing clothes in the river water, a woman gathered them into a metal pan, balanced it on her head and headed for home.
The Nile in Egypt is a River of Life
We also came to understand the importance of the Nile in the history, growth and everyday life of the people who live along and around it. Without the river, there would be no fertile land in Egypt, a scarcity of food for its people and little electricity to light their homes.
Given the scarce rainfall throughout the country, the Nile nourishes a narrow ribbon of verdant growth along its banks, which quickly gives way to a barren desert. It’s little wonder that over 90 percent of the country’s population lives along that waterway, on just 3 percent of its territory.
Seeing the dramatic disparity between the ribbon of green and the otherwise arid wasteland through which it winds, and observing villagers whose lifestyles have changed little over centuries, would be reason enough to visit Egypt. Throw in its rich history, and magnificent monuments to that past, and it’s clear why the country ranks high on many a “must visit” Bucket List.
If You Go
Fyllis and I have visited several of our Bucket List destinations with Overseas Adventure Travel, a company that offers “Small group adventures on the road less traveled” to 80 countries around the world. OAT lives up to its “Learning and Discovery” motto in a variety of ways that add both education and entertainment to the experience. In Egypt, these ranged from ad hoc conversations with locals our guide encountered along the streets to discussions of controversial topics to shipboard entertainment based upon ancient traditions.
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