Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 5. Cruising the Nile River

Filed in Gather Travel Essential by on May 12, 2011 0 Comments



With the exception of the first photo, this post contains 23 photos taken while our tour group cruised the Nile River from Aswan to Luxor on the Royal Lotus river cruise vessel. This post does not include photos taken at stops made along the way in Kom Ombo, Edfu, and Karnak. Photos taken at these locations will be covered in future posts.


Since the cruise to Luxor doesn’t begin until this afternoon, the Royal Lotus river cruise vessel is still docked at Aswan when we awaken after our first night on board. There’s one more place to visit in Aswan before we leave and begin cruising north—the Aswan granite quarry. The quarry is the source of the fine, reddish granite the Egyptians used to make many of the ancient structures we’ve seen.

It’s another sunny, warm Egyptian day as we disembark from the Royal Lotus and board the coach to take us to the quarry. While riding to the quarry, our tour leader Rabie tells us about it, but once there, he lets us explore it on our own.

Walking the Aswan granite quarry path is rugged–more like hiking a mountain than walking a historic site in a vibrant city. The path is strewn with boulders and crevices that stretch my legs to their limit as I gingerly maneuver around them.

The main object to see at the quarry is an unfinished obelisk.

Ancient Egyptian stonemasons abandoned this unfinished obelisk at the granite quarry in Aswan after it developed an unfixable crack. If it had been completed, it would have been the largest obelisk in Egypt.

After visiting the quarry, we return to the Royal Lotus. Ten minutes later it begins to cruise the Nile. Because I am unable to see the full exterior of the Royal Lotus while it is docked or when it is cruising, I can’t get a photo of it. However, while the Royal Lotus cruises, I take a photo of a very similar, perhaps even identical, cruise vessel.

A river cruise vessel like the Royal Lotus we are on passes us as it moves in the opposite direction.

For a small vessel, the Royal Lotus has quite a few amenities. Its small gift shop has a good selection of quality merchandise. During the cruise, Pam buys a sterling silver ankh pendant, and I buy a book of paintings by 19th-century Scottish artist David Roberts of places he visited in Egypt and the Holy Land.

The upper deck offers guests a pleasant place to relax.

Guests enjoy the sun and fine weather on the upper deck of the Royal Lotus as it cruises north on the Nile River.

Pam and I have brought bathing suits, but decide not to use them since the water in the pool is cold.

Pool area on the deck of the Royal Lotus

Tourists can purchase drinks and snacks at the bar on one end of the deck. Shortly before lunch on the second day of the cruise, Royal Lotus chefs hold a falafel cooking demonstration here. Not being a fan of falafel, I forego attending and so does Pam. My son Dave and his girlfriend go and tell us the falafel was tasty.

Travelers relax on the deck of the Royal Lotus.

Despite a lot of boat traffic, birds thrive along the Nile.

Two heron/egret-like birds share a boulder-filled spot on the Nile.

Staff members on the Royal Lotus are courteous, helpful and add to the sense of play. The omelet chef at breakfast sings and smiles as he makes my omelet. When Pam and I return to our room on the Royal Lotus after a side excursion to Edfu, we are delighted to find elaborate origami swans made out of the bed runners perching on our beds. Each day brings another origami creation.

Decorative origami swan made out of the bed runners on the Royal Lotus

We cruise past a minaret, a tall, thin structure from which the Muslim call to prayer is issued five times a day.

A minaret rises above the landscape in a populated area along the Nile.

Before coming to Egypt, I had heard call-to-prayer chants in Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia, and they didn’t especially engage my awareness. But earlier in the week while sitting on the balcony of our hotel in Giza at dawn, I was unexpectedly moved by the mix of imam voices tunelessly chanting words we didn’t understand from various parts of the city. Pam joined me on the balcony, and we didn’t say a word to each other as we listened intently. It was a peaceful moment.

Sand, which has helped preserve much of the remains of Ancient Egypt by burying it, covers more than 90 percent of Egypt’s territory.

Sand dunes along the Nile

In many places, the land adjacent to the Nile is used for agriculture.

Cattle graze in a grassy area on a bank of the Nile.

As we near a populated area, we encounter a new bridge.

This graceful-looking suspension bridge north of Aswan opened in 2002. (1)

Two minutes later, I snap a photo of camels.

A herd of dromedary (one-humped) camels hurries past grazing cattle.

Islets here and there in the Nile provide shelter and sustenance for various creatures.

A lone goat explores the pickings on an islet in the middle of the Nile.

We pass a flock of birds who physically and in behavior remind me of the gulls that periodically gather in the shallows of the small lake outside of my apartment thousands of miles away.

Birds—perhaps some type of gull—assemble at the end of the Nile islet.

As we cruise the next day, we pass areas along the Nile that are obviously cultivated since nature doesn’t normally organize plants in rectangles.

Tended garden plots like this one flourish on the banks of the Nile.

A little further on, we encounter two boatmen who look as if they are pulling plants from the river. Are they weeds or something useable?

Boatmen on the Nile River

Pam and I decide to go back to our cabin for a while. Opening the door, we laugh in delight at the origami crocodiles the Royal Lotus attendant has left on our beds. We spend some time rearranging the room to get a good photo of one of the creatures.

The Royal Lotus employee who cleaned our room delighted us with this decorative origami-like crocodile made out of a bed runner.

As we approach Esna, the serenity of nature along the river gives way to buildings and other signs of human activity.

Buildings bordering the Nile River near Esna

I move upfront on the deck of the Royal Lotus to get a better view of what’s happening. Ahead is a structure that spans the river.

The Esna bridge and locks were built by the British in the early 20th century when they constructed the Aswan Low Dam. While vessels, including the Royal Lotus, go through the locks, they no longer raise or lower ship traffic.

Nearing the locks, boatmen swing into action. Using ropes and muscle, they position the Royal Lotus to properly move through locks, which are quite narrow. We go through the locks on the tail of another cruise vessel.

Another river cruise vessel goes through the locks ahead of us.

After moving smoothly and swiftly through the locks, we get a view of the top of the Esna Bridge.

Top view of the bridge

Pam and I take a break to browse the gift shop a bit and then go to our room. Nearing Luxor, we return to the deck. Now, so close to a population center, the Nile views we see show a recognizable human imprint: litter .



Litter on the banks of the Nile River near Luxor

The grandiose past of the pharaohs seems far away as we pass an impoverished area.


Crowded residential area along the Nile River at Luxor

Minutes later, I turn to look in another direction and encounter a lovelier view of Egypt—a brilliant sunset covering the landscape with rest and peace.

A radiant sunset at Luxor, Egypt, rests its light on the Nile landscape.

As we dock at Luxor, the Nile cruising part of our stay on the Royal Lotus ends. We will sleep and eat here for two more days while using it as a base to explore the area.

That evening after dinner on the Royal Lotus, Pam and I go to the bar area where we watch a belly dancer perform and a dervish sway. I’ve seen belly dancers in Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and Tunisia, but this exhibition is the best yet. It’s the first time I’ve seen a dervish sway. Both performers are good and move much too fast for me to photograph.

The Nile River has served as a main artery bringing Egypt life-giving water to midwife early human history and culture—I feel privileged that it has now become a part of my history.


Notes and references


Previous posts on Egypt


Egypt:A cradle of civilization. Part 1. Giza. Twelve photos.Posted January 22, 2011

Egypt:A cradle of civilization. Part 2. Memphis and Saqqara. Eight photos. Posted February 25, 2011

Egypt:A cradle of civilization. Part 3. Aswan. Thirteen photos. Posted March 24, 2011

Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 4. Abu Simbel. Nine photos. Posted April 22, 2011

Future posts on Egypt will cover Kom Ombo-Edfu, Karnak, and Cairo





About the Author ()

I am a retired environmental, health and safety manager who has done some work in communications. I have a knowledge of and passion for sustainability issues. In temperament I am a peculiar mix of stable soul and free spirit.

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