Between the hustle of Cairo and history in Luxor, we were lucky spend 5 nights sailing down the Nile, where we felt totally disconnected from the stresses of our lives back home. We chose the Nour El Nil Assouan, an authentic dahabiya riverboat. Each day aboard the Assouan, we would enjoy a breakfast of crepes, eggs, fruit, local goat cheese and homemade jams on the top deck as we sailed down the river to a new destination. We'd explore temples and small towns along the banks of the Nile in the peak of the day, return to the boat greeted with cold drinks and a local lunch, and swim in the river and lounge in the afternoon en route to our next destination. Each night, we returned to the top deck for sunsets and local wine, followed by dinners with our 12 or so fellow shipmates who, by the end of the trip, felt like family.
Though tourist boat trips down the Nile are common, Nour El Nil gave us the opportunity to visit small villages most large ships miss, and to have a relaxing and immersive escape to the real Egypt.
Day 1: Esna - Temple of Khunum
Our first day on board, we walked through the market streets in Esna, heading toward the Temple of Khunum, which sits 9 meters below street level and was buried in mud for centuries and, once excavated, perfectly preserved. Nour El Nil provided an Egyptologist, so we learned the history of the temple and deciphered the hieroglyphs and scenes covering the walls and columns.
Day 2: El Kab and Edfu
We started the morning with a swim in the Nile, jumping off of the boat into the fast-moving and refreshing river. We floated downstream a few hundred yards and were greeted by the crew, standing along the banks with fluffy Egyptian cotton towels. After a decadent breakfast, we walked through the dense, green vegetation along the Nile to El Kab - rock cut tombs dating to 1500 BC. Along the way, we rode donkeys, climbed on abandoned trains, and watched local children and farmers go about their lives. In the afternoon, we visited the Temple of Edfu, one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt, dating from 230 to 50 BC. It was a Greco-Roman temple dedicated to the god Horus, and we rode in horse-drawn carriages through a bustling small town to reach the epic location.
Day 3: Swimming, Hiking
Our third day on board was very chill, starting with a swim and climb up the mast of the ship and rotating between delicious meals, reading sessions on the lounges, walks along the banks of the river and breezy naps in the shade. In the late afternoon, we hiked through the jungle-like forest along the Nile, which included hundreds of palm trees. We capped off our trek with a visit to a local cafe, where we watched the locals play dominoes as we sipped refreshing sodas out of glass bottles.
Day 4: Gebel Silsileh
The following day we visited the stone quarries where the ancient Egyptians chiseled out the massive blocks to make up the temples throughout history, and the intricately painted temples and tombs that accompanied the sites. Our lecturer taught us how the stones were mined without sophisticated tools, then floated down the river on barges. We did a bit of hiking and climbing, followed in the afternoon with a long walk through a tiny local town that felt like a movie set and a trek through the desert. During our trek, we experienced a strong thunderstorm, which was the first rain in the area in 7 years.
Day 5: Kom Ombo
On our last full day, we began with a visit to the temple of the crocodile god, dating from 170 BC, followed by a viewing of gargantuan mummified crocodiles. The temple of Kom Ombo included an ancient hospital, mental health clinic and birthing center, with the walls of each depicted medical scenes, such as detailed engravings of women giving birth in ancient times.
We woke early to our last breakfast, as we floated under the Aswan Bridge. After docking, we disembarked and met up with our driver, who drove us three hours north, back to Luxor.
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