Tuya, home & transport on the River Nile
My desire to visit Egypt began long ago with dreams of the romance of a Nile cruise. Now 45 years later, I began exploring that possibility before any other aspects of the trip and found that the most attractive options were beyond my means. I put it aside to work on other logistics and when I came back to it, I asked Freda, my Airbnb host-to-be in Luxor, if she had any thoughts. After running it by her local travel agent, she suggested, and I agreed, to postpone making a decision until after I arrived. The few boats that were still making the trip were far from full and there were deals to be had.
In Luxor, sitting in the travel agent's office near the Winter Palace Hotel, I was offered a 3 night, 4 day (as they count the days) cruise for $60 a day without sightseeing included, and $80 with a guide and transport at the sights where the ship, Tuya, docked, well below the rates I’d seen on websites when I’d been tempted to book in advance. I opted for the inclusive fare. The plan was to board in the afternoon to cruise southward, upriver, toward Aswan, with one night sailing from Luxor, a stop to see the temple at Edfu in the morning, proceeding on to Kom Ombo, then overnight to Aswan. There would be a visit to Philae Island after docking in Aswan and one more night onboard with disembarkation after breakfast.
The venerable SS Sudan, below, arrives in Luxor as Tuya leaves.
Temple of Edfu
By the time we arrived in Edfu I was somewhat “templed out,” a phrase I’ve heard before and have experienced in other well-templed countries. One good thing about these I saw in the course of the cruise was that I had, inadvertently, private guides at every one. I had them to myself because there were no other English-speakers among the passengers who’d booked tours along the way. I was beginning to admire more of the details and my guides were very good at pointing out ones I’d have missed on my own.
It probably says more about my state of mind than anything else, but once we found our elusive driver on leaving the temple, what made my day was watching his impatience, with the limited time we had to get back to the boat, trying to negotiate a caleche traffic jam.
Bucolic scenes along the river...
...and companionable races.
Temple of Kom Ombo
I liked the Kom Ombo Temple as much for its picturesque setting near the river as anything else. It was visible from the boat as we arrived, we walked there and back and it was a beautiful sight as we left, lit in the afternoon light.
My cruise on the Tuya was a mistake. I’m not suggesting that there was anything in particular wrong with the boat and I did, in fact, get a nice cabin for a very reasonable price. But during the cruise there was little opportunity for interaction with other passengers as, so far as I could tell, I was the only one by myself and few others were English-speaking. It seemed to me not unlike a bus tour, the purpose of which is to move bodies from one stop to the next on a tight schedule and utterly devoid of the romance I’d imagined. In Aswan, after a pleasant visit with an entertaining guide to Philae Island, I decided I couldn’t bear another night in the confines of the boat, with Aswan literally on the doorstep and, much to the horror of the manager, I left.
I hope very much to have the opportunity to correct my mistake, which was to opt for the inexpensive option and thereby cheat myself of the experience I’d imagined for so long. There are 2 other categories of boats on the Nile, either of which would have been right for me. There are a number of dahabiyas, smaller sailing boats that were the traditional Nile cruisers for the leisure class. Because of the small capacity and luxury experience offered, these are the most expensive.
The other option would have been the one for me, the steamship Sudan. I’ll leave it there as I’d cross paths with Sudan twice, in Luxor and Aswan, and will devote a week’s post to it soon.
The best advice I can give anyone planning a trip to Egypt is not to scrimp, buy the best of any arrangement you can afford. I learned this more than once and by the time I left had put my new rule into action several times. Though I usually travel on a budget that doesn't detract from my enjoyment, there are some places where we can get a great deal more by paying just a bit more. In Egypt “the best” is still a bargain, at least for now.
Next week, a tour of Philae Island outside Aswan.
All episodes of 'PortMoresby in Egypt' can be found here.
And others of PortMoresby’s contributions here.